Question: Trans enough

Alex asks…

I just discovered my desire to be male at age 18 – unlike the ‘always known’ crowd. How can I deal with the doubts of not feeling trans enough?

Please post your response in the comments below.

» Ask Genderfork «

Posted by on March 23rd, 2011 at 08:00 am

Category: questions 40 comments »

40 Responses to “Question: Trans enough”

  1. Jen

    Just don’t try to get validation from other people. You know who and what you are and that’s all that matters.


  2. Adrien

    Just realize that there’re a ton of people out there who didn’t know immediately. Some people don’t realize until they’re forty. It’s different for everyone.


  3. The Nerd

    In my experience, very rare is the person who actually feels “trans enough”. Unfortunately, there are those who attempt to feel “trans enough” by embarking on a “more trans than thau” campaign wherein they compare themselves to other trans people and declare themselves the victors.

    The best way to fight back is radical acceptance. Accept that you don’t feel “trans enough”. Accept that your feelings are okay. Accept that you are in fact as trans as you are, no matter what anyone else says. Accept that you still might not feel “trans enough”, despite knowing this. Accept that you might still feel bad for not being able to accept that you don’t feel “trans enough”. Lather, rise, repeat.

    The one thing you don’t need to accept, and don’t need to feel bad about not accepting, is others’ judgements upon you. So what if they knew when they were 6 instead of 60? We don’t pop out of the womb perfectly educated and free from societal pressures! We’re on nobody’s timetable but our own.


  4. Zacky

    hullo there :)
    just coz you havent always known, doesnt make you “more or less” trans, some dont know until they’re like, 40 odd.
    I mean, i’m fourteen and identify as a trans male, and i found there was a point in my life where i doubted my feelings (so i was all ‘i dunno, could i really?’ etc..)
    so maybe its just taken you a long time to figure out your feelings?
    Also, unlike most guys, i had long hair and occasionally wore girls clothes ;)
    Honestly tho, don’t worry, the only person you need to convince is medical people if you want to do anything with it, apart from that, no one elses opinion matters :)
    hope this helped mate :D


  5. Clare

    some time ago, i was chatting with a salon worker, who was giving me a makeup lesson. she asked me whether i was going to be female full-time. I answered no, as i considered my transgenderism more in the way of having an internal ‘mirror’ which i could tilt first one way then the other.
    I was born male, it was hardly likely to go away, and i thought that there was more truthfulness, freedom and opportunity for adventure in this conception of trans. There will always be doubts – why not accept that such doubts give the opportunity to experience the full range of what it is to be you.


    Nicholas replied:

    This is a fantastic explanation of how I feel. Masculine feelings do not render the more feminine me forfeit, and vice-versa. It’s ironically narrow-minded to think otherwise!


    Anonymous replied:

    I like the mirror concept. Well articulated.


  6. Morihikari

    Wow you could describe me in the same way. I figured it out a bit after turning 18. I have been wondering if I am trans “enough” as well. A friend of mine told me that I should stop comparing myself to others and just figure out what would make me happy. I’ve realized that being a fem guy who occasionaly crossdresses in private is what would make me happy. I don’t know that I would be where i am if I kept comparing myself to others (ok so i still do it but I try to catch myself… :) )


  7. Donnie

    I am the same way. People made me feel that since I hadn’t always been sure since a very young age I must not be a “real trans person.” Gender Identity and realizations about it come to everyone differently. There are a lot of ways to get there but the destination is still the same.

    I always felt I had half a heart, that there was some part of me that was dead or missing. When I learned the word “transgender” at the age of 17 and began my transition, I felt whole again. I still do. That “completion” of self is what makes me transgender.


    Oliver replied:

    Yes, “half a heart” exactly! That’s how I felt too. In 2010, when I started considering transitioning, the more I thought about it, I knew this was it. After a period of depression and mourning, I came to accept that I am a transgender man.

    I feel so much more whole now. I am more in touch with my emotions and more aware of myself and the people around me.

    I was 17 when I really truly became conscious of gender and it’s rules. I started to play with them. At 18, I accepted myself as a trans man and began articulating and exploring my wants and desires. I’ll be 19 in two weeks and hopefully on hormones before the end of the year. And in a healthier place too.


  8. Leonard

    This is the problem my mother has with me.
    She has doubts about it because as a kid, I wore dresses and had tea sets (appparently. I remember nothing before high school really).
    I told her when I was seventeen, and it’s been awhile and she’s still not too keen on the idea.


    Tree replied:

    Your mom made the mistake of assuming that specific toys are for specific genders.

    I grew up playing with both dolls and boys toys. I gravitated towards boys toys, clothes and all those things.

    Yet they never questioned, they just knew that children play with EVERYTHING. Besides- its not as if guys don’t drink tea.

    So, maybe if you explain it to her like that, she’ll get it.


    Adair replied:

    I grew up with recurrent major depression and various anxiety disorders. I cry when asked to think about my childhood, but my mom pulls out the photo book of when I was 2 to tell me I “was a happy child.” I think it’s helped me to realize the truth in what she says–that even though it’s easier for me to remember the bad, I can’t know myself without digging for memories of the good as well. But I also realize she’s in denial about how I spent ages 8 – 11 with psychotic depression, etc, etc.

    Perhaps some of that can apply to gender as well–I don’t think it’s healthy to feel like you have to deny everything about you that conformed to your assigned gender or enjoyed some of the things traditionally associated with that gender. That doesn’t mean you wouldn’t have been happier if you’d been assigned another gender, or that you won’t be happier now if people accept your gender.

    People truncate people in favor of categories and words all the time. You never should feel pressured to do that to yourself in order to prove your identity. Someone like Leonard’s mother who can’t accept someone for who they are because not everything about that person conforms to some made-up platonic version of how they describe themselves–well, that person’s in denial.


  9. George Grey

    There’s a short autobiographical comic in Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation by Katie Diamond and Johnny Blazes that seems applicable to this. The genderqueer narrator is talking about the notion that ‘I have always been this way’ and gets frustrated:

    ‘Fuck this always nonsense! How could I always be anything? I’ve been constantly changing and growing and adapting since I was born! Isn’t that what humans are meant to do? Every piece of information, every experience, has served to mold me into who I am at this moment just as what I am undergoing in this moment is shaping who I will be tomorrow. The only thing I have always been doing is growing. Who care whether we have always been this way? Let us instead say:

    I have always been becoming what I am right now.’

    Don’t want to belittle anyone who has always known, that’s them, you’re you. People experience age subjectively, it’s like gender in that way.


    Samson replied:

    I have a copy of GO:TNG that I haven’t read yet (I ADORE Kate Bornstein’s original, but it takes so much energy to feel like I’m constantly defending my own identity that sometimes reading others’ gender-related things seems exhausting), but I may pick it up soon for just that quote: “I have always been becoming what I am right now.”


  10. Jordan

    I’ve had doubts about my gender identity since I was at least 16 (which is when I first mentioned it to myself in a journal). Now I’m 20, and somewhat disappointed in myself that it’s taken me this long to resolve NOT to wait until the doubts went away again. But I keep reminding myself that my path, like everyone else’s, is unique to me: both the timeline, and where I’ve found myself/where I think I will end up.

    We should pride ourselves on being unconventional. :)


  11. Anonymous

    I’ve run into a similar problem, since I didn’t understand I was genderqueer until I was 21- just last year. a couple of my friends decided that meant I wasn’t ~really~ genderqueer, just ~going through a phase~

    so I’ve learned not to let their comments affect me. not everyone is like that.

    but as for being ‘not trans enough’, that’s not the point, is it? the point is to be yourself.


  12. Tommy

    I too have felt this way, and I also used to dress in a very feminine way and to wear make up, only realizing about my true gender when I was around 15…but I always felt like something was wrong…until I had a sudden realization one day, which lead to years of questioning…which lead to learning about FtMs and discovering that I could actually be who I wanted to be.

    And I did feel “not trans enough” because everyone else seemed to “know since I was 8 years old” and some therapists don’t believe you’re trans if you don’t tell them something like that…but I realized all of that is bullshit when I tried to force myself to be manlier to overcompensate.

    You aren’t “less valid” or “less trans” if you realize it later. Plenty of folks don’t know until they are quite old, and I often wonder if everyone who tells they’ve known since they were little is telling the truth…when I was 8 I didn’t even know what gender was and that girls are boys were all that different…


  13. Jell O'Fish

    I agree with many of the commenters above. There isn’t a litmus test for being trans, despite what others may want to impose on you. It’s not ‘you have to have known for X amount of time to earn being trans’.

    The people who may push that on you, they are not you, they have not had your experience. Yeah, some people have known all their lives. Some people find out very early in their lives, some very late. It’s different for everyone. I have no qualms in saying: I lived 25 years as a man. That’s my story. I’m now a dyke. It’s equally valid and I’ll fight for my right to be that to the very end.

    My only advice to deal with the doubts is this: know, that this is not ‘the rule’ for being trans. Know, that people who don’t support you by telling you you should’ve known, don’t know what they’re talking about because they are *not* you and can’t speak for your experience. And know, really know, that there are a LOT of people out there who haven’t ‘always known’.


  14. Anonymous

    You know, I am very distrustful of my feelings that I “was always transgender.” So, I wasn’t (at least officially) trans for half a century, that doesn’t make me any less trans now. I want to look back into my past and see this or that which proves my always having been “this way.” The trouble is that I can interpret anything any way I find necessary or convenient. Does my saying it was so make it any more true? No, not really.

    Some people find a great common thread of transgenderism in every part of their lives at every age. More power to them. This is not describe me, else I would not have recognized this in myself so late in my life. I am not a science experiment. I do not need three points in my past to plot my transgender quotient, thus proving that I really am transgender, not just starved for attention.

    I do think my gender dysphoria was a significant cause of a lot of self-destructive facets of my behavior at many times and many places, which I misidentified as having other causes. It was only in the fullness of time when these other causes proved false that it began to dawn on me that I was trans. Guess I am a Sherlock Holmes kind of person – eliminate the impossible until one is left with the possible. It would be accurate to say that I fought against being Trans for years until it finally got the better of me. Now I can be a better me: the real one.


  15. Lucy

    I do agree with a lot of what’s been said above, I constantly feel there’s some test on trans-ness which I’ve failed. Ranging from how I dress to how I look. But it doesn’t invalidate me and it certainly shouldn’t you.


  16. Joss/Ame

    I actually am in exactly the same boat as you right now. I’m 18 going on 19, and although most of my life I’ve been experiencing particular feelings or tendencies towards male and genderqueer identification, I didn’t even realize what it was or know what to call it for a long time, just shortly before I got to college. When I arrived at school I suffered through a brief period of agonizing over whether, as you said, I was “trans enough”, especially considering I had a few trans acquaintances and worried if they would judge me against their own internal standard. My fears, it seems, were unfounded–it was one of them who encouraged me to explore my identity and first told me the term “genderqueer”. As other people above have said, be true to yourself. Just because you identify as trans or queer doesn’t at all mean you have to stop liking “women’s” clothing, or things you’ve liked your entire life or grown to like by habit. That would just be creating a NEW kind of binary, with no room for growth at all–and wouldn’t that be defeating the point of gender exploration?


  17. Mo

    I didn’t even begin to question my gender identity until I was about 19; I never felt like anything other than a girl when I was younger. I did go through a period of not feeling “trans enough” but I was eventually able to relax and just let myself be me without trying to do things the “right” way.


  18. ian c.

    hey, I only started figuring this stuff out when I was a couple months into being 30 yrs old. some people get to it even later…. there’s no statute of limitations! here we are, we are alive now!

    I don’t retroactively consider myself to “always have been” trans, but I do give my younger self the completing & integrating possibility of always having been “queer” (which I understand in a sense where most people probably use “genderqueer”, having to do with existence & expression, not just sexuality)… and I am pretty sure that as soon as I started getting crushes on people, I have more or less always been gay. :)

    love and use labels and categories if they help you understand & accept yourself — ignore them if they are hurtful or divisive. I think everybody on genderfork knows the power of labels, for good & for bad… I, for one, struggle to bend them to my will every day. …. good luck!


  19. Ashtur

    I didn’t work it out till I was 31. But the more I look back at my younger self, the more it makes sense of a lot of things about me that I never understood at the time.


  20. Lia

    It would be sad to always be the same thing !

    The theory that people should “always have known” is there to maintain the idea that people are either men or women and nothing else, that people can’t change their gender, that it’s set in stone. It’s a way for essentialists to deal with the idea of trans people without having to change their world view.

    Also it has been used as a strategy by LGBT movement – saying that people don’t have a choice over their sexuality or gender as a way to getting LGBT rights. It has worked well, but has also been hurtful for those of us who don’t feel that way.

    Of couse _some_ people have always known ; _some_ people (trans or not) think of themselves as strictly men or women – which is totally ok. But the problem is that this has become the mainstream narrative that people now try to impose on the rest of us.

    It’s ok to change your sexuality or gender at any time, and change again if you wish to. For me anyone who isn’t strictly cisgendered is trans, regardless of how/when/how/where/why.


  21. Ronen

    Wow at all these folks who owned up to their trans-ness at 17, 18, 19… Try 23!!!

    (Now cue someone to come in with 30, 35, 40. We know you’re out there!)

    It’s true, the standard narrative is that a trans person must have always known – and yeah, the more I go back into my past, the more I discover things that hinted at knowing on a subconscious level. But I didn’t “know” know, and there’s still lots of things I’m uncertain about. I like the idea that someone up-thread brought up, of using one’s doubts as a way to explore options. It’s a way to make those doubts useful, instead of just wallowing (which is all too easy).


  22. Tory

    Thank you so much for asking this question! I’m 22 and just started uncovering the complexities of my gender a few months ago. I currently identify as genderqueer, but I’m not limiting myself to the possibility that this may change over time.

    Your question is one I’ve asked repeatedly over the last few months. I wish I had been told that not everyone has always known their gender fell outside the binary.

    It’s clear that we are not alone and that makes me feel so much more comfortable as a member of this wonderful community. I hope it makes you feel the same way :)


  23. Tim

    I didn’t always know. I was confused about everything, I had no idea about who I was at all – people just assumed I was a girl since that was what I was told to be. I never was though, even though I looked pretty “normal”. Figuring yourself out takes time, I think it’s the same thing for cisgendered people; they just happen to figure out that they are the way people have always seen them, which of course is less problematic. But it’s still the same thing. I often struggle with thoughts about being trans enough, since I like men and I am pretty mature for my age (17) and since there are a lot of things about me that are viewed as feminine. But then again, I don’t see why I should deny that part of myself as well as not denying I am a man. That would make no sense. I am what I am, and let so be it. I might not be trans enough, but all I really want to be is myself enough, and I sure as hell am.


  24. Samson

    I struggle with this too–especially since not only was I not “always trans,” I’m also not transsexual, and to some people I’m not transgender either–I’m “just” genderqueer. Sometimes I feel doubly “not trans enough.” Thanks to everyone who’s commented for making ME feel less alone too.

    Part of being trans* for me is saying, “Fuck the rules.” I don’t approach my trans*-ness as part of breaking society’s rules. I approach it as an acknowledgment and celebration of the idea that there are no true rules–not for what it means to be male or female, and also not for what it means to be trans*. There’s no real “trans enough,” only standards that people cling to in order to validate themselves.


  25. Lee

    I didn’t start to question gender until just a year ago. I think it’s different for everyone, and trying to compare yourself is just setting you up for disappointment. I mean, people develope and change differently.

    What is interesting is that I didn’t understand gender itself until well into puberty and the horrors of sex-ed classes. I honestly didn’t know there was any difference between boys and girls. This could also have been a factor in delaying my realization. I don’t know how many others share this…


    Meike replied:

    No worries, I don’t think the differences occurred to me until the end of high school! We’re all a little oblivious at times. :)


  26. Jack

    Just have to interject here. I concur with almost everything being said here. (Only because I scanned and didn’t read all the details… =)) I wish I had even known what ‘trans’ was when I was 18. Instead, I picked ‘lesbian’ because it was what everyone told me I was.

    I am going on 27 and just figuring it out. I haven’t “always known” and have often felt not “trans enough”.

    I think that doubt is a natural part of life. If you don’t have at least a little doubt and fear, I don’t think things can be real. It’s like when people get married and the preacher says “if you’re not nervous, we have a lot to talk about” (idk.. saw it on TV the other night) People who say that they are 100% certain about anything in life are either lying or living in a fantasy land. There is ALWAYS doubt, even if just the tiniest shred.

    For me, my validation comes in the form of accepting these doubts and fears as a natural part of being human, and accepting that I am finally becoming the person that I am in a way that makes me happy, regardless of what that is or means.

    I’m Jack, and I’m transgender. I didn’t always know I was trans. I am terrified of what this is going to do to my life. And it’s not “life or death” whether I transition… It’s just a matter of finding comfort within myself. And for the first time ever, I’m okay with that and not concerned about how I “measure up”.


  27. shunomellow

    This post and the comments have really helped me.

    I have always known, but also been in denial. And now, well into my thirties I have decided to be true to myself. But, this has led to more and more questions and doubts. I sometimes wish my trans-ness were stronger and my choices clearer, like “should I transition?”. I have led my life so far as a man; in so many ways I am a man and always will be. That part of me cannot be taken away and nor should it be. But also, I am not a man. I am just me: genderqueer, questioning, trans. What matters is what I am right now, I just haven’t accepted that yet.

    Alex: OP – just look forward. good luck


  28. vex

    There are some people who you will never be ‘anything enough’ for.

    I have a similar experience of being not heterosexual enough for my parents, but not lesbian enough for the local gay scene, in a strange sense not even bisexual enough for my friends because i’ve never had a relationship with a girl (so i must be more ‘straight’ than i think, right?) which makes me difficult to define. i also don’t feel ‘queer’ enough to call myself queer because i can’t honestly say whether i would be attracted to someone who does not define as male or female. (i’d rather appear prejudiced but honest than lie to people).

    in a similar way one is often not masculine or feminine enough for some people, or christian enough, or feminist enough – like someone said earlier, some people assert their identities by defining you as being less of whatever they are. these people are dicks. the only solution is to talk to people who accept who you are, as nothing more or less than that, and don’t try and make you live up to some exacting standard which NOBODY really fits.

    you could have wanted to change genders since you popped out the womb, it still wouldn’t be enough for some people.


    The Nerd replied:

    Your comment reminds me of this


    vex replied:

    Awesome! I like that a lot. I say something similar almost every time people talk about how they’re weird and everyone else is normal.


  29. cata fabulosa

    How old is too old? I’m 33 (today, actually!) and I’m only just realising my gender identity. At 33. Wow. That’s old, right? I’ve been seriously questioning for a few months, had latent thoughts for a while longer, but looking back at my childhood, my teens, everything that’s come since, there are lots of little things that start to make more sense.

    So yeah, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t upset that it’s taken me this long to really start to work out who I am, because I wonder how different my life to this point would be. But finding you, finding who you are, isn’t a time for regret or a time to question if it’s too late. It’s a time to grab your knew knowledge and run forward.

    (I wish I could take my own advice.)


  30. Clare

    I’m 50 – and the discovery is momentous. enjoy!


  31. Damion

    I only figured things out at 15. As a child I didn’t think I was anything other than a girl, a masculine girl maybe, but still a girl. As certain feminine tendencies I had fell away during puberty and I became more disconnected with my body than I already was, things became clear to me.
    Sometimes I still feel insecure as a trans man because there seems to be a standard list of things (that they don’t speak of) you must follow. I’m not many of those things. One of those is knowing since you were young, which I haven’t. Another of those things is cutting your hair really short while I like mine medium to long length.
    It’s as if trans men have an unspoken rule of masculinity going on and only one way is valid. While in reality there are many different kinds of men, so why can’t there be many kinds of trans men? (same goes for trans women, by the way)


Leave a Reply

Can I show your picture? If you have a Gravatar associated with this email address, it will be displayed as your photo. If not, I'll just put a picture of a fork next to your comment. Everybody likes forks.

Be nice. Judgmental comments will be quietly deleted and blacklisted. There's plenty of room for those elsewhere on the web.

For legal reasons, you must be age 13 or older to post a comment on Genderfork.

You can use some HTML tags for formatting, e.g. <em>...</em> for emphasis (italics) or <strong>...</strong> for strong emphasis (bold) or <a href="http://(url)">...</a> for links.

Back to top