I know that many of you have gone through this: You feel different; something about the way others see you or refer to you is wrong. You don’t have the words to make this feeling into something tangible. You google, using the words you have and eventually your searches land you on sites that talk about gender. So many genders! These sites tell you that you are trans.
You have a word, the thing you needed to anchor yourself solidly in reality so that you can tell everyone, “I exist.”
But then someone else comes along and tells you that your definition isn’t quite right - transgender people have an uncomfortable relationship with their bodies and feel that they should have been born with secondary sex characteristics different from what they have. And if you don’t feel that way … you aren’t trans.
This upsets you; something is still different! You can feel it and this word was the one thing that allowed you to take everything you felt and verbally express it! If someone takes your word away, what does that leave you with?
Okay. Stop a moment. Breathe. Although I believe that the word transgender should remain in the hands of those who need medical help (more on that in a moment), I want to assure you that I don’t think you are making things up or that your feelings are not legitimate. Think for a moment about how you feel - hold on to that and remember that it is real no matter what name it’s called by.
Some people who are not transgender still experience discomfort with their gender roles and the expression they are expected to have. Some people feel more masculine than others of their sex or more feminine or rather androgynous and this is perfectly okay! Though it may run completely counter to what is expected to you as a person of a certain sex; thus the confusion. Being gender non conforming (GNC) is a real and legitimate thing to be, no matter your status with gender dysphoria.
Now, why am I even making the distinction between GNC people and transgender people? I can go on about medical definitions that most of you have already seen but I’d rather give you a reason why this distinction is logical.
Think about the kind of help a person from each group needs. Transgender people will likely need counseling (especially to get a proper diagnosis), hormones and perhaps even surgery. They’ll probably need help changing their gender markers on legal documents and changing their names. GNC people might need help coming to terms with the way people react to their non conformity and to talk to parents about how their son wearing a dress isn’t indicative of anything but stellar fashion sense. Two different groups, two fairly different sets of needs.
Belonging to one group doesn’t make you better or more special or deserving of respect than someone of the other group. We both have our struggles to deal with and our victories to celebrate. These labels simply exist so that we can communicate more effectively about who we are as people.
In conclusion, I ask only that you think deeply about yourself and what will make you happy to inhabit your body. Remember that you don’t need hormones or surgery to prove anything to anyone. Any actions you take should be an act of self-love, not a move to justify yourself to anyone else.
This is a really good, thoughtful, and logical breakdown that I think is well worth a read.
That said, I would also gently point out that some GNC folks like myself (I’m non-binary identified) do seek out surgery and use the term transgender because it is easier for non-trans people in our social and professional lives to grasp.
I don’t identify wholly as male, but I’ve had top surgery. I’m on hormones. Have had a consult for lower surgeries. I’m pursuing the medical procedures that I feel will make me most happy and comfortable in my own body, while acknowledging that I often don’t experience the level of dysphoria I hear some other transgender people describe.
I tell the vast majority of people in my social and professional life that I’m male-identified/transgender, because explaining a non-binary identity and requesting non-gendered pronouns in the workplace seems unreasonable to me (it seems particularly infeasible to expect clients and my remote team to handle them when they never interact with me in person).
Ultimately, transgender may not be the best term for my situation, but I use it because people who hear the term recognize a general narrative when I describe myself like that. It may not be the most accurate of narratives, but the people closest to me know how I truly identify, and that’s enough for me.
Just wanted to supplement what I thought was a really good piece.