Question: How can I be sure?

A reader asks…

I’m terrified that my gender confusion is a passing phase. Before I come out to anyone, how can I be sure that this is here to stay?

Please post your response in the comments below.

» Ask Genderfork «


Posted by on October 24th, 2011 at 04:00 pm

Category: questions 21 comments »

21 Responses to “Question: How can I be sure?”

  1. Anonymous

    Why do you need to be sure? Would it be so horrible if it was a phase? Try coming out to some friends that you know will be supportive before you come out to friends or family who might not be. Even if it is “a phase” and you feel gender-normative later, who says that won’t just be a phase too? Gender is fluid over short and long time spans, so have fun with it!

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  2. Brett Blatchley

    Do you know how you can think back throughout your life, and recognize yourself as the same person you were when you were little, the same person you were at all the various stages of your life, the same person you are now? Oh you’ve grown in lots of ways, but you have this sense of continuity, a sense that your essential self is the same: you are who you are. Well, I noticed that my sense of my gender felt the same going back as far as I first had a sense of my self. I didn’t have words for it back then, and as it became more urgent, more accute, and I’ve learned more, I’ve described myself in different ways, yet in all those different ways I tried to understand and describe myself, I found that my sense of my gender has not changed, not even a little.

    What may help is to try to describe yourself in different ways until you are comfortable with your self description. You may need to refine this many times! (I have in the last few years – look at my profile here to see some of this.) As you are doing this take note of what resonates with your soul. Also, try to remember how you were and felt and played as a small child. AND keep a journal about this, ask questions in yout journal, even ptay in your journal (even if you don’t believe in God! You’ll be amazed!!!)

    As important as all those other things are, find someone with some maturity, open-mindedness, sensitivity and honesty, and ask them if they would help you through this exploration. ask them if they would be your ‘mirror’ to reflect to you what you might sense in yourself, but need outside verification, and/or validation. I’ve worked with such a wonderful friend over the last few years and we’ve both grown!

    Also, expect this to take some time and soul-searching, and realize it’s risky to grow, and especially in this area.

    At the right time, you will sense that it’s right to take the risk to tell someone else…maybe you can do tnis in the relative annonynomy of a place like Genderfork, as you are doing now!! (In this, I see already that you are a courageous person.)

    I hope this helps! :-)

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    Brett Blatchley replied:

    Oh, in all that, I should have pointed-out that this sort of self examination will help you clarify your sense of your gender, and if it turns-out that it seems to be what you think it may be now, then it’s likely not a phase.

    Also, I remember that I started to take little risks in letting myself express what felt right in my appearence and my deportment. One low-risk thing was to allow myself to move gracefully. Did I feel better being this was? Did it feel wrong for me? A relatively high-risk thing for me was to grow my hair long and wear it in feminine styles. An even higher-risk thing was for me to wear a blouse and (somewhat) padded bra for a week to see if t felt right AND to see if I could emotionally handle my coworkers seeing me that way (only one coworler, a close friend knew what I was doing and why). I think if tnis is a phase that you may feel odd (in a yucky, bad way) if you try things like this.

    I hope this helps?

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    Brett Blatchley replied:

    Sorry for all my typos; I’ve typed all the above on my phone!

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    tigr replied:

    Do you know how you can think back throughout your life, and recognize yourself as the same person you were when you were little, the same person you were at all the various stages of your life, the same person you are now? Oh you’ve grown in lots of ways, but you have this sense of continuity, a sense that your essential self is the same: you are who you are. Well, I noticed that my sense of my gender felt the same going back as far as I first had a sense of my self.

    Hmm… my experience is really different. Gender-wise, I’m not at all like how I was, say, ten years ago. Back then, I was “normal”. Maybe weird in other ways, but with a “standard gender”. This actually was one of the things which made accepting “this phase” quite difficult for me: thinking that, it HADN’T always been like this — maybe it would disappear as quickly as it came? And then what?…

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    Brett Blatchley replied:

    That’s interesting!

    You do recognize yourself as the “same” person as you have been in in the past though? That is, you recognize yourself when you were little as essentially the “same” you as you are now? You’re the same person, and not just because someone says so, rather you know this deep inside – there’s “continuity?”

    I have assumed that one’s gender would would be a part of this, unchangeable, but perhaps not. I’ve never known anyone’s gender to change as they progressed through life. I have known people to uncover parts of themselves they were not fully (consciously?) aware of.

    In my case, it wasn’t *safe* for me to contemplate the whats and whys of my gender identity as a child and adolescent. I come from an abusive background and was raped by more than one person as a young child. I always knew I was *different* and my peers made my life hell, and not because they thought I was “gay” but because they thought I was feminine (it was’t my appearance, it was my tender, nurturing and gentle nature, and my graceful movements). I created a system of secondary ego defenses to deal with the trauma and ongoing pain: I learned to hide my feelings from them, but also from myself. I censored myself. I detached from myself.

    At middle-age, my ways of coping no longer worked, and I started therapy to deal with my (clinical) depression. As I started to face and manage (in a healthy way) the non-gender-related issues in my background, it became *safe* for me to start to explore my gender “stuff.” As I started to explore this, I recognized that I’ve never identified as a boy or man; I never identified as a girl or woman either, yet it was clear that I was and am a predominately feminine person. But as things clarified and I was able to separate the bad nurturing (like the rapes: I was evil simply because I was male, because males raped me and my body is like theirs), from what more and more seemed like an innate sense that I am not male (regardless of my genitalia): now I recognize that I’ve always had this “check engine” light lit on my “dashboard” – there’s always been something amiss, and I see that it’s that my sex and gender are misaligned. Now I compare what I feel, my sense of self (purely objective, of course), and I recognize that I have always felt this way, though I’ve not had words to describe it, and it was almost never safe to explore it, except in the most rudimentary ways (like hidden cross-dressing, or hidden genitalia-tucking).

    Anyway, when you shared as you did, it helps me to get another piece of the puzzle and reinforces my realization that all of this is so very complex…

    [Reply]

    Sheep replied:

    Thank you. I really needed to read this today after spending the last few days getting confused and bogged down in gender stuff. Yep, it seems pretty complex to me too!

    Regen replied:

    I love the way you described the “check engine light” on your dashboard: that was what triggered my realization of my gender identity too. I keep describing it exactly like that and it’s really cool to see someone else who saw it the same way

  3. Jimmy

    I had the exact same fear when I was trying to come out to my friends this fall, but I decided to take the leap and do it. There are very few decisions I’ve been more glad about. My friends were really supportive and from almost the first moment I told them, I felt better.

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  4. radical/rebel

    be confused about your gender! it’s confusing. be honest. read books. come out of the closet as however you feel on any given day. don’t ever believe that the space you want in the world as a person of any gender can’t be open to you. you can make that space.

    radical love.

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    Brett Blatchley replied:

    This is nice…I like the way you’ve put this…

    The word “confused” is emotionally loaded for me because I have had people I love and respect bludgen me with it by saying “you’re just confused about yourself” as a way of asserting that they were more right about their assessment of me than I could possibly be: I was not a legitimate kind of person in their eyes because “everyone knows” God created people male and female and not something in between, and everyone knows sex and gender are the same thing, and “be a man and just get over it!!!” It never mattered to such people what I said and my assertion that I am no longer confused as to what my gender identity is (my questions are “Why?” and “How will I live with this?”). It never mattered what science has discovered. It never mattered that I have good reasons to suspect that I’m neurologically intersexed. God was never the problem, but willfully ignorant people who assumed they speak for Jesus were and are a problem.

    Blessedly I know Christians who, though the don’t “get” me, their view of God is big enough to include the possibility and legitimacy of seemingly pardoxical people like me. they can appreciate and love me for who I am as a person, and that’s all I’ve ever asked.

    Sorry, I didn’t mean for this to be rant-like.

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    radical/rebel replied:

    although I’m not a Christian, I’d definitely like to put my foot in as a religious person whose beliefs include a God big enough to include people like you–even, a God who is delighted by the existence of people like and unlike you.

    I know “confused” is a hard word, but I’m a gender studies major, and I spend all day reading theorists, psychologists, and surgeons talking about gender and sex as if they know what the right answers are, and what I can say is that they are FAR more confused than any of us on this site are. and that’s worth remembering.

    best of luck.

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    Brett Blatchley replied:

    Thank you *so much*, you’re very kind! :-)

  5. tigr

    The short answer is: you can’t.

    You can’t be sure if it’s still going to be there in a year, or a month, or a day. But… it doesn’t matter. You don’t need to be “sure” before you come out. This is how you feel right now — it might be gone tomorrow, but this IS how you feel NOW. And it’s perfectly acceptable to tell other people about it! If you feel like it. Not that you’d HAVE to tell them. But you can. And there’s a great number of people who will be accepting (and some who won’t, but then that’s the case whether it’s a phase or not). And even if tomorrow you decide you’re different again — so what? :)

    Personally, for me it’s “been a phase” for about seven years now. And a year or so ago I finally managed to convince myself that it doesn’t matter whether it ends tomorrow or not — this is how I am NOW, and I *will* be like that. Openly. I hope you manage to get to that point quicker than I did. ‘Cause, honestly … waiting was stupid. Maybe I needed it, but still… I wish I’d accepted it “as a phase” earlier than that!

    tigr~

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  6. karma

    I was sure, yet never quite sure of what I was sure of. I asked myself the same questions aged 7, 17, 27, still asking at 37. Now I have just turned 47 and there is no greater clarity. Don’t wait for answers, live fully in the moment for you are who you feel you are right now. Yet remember, before taking any irreversible steps you cannot wait too long. Get your head right and the present is enough. X

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  7. Jess

    Why do most folks think that something happening in your life settles things forever? Oh, this happens, so I must be this. This other thing happens, so I must be that. We are not the labels that are applied to us. We should use labels when they help us understand stuff and get rid of them when they get in the way of understanding.

    There’s nothing permanent in life. Everything that is alive will die. From that death new life will come.

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  8. Rachel

    The trouble is that once you decide to wait before telling anyone it becomes easier to carry on waiting and put it off.

    Then you find that 30 years have gone by, and, regardless of the outcome when you do finally tell people, you will always regret that lost time when you could have really been yourself with the support of your friends and family. I know.

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  9. Sigma

    I came out as “gender confused”. It really works for me. That way you can get support without “signing up” for a label.

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    Brett Blatchley replied:

    hehehe :-)

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    Elliott replied:

    I did the same thing! Not that it has made the road smooth, but so far it’s less awful than either staying closeted about my preoccupation with gender or trying to come out as something specific.

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    Meike replied:

    I have essentially done that, too. Not that it’s helped my poor parents feel any better about it, but I think it helps at least with my friends and sister. Everyone who’s remotely comfortable with the idea is so incredibly supportive, which is awesome.

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