Sign In

Ask the trans woman (aka interrogate the trans woman)

Author
Time
 (Edited)

This has been a thread I’ve wanted to do for a while, but wasn’t sure how much traction it’d have. That said, the recent discussion in the Religion thread seems to indicate that there is a niche that warrants its existence. It is said that the best way to absorb what you learn is to teach it to others. I’m hoping that by discussing the subject with others, I in turn can better understand my own thoughts and feelings on the matter.

I’ll start with a primer of myself, so we have a baseline of where I’m coming from. I am a 22 year old Transgender woman. That means I identify as female, and prefer to be referred to as such. I’ve known this about myself since I was 17 (2014), but if I wanted to, I could dig into my life deep enough to find hints about it as far back as puberty, or maybe even before. I have been on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) since January 23, 2018, or for about 8 months as of the time of writing this. I’m still waiting for the government to process my change of name and gender designation application, but if everything goes well, it’ll be completed by the end of the month. (JEDIT: Certificate for change of name just arrived! WHOO!)

So now, I open the doors for you. Ask your questions, but try to be respectful. I’m still human, after all.

Author
Time

Do you feel more content?

The blue elephant in the room.

Author
Time

A bit, yeah. I still have anxiety issues, definitely, but the way I feel about myself is different, if not necessarily all positive. It’s kind of like, “Now I feel blue, but that’s ok, because before I only felt grey.”

Author
Time
 (Edited)

Have you had support from family, or are they hesitant or outright antagonist? If it isn’t too personal to ask.

The Person in Question

Author
Time

moviefreakedmind said:

Have you had support from family, or are they hesitant or outright antagonist? If it isn’t too personal to ask.

For the most part, it’s been a positive reception, thankfully (as I’m still having a hard time finding suitable employment). I had my concerns about receiving negativity from both sets of my grandparents, but for better or worse, they’ve all died before I had to approach them about it.

Author
Time
 (Edited)

If it’s not too much to ask, what’s your sexual orientation and what impact did it play on the evolution of your gender identity? Are you attracted to women, and did that make it harder for you to realize you’re a transwoman? Did you initially think you were a gay man? Or was sexual attraction completely irrelevant?

Arrivederci.

Author
Time

DuracellEnergizer said:

If it’s not too much to ask, what’s your sexual orientation and what impact did it play on the evolution of your gender identity? Are you attracted to women, and did that make it harder for you to realize you’re a transwoman? Did you initially think you were a gay man? Or was sexual attraction completely irrelevant?

Bisexual. It had… some kind of impact. My early sexual exploration was in some ways intertwined with my early exploration of my gender identity, but at the time I didn’t really have it fully formed in my head that being trans was a possible outcome. Rather, it was in this nebulous, “Hmm… I wonder what it’s like to be a woman?” kind of way.

That said, looking back, it explains a lot about why I’m attracted to men even though gay media didn’t do anything for me.

Author
Time

What exactly does it mean to say that you are/were a woman in a man’s body? In other words, how did you know? How did you know you weren’t just a man with an above-average number of feminine characteristics? And if I’m using the wrong vocabulary in asking these questions, I apologize.

Author
Time

RicOlie_2 said:

What exactly does it mean to say that you are/were a woman in a man’s body? In other words, how did you know? How did you know you weren’t just a man with an above-average number of feminine characteristics? And if I’m using the wrong vocabulary in asking these questions, I apologize.

It doesn’t quite feel like, “a woman in the body of a man,” per se. Dysphoria is more of this nagging feeling that something’s not quite right, like if you wore you shirt backwards, except in my case it’s, “why are you growing facial hair? That doesn’t look right.”
Now the level of distress this causes varies from person to person. Myself, I get mildly annoyed. My friend? She has vivid dreams of being a mother and wakes up crying because that can’t happen. There are other still that would fall somewhere between.

As for, “why not just a feminine man?” Well, Gender expression versus Gender Identity is a long subject. Suffice to say, though, I’ve tried being a “feminine man,” and it falls flat for me. Heck, I’m not even especially feminine now, but the changes from HRT make me feel more comfortable in my skin than anything I could do relating to my presentation.

Author
Time

Interesting. I’d need more examples to really be able to put myself in your shoes though.

What makes you think it’s not a psychological disorder? Or do you think that even if it is, the appropriate treatment is to undergo gender reassignment surgery or HRT, or alternatively, that it’s harmless enough that it’s pointless to label it as such?

And do you find it offensive when people label it as a disorder, and why?

Note that when I think of psychological disorders, I don’t think that it has any bearing on how valuable or fundamentally good a person is. Some people seem to get really wound up about the idea that gender dysphoria could be some kind of disorder, but have no problem calling depression a mental illness (and bear no ill-will towards depressed people).

Author
Time
 (Edited)

RicOlie_2 said:

Note that when I think of psychological disorders, I don’t think that it has any bearing on how valuable or fundamentally good a person is. Some people seem to get really wound up about the idea that gender dysphoria could be some kind of disorder, but have no problem calling depression a mental illness (and bear no ill-will towards depressed people).

I’d hate to answer questions that you posed to someone else in their thread, but depression and transgenderism are not comparable. Depression is a chemical imbalance that lessens the quality of life significantly of the person in question. Being transgender, while often a difficult experience in most societies, is not something that in and of itself prevents someone from living a productive and happy life. I’m not transgender so I can’t speak for people that are, but homosexuality is and has been frequently slapped with the “mental disorder” label in the past and I think it’s a similar mischaracterization of the issue.

The Person in Question

Author
Time

I was going to ask if you were interested in reassignment surgery. I’ve not met many openly trans people, but the ones I have talked to have told me that they didn’t feel that they wanted or needed the surgery, which I was a bit surprised by. I just always assumed that surgery would be a primary goal or desire of transitioning people.

The Person in Question

Author
Time

Another question. How do you feel about cisgendered actors playing trans characters? Movies like Boys Don’t Cry, which is one of my favorite movies, and others.

The Person in Question

Author
Time

Not sure how to phrase this, so I’m gonna do a word salad and hope for interpretation. It’s not so much a question as a knot I’ve been working on untying.

I’m heartened at how easily kids can accept things that seem so unfamiliar to their parents (background: I’m an old cis straight married white guy). At my son’s previous school (elementary), he had two trans kids in his class. The school’s one of those schools that really seems to put effort into accepting trans kids, so parents of trans kids move here from all over hoping for a better experience. I didn’t see much sign of stigma or rejection there, trans kids were out and outgoing, other kids corrected their parents on pronoun usage, so that all seemed good. And I was looking for problems, because I have some adult trans friends and this was Not Their Experience Growing Up At All.

And yet… I felt it was all superficial in a way. Nobody likes to talk about charged topics that may cause awkward feelings, even moreso if it comes with a set of vocabulary words. But aside from the “That’s so-and-so. She’s cool. Yeah, that’s right, she’s trans”… that was it. While I felt they accepted the person (which is lovely), I didn’t get any sense that anyone really cared to dig too deep about what trans actually meant. Puberty was right around the corner and I’m not sure anyone knew this might be a particularly big deal for their trans friends. Silence can be a serious problem.

But then again so is overanalysis. Another friend of mine who uses a wheelchair once said “I just want to take a crap for once without it having to be a political statement.” Maybe just being a trans kid with a superficial “Yeah, she’s cool.” level of understanding from her friends is perfectly adequate.

Do you know what I mean when I talk about acceptance without understanding? And do you have any words of wisdom or experience that might… not really solve the dilemma, because I think it’s always there… but maybe just show it in a different light?

Project Threepio (Star Wars OOT subtitles)

Author
Time
 (Edited)

RicOlie_2 said:

Interesting. I’d need more examples to really be able to put myself in your shoes though.

What makes you think it’s not a psychological disorder? Or do you think that even if it is, the appropriate treatment is to undergo gender reassignment surgery or HRT, or alternatively, that it’s harmless enough that it’s pointless to label it as such?

OK, so, to the best of my knowledge, those who work in Psychology and Psychiatry believe that being trans in and of itself is not a disorder, but the distress that derives from it can be treated as if it were one. Indeed, the DSM-5 stresses that Gender Dysphoria is about the distress, not the fact that they identify as another gender identity. The International Classifications of Disease 11th edition, (the draft of which was released in June) will shift what it calls gender incongruence out of the mental health section, and into the section on Sexual health matters.

Overall, transition (social or medical) is considered the primary cure for dysphoria. The medical field has tried to find ways to “cure” it without transition for decades, and transition has been the only one that reliably works.

As for my own level of offence to it: It’s not ideal to call it a disorder, but it has to show up somewhere in order for it to be covered by insurance (and considering the costs involved, most would rather insurance covered it). The problem is more that the people who usually call it a disorder or mental illness are usually doing so to imply that trans people are deluding themselves and that they should instead look for help to get a “cure,” and stop being trans.

moviefreakedmind said:

I was going to ask if you were interested in reassignment surgery. I’ve not met many openly trans people, but the ones I have talked to have told me that they didn’t feel that they wanted or needed the surgery, which I was a bit surprised by. I just always assumed that surgery would be a primary goal or desire of transitioning people.

Undecided, personally. It’s actually not that uncommon to find non op trans people, but I’ve met the gamut of those who’re looking into getting it, people who want to but think the technology isn’t up to satisfaction yet, those who decided that the effects of hormone therapy are enough, and those who are undecided on the matter.

moviefreakedmind said:

Another question. How do you feel about cisgendered actors playing trans characters? Movies like Boys Don’t Cry, which is one of my favorite movies, and others.

Generally, not really fond of it. It’d be, “not great but not bad,” when it’s cis people of the gender the trans character identifies as. The problem is that it’s usually trans women being played by cis men, which can get into some harmful stereotypes by reinforcing the idea that trans people are men in dresses with makeup.

And then there was that recent Scarlett Johansson controversy, where they were going to rewrite a real who trans dude into being a woman who dressed up as a man in order to get their way in life. Which is even worse. (so glad she rescinded that role.)

CatBus said:

Do you know what I mean when I talk about acceptance without understanding? And do you have any words of wisdom or experience that might… not really solve the dilemma, because I think it’s always there… but maybe just show it in a different light?

I think I get you, though I have more experience with the overanalysis side you describe. It’ll be important for those close to those kids (particularly teachers, parents, and medical professionals), but not everyone else particularly needs to know the itty bitty details. For a lot of us, it’s more important that you stand by us even if you don’t fully understand, than to try too hard to be “validating.”
Then again, I’ve also found attempts to make the public, “understand what something is like,” tends to fall hilariously flat on its face, so I’m not really optimistic that trying to explain a deeper understanding than “she’s trans” is all that helpful.

Author
Time

flametitan said:

I think I get you, though I have more experience with the overanalysis side you describe. It’ll be important for those close to those kids (particularly teachers, parents, and medical professionals), but not everyone else particularly needs to know the itty bitty details. For a lot of us, it’s more important that you stand by us even if you don’t fully understand, than to try too hard to be “validating.”

I think I’ll take that as a “Relax Dad, the kids are alright”. And I get to feel all happy that I successfully communicated something over the Internet without actually really knowing any of the right words, so bonus.

Then again, I’ve also found attempts to make the public, “understand what something is like,” tends to fall hilariously flat on its face, so I’m not really optimistic that trying to explain a deeper understanding than “she’s trans” is all that helpful.

Erm, well, I have high hopes for this thread at least 😉

Thanks.

Project Threepio (Star Wars OOT subtitles)

Author
Time

CatBus said:
Erm, well, I have high hopes for this thread at least 😉

Thanks.

OK, in my defence, when I wrote that I had a presentation of Autism I had to attend in elementary school on my mind. It presented it as an acid trip, and not what autism was actually like, FWIW.

Author
Time
 (Edited)

In your OP you said that you’ve known since you were 17 and perhaps had some hints about yourself as far back as puberty, which seems perfectly reasonable.

I was wondering what your opinion is on those rare cases you hear of much younger, prepubescent children who identify as the opposite sex (which I think is okay in and of itself), who have parents who provide them with treatments such as hormone therapy and puberty blockers, which I think could be potentially quite harmful to a child’s development. Especially if it turns out that the child changes his mind and is not trans after all.

I mean, I remember liking girls at the age of six, but a lot can change between the ages of 6 and 12.

Thanks.

Author
Time
 (Edited)

pleasehello said:

In your OP you said that you’ve known since you were 17 and perhaps had some hints about yourself as far back as puberty, which seems perfectly reasonable.

I was wondering what your opinion is on those rare cases you hear of much younger, prepubescent children who identify as the opposite sex (which I think is okay in and of itself), who have parents who provide them with treatments such as hormone therapy and puberty blockers, which I think could be potentially quite harmful to a child’s development. Especially if it turns out that the child changes his mind and is not trans after all.

I mean, I remember liking girls at the age of six, but a lot can change between the ages of 6 and 12.

Thanks.

  1. No one in the trans community is advocating for any sort of medical transition for prepubescent children. The Standards of Care for that age is all about treating them as they gender they identify as, and waiting to see what happens at puberty.

  2. If the child decides to stop taking them, then the effects of blockers pretty quickly fade and puberty resumes as normal. It doesn’t actually cause transition, so much as give a teen more time to decide for sure. You aren’t allowed to start HRT proper until 16 usually, and the potential risks of harm stem more from having to be on blockers for that long, rather than doing that at all.

Author
Time

FWIW, the parents of pre-pubescent trans kids that I know haven’t even considered blockers, even though they’re aware puberty is likely to be rough. They mostly just try to be emotionally supportive and to validate their child’s identity as they grow and mature.

Project Threepio (Star Wars OOT subtitles)

Author
Time

flametitan said:

RicOlie_2 said:

Interesting. I’d need more examples to really be able to put myself in your shoes though.

What makes you think it’s not a psychological disorder? Or do you think that even if it is, the appropriate treatment is to undergo gender reassignment surgery or HRT, or alternatively, that it’s harmless enough that it’s pointless to label it as such?

OK, so, to the best of my knowledge, those who work in Psychology and Psychiatry believe that being trans in and of itself is not a disorder, but the distress that derives from it can be treated as if it were one. Indeed, the DSM-5 stresses that Gender Dysphoria is about the distress, not the fact that they identify as another gender identity. The International Classifications of Disease 11th edition, (the draft of which was released in June) will shift what it calls gender incongruence out of the mental health section, and into the section on Sexual health matters.

Thanks for the reply. It seems to me to be pretty arbitrary sometimes what is classified as a disorder and what isn’t–I recall the National Geographic article on transgenderism saying that an unusual amount of estrogen in a guy or testosterone in a woman was one cause of gender dysphoria, and other comparable biological phenomena could play a role as well. I googled the definition of “psychological disorder”, and it’s officially:

“A syndrome characterized by clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotion regulation, or behavior that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological, or developmental processes underlying mental functioning.”

My understanding was slightly different, but the definition still seems to apply to gender dysphoria. Clearly, the level of “disturbance” is much lower, but based on your anecdote about your friend having “vivid dreams of being a mother and [waking] up crying because that can’t happen” sounds like a disturbance in behaviour. The suicide rates of transgender people (regardless of whether they’ve transitioned) is abnormally high, which is strange if it isn’t in fact a disorder, unless the suicides are due to social rejection.

What think you?

Author
Time
 (Edited)

RicOlie_2 said:

flametitan said:

RicOlie_2 said:

Interesting. I’d need more examples to really be able to put myself in your shoes though.

What makes you think it’s not a psychological disorder? Or do you think that even if it is, the appropriate treatment is to undergo gender reassignment surgery or HRT, or alternatively, that it’s harmless enough that it’s pointless to label it as such?

OK, so, to the best of my knowledge, those who work in Psychology and Psychiatry believe that being trans in and of itself is not a disorder, but the distress that derives from it can be treated as if it were one. Indeed, the DSM-5 stresses that Gender Dysphoria is about the distress, not the fact that they identify as another gender identity. The International Classifications of Disease 11th edition, (the draft of which was released in June) will shift what it calls gender incongruence out of the mental health section, and into the section on Sexual health matters.

Thanks for the reply. It seems to me to be pretty arbitrary sometimes what is classified as a disorder and what isn’t–I recall the National Geographic article on transgenderism saying that an unusual amount of estrogen in a guy or testosterone in a woman was one cause of gender dysphoria, and other comparable biological phenomena could play a role as well. I googled the definition of “psychological disorder”, and it’s officially:

“A syndrome characterized by clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotion regulation, or behavior that reflects a dysfunction in the psychological, biological, or developmental processes underlying mental functioning.”

My understanding was slightly different, but the definition still seems to apply to gender dysphoria. Clearly, the level of “disturbance” is much lower, but based on your anecdote about your friend having “vivid dreams of being a mother and [waking] up crying because that can’t happen” sounds like a disturbance in behaviour. The suicide rates of transgender people (regardless of whether they’ve transitioned) is abnormally high, which is strange if it isn’t in fact a disorder, unless the suicides are due to social rejection.

What think you?

The problem is mostly in the baggage the term disorder carries, as well as where that label begins and ends.

Would some parts of being trans fall under the clinical disorder label? Yes, very specific elements do. Namely dysphoria, which is defined specifically as the resultant distress. The diagnosis was changed to Gender Dysphoria because psychologists felt it described the problems they wanted to address in clients better than the old “Gender Identity Disorder” label did. It is a matter of curing the distress, not the variant identity.

However, most people who argue whether the disorder label applies are not arguing from this stance. Instead, the argument tends to go that the gender variance itself is disordered thinking, and that transition or supporting transition is an act of enabling said disorder. This, implies, if it’s not directly stated, that the cure shouldn’t be transition, and that transition makes us feel worse instead of better.

Now, of course, the people who make that argument tend to conveniently ignore that transition does help. Is the suicide rate still higher than average? Yes, but the fact that it goes down as much as it does after transition indicates that it’s worked better than alternatives. Why is it higher? I’m not an expert, but my guesses involve lack of positive depictions in media (it’s getting a little better now, but this was definitely a factor for the generation before me and when I grew up,) The possibility of friends and family ghosting you or turning hostile, the demonization from things like recent bathroom bills, dysphoria itself, how shitty access to transition care can be…

I could go on.

TL;DR:
It used to be labelled a disorder, but changing understanding of both dysphoria and what psychiatrists are aiming to cure led to a name that they felt was more accurate. Most people who srgue that it should be labelled a disorder still tend do be doing so from bad faith and a lack of understanding of the science behind it.

Author
Time

What I’ve seen of the public debate over transgender issues, one side is talking about sex while the other is talking about gender identity.

You made a remark about the difference between gender identity and gender expression and I think that goes to the point that we’re not just talking gender as that term has been generally used, but rather this compound term gender identity.

Do you agree? Do you think there’s a way to bridge the gap so people are not talking past each other?

The blue elephant in the room.

Author
Time

Mrebo said:

What I’ve seen of the public debate over transgender issues, one side is talking about sex while the other is talking about gender identity.

You made a remark about the difference between gender identity and gender expression and I think that goes to the point that we’re not just talking gender as that term has been generally used, but rather this compound term gender identity.

Do you agree? Do you think there’s a way to bridge the gap so people are not talking past each other?

You’re not entirely wrong about there being conflation between physical sex and gender identity; however, I feel like I’m missing something in this statement. Like, I think I get what your saying, but I can’t quite grasp it as firmly as I’d like to. Maybe some examples of what you mean might help.

As far as trying to bridge the gap so that people aren’t talking past one another, the important thing is to listen. Listen to those affected, listen to the concerns of others so that they may be properly addressed…

Author
Time

flametitan said:

Mrebo said:

What I’ve seen of the public debate over transgender issues, one side is talking about sex while the other is talking about gender identity.

You made a remark about the difference between gender identity and gender expression and I think that goes to the point that we’re not just talking gender as that term has been generally used, but rather this compound term gender identity.

Do you agree? Do you think there’s a way to bridge the gap so people are not talking past each other?

You’re not entirely wrong about there being conflation between physical sex and gender identity; however, I feel like I’m missing something in this statement. Like, I think I get what your saying, but I can’t quite grasp it as firmly as I’d like to. Maybe some examples of what you mean might help.

As far as trying to bridge the gap so that people aren’t talking past one another, the important thing is to listen. Listen to those affected, listen to the concerns of others so that they may be properly addressed…

I hope to better grasp it myself. It seems to me that there is physical sex, there is gender, and there is gender identity. As I understand it, gender identity can manifest in any number of ways and does not depend on making physical changes nor adopting any particular gender traits. But for all of these separate concepts, we use similar or the same terminology.

As an example of what I’m getting at, today in the news is the transgender cyclist’s win. And there are many comments that the win is unfair, that males are naturally stronger, etc. On its face this denies the gender identity of an athlete. But the objectors are speaking in terms of physical sex while the cyclist and allies are speaking in terms of gender identity. Neither side wants to recognize what they other is saying, it seems to me.

The blue elephant in the room.