There’s a plethora of problems to deal with living in skin you’re uncomfortable in. Your body namely doesn’t function the way you’d prefer it to, and then someone’s ALWAYS going to have an opinion on it. There’s no way to know for sure who you can be honest with, pre- and post-surgery, or if you could even tell them your name. But as a child, no matter the circumstances, you’re usually going to be treated like one. Parents especially should know that children and young adults are far more conscious of the world around us then given credit for. And so, we go without, which will start my 5 hardest things to come by as a young transman or transwoman.
“Honey, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
“I wanna be a boy like daddy!”
Did anyone else remember a soft chuckle and a “no, really” response? It’s true that in elementary school or lower that children have wild and great imaginations and ideas, but the concept here goes beyond that. When a 5 year old tells you they don’t feel good, a parent will check their temperature and ask what’s wrong. If they’re hurt, they cry or tell you, and you fix them up. So, if a child can be aware enough to tell you when something is wrong or off with them, why is their gender different, or their sexual orientation for that matter?
Then in middle and high school, magically we’re just “confused and going through changes”. Um, yeah, I’m growing breasts, and I wanted a beard! Or in some cases, you’re growing a moustache and you wanted hips. Either way, by then you’ve figured out a lot about yourself and deserve validation of your feelings at least. I encourage any adult to be open when a child tells them who they feel they are, because sometimes, yes, there’s a possibility they’re just scared and confused from our lovely friend puberty, but more often than not they are really trying to tell you something.
4. Social Acceptance
“Ewww… are you a boy or a girl?”
“I don’t know…”
So, this one got me in trouble a lot. I spent most of elementary school in a Catholic school and… well, let me stop there before I get rude. Anyway, recess was a living hell, because back then everything was boys vs girls. Every kickball game, soccer game, hopscotch, even the monkey bars ended up being either boy or girl territory. So… where do you go? If all your friends are boys, and at this point you think girls are gross despite you living as one, what do you do? The “real” guys don’t want you to be on their side, and the girls think you’re weird. Complicated much? It doesn’t change much sadly the older you get; guys will get bigger and buffer and girls will get prettier and scarier (hello menstrual cycle). Whichever end you happen to be on, it sucks. Transmen are suddenly freaky tomboys and transwomen are just gay and sissies. Puberty sucks, and the hormones that go with it are just as bad. With everyone already struggling to fit in, adding in today’s sex and violence oriented culture, it becomes a battleground to be yourself.
3. Family Support
“Mom, I don’t wanna wear a dress!”
“It’s a family reunion, you’re wearing a dress!”
“Can I have shorts under?”
“Only if I can’t see them.”
So you might’ve reached a point where you’ve been brave enough to maybe tell your siblings or MAYBE one or both of your parents that at minimum you MIGHT like your same birth gender. You may have also told them you hate clothing traditionally made for that gender and refuse under any circumstances to wear it.
Good for you, you poor innocent soul.
Because unfortunately the moment comes where there’s a wedding, a birthday, a funeral, something where you’ll be meeting up with aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins, and there’s bound to be someone there that your mom or dad will dread having to hear about you sticking out like a sore thumb, or as my mom used to say, “something your not.” I’m not gunna lie, this probably hurts the most out of every other incident where you were ignored or put down or made fun of because of your true gender. This is your family, the people who have always loved you and had your back (usually, not always) and suddenly who you are is an embarrassment. What the hell?!
We all know that it comes down to religion and old prejudices that keep homosexual and transgendered people the stigmas of otherwise “normal families”. Don’t listen to it! Please, for the love of whatever you believe in, don’t let them determine who you are. Eventually, you can choose to let them in or out of your life. You can choose to try and help them understand, or simply walk away if they’re set in their ways. It might be rough, and you might feel pretty bad about it, but you need to do what’s right for you. Don’t keep friends or family who push you around, don’t make excuses for them and be someone your not. Don’t pretend to have a girlfriend or a boyfriend or make up being into some sport or fashion style in the hopes you’ll convince someone “there’s nothing wrong with you.” Someday, you’ll find the right people who will understand and support you. Keep strong.
2. Medical Care
“Hey, is it possible to make boobs smaller?”
“Why? Your chest is flatter than a pancake, you should get them bigger.”
I’ve already mentioned the many layers of hell that is puberty, but it’s come to light that if a child who is transgendered and the parents know, they can set up treatments to make sure they develop the way they’re comfortable with. Does this happen often? No. Why? Reread 5 through 3. The second hardest thing a transgendered adolescent deals with is a lack of medical attention, both for physical and mental health. The LGBT community is amongst the highest rates for depression, anxiety, and suicide, with Trans leading heart breaking rates of around 40% (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention). It speaks for itself then that you deserve to get help instead of becoming a statistic.
In addition to therapy and hormone counseling, I know personally I resented certain doctor visits, ones that pertained to gender specific reasons. Discussing with any healthcare professional about your body requires a lot of trust and courage, not something that everyone has to give. But I urge you to still go, despite how uncomfortable it is. Transmen, I can assure you how awkward it is sitting in an OBGYN office with your mom, and the look of the other patients when it’s you they call back. However, your health is more important than your image here guys. Same for you trans ladies. If for some reason you think you need to go, do it. Don’t end up with some horrible condition because you’re afraid of what people might say.
1. Respect For Your Gender
“I’m sorry, you’ll never be Sebastian to me. You’ll always be my little girl.”
“But you’ve been Gina for 18 years, how do you expect me to change that?”
UUUGGGGHH. Nothing irritates me more than this crap. The easiest way to put it is this- “If you can’t respect who I am, that’s fine, but I don’t want to spend time with someone that finds me uncomfortable. For both of our sakes.” Every parent, family member and friend, even teachers sometimes have all these ideas and expectations of how we will end up being, so they’re always resistant to who we turn out to be. The matter of them knowing you as a boy or a girl for however long will become irrelevant- keep track of when you come out to who, so down the line you can say,”Well yes, you knew me as so and so for (x) years, but it’s been how many since I told you?”
There’s also the matter of your body. Why it matters to anyone besides you and your partner, is way beyond me, but unfortunately there are people you believe that if you don’t have a penis you’re not a boy, and if you don’t have a vagina you’re not a girl. YOU DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT NEED THESE PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE. It is not worth it arguing until you are blue in the face with them, it is not worth it explaining it’s who you are on the inside, none of it. They will have to learn to accept you on their own, because otherwise they’re only trying to convince YOU that THEY’RE right. It’s best to- again- walk away.
For every other occasion, if you’re comfortable enough, introduce yourself as who you prefer to go by, and the pronouns should follow. If you’re reintroducing yourself to friends and family, ask them to remember that this is what you prefer to go by- like a nickname- and to please make an effort to use the right pronouns and such. Remember to be respectful of other people’s views though; being polite will always get you farther. And please, don’t jump all over someone if they screw up if they’ve honestly been making an effort. Think about it from their view too, show them that you’re mature for your age. They will respect it and value your word.
That’s pretty much it for now. Remember the importance of honesty and bravery, because it’ll take you far on this hard road.