I have gender dysphoria and as a result my gender is fairly unique, a difference that isn’t immediately obvious. In fact, I believe it’s likely that each of us has a more unique gender than we understand, but I’ll get into that in the final section.
I enjoy sharing and discussing my gender and am glad to talk to anyone about it, although I’d prefer if you read some of this first.
Why did I come out?
When I first came out, some people extremely close to me told me that I was being selfish. That my kids would pay the price and might even get beat up for it. That it’s embarrassing to my family, friends, and communities. In fact, all of those are true. There is a selfish aspect. In addition, I really want to believe there is a less selfish aspect. I want to be an example and show that this happens and that it’s normal. I’m normal. Although my friends and family might debate me on that.
I may not be like most other people, but there is nothing wrong with me. I like me. I even love me, and I know that so many transgender people struggle to the point of suicide. My cousin killed himself when he was 16, so I feel like I have a long and deep relationship with suicide. From a study in 2018, “female to male adolescents reported the highest rate of attempted suicide (50.8%), followed by adolescents who identified as not exclusively male or female (41.8%), male to female adolescents (29.9%)”.
If I can serve as an example of someone who is able to make it as transgender, I feel like that makes me a positive example. Additionally, there is strong evidence showing a genetic component to gender dysphoria. That means that one of my children or grandchildren my have this as well. If one of them committed suicide thinking that they are alone in the family, while I hide and pretend, I would never be able to forgive myself.
Finally, I came out because I could no longer keep it in. I have never really considered birthdays important. I vividly recall turning 40 and thinking of it like a countdown. Rather than feeling old (which I rarely do yet), I felt a sense of relief. I thought, whew, I’m almost done. I won’t have to carry this secret for much longer. Maybe 30 or 40 more years.
What does gender dysphoria “feel like” to me?
I have learned that many people experience dysphoria differently, so please keep in mind, this is my experience. Imagine you start an all-day hike with a bunch of friends, and in the first minute you get a pointy little rock in your boot. You don’t want to annoy everyone by stopping immediately to remove it so you continue with it. As you hike, sometimes that rock is over to the outside of the shoe. It’s annoying, but not the end of the world. Other times, that rock is right under a super sensitive spot and you’re walking funny and shuffling trying to remove it. It takes all of your attention. You are not enjoying the hike, and you might barely be present.
My dysphoria would spike up and settle down. It never went away completely.
What are my preferred pronouns?
I currently present as male, so I’m ok with male pronouns, but not really a fan. I have not been able to feel comfortable with female pronouns. That said, I’m not a fan of pronouns in general. I find them to be distracting. I know that many people like “they/them”. I am glad to use those for people who like them, however, they’re not for me. Perhaps it’s my OCD and age. While I know there are historical references that go back hundreds of years to show their singular usage, it still throws me. The closest I’ve come to seeing pronouns I like are from the author Becky Chambers. In her Wayfarers series, she used the gender neutral prefix and pronouns: Mx and Xe/Xer (pronounced em, zee, and zeer). I think these are nice and simple and I would be ok with them.
What about the word “sir”?
Many people in service oriented positions are encouraged or required to use “terms of respect”, like “sir” or “ma’am”. “Sir” is possibly the most distracting of all. When I am addressed as “sir”, I find my attention ripped from whatever I was doing or thinking and watch it fall down a deep well of questions like: do I look like a sir? Does that make me a man? What about me is manly? Are people who aren’t particularly masculine, but who don’t have gender dysphoria thrown off by this word? Did they use it because my gender is a bit ambiguous and they want to win the prize to show that they guessed correctly that I have a penis? Do they have to say that or risk being fired, or not tipped well? Do people tip less if they don’t hear that term of respect? Who would do that? Are they trying to compensate for some other inadequacy, or some scar that could have been a result of abuse? What level of intensity would constitute abuse from a parent to child? Is it different for different children. Probably, but why? … When I eventually surface, I hear the word “sir” again, then I may get frustrated at my mind. If I say something, I feel like it will have to come with an explanation or apology, but fuck that. Why do I give a shit? Is it safe to come out here? Do I see any obvious republicans or Trumpers or religious people that could be a threat, because sometimes I come here with my kids, and I wouldn’t want them to get harassed or experience anything dangerous, or have to witness anything like that. …
I don’t like to leave people by stating a problem without suggesting a solution though, so if you would like to address me in a manner that conveys respect, I would love to be addressed as “friend”. Simply replace “sir” with “friend”. It feels much nicer and has the benefit of also feeling less militant or subservient.
When did I first know I was different?
I recall being maybe 5 or 6 and my grandma laying on the foot of the bed with by brother and cousin. She was reading a book of fairy tales, and the book had pictures. I recall seeing a sketch of maybe Hansel and Grettle or some other male and female characters at the bottom of the page. They were dressed in strange old fashioned clothes, so my grandma pointed to the male one to say something like this is the boy, which is like you. I recall questioning that and thinking the other one seemed to make more sense to describe me, but I kept that to myself and intuitively felt a sense of danger or at least trouble associated with that feeling.
As a kid, I was pretty OCD about everything. I don’t know if this was related and possibly a side effect, or if it was something independent. When I learned about drugs and alcohol, I made an explicit connection between the danger of losing control and of losing my secret, and I had a profound fear of them. My fear was that I would slip up or make a mistake. I would destroy myself and the years I had spent building up this image of me as a boy or a man. The first time I tried alcohol or weed was after I was 21. At that point, I had an understanding of the LGB community and had some friends. Many were still unfriendly to the idea of adding bisexuals to the organization, and it seemed like none were interested in having what were called transexuals to the group any time soon. Also, there didn’t seem to be a clear understanding of what transexual meant, because it was assumed that sexual orientation was tied to gender, and it also sometimes included the term transvestite (which was the term used for someone who would cross-dress).
Why did I wait so long to come out?
Technically, I came out to my first serious long-term girlfriend after college when I was 21. I also came out to my doctor, once I was off of my parents insurance. He became visibly intensely uncomfortable and told me never to bring it up again. I became extremely embarrassed and decided I should continue to keep it to myself for the rest of my life. The tough part is that I hate secrets. Admittedly Silence of the Lambs and the fictional psychotic transexual serial killer Buffalo Bill was still trending strong in the zeitgeist. Not wanting to be associated one fucking bit with that (I was called Bill and I was from Buffalo) helped me to keep my secret for another couple of decades.
The next person I came out to was the woman I decided to marry. I figured I should tell her before we get married, so as to give her an out. She was supportive and told me that if I had to transition, she would back me, but that our relationship would probably end because she’s not attracted to women. I thought that was reasonable, as I would also probably not be attracted to her if she decided to transition to a man. I seemed to struggle even more, as my life seemed to become more disappointing and apparently predictable, and now I had someone I could somewhat share with. I never wanted to share too much, and I never wanted to really consider thinking about transitioning because I knew it would mark the end of my marriage. Once the marriage had officially ended, I realized I had to come to terms with my choice. I could no longer make the argument to myself that I had to suppress this and hide it to save my marriage and my family.
Why don’t I share it with everyone immediately anymore?
When I first came out, I was proud and wanted to share it with everyone. I did lose one friend who I thought was fairly close. She said she didn’t feel comfortable and didn’t think it was fair to me if she would be visibly uncomfortable in my presence. With the help of my girlfriend and best friend, I realized that many people don’t need to know. In fact, it might only bring them discomfort and add zero value to their experience of me. I don’t always have the time to explain things, and they may not be interested or even capable of hearing or understanding me. Many people hear the word transgender or non-binary and already have a number of pre-populated associations that will get lumped onto their occurrence of me. Positive or negative, the burden becomes mine to discard those for them. Sadly, so many of those associations are statistically going to be negative.
What are my goals with transition?
In other words, when am I going to have “the operation”? 😜 First, the notion of “an” operation is silly. There are so many possible operations and I don’t know if I’ll have any. My thoughts on my gender aren’t set. I consider myself as being in an exploration. I started taking estrogen in September 2018, which quickly knocked my testosterone down to barely detectable levels. That, plus coming out has massively reduced my gender dysphoria. It’s not gone, but that little rock is almost always at the edge of my boot now. The attribute that causes me the strongest dysphoria at the moment is my hairline, but my hair is too sparse and small in diameter to make me a reasonable candidate for hair transplants, which by the way are stupid expensive anyway. I currently like using my penis, and the various gender reassignment/gender affirmation/many other names surgeries are so intense and invasive that I don’t think I’d ever be up for it. Again, maybe my dysphoria isn’t that bad, or maybe I’m just too scared or repressed.
My plan for now is to play it all by ear. These past couple of years on estrogen have been pretty amazing. The freedom to just flow with what feels right at the time has allowed me to feel a lust for life that I am not sure I’ve had in decades if ever.
So am I MtF or non-binary or what?
Our culture seems to love to simplify and label or bucket everything. These days, there are lots of possible terms to choose from, which is great news for those people who like categories. Unfortunately, I’m still likely to disappoint. The closest category I would put myself in right now would be non-binary demi-flux. That said, I think that’s not completely accurate.
What are my thoughts on why I am like this?
I’m kind of a big fan of science. I have shared my thoughts on gender a number of times, and each time I talk about it, I get the opportunity to refine my thoughts more. Of course, I am also a moving target, so it’s still a bit difficult.
Before I begin, I have to state these are my thoughts and those of various scientists and others. I think of gender this way. Hopefully some day people more familiar with genetics or from the intersex community can either refine these ideas or completely prove them wrong. If that’s the case, I’ll be glad to hear the latest scientific theories and explanations that will hopefully still reconcile with my experiences.
As for now, the current scientific understanding of genes is incomplete, as is our understanding of even how many genes humans have. Currently have accounted for a list of 266,331 protein-coding gene isoforms in the CHESS database.
The question becomes, could some of those genes be related to gender dysphoria. Or, assuming gender dysphoria is rare, could a variation of one or multiple genes result in differences from the majority of the population to result in individuals with gender dysphoria. Here’s an article from 2020 that seems to have found a possible link.
The following idea in the article above aligns most closely with my thoughts.
Theisen notes that we all are full of genetic variants, including ones that give us blue eyes versus brown or green, and the majority do not cause disease rather help make us individuals. “I think gender is as unique and as varied as every other trait that we have,” Theisen says.
I expect that as we further our understanding of genes, genetics, and epigenitics, we will continue to find even more wonderful complexity and variation in our species.
Beyond gender dysphoria, we were taught in junior high that humans are born with 46 chromosomes in 23 pairs of XX (women) or XY (men). Interestingly, there are so many variants, that it takes over a page for the WHO to cover just the highlights.
Then of course, there’s always the reductionist who isn’t interested in actual biology, chemistry, or complex systems. They might simply simply say a male has a penis and female has a vagina. Sadly for them, the existence of intersex individuals and people born with AIS (Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome) leave even them in a conundrum.
Am I happy?
Yes! I am generally happy, and I have been for most of my life. I am much more comfortable now, and while I was afraid of what other people might think, say or do to me because of who I am, I have never seriously wanted to be different from what I am. At least not as an adult.
If I lived in the future and had access to a box that I could step in and press a button that would completely change my height, my voice, my hairline, and every physical attribute to something commonly referred to as more archetypally female, would I used it? Fuck yeah! I have a feeling I would toggle a bunch though. Alas, we live in the stone ages medically, so I’m happy with some of the smaller things for now.
If I could have a time machine and have someone “correct” my gender dysphoria before I was born, would I want that? No. I love who I am. My dysphoria has never been comfortable, but it has shaped me, and I really like this shape.
If I had a time machine and I could make public opinions and our culture more accepting and understanding that gender can be more like eye color or skin color, would I? Yes! My goal in sharing this is with the hope that it might help our current and future generations in just that way.
In some ways, this covered a lot, and in others, it’s really just a scratch on the surface. If you made it this far and still have questions, thoughts, or contradictory evidence, please let me know. As I said in the beginning, I love to talk about this stuff.
An intro to the concepts of transition: https://ok2bme.ca/resources/kids-teens/trans-resources/
More trans and gender resources and information