How to accept and be happy with your gender?
June 30, 2011 8:56 PM   Subscribe

How do I learn to accept my gender?

I'm a 20ish straight male. I would rather be a 20ish straight female. Lately, this is becoming more than just a joking "if only" statement, and starting to really bother me. I go shopping with my girlfriend, and end up feeling depressed because I'm stuck with this gender.

I don't know if I have an actual question, because I don't know if there's an answer.
Does anyone have tips on being happy with the wrong gender? Any happy ending stories?

Gender reassignment surgery is not an option, thank you.

I'll be around to follow up, I left it short because I don't know how many replies I'll actually get
posted by trogdole to Health & Fitness (43 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Meet other people who have similar experiences. On the internet or in person. There are all different ways to be as a person with your "bio" (stating in short) and it might be helpful to hear what other people have thought about or experienced.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:03 PM on June 30, 2011

The first thing you should do is see a therapist who specializes in gender. Why don't you think transition is an option? You sound to me like a textbook case transgender person, and any therapist would encourage you to transition.

I'd recommend that you contact your local LGBT center (if you live in a big city). They should be able to give you a referral.
posted by catwash at 9:03 PM on June 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

Would you be comfortable with an inbetween, for example crossdressing, painting your nails, etc? There are also options such an hormone therapy if that suits you.

I would suggest looking for books about other transgender (sorry if this isn't the term you prefer to use to describe yourself) individuals and their experiences. I felt strongly that I was born the wrong gender in highschool (memail me if you want to talk more) and reading about other's experiences with those feelings really helped.
posted by biochemist at 9:05 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

So you'd rather be a female but for wanting to keep your genitals arrangement the same. Doesn't seem so unreasonable to blend the two, i.e. having male genitals but otherwise living female. People do this sort of thing all the time.

Is this an option for you?
posted by Matt Oneiros at 9:07 PM on June 30, 2011 [8 favorites]

There is a TON of middle ground between "accept your birth gender" and "radical surgery." But I can tell you, denying that these impulses exist is a surefire ticket to misery. You need to talk to a therapist. Doing so DOES NOT MEAN deciding to take any steps towards transitioning, but you need to get this sorted out. These feelings are not going to just go away on their own.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:10 PM on June 30, 2011 [8 favorites]

Nthing therapy with someone experienced in this field.

You need to be able express your thoughts, concerns, frustrations in a safe secure location with someone who can assist you in processing your wants and needs.

Like others have said there is a large continuum out there between being completely comfortable how you were born and gender reassignment, but because we are so conditioned to think of gender as a fundamentally binary state when it is in fact a complex social construct we often lack the experience or terminology to express ourselves without the assistance of others who have wrestled with similar issues.

If you don't have the financial wherewithal to engage a professional therapist you can probably seek out all manner of free services and support groups (both online and in person), but as always quality might be hit or miss and you might be exposed to people pushing agendas rather than promoting your best interests (whatever they might end up being).
posted by vuron at 9:22 PM on June 30, 2011

Therapy is a good idea. But not all therapists will be especially well equipped to help you with this. Thankfully you live near a pretty big city that has a Queer resource center. They should have a list of LGBT positive therapists. That would be a good place to start out to find one. (And don't think you have to identify as LGBT to use these resources or think that doing so will label you as such). I will send you contact info via MeMail.

You don't have to transition. You don't have to accept your birth sex. You don't have to do anything you don't want to. A therapist will really help you sort this out and one who is familiar with the issues of gender identity will be able to help you immensely.
posted by munchingzombie at 9:22 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

You do not have to keep living as a gender that doesn't feel right to you.

There is no reason you need to have surgery if you don't want it.

You can have a community of friends and loved ones who respect and understand your gender.

I know many people who are, for an easy umbrella term, trans. Some have never taken hormones or had surgery. Some take hormones and have had no surgery. Some take hormones and have had surgery. Some have had surgery and do not take hormones. I also know and love people who do not easily fit into one gender category or another and feel fine with that. To a certain extend, that's true for me - and I am happy and loved in the body I have and in the gender that works for me.

Meeting other people with similar experiences can only help! There are conferences, support groups, online listserves, and other ways you can connect.

Resources to check out:
Julia Serano
Leslie Feinberg
Kate Bornstein
The Channel

Best of luck to you.
posted by serazin at 9:48 PM on June 30, 2011 [6 favorites]

As others above have recommended, you need not stick to a strict definition of sex. You say you have a girlfriend, so I am guessing you are nominally straight, Try to talk to her, and see if she's on board with your new life to come. Feel free to indulge yourself, then see what you think about it. There is no single answer. You are you, and that's cool. Just keep looking for the answer, and you'll eventually find it.
posted by Gilbert at 9:49 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Transitioning isn't an easy option, and I have no idea if it's the right one for you. I do want to point out though that surgery is not a part of gender transition for many, many people, and even for those who choose it eventually, presenting themselves to the world as the gender that feels right to them and getting their hormone balance in line with what's typical for the gender they are transitioning to are usual (and mostly reversible) first steps and help folks get a sense of what they want and how they're comfortable living. N'thing that you look for a therapist (find one who works with "gender non conforming" folks and who isn't either focused on a binary and stereotypical view of male and female or on fixing this as though it were a pathology) to help you figure all this out.
posted by crabintheocean at 9:53 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

As defined, you can't be "happy" with the "wrong" "gender", not without messing with the definitions of happy, wrong, or gender. 'Genderqueer' and social choices to cross-dress/etc messes with the gender, therapy helps redefining and approaching happiness/self-image. If you simply think your gender is 'wrong' and you simply want to learn to accept it 'as is', there's nothing you can do to be happy, because self-denial only leads to grief. That isn't to say, however, that you can only be happy by doing X, Y or Z to fix it (like surgery, cross-dressing, whatever). It's just saying that without changed attitudes of some sort, your options as stated are limited. People who become happy sometimes do it through changing their environment, sometimes from changing their perspective, but never through simply resigning themselves to a life they find lacking. You have to do something, make a decision, create change.

I can suggest something else, which can be as radical as therapy or hormones/surgery: you can really commit to going on a journey of self-discovery, one for which you don't necessarily need a therapist except as in the role of a guide figure. There are all sorts of things open to deconstruction in your statements, and not simply-- or not only-- psychological deconstruction, but also philosophical and critical thought. Gender itself is partly social construct you can think about or discuss beyond the issue of personal feeling; for instance, lots of cisgendered individuals are unhappy with their gender for social reasons (such as lack of rights or oppressive social systems, if you're a woman). I fully appreciate that there are innate biological aspects to gender-expression, and this creates a feeling of alienation when generated or suppressed in deference to socially set boundaries, but there are also social aspects. You can choose to wear whatever you want to wear whatever gender you are, and you can choose to do whatever you want to do, and be whoever you want to be. This is true for cisgendered individuals, and is not exclusively a trans but also a feminist and simply a human concern. If I was a conservative woman who was depressed going to the office with my SO because he was part of the 'boys club' and I wasn't, and was never going to be, I don't have to let that stop me from having a career myself. There is no equivalency between 'male' and CEO just like there's no equivalency between 'female' and frilly dresses that are fun to shop for.

Anyway, lastly, acceptance and 'being happy' aren't the same thing; human beings generally aren't happy as a general state of being, but self-acceptance is simply a case of accepting yourself as you are, with or without physical/mental tinkering. We all have issues and are imperfect, but still beautiful. You are who you are, no matter what; whatever you do to your body or mind, whatever other people see, whatever you do or don't do, it doesn't have to define you if you don't let it. You are the one who defines you, not your surgeon, not your therapist, not your girlfriend, not society, etc. A happy transitioned transperson is probably one who simply did what felt right to them, as a consequence of changes and feelings that would have existed regardless; thus, physical reality is simply there to catch up. What 'feels right' is not a question of preference or a sense of happiness or enjoyment, but rather a sense of rightness, which is a different thing. It's not about what makes you happy vs what makes you depressed; it's about what reflects you and sustains you vs. what sabotages you and limits you. I sincerely believe happiness has to come from within, in any case: no reflection can ever be enough to prove to you who you are if you're not sure already. Thus, what you need to work on is almost entirely introspective work at the moment, which is why therapy may help.
posted by reenka at 10:04 PM on June 30, 2011 [8 favorites]

I go shopping with my girlfriend, and end up feeling depressed because I'm stuck with this gender.

I think it might be helpful to look at this a bit more, because this is the one concrete example of a situation that makes you acutely upset.

So, what is it about shopping exactly that makes you depressed with your gender? Is it that women get to wear more colors? Softer things, prettier things? Jewelry?

Is shopping the time when you feel most upset? What other kinds of situations are the worst for you, regarding this issue?
posted by Ashley801 at 10:12 PM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just to provide a point of difference,
just because you're wishing you were a female, doesn't necessarily mean you're transgender.

I know a few people who I suspect might be in that category, even several who have transitioned, (notably mtf's who are or lived as lesbians for awhile), and several of those who transitioned back (and I'm not making any bets on the others). At the risk of being tactless? I don't think gender dysphoria or being transgendered was the issue, or, their primary issue.
However, they and you still totally have the right to live as another gender if they want too, but it can make things more of a mess when that's not the real problem.
And oh boy, what a cluster-fuck of a mess.

They had other issues that made them just want to be someone else, and they thought this would fix problems in their life. Several also had a 'particular' view of what a woman was, that often shared very little in common with actual live women, and more in common with a rigid fantasy. At least one I would call pathologically narcissistic, and I think part of it was his (he = former identification) sexual attraction to females meant being a female allowed him to be more attractive to himself? If that makes any sense?

So, suggestions:
Ask yourself, and write down, what would you get out of being a female?
What could you do if you were a woman that you feel you can't do now?
Which of those things could you do if you had a more accepting social circle?
Which of those things could you do if you didn't mind crossing gender boundaries?

The final one is pretty crucial. In many conservative circles and communities, it seems like it is more transgressive to say, be a male and do male things & wear nail polish and skirts, than to transition and say you're 'actually' a female. They don't care *what* you are as long as squeeze yourself into one of those two boxes, regardless of how ill-fitting either box is.

Also, there's the fact you say this is 'not an option'. Don't let this be the excuse to not be the person you *want* to be, by building an artificial blockage such as 'I would have to be a female to be that person, to have that life'. Bullshit. The best of want you want, is possible NOW.

And dang, I feel I haven't done enough to answer your question, but - y'know what? I'm a 20ish female, and if someone just gave me the magic power to instantly and completely change my sex, I'd do it, bam, and I'd deal with the crap afterwards. But if wishes were horses, we'd have skyscrapers built out of horse-corpses.
When I think about what it would mean for me, is mostly just that I have the perception that many things would be yes, easier for me, but that I have the opportunity to have and be most of those things now, I just want an 'easy way' which in reality, would be less easy, and I probably still wouldn't be the idealised guy I think I would be.

I have a gay male friend who would also swap if he had the choice. As a male though, he has a bigger collection of jewellery and pretty clothes than most females I know - and more than any close ones. And while he's tried drag (so have I! I dressed as a drag *queen* - and people assumed I must be a boy under that much makeup! Ha! ), this is what he wears in his day-to-day life, where he works doing administration for an arts centre.

More suggestions:
Make a list of the things, and cultural aspects, that are easier for you being the gender you *are*, and start thinking about what the fantasy *male* you would be doing if only you had the money, willpower, looks, cojones - and recognise that your fantasy female self wouldn't be your actual female self any more than your fantasy male self is you.

Do reading and realise how much of gender is a cultural construction. 100 years ago pink was a boys colour, in other cultures, males are the ones who get dressed up, or the sexually submissive one, or pretty much any other thing you can think of.
We are human. We are flexible. And that's ok.

A. It's ok, and
B. You're not alone
posted by Elysum at 10:24 PM on June 30, 2011 [21 favorites]

Just a thought, no idea if it would be helpful, but it might be insightful to listen to women talk about the things that men have that they wish they could experience. Many of these will be trite and stupid, but you may be able to find some women who really hit on some real differences that mean something, and it may help to remind you that men have something going on too.
posted by brenton at 10:26 PM on June 30, 2011

Oh, and in case you're thinking - the gay friend Elysum mentioned, well he's gay, it's ok for him.

He's 6'4", and used to dress really conservatively male. As a teenager in the closet, he had to be more careful, because people could not suspect he was gay. Some goth kid put black nailpolish off him at a party, and he hurriedly washed it off before anyone saw because it was makeup. I'm pretty sure he used to wish a lot more that he was a female.
Then, he went to a local event for BurningMan. He got body-painted, got given a skirt and other dressups to wear, and went skinny-dipping, and went naked for the first time in his teenage or adult life. The funny thing is, I looked at the pictures with him a while ago, and he started laughing, because he remembered what a big, huge deal that had all been, and how utterly momentus, and now he's so much more comfortable in his body that none of it looks like a big deal. The gypsy skirt looked really plain, and it broke through the barriers to the little changes he could make now. He's way more comfortable with himself, because now, if he wants to do something, he lets himself do it. He's easy going, and got this style that everyone compliments him on (and honestly, if people still often think he is straight? You'll be fine).

Where is this going?
First time I've recommended this on MeFi, but - maybe consider going to Burning Man?
You'll realise just how normal you are in comparison. ;D
posted by Elysum at 10:51 PM on June 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

It might help to find a community of people who are generally accepting of gender bending, and who haven't previously known you; it will surely be easier to experiment with your style (whether as a feminine man or as a woman) in a context where people will be more "whatever" and less offensive and tactless about it. It might be handy if your existing friends aren't there to be all OH HECK YOU ARE A LADY NOW if you haven't yet worked out where exactly you are comfortable genderwise. This all doubly the case if you are tall, built like a rugby player or have a deep voice or a receding hairline.

In my experience, performers of all kinds are often more accepting than most (YMMV).

Also, if you're sure you're attracted to men and not to women, and if that includes your girlfriend, it would be polite to break up with her sooner rather than later.
posted by emilyw at 12:44 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm married, but FWIW...

You are exactly my flavor and I would have dated you back in the day. And I'm pretty normal looking, even posh sometimes.

Just saying that being true to yourself won't relegate you to weirdo-land. I vote you embrace what's inside of you by following all of the very very good advice above.
posted by jbenben at 5:24 AM on July 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

Gender reassignment surgery is not an option, thank you.

I can't pretend to know your circumstances, but reading this reminded me of when I was first grappling with my sexuality. I couldn't conceive of coming out, so I ruled it out as an option.

If this sounds at all familiar, I just want to say hang on in there. My outlook changed over time, and the fear that held me back began to lift. You don't need to map out your entire life in one go. There is some great advice in this thread, and hopefully you feel ready now to give some of it a go. The bigger steps may be too intimidating to face, but if there's any part of you that yearns for them, don't lose hope.
posted by londonmark at 5:28 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm also a young straight man who feels the same way you've described.

I think we should respect your position that you're not interested in surgery, and I think it's unfortunate that this thread has turned into an opportunity for everyone to show how pro-transgender they are.

People in this thread are acting like there aren't huge downsides of becoming transgender. (Yes, I include non-surgical transgender.) If you absolutely must do it in order to get by in life, then do it.

But I don't know why more people don't perceive the flawed assumptions behind becoming transgender. Don't you see how much of it is based on traditional sexism? The assumption is that you need to be female in order to live a certain way, and you need to be male to live a certain other way. Transgender largely entrenches gender stereotypes, and stereotypes are the problem here. So, contrary to so many people's assumptions, transgender may be the opposite of what you need. You need to be comfortable given the fact that you are male.

The best solution I've come up with involves no radical plan or "transition." I just reject all traditional assumptions. If you want to do something that may be viewed as feminine, like clothes shopping, do it! Sure, society won't accept you buying a skirt, but just being excited about clothing (for instance) is accepted despite being feminine, and you can choose clothing that's subtly purple or pink, etc. If you want to do something viewed as masculine, like watching football, of course, do that too. But if you want to never show any interest in sports, do that.

Never let other people tell you how to live your life. Concepts like "gender" and "male" and "female" aren't set in stone. You have just as much right to be an individual as anyone else does. You're constantly constructing the new, present-tense idea of what it means to be male.

Please, do not go along with the drastic measures that are being (predictably) recommended on Metafilter unless you have no other acceptable choice. If you can get by just by making a private mental adjustment (which you don't need to tell anyone about if you don't want), this will be far preferable.
posted by jejune at 6:20 AM on July 1, 2011 [15 favorites]

I'm acquainted with multiple transmen and transwomen who "pass" in everyday life but have not had -- and may never have -- surgery of any kind.

I also know several people who consider themselves genderqueer, and just figure the details out as they go along without worrying about being completely on one side or the other of the gender divide.

As others are saying, this isn't a binary situation.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:36 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Play with it. Gender doesn't have to be a binary thing.

I had a certain amount of doubt and fear about my own sexuality starting from, well, whenever I started to have something you could call a sexuality. When I was at uni I confessed to a friend that I thought I was probably bi; she told me that everyone already kind of assumed I was. That kind of made things a bit better, except that it was still quite hard to find any sort of groove in life: at the time it would have been easy to dive into The Gay Scene and adopt a Gay Identity, except that didn't quite seem right, didn't fit (esp with the whole still being attracted to women thing), and didn't seem to account for everything, particularly all the stuff about clothing. I wasn't aware of any bi scene at the time (which might have made things easier).

At some point I wound up with a partner who, when I fessed up about all my weird feelings about things, was incredibly supportive of basically whatever form my sexuality took. I wound up going to fetish clubs and goth clubs, both of which tend to be environments which are very open to people playing around with sexuality and/or gender expression.

(Q. Why are so many goths bisexual?
A. They can't tell, either.)

Sometimes you would see men wearing a skirt and heels because they got turned on by it, for whatever reason. Sometimes you would see men wearing them because it had this whole edgy gender transgression thing going on, and some folks like that. Sometimes you'd see person X wearing a skirt because he's person X and that's just what he does, never made a big deal out of it. Sometimes you would see men wearing a skirt because, dammit, they had a fine pair of legs and looked just great in a skirt.

At some point I drifted away from the goth/fetish scenes somewhat and more into the trance hippie end of things (another pretty open-minded bunch), but I also stopped seeing gender expression as a binary thing. I think over a couple of years I'd seen a lot of variety, taking in the sort of transsexual who would like to transition right now please, through straight men who enjoyed crossdressing because it was a turnon, through to gay men who were turned on by other gay men wearing leather chaps. I guess that during this period I'd come to understand a bit about how each individual subculture liked to express different aspects of itself, and constructed some sort of consistent identity for myself that felt like it had the right balance. I generally code as male but a bit alternative: I currently work for an enormous, very corporate financial institution but if you know what to look for, you might have me down as someone who doesn't have a massive amount of respect for conventional gender/sexuality divisions. When my partner mentioned that I'd been wandering around a recent music festival with a large marabou fascinator in my hair, a friend said that she hadn't noticed because she's just used to me having enormous amounts of fluorescent green stuff sprouting from my head.

Don't feel you have to conform to any stereotypes or fall neatly into anyone's little categorical boxes. By all means try the stereotypes out for size: some you might like, some not so much. Don't be scared to fail (whatever that means) or look weird or whatever: what's important is that you come out with a better sense of who you are. In my early teens I used to agonize over whether I was gay or straight or trans or what; these days I find the question sort of amusingly meaningless; I'm just me and I do what I do. You're young and you've got plenty of time; have fun and don't wind up two decades down the line regretting you'd not tried more things out in your twenties.

(On review: what Elysum said, basically)

Good luck! Please feel free to memail me if you want to talk further.
posted by doop at 7:07 AM on July 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

I have a clarification question -- when you say "lately" this is becoming more of a problem, do you mean that you've always had the nagging feeling that you wanted to be female, and it's just come to a head recently, or do you mean that you hadn't thought about it until a few years ago?

I ask because: everything I've heard about full-on transgenderism (which I'll admit is not much) seems to indicate that they always knew something was "wrong" about the gender they were born with. But somehow I'm getting more of a latter feel from you, that this is something you hadn't considered until the past few years.

If I'm wrong, I sincerely apologize; but if that hunch is right, then there are a hell of a lot more different ways to relate to one's gender and to different gender roles than the obvious "girls are this and boys are that". The happiest people decide to do not just "what boys/girls do" but "what I personally want to do". I keep thinking of Eddie Izzard, who's done standup in a full-on bustier corset and skirt and actually talks about wearing fake breast inserts in one of his shows and is quite open about his transvestism; in interviews, he just shrugs and says, "look, women wear whatever they want, and that's all I'm doing." It just so happens that some days "whatever he wants to wear" includes makeup and a skirt. No big.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:08 AM on July 1, 2011

I ask because: everything I've heard about full-on transgenderism (which I'll admit is not much) seems to indicate that they always knew something was "wrong" about the gender they were born with. But somehow I'm getting more of a latter feel from you, that this is something you hadn't considered until the past few years.

Please don't think this. This is not correct at all. People who are trans come to that realization at a variety of times, for a variety of reasons. Some people "know" when they're little; some people don't. There's a huge amount of pressure on queer people (like me) and trans people (like my friends) to re-narrate our pasts to "legitimate" our choices..."Oh, I always knew an inherent truth about my sexuality/gender! From when I was two!"

What's more, how you feel about your gender is up to you - other people can help you to work out what you're feeling, but you don't need to legitimate your feelings. There's a blogger I was reading who started to transition and then decided that this wasn't the right path for them - people were really mean about it and that was wrong. How you express your gender is up to you; you're not hurting anyone (and people who act hurt should not - you may choose to avoid upsetting others, but that doesn't mean that their upset is a correct response.)

But I don't know why more people don't perceive the flawed assumptions behind becoming transgender. Don't you see how much of it is based on traditional sexism? The assumption is that you need to be female in order to live a certain way, and you need to be male to live a certain other way. Transgender largely entrenches gender stereotypes, and stereotypes are the problem here. So, contrary to so many people's assumptions, transgender may be the opposite of what you need. You need to be comfortable given the fact that you are male.

Although this line of thinking helps some folks who don't have a visceral "I need not to have this body/live as this gender" feeling, I don't think it's very useful if you're really feeling that your body is wrong.

Honestly, my suggestion would be to talk to some trans folks, either online (if real life isn't an option) or in person. If you're in a medium-to-large city in the US, there's almost certainly a center or an organization where people will be very happy to help you talk this through. I particularly recommend the Trans Youth Support Network in Minneapolis (resource page is linked) - and in fact, you might try emailing the director (who is super) for advice about talking this through. TYSN in particular is explicitly not about "you must transition thisway and you absolutely have to transition, better start now!" They're really plugged in to the queer and genderqueer communities.

If for some reason you're in/near Minnesota, feel free to memail me and I can point out some other local resources.

Talking to folks casually on blogs or message boards, etc, will help you to figure out just what you do want and how others are coping. I do know someone who transitioned late in life after her wife died--I know they had a happy marriage but it was still an extremely tough situation. Her life wasn't a giant tragedy or anything, but there was no "la la I am happy living as this other gender" switch to flip.

I don't think "I am androgynous/genderqueer" is equivalent to "I am trans", and I don't think that androgyny or "ignoring gender" can necessarily substitute for being able to live as the gender you feel you are. Some people are happy saying "the gender binary doesn't describe me" and some people feel strongly that one part of the gender binary does describe them.

Does your girlfriend know about this? Can you talk to a friend? Having this be a big awful secret would seem to make it a lot more unmanageable.

(I mean, you can memail me anyway, just to chat if that will help.)
posted by Frowner at 7:30 AM on July 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: I love you guys. I haven't had time to through them all, but when I get back online I'll read and reply. Thank you all so much for your support.
posted by trogdole at 7:39 AM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I really think a good start would be to seek out people that you can identify with. Whether that's blogs, message boards, Burning Man, support groups, whatever. I know that any time I've had a problem and I've found other people in a similar situation, it's such a *relief.*
posted by radioamy at 7:55 AM on July 1, 2011

Gender reassignment surgery is not an option, thank you.
As others have said its doesn't have to be surgery or nothing.

The standard MtF narrative never fitted me, I've never hated my penis. I've now been living full time as female for a bit over four years, the first two years of that without hormones, hated my facial hair, so got that removed. Still don't want gender reassignment surgery. You can pick and choose.

Having someone you trust to talk about this helped me explore where I wanted to be, also read about other people, some starting point up thread. You have many more options to become more you.

Also I'd be happy to answer any question you have here or memail.
posted by Z303 at 8:28 AM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Anectdote-Filter: I had an acquaintance who was in something of a similar situation - married, kids, corporate attorney. He felt fulfilled by the circumstances of his life, but still had this background "yearning" he couldn't quite integrate into the rest of his life. With the knowledge and support of his wife, he started to wear selected undergarments that were designed for biological females, in particular panties and stockings or hose. It made him feel good, "secret" but in a positive way. No one around him needed to know anything but he could feel the fabric on his skin. He engaged his wife in this experience, and their lives together were enriched.

As Dr. Frank N. Furter sings, "Don't dream it, be it"...

(Good luck to you; I recognize your feelings and even though, as it turned out, I'm gay, that doesn't mean you are, it just means you're man enough to look at your feelings and actually try to figure out what makes you happy, instead of letting "society" dictate it to you...)
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 8:31 AM on July 1, 2011

Response by poster: Just a few follow ups really quick. My girlfriend is wonderful and supports any decision I'd make on this. I don't consider surgery an option because I feel like I'd be half a woman, and being a whole man at least allows reproduction. You guys are welcome to try to change my mind.
The questions about why is sticking with me most. I can't come up with many reasons. I've never really been comfortable with myself. I've gone through questioning my sexuality, I know I'm mostly straight. I'm working on the why, besides it just seems right.
Is the lack of reasons a warning sign that I'm wrong?
posted by trogdole at 8:46 AM on July 1, 2011

You may want to read Jenny Boylan's memoir of changing gender, She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders. She's a good writer, and it's an honest and interesting account. Good luck.
posted by theora55 at 9:13 AM on July 1, 2011

TROGDOLE: there is no such thing as a warning sign that you're wrong about this. You are who you are - you feel how you feel. There's no right or wrong about those things. Nor do you need to come up with a specific label for yourself if you don't want to. My wish for you is only that you find comfort and happiness. If that means hormones and surgery, I hope you find that. If that means asking people to call you by the pronoun that feels more true to you, I support you asking for that. Whatever it means for you - in this moment - is all that matters right now.

I'd like to gently propose that folks who are not trans, do not have similar feelings about gender as the poster, or have no direct experience with trans issues, and are saying things like, "I've heard that" or "I bet that" be very cautious about contributing. Know that there is a lot of mythology and false information about trans issues floating out there in the world and it's easy to accidentally reinforce those false ideas if you haven't lived as trans or at least done some significant reading or listening to trans people about trans issues.
posted by serazin at 9:24 AM on July 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

TROGDOLE: "I don't consider surgery an option because I feel like I'd be half a woman, and being a whole man at least allows reproduction"

I banked sperm before I started hormones, but I'm mostly attracted to femaleish people so that makes sense for me. Its not a cheap route but transition and reproduction are not mutually exclusive options. TS roadmap has a decent section on reproduction.
posted by Z303 at 9:54 AM on July 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Once, on a high school marching band trip, I sat on a bus near a girl named Ginny who was practicing for a very competitive upcoming choral audition. When I complimented her on her hard work and dedication, she smiled a little sadly and said, "Well, vocal music is an interesting art form. Some people are born with beautiful voices. I wasn't, and so I have to work for it." I hadn't ever thought about what kind of a voice I had. I was a multi-instrumentalist, and to me instruments were just tools of varying quality. To a singer, though, the instrument inside you is not exchangeable. Coaching and training can strengthen and refine your instrument, but only to a certain degree.

I started singing later that year and discovered, to my initial dismay, that I have a pretty mediocre voice. It is a fairly weak voice and my rather small range is limited in strange and unhelpful ways. This didn't compute for me. I was accustomed to music being something I could just get better at through hard work. Now I had to face the fact that the voice I was born with was just... limiting.

What happened next is the thing that you need to avoid: I spent a lot of years building up an inferiority complex about my voice. It prevented me from auditioning for things, and when I did eventually find the steely determination to audition, I was miserably anxious and doubtful.

What I did contemporaneously with that little frolic into self-loathing and self-sabotage was to cultivate a true appreciation for folks with voices like the one I wish I had been born with. I built an appreciation for opera, and technically difficult music that vexes even the most naturally talented singers. I developed an affinity for singers like Nico, who bravely perform in spite of their instrument. These parts were the most helpful, along with breaking through my anxiety and self-doubt and learning to appreciate the things my voice CAN do.

The net result was that I have a deep appreciation for the things that I am not. And in spite of not being those things, I'm still invited to make music. I have even - get this! - been PAID to sing. Today, I sing with the Houston Symphony Chorus and a smaller group based out of the University of Houston. I still get a little wistful when I listen to Leontyne Price, but my disappointment that I'll never sing like she does is overwhelmed by my appreciation for her as well as my love for making music in spite of the limitations that I was born with.

Develop an appreciation and a fascination and a love for the things you aren't, but simultaneously invest in an appreciation and a fascination and a love for the things you are, because you are wonderful as you are right now.
posted by jph at 10:13 AM on July 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

Is the lack of reasons a warning sign that I'm wrong?

Nah. All the "lack of reasons" probably means is that either you haven't really given much thought to this issue before, and so you don't have any reasons yet because you haven't really gotten down-n-dirty with the self-reflection yet, and spending a while doing that could make you realize "oh, ah-ha!", or it means that you don't need a reason other than "I just dig this stuff, that's all". I mean, I'm not sure I could articulate a reason why I like chocolate ice cream, or a reason why watching someone put in contact lenses completely freaks the hell out of me, but I definitely know that I do get freaked out watching someone put in contact lenses, and I do like chocolate ice cream. I've just accepted that "I'm just wired that way, and that's that."

A lot of people have suggested therapy, and I'm inclined to agree - not because I think it will give you a "reason" or anything. I just personally think any self-reflection, with someone on hand to bounce ideas off of, is always a good thing, even if the only thing you ultimately realize is "hell, I don't know why I've always felt this way, but screw it, I don't need a reason."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:25 AM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

You know, reassignment surgery is quite radical and has long term consequences, many of which are quite negative. There is a subset of the population for whom the negatives represent a necessary compromise to deal with very strong feelings of sex/self mismatch. The outcomes of the surgery are not particularly good in terms of long term satisfaction and quality of life if ranked against other elective surgeries.

A cousin of mine had SRS about 10 years ago and I've known quite a pre- and post-ops. All men.

I really do think among a certain part of the population there is a strange psycho-social dynamic where they strongly encourage people who have something going on to go full-on. It is almost a kind of heteronormative view embraced to the extreme - if you don't quite fit the square peg, you must be all the way X, even if you don't feel that way or see the tradeoffs of some(X) as less than all(X). Bisexuals experience this, for example, with the assertions that one can't be bi -- only gay and pretending.

There's also a validation dynamic - every post-op I've known has been outwardly very strongly in favor of people fully transitioning even if the SRS didn't really work out for them.

There are things about ourselves that we dislike, aren't happy with, aren't satisfied with, ... The number of these things increases as you age, but so does acceptance. If you haven't got a very, very strong urge to BE a woman and a strong dislike of your male body, I would encourage you to stick to your guns and continue to take SRS off the table.
posted by rr at 10:49 AM on July 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've recently started to identify as genderqueer. While there are a lot of things I don't like about being female, it doesn't feel like I'm in the wrong body.

I have a dear friend who is FTM, and his life got MUCH better once he started taking hormones, because it helped him become more of who he always felt he was inside.

There are no clear answers here... but be true to yourself and don't worry about what others think.
posted by luckynerd at 10:52 AM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Not really an answer to not really a question: The middle is probably not the easiest place to be, but it doesn't have to be a lonely place, either. I quite liked this extract from an article I linked in a comment on the blue the other day: "I feel like if I say I’m a man, it’s a lie. And I feel if I say I’m a woman it’s a lie, so I’m just trying to find a space in between where I can live comfortably. And honestly." The binary is reinforced everywhere all the time, but I think the answers in this thread show that there might not be the hugest space, but there is at least some space to be found in between - in the margins of the page, in the seams, between the lines.
posted by robself at 1:33 PM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm not going to jump on the "if you don't wanna be a boy you don't haveta" bandwagon. You need to figure out why on Earth you feel you don't like your gender. Is it social stereotypes? Is it sexual? Is it the clothes? You can act and dress however the heck you want regardless of gender. See tomboys. Often joked about as being butch or lesbian. They're not. They're just badass girls. You can be a stylish elegant dude. As usual I will recommend against therapy, but I will completely recommend talking, lots, to a variety of people about the subject.

I like jejune's answer above.
posted by carlh at 4:00 AM on July 2, 2011

Don't let worry about gender consume your life. Do examine your thoughts and feelings, until you can make long term decisions that are right for who you really are.

I'm in my forties and gender fluid (sometimes male, sometimes female, sometimes both or neither). It took a lot of self examination for me to be comfortable with my gender identity in a binary world; having friends I could come out to was a great comfort. My spouse knows and accepts my gender identity: there are people in this world who don't expect everyone to fit in society's boxes, and it's great that your girlfriend is one of them.
posted by thatdawnperson at 7:43 AM on July 2, 2011

Regarding your concerns about reproduction: I know a woman (M2F) who did take hormones but did not get surgery, and she and her girlfriend unexpectedly, but happily, got pregnant. They had the baby, and as far as I know all is well. I run in liberal circles, granted, but I don't think of this as having made K any less of a woman. She's just, you know, a woman who sometimes produces sperm. Admittedly for someone who is currently comfortable only with a strict gender binary, that might be a difficult viewpoint to fathom. But since you're uncomfortable with said strict gender binary, it might be worth looking into.

I am also, albeit invisibly unless I mention it, genderqueer. I've been drifting slightly closer to the female in recent years, but it still makes me squirmily uncomfortable if someone refers to me as a Woman. However, I am alo not a Man. I'm married (to a man who is very cisgendered), pretty much straight (per my biological sex), monogamous, dress very femme-y (down to corsets), and variously boring. But I still felt like I was Among My People when we randomly wandered into the Portland Pride celebration a couple of weeks ago. There are *so* many more flavors than "Man" and "Woman". I'm much happier in between. It can be a good place to be.
posted by Because at 8:09 AM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

if you don't quite fit the square peg, you must be all the way X, even if you don't feel that way or see the tradeoffs of some(X) as less than all(X).

This is why I thought my gender was wrong for a really long time. (Now, I'm fairly comfortable being a cis-gal that gets called "sir" a lot without actually having any visible genderqueerness. But it took a lot to get here and I leave myself open to change later.)

While gender can be a fluid thing, it is a pretty binary world out there, unfortunately. I'd spend some time thinking about the how more than the why--how can I make myself more comfortable with my identity whatever it is, how can I play with my own assumptions about what I can and cannot do in my current skin. You don't give a lot of info here, but the answers could be as small as taking on some more nurturing roles in your life or having more female friends or buying yourself some pretty things to wear, or they could be bigger things like moving to a place or social scene where having some gender fluidity isn't as problematic or living your life as a woman. (My own place involves relatively butchy mannerisms and a mix of male and female-majority social situations, wearing skirts with nerdy tshirts, having a visibly-feminine online handle, and trying to be as open as possible about the fact that that it took giving birth for me to really be convinced I was completely biologically female.)
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:04 PM on July 2, 2011

Is the lack of reasons a warning sign that I'm wrong?

Just as a data point, as a cisgender woman, I don't have any reasons for knowing that the sex I was born with is the sex I'm meant to be. It just is. So to me, not having particular reasons that you feel like a woman, but feeling that way anyway is a pretty good sign that this is coming from pretty deep inside you.
posted by MsMolly at 4:26 PM on July 3, 2011

A why?
Not in the sense of 'there was *this* pivotal occurrence!".

But for me, it's a sense of - we have a mostly subconscious sense of social norms, categories and roles. It takes me some time to elucidate the reasons that I'd "fit" better as a guy, but if I get down and dirty, I can imagine being able to like these things without being thought weird, being able to get away with my current level of fashion & hygiene and be attractive, and certain partner dynamics (I don't need a 'husband', I need a wife - for the given social roles we use those terms in jokingly), etc.
However, I've also realised over time that I can see more easily the ways that I'd 'fit', and not the ways in which I would again, 'stick out' as a guy. And lo, I realise it's an escape fantasy of sorts.
I think there's also a little of the - I displaced some of my attraction to males, into wanting to *be* a male (recognised it because I've seen go wrong in others), and oddly, after I realised that might be an issue, found males more physically attractive.
Anyway, that's just me - kind of feedback to someone else's thought processes.

And, I find this video very sweet - Adele - I'm 80% Girl, 20% Boy. It's from someone who is transitioning, for a variety of complex reasons (being born intersex), but I find something moving about the ways in which she says that really, she's a bit of both too, and hopes that society will be ready for that one day. She's genuinely comfortable as her, and that's visible too.
posted by Elysum at 2:57 AM on July 4, 2011

Response by poster: Okay to anyone still following, sorry that I took so long to reply.

Everyone, thank you again. You all had great responses.

I'm not going to be receiving therapy right now, although I do respect the value it holds. I try to work out most things on my own though. If stuff gets too tough, I'll find someone to talk to.

What I'm doing now is just playing by ear, seeing what different things I'm willing to enjoy as a man. Crossdressing is appealing, but going out in public like that would take some serious spine. One day hopefully.

I've never looked into hormone therapy, but I'll be looking into the benefits of that also.

I feel a bit better going into this now, a lot less overwhelmed. Thanks MeFi.
posted by trogdole at 10:22 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

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