Question: Small Town

A reader asks…

For pretty much all of my life I have thought I was a gay male, but then recently I’m realizing that I’d be happiest as a straight female. The only issue is I’m 16 and in a small town. I went to my doctor to ask about transitioning and my family knows too, but she was doubtful. I know I should be more sure of myself because every other trans person I know claims they’ve always known… Is this suppression and denial or just me being incorrect?

Please post your response in the comments below.

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Posted by on July 4th, 2011 at 04:00 pm

Category: questions 14 comments »

14 Responses to “Question: Small Town”

  1. Lane

    There are lots of people who haven’t always known. I thought I was a straight female for a long time before I realized I’m happier as a gay man. Take some time to experiment, but if after some exploring you come to the conclusion that you’ll be happier as a female, thats all you need to know. How long you have known isn’t relevant.


  2. Adair

    One of my most treasured friends is a 20-year-old trans woman who didn’t realize she was a woman until she was older than you, but she’s definitely a woman. Don’t question your own experience just because it doesn’t match other people’s narratives; do question your own narrative if you have some experience that doesn’t fit it (for example if you’re actually genderfluid). It’s also quite possible that you always felt female but didn’t have the words/concept to describe that.

    On the other hand, I’ve definitely heard the stories of trans people who mainly had the experience of realizing (perhaps by trying it out) that they felt better as one gender even though they hadn’t always felt like they really were or wanted to be that gender, or who chose to be a gender other than their assigned gender. It can be hard when your personal history doesn’t fit that of most of the trans people you know, or of the dominant trans narrative, but that’s not an excuse for anyone to deny that you’re really your gender or claim that you’re just wrong/confused/in denial/whatever.

    I am not a doctor, but it sounds like androgen blockers might be a particularly good idea if you need to wait longer to be sure–you won’t become irreversibly feminized (except for possible minor breast development), but the consequences of doing nothing *are* irreversible masculinization. If you’re suffering from body dysphoria, that might very well be something you and your parents should fight for, because it’ll have a real long-term impact on your health. I really hope saying that doesn’t cause you to panic, because it’s *also* very important that you respect your limitations and your emotional needs. I hope your family supports you enough to shoulder most of the burden of getting this medical need taken care of, whether that involves finding a more trans-friendly doctor or talking more to the same one. If you do have to wait to transition, remember that many women have transitioned at much, much older ages and been happy about it.

    It sounds like you’re still questioning, so unless you decide that your “questions” are really just fears of what other people will think, it’s definitely good to be honest with yourself and your allies that you’re not sure. It sounds like you’re trying to untangle sexuality, gender identity, and possible other factors (like gender presentation or gendered interests as distinct from sexuality and identity). I don’t know if it’s just odd wording, but when you say you’d be happiest “as a straight female,” I’m surprised because I don’t think sexual orientation should matter to your gender identity. Saying you always thought you were a gay male might signify that you conflated your femininity with sexuality–or maybe you just were aware of your attraction to males from a young age?

    I don’t know whether any of these are actually still issues to you or if you’ve sorted them all out already; it seems like you’ve made impressive strides for anyone, moreso for a teenager in a small town–you’ve already told your family, know other trans people, talked to your doctor about transitioning, and informed yourself thoroughly enough to have encountered genderfork? You also have the bravery to admit to your uncertainties, which is, just, wow. I’m pretty confident in your ability to figure out whether you really do want to transition and how to go about it.

    I’m not sure what you meant by wondering whether this was “suppression and denial”–suppression and denial of having been trans even when you were a child, or current suppression and denial of something else which is causing you to think you’re trans? I really don’t think it has to be either, even if you’re correct. Like I said before, even though lots of trans people have a lot in common, not everyone fits the standard narrative, and that doesn’t make them any less trans, or in denial, or wrong. It just makes them different people.


    Anonymous replied:

    Androgen blockers: be careful. Yes, they may stop you from becoming more masculine. They might also make you lethargic, always tired&sleepy and driveless (depressed, basically), and they aren’t very good for your liver or your bones, either (osteoporosis). Basically, no (sex) hormones at all isn’t a very good long-term solution…


  3. J.D.

    You’ve had some pretty great responses here, but I’ll throw in my two cents for the heck of it.

    I also grew up in a small town and started having some gender “issues” when I was in high school. My family has been largely supportive, though I did meet some opposition with a counselor (who was otherwise very nice mind you, I think she was just taken aback – we’ve made amends since then) and from my fellow townsfolk. Western PA was a bit of a hellish place to grow up, and that doesn’t help when it comes to figuring yourself out.

    As has been said, experiment. Play with gender a little. Honestly, I’m out of that town now and I’m STILL figuring it out. Take your time and think it all through. There are no set rules as to how or when you discover yourself, it is a unique journey that we all must undergo as individuals. The process may lead you to discover much more than just your gender. High school happens for everyone at an age when we have so much to find out about ourselves. Give yourself time and keep asking the hard questions: not just about gender but about everything. Sooner or later you’ll figure it out. It sounds like a pain, yeah, but there isn’t a straightforward answer.

    Be you, whoever that may be, and do what you need to be happy because your happiness matters. No matter what anyone might say.


  4. Thomas

    There’s been some great responses already, so I’ll just add my two cents and let the others stand on their own.

    Questioning your identity is never wrong, be it your gender, your orientation, or your ethical beliefs, your passions- everything that makes you YOU is able to be called into question. And questioning it (while nerve wracking at the time it happens) isn’t a bad thing.

    And just because you’re questioning, remember, when it comes to YOUR identity, there is no wrong answer. Your identity is yours to discover, so just because it doesn’t “match” other folks’ stories or identities, thats OK!

    Stay strong, and you’ll get through it. It’s not an easy journey, but it sounds like you’re on the right track to finding out for yourself.


  5. Alex

    You’re not at all wrong in your realization of your own identity. I was in my mid-30s, with a string of failed relationships behind me when I realized I wasn’t a straight female, but a gay man.


    Anonymous replied:

    I’m in the same boat…just realized this days ago, at most. What to do??


  6. Abby

    Why would you feel more comfortable? What exactly would be the important difference for you?

    Best wishes and be careful with yourself and what you read.


  7. Murdercakes

    You’ll be happy to know that being unsure doesn’t make you in any way abnormal. This isn’t a case of “one size fits all”. Some people (like myself) realize very young in life. Some people may not be certain until much later, after having families, children and careers. And still, some may never be fully certain, only having those feelings gnawing at you, but never able to put a name to them.

    So, no, you’re not suppressing or denying anything. You’re just progressing on your path at your own rate, just like the rest of us do. :)


  8. Jessica MacGilvray

    There is a tendency of people, who find something that feels right in their lives to consider that this thing is and was always so. We’re really good at reinventing reality to support what we want to believe. It may be that you always felt the way you feel now, but suppressed it. It may be that you have changed and that what you consider valid for yourself now is in fact correct and does not need validation in your past.

    What is important here is for you to discern what you truly believe, to learn who two really are and to choose for yourself what is right for you and what you will become.

    There are no rules and there are no right or wrong answers here. Don’t be convinced into anything. Take time. This is your life.


  9. Leslie

    I’m a trans woman who didn’t decide to finish transitioning until her twenties, and I DIDN’T always know. In fact, I think a lot of us didn’t.

    It is my firm belief that it doesn’t have to be about knowing, but about what works for you. If you’re happy and willing to go through the difficulty of transitioning, take it slowly and keep checking on yourself. If you ever reach a point where you’re not happy, watch to see what’s going on. There should be no hurry.

    Do everything for yourself.


  10. Nicholas

    I wrote my whole life story, but deleted it! (On purpose, thankfully.)

    This is something you need to know, and I would tell my younger self (I’m only 25!) the same thing, given the opportunity.

    Do what you want. Do what makes you happy. Try new things. Keep doing things that make you happy. There is more happiness in doing what you want than fitting in.

    Gender is complicated and mostly means nothing. Ask yourself, when you find yourself overwhelmed, what it is that you want. It’s easy to tell your parents “It makes me happy, I don’t know why.” It’s easy to tell someone that “It just feels right to me, I don’t know.” You will never have all the answers, but it gets really comfortable not knowing those answers. And, if possible, research everything. Learn everything about your next step. Unlike most other people, anything genderqueer/transgender is usually obscure in daily life. But there is a wealth of information from people who’ve taken that step to learn from. You just have to learn from people you’ve never met, instead of your friends, in these kinds of situations.

    “I’m just a kind of person. Doing what I’m “supposed to” do doesn’t make me happy for some reason, but I can tell you what makes me happy. I want the opportunity to do the things that make me happy.”


  11. Meike

    Hey, don’t think that your identity is any less valid just because you didn’t “always know”. I’m 21 and only started thinking about my own gender a year ago. Who knows how old I’ll be before I’m as close to figuring it out as you are. Just because there’s the typical “trans narrative”, it doesn’t mean we all have to follow it. Just be yourself, because that’s all that anyone should ever expect of you.


  12. B

    the “always known” narrative was invented for doctors with their heads up their asses who wouldn’t prescribe anything without an engraved in gold declaration that you will castrate or chop your chest off if you don’t get hormones as well as 3 letters from your psych and from every member of your family including great aunt gertrude.

    Fuck the medical elite. I know a lot of the pre-meds at my college (Harvard) and they all have the open-mindedness and life experience of a toaster.


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