My wife recently asked me if I feel that I am female "inside." If I am transgender, then doesn't that mean that I consider myself fundamentally female? It turns out that those are questions I've asked myself and I am not confident I have the answers to. After all, how can I ever know if you and I see the same color let alone if my thoughts and feelings are female?
To try to answer these questions I try to look at the facts that I do know and then draw a conclusion:
- I know that since preschool I've envied girls and women. This has been a constant throughout my life, often considering what it would feel like (and wishing I could feel it) to be one. I thus feel it's certain that I have gender dysphoria.
- My childhood was shadowed by a clinically depressed mother and an absent father; their relationship was pretty emotionless. I was an only child, and was often navigating rocky shoals at home, trying to please my mother or just remain out of her focus. Some have written that a single mother's attention might encourage some to "become transgender." Well I'll tell you, there are some parallels but we did not have much of a relationship at all let alone one that would encourage me to look at her as a role model.
- Even in preschool I had shame about my envies of girls. In kindergarten when I played with the girls at their play-kitchenettes I was sure that this was shameful. My shame around my GD was a constant that developed into depression for me.
1. My shame/depression may have resulted from my mother's treatment of me expressing my gender dysphoria. This might explain why I automatically felt shame even in preschool and kindergarten.
2. My shame/depression may have resulted from my mother's attitude, disposition, depression, and treatment of me (in general). Why not?
3. My gender dysphoria may thus have arisen from my childish observations that girls had it better. My home life was pretty awkward at best so it seems natural that I would wish I had it better. I sure liked some of my friend's mothers. It was like I instinctively knew what I was missing.
My gut tells me that the answer is #1, so that's what I'm going with. Okay, but am I female in my head?
In an email to my therapist a couple of months ago I told him that overall I always just wanted to be small and treasured. When I wrote it I felt a shiver like, "yeah!" He noticed it too, telling me that it was an important observation. Small and treasured does dovetail with what I imagine I'd be if I was a girl. I'm sure women outgrow most of it but I imagine it's always there, like a foundational right of being female.
But I still lack an answer: am I female at heart? I struggle to know. I'm not that unhappy with my life as a sensitive, thoughtful, and fun male. It's just that something feels missing. In Dara Hoffman-Fox's book "You and Your Gender Identity: A Guide to Discovery" she writes that these kinds of self-doubts are very common. It's as if we have an internal Protector who is fed off those "am I crazy?" doubts that creep into our consciousness and are so hard to silent. We need to acknowledge and thank our Protector for her attention but consider her advise carefully as it is often presented in ways that prevent us from moving forward.
Yesterday I wrote another email to my therapist. (Thank goodness he supports this. It's so important for me to have these touchstones with him in between our meetings.)
- As a child did I want to be small and treasured, and not receiving it, envied girls and thus wanted to feel like one?
- or -
- Did I want to be a girl, and thus be small and treasured?
I think it's the latter but it's hard to be sure and seemingly impossible to know. What I do see is that 'small and treasured' is a common denominator for me to this day. If that supports me as being female inside then so be it. In the meantime I'm satisfied in the knowledge that I have gender dysphoria, that's it's perfectly okay and normal, and that I'm making my own progress in my own time.
P.S. I just looked at my profile and see that I joined TGGuide on 10/27/14. It's less than a week from my 2-Year Anniversary! Maybe I should use Birthday instead? It feels like it. I've grown so much over that period with so much support and guidance from our members here. As the Grateful Dead sung, "What a long strange trip it's been."
Thank you all.