One of the things I struggle with, especially in light of events from this past week, is how to explain who I am to others. I determined a while ago that explaining sexual identity is much easier. But how do you explain this constant dysphoria with your own body? Unfortunately, too many people confuse gender identity and sexual identity. I am not even going to discuss my own sexual identity here because right now, that is one thing I really want to keep to myself. The people who know me best know my sexual identity and that is enough for me. I do think discussing sexual identity for the transgender population is important though.
So let’s start with sexual identity. While some people may still struggle understanding someone being attracted to someone of the same sex from the WHY perspective, I witnessed a homosexual friend of mine try to explain to someone else how he thought. He was explaining to another male friend and the conversation went like this…
Gay Male: Ok…do you see that dark haired woman sitting over at the table? *points in the general direction*
Straight Male: The one reading her iPad? Yes.
Gay Male: Yes. That one. What do you think about her?
Straight Male: She’s beautiful. If I wasn’t dating ****, I might consider going over and flirting with her.
Gay Male: Ok…so you see the blond guy with the beard and glasses to your left?
Straight Male: Yes.
Gay Male: That’s how I feel about him.
By breaking it down in this manner, my gay male friend was able to provide insight into his sexual identity that my straight friend could comprehend. He gave a real world example that provided a smack of reality and personalization. It truly was a simple conversation but it finally opened our mutual friend’s eyes to how sexual identity works.
So how does that relate to gender identity? Honestly…It doesn’t! Unfortunately though, too many people tie the two together. Transgenders identify as homosexual, bisexual and heterosexual. how that breaks down, we will get to in a minute. So what is it about a transgender, or even a gender fluid person, that drives their gender identity? I will be honest and say that I cannot break it down into easy to understand terms or phrases. so I will try to explain the things the let me know I was struggling with my gender identity.
- Do you ever look in the mirror and hate what you see? I am not talking about hating the fact you put on extra weight, your hairline is receding or graying or those wrinkles are starting to appear. I am talking about you look at yourself in the mirror and you feel as though every single thing about you is wrong. You imagine having breasts when you don’t or you would give anything to have them removed and have that boyish flat chest. You imagine having a vagina in place of a penis or vice versa. You wish your body hair was like that of the opposite sex. You wish your voice resembled that of the opposite sex. You dream of having the body shape of the opposite sex. These are the some of the very thoughts that have gone through my mind for years.
- When you look in your drawers or closet, do you feel disappointment or disgust at the clothes you are choosing from? For my entire life, I looked in my closet at male clothing: polos, khakis, suits, oxfords…and I wanted to wear anything BUT these clothes. As much as wearing a bra sucks at times (and yes…I rip mine off the moment I walk in the door from a long day), I wanted to see bras, cammis and the like in my drawers. Opening the closet, I wanted to see cute sandals, heels, wedges and boots, dresses, skirts, boat neck and v-neck tops and things of that nature. I wanted bright colors for every season. I would look at my ties and all I wanted to was to replace them all with necklaces, bracelets and earrings.
- Activities are difficult to use as a means of measuring sexual identity. I have always loved some of the traditional male activities. I love college basketball and football. I love to grill. I love working on my house. But I also adore distinctly feminine activities. I love getting my nails done. I love fragrances. I love to entertain and cook for others. I love relaxing in a bubble bath with candles burning and music playing. I was always the one in my previous relationships that, when entertaining, would pull out the family silver and serving platters. In one of my previous relationships, the woman I was dating at the time looked at me and said, “You realize you would make a better wife than me, right?” She has no idea how right she was in that statement.
- Is your mind in chaos? Do you find yourself thinking and processing things differently than peers of your genetic gender? I spent my entire life with my mind like some constantly swirling tornado or hurricane while all of my peers talked about how as they reached their mid-20’s and their minds and thought process, as a whole, stabilized more. Mine never did that until I began hormone replacement therapy and my testosterone levels decreased significantly. That brought an enormous amount of peace to my mind, heart and soul. While I have had some struggles with my estrogen levels being where they should be, as those have increased, despite getting used to the changes, I truly do not have the mental turmoil I used to have every single day. But yes…for the record…I can cry at the drop of a hat and can be a totally flighty ditz at times now.
These are just some examples of things I experienced in my mind for most of my life. As I have said before about other things…these reflect only me and my feelings. Everyone is unique and different. But hopefully this gives you some idea of what may be going through the mind of someone who identifies as transgender.
Both fortunately and unfortunately, there is no diagnostic test to determine whether someone is struggling with their gender identity. In a world where diagnostic tests like the Beck’s Depression Inventory and others provide clinicians and clients a clear path to determine what is going on, questioning one’s gender cannot be done in this manner. It requires a great deal of thought and discussion between the person questioning their gender with family members, friends and/or a licensed counselor who specializes in gender identity.
So now…to a topic that always gets me more than a bit fired up…sexual identity in transgender individuals. As a couple of my friends have found out (in not so pleasant fashion), the gender I identify with has absolutely nothing to do with who I want to sleep with. The range of sexual identities within the transgender population is no different than within the congruent in sex (cis) population. I will break this down very simply…
- If a transgender person is attracted to the sex opposite the sex they identify with, they are heterosexual. So…If I am attracted to men, then I am heterosexual because I identify as a woman.
- If a transgender person is attracted to the sex of the same gender they identify with, they are homosexual. So…If I am attracted to women, then I am homosexual because I identify as a woman.
- If a transgender person is attracted to both sexes…yep! You got it! Bisexual just like the rest of those attracted to both. 🙂
An important thing to remember when talking with someone who is transitioning, especially when they first disclose to you…Don’t ask who they are sexually attracted to in the first one or two conversations. Despite what many think, transitioning can really screw with your sense of sexuality. Some know who they are attracted to and it all remains the same through transitioning. Some are attracted to one gender in the birth gender and it changes as they transition. Some people are still struggling to figure out who they are attracted to before transitioning. It is just important to know one identity does not define the other.
For those who may have questions, I hope this helps. If not…you can always ask me.
Oh! I am sorry this is so late. Happy Easter!