“I think I might be transgender, but I’m not sure. How do I know if I’m trans or not?”
The first thing to remember is that there is no singular narrative of what it means to be a trans person. Gender (regardless of how society wants to box it) is not a binary – it’s a spectrum, a continuum.
The longer answer is that I cannot tell you who you are. Only you can figure that out. And I’m sure, if you’re anything like me, you’re currently rolling your eyes. I get it. It really sucks trying to figure out who you are. But you’re asking all the good questions right now and that’s exactly where you need to be. Asking yourself questions. You don’t have to have all the answers right now.
I would really invest in thinking about who you are – who you want to be – when the lights go out at the end of the day and you’re alone in bed. Don’t focus on your body and it’s shape or genitals or hormones. That’s only a fraction of this. Ask yourself the questions that pull at your heart, that disturb you:
- Who are you inside?
- What will make you live the happiest, most authentic life?
- If nothing else could stop you – if other things didn’t matter, what would you do? Take your family, your sport, your significant other, your peers, everyone, out of the equation. What would you do just for you? I always imagine myself on an island alone, trying to survive on my own, just as me. Who did I see? I always saw myself a man.
Here are some sample writing prompts:
- Imagine you are stranded on a deserted island by yourself. Who are you? What does your body look and feel like? How do you carry yourself?
- At the end of the day when you’re by yourself in your bed, the lights are off and it’s just you under the covers, who are you? Close your eyes. How do you imagine your body and yourself and how you present yourself? (You can write about this, but you also might actually lay in bed and imagine this at night.)
- Consult your younger self. I always choose my 8-year-old self because I think he knew a lot about who he was and hadn’t yet been influenced by who the world told him he had to be. Think about who your younger self imagined you to become. Who have you always dreamed of growing up to be? What would your younger self think of you today? Why?
“Do you have any suggestions for folks questioning their gender?”
Sometimes I think the questions are more important than the answers. I know that sounds funny but if you keep asking and wondering about the questions, you’ll eventually stumble into the answers.
See the previous FAQ for some example questions to ask yourself.
Ultimately, the question you’re trying to answer is: What will make you feel the most like yourself? What, over the course of your life, has made you feel the most like yourself? When do you remember feeling the most like yourself and what factors contributed to that?
“I think I’m a trans boy, but in many ways, I am afraid to transition. I don’t hate my life “as a girl,” and I don’t hate being a girl, I just know I’m not one. What if no one believes me?”
There are no qualifications to being trans except that – being trans. There’s no checklist… “Yes, I hate pink; yes, I was rugged and short-haired my entire childhood; yes, I despise all things feminine—” No! That’s not how this works. It is more complex and spectral that than. And I suppose there is a prototype that most trans people collectively feel, but you don’t have to feel all or any of these to be trans. I know several trans men who grew up loving dresses, being hyper “femme,” wearing makeup, dating boys, etc., and that doesn’t make them any less trans. You don’t have to hate “life as a girl” in order to be a trans man. In fact, if I’m being honest, I still miss pieces of presenting as a woman and being a part of social womanhood. But, I also realize that I didn’t lose too much – I am still feminine in many ways, I have almost all of my friends from before, I still have a lot of friends who are women. And on the front of “no one will believe me,” I think it’s more important to figure out if you believe yourself. And I don’t mean to say that you’re lying to yourself, what I mean is that as we grow up, everyone throws a million “THIS-IS-WHO-AND-WHAT-YOU-ARE-SUPPOSED-TO-BEs,” at us. Our teachers, our parents, our siblings, friends, the media, etc. Most of it is well intentioned, sure. But usually this teaches us a lot about who other people and society think we have to be, masking who we actually are. And I think a lot of trying to find yourself is unlearning the pieces of advice that aren’t true to you – that don’t feel authentic.
“So, most of the time I feel 100% sure I am transgender. But then there is this doubt. I want to figure it out more than anything. If I could choose what gender I wanted to be without a doubt I would choose to be male. But I’m worried I’ve obsessed over the whole thing so much that I’ve convinced myself that this is who I am. Can you WANT to be transgender but not actually BE transgender? Or is wanting to be trans the same as actually being trans?”
I have a few responses to your questions. First, yes, I did ask myself similar questions. Am I really a boy or do I just want to be one? Can’t I just stay the way I am, girls can do everything boys can do! And so on the way you were mentioning. What I tried to focus on is who I really truly feel I am. It is not about who I want to be. Or who I think I should be. Or what I can do. It’s who I feel I am at the core of my person. And what decisions that I can make, with that knowledge, what will make me the happiest.
In the end, though, I’m not sure if there is a right or wrong answer. This is all a journey to figure yourself out, and I don’t think it ever truly ends. Which is kind of the thrill of it all, in a way. Today and tomorrow and tomorrow’s tomorrow and so on, your goal is to keep digging into your own authenticity, whatever that means to you.
I will add, though, that I do think you should trust your gut. People who think that they are trans are RARELY wrong – statistically speaking, I mean. There have been so few cited cases of people being wrong about who they are. (And even if they are. They end up being okay.) This isn’t like you’re choosing between going to one college or the other and you’re just unsure. This is who you are. Again, people are generally not wrong about that. Doubt (societal, parental, internal, is just extremely powerful!) Either way, though, this is about your heart. At least, it is in my opinion and experience. It’s not about your head or your logic or what anyone else says or thinks about you. It’s just you. It’s your heart and soul.
Check out this (poorly edited, sorry it’s very old) video I made about people-pleasing: https://youtu.be/2gFT1OWc6eM. It sums up a lot of how I figured out that I really am a boy and the thought-tools I used to help my mind catch up with my heart.
Some other reminders…
WHAT’S THE POINT?
It’s so easy to get lost in what society wants from you. In the sensationalized media-driven images of transgender people that cause us to focus on how we look and how we dress and if we pass or not. But ultimately, the question you’re trying to answer is: What will make you feel the most like yourself? So ask yourself this. And dive into your past as you do. That is, what, over the course of your life, has made you feel the most like yourself? Maybe you’ve never felt completely like yourself. That’s okay. What moments brought you closest? What clothing, what people, what music, what locations brought you closest? When do you remember feeling the most like yourself and what factors contributed to that?
IT’S OKAY IF YOU DON’T KNOW YET
You might be comparing yourself to other folks (trans or not) around you, but this is YOUR journey, not theirs. Everyone is on a different timeline. You don’t have to have it all figured out right now. It’s okay if you find a label that fits today but tomorrow you’ve outgrown it. Be gentle with yourself. Know that when other people box you it is for their comfort and to quiet their demons. It is not about you. Take your time. You’ll get there.
TRUST YOUR GUT
This is all about who YOU know YOU are. It is about who YOU feel YOURSELF to be. These are not realizations is arrived at, made through, or built upon logic. It’s not about your head or your rational or what anyone else thinks about you. It’s just you. It’s your heart and soul. Listen to yourself. Deal with everyone else later.