It is really hard to explain how you know this is right for you. It is such an internal and personal issue, and the decisions you make are equally internal and personal.
I think that yr dad’s hypothetical situation is flawed as an analogy because in it the doctor knows it is the wrong treatment. Being trans and deciding what forms of transition are best are not things that can be judged externally all too well. Certainly not by someone who is biased (because parents don’t want their kids to change if they don’t have to, so they will initially see what they need to to prove to them that you don’t need to transition).
There is something inside you that you know to be true. Something that doesn’t go away. Right now you are wearing a costume and every time someone perceives you as male or perhaps every time you see yr chest or have to shave yr face, that thing inside you sets off an alarm that says “you’re lying - this isn’t right. this isn’t you.” What is hard for people to understand is that for some of us, these “unnatural” interventions are actually far more natural than living without them.
Being trans is not something you grow out of or something you can force yrself out of (and as we know, it is a beautiful thing so it’s better not to anyway but you don’t need to try to tell yr parents that yet). It is with you and fighting you at every turn until you are allowed to acknowledge it. And that means having the world acknowledge you as a woman, too. Yr mind and yr body are out of alignment. They are incongruent. And decades of studies show that there is nothing we can do to the mind to get it to line up with the “body,” but there are things we can do to align our bodies and our presentations with our minds.
It’s not about changing ourselves, it is about finally being able to be honest about who we are.
People can’t survive living a lie. Anyone who has ever tried to knows this. Even if it was a more obvious lie like having an affair or pretending to have a career you didn’t to impress someone. It is stressful and you lose yrself in it. It is why people in the closet (for anything) are more likely to commit suicide. This is about you not wanting to or not being able to live a lie any longer. And that’s what you will gain from all of those steps - the opportunity to live honestly and congruently.
Chances are yr parents will try to invalidate yr “new” gender identity with any card they’ve got. This doesn’t always happen, but it is often the reaction of parents who honestly just want their kid to be doing what is best. And when yr parents and friends and whomever you are coming out to have a lot of ignorance and misinformation on the topic of gender-variance (As most people do), they will initially see things like an evolving gender or just an evolving understanding of yr gender as a sign that you are moving forward in the wrong direction.
So yr best tool is education. Not just about yrself but about trans people in general. And I’m using trans as an umbrella term (as I typically do), including all forms of gender-variance, since you didn’t specify yrs (which is cool).
When I first came out to my parents, I said I wasn’t transitioning, I was just “trying out a new name.” Then I told them I was probably trans but didn’t want to medically transition. Then I told them I didn’t want to medically transition for a long time. Eventually I told them that I needed to medically transition in the next 6 months. And I didn’t even include them in all of my different stops on the gender journey. When I was first trying to figure out my gender business, all I could say was that I did not feel like a girl and was pretty certain I was not one. And I tried on a lot of different labels and futures until I got to the one that fit.
Unfortunately, in our society, experimenting with gender is more taboo and far less heard of than even experimenting with sexuality, which is still frowned upon by a good chunk of the populace. So we aren’t given a lot of room to figure ourselves out if we are not cisgender. There is this misconception that all transgender people KNOW when they are little and never forget it. But we are raised in a society that doesn’t even let us know that’s an option. We usually don’t know the words to describe how we feel. So it’s a little ridiculous to assume that we are always going to know we are trans or that it is really easy to figure out. It’s a little like throwing a woman in the water to see if she’s a witch.
So try to explain that. Let them know why determining yr gender identity and yr needs surrounding that identity is a struggle and a journey. Probably start the conversation or letter (I say letter) with that, so they aren’t already thinking of counter-arguments. And hell, tell them that you know trans people who took a while to figure out where they were on the spectrum, too.
The only thing you will need to be sure of is that you explain how yr understanding now is fuller or more complete than what you had before. If they understand it is a journey, they may ask how you know you’ve reached yr destination, so to speak. I can’t answer that for you. For me, it’s because I felt a oneness with myself and a comfort that I had not yet experienced. And it was less that what I know now is more accurate than what I thought in the beginning, but more that I now have the whole story, and my first thoughts/steps/identities were just pieces.
So this took me far longer to get to than I thought. I thoroughly apologize, because I know how time-pressing this stuff is. And I hope I’m not too late to offer a little advice.
1. Thank you :D
2. I don’t talk about this much, but I don’t want bottom surgery, either. And it’s not really because of the surgery results - meta surgeons are making leaps in their techniques and I’ve seen amazing post-op results. It’s because I don’t mind having a penis that is strapped on or glued on or kept in a bag in my closet. And I actually like what I’ve got a lot. I consider it the best of both worlds and I don’t think it takes away from my gender identity at all. It just makes me a more unique man. Hey - Buck Angel loves his pussy.
3. It sounds to me like yr brother really loves you and just has a hard time comprehending non-normative identities. It “makes no sense” to him because he’s not feeling it and can’t imagine not identifying as his assigned sex/gender or having a non-heterosexual attraction. I would write him a letter - I’m a huge fan of letters - that explains how important it is to you (and to yr happiness, future success, relationship with him, etc. - be honest) that he understands a little bit more about yr gender identity. And/or write to him that it is actually painful for you to be misgendered by name or pronoun (if this is true), and perhaps explain a little why, and then again request that he tries to use the new name. If you do this, make sure you tell him that you know it’s not easy and that you don’t expect him to be perfect, and it’s okay that he slips up, as long as he’s making the effort. Then, give him some stuff to read. You don’t have to bear the burden of explaining all of this. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, as they say. If you look in my resource and Trans 101 sections, there are a number of great write-ups about gender-non-conformity. It’s helpful to also explain yr experience a little, but there are things that have been explicitly written to explain the stuff that is hard to understand. Oh, this, by the way, is a particularly good resource for you and yr brother.
4. Yr sister seems to be in a good place in terms of accepting this, although she sounds like she may be where my parents were when they first began to accept that I wasn’t sure of my gender. They were okay with that, but they believed it would take years of therapy and searching and living (as a woman, mind you) to know. And the fact that she questioned her gender quite strongly when she was young and ended up identifying as cis may make her think that yr experience is likely to follow a similar path. First of all, I have to say, that it is always possible (Even if only to the extent that it is fathomable) that you may come to a different understanding of yr gender identity in the coming months, years, or even decades. But I think that if she brings up her path again, you should find a polite and non-defensive way to point out that everyone’s experience with their gender is unique, and her earlier “100%” that changed may be very different from yr feelings of certainty, etc. I think you should definitely tell her yr new name. She seems like a person you can take with you on the journey. It’s really good to have friends that you can talk to before you are totally sure of things. I had about 4 people who were there from me starting to bind to “queering my gender” to identifying as genderqueer to trannyfag to transman. You need people in yr life with whom you can be totally honest. So maybe tell her that you would like her to be that person for you, but it means that she cannot judge you or expect you to be 100% sure all the time, or even ever. And taking her along for the journey will let her in to this side of you and chances are she will see the level genuineness. And you won’t need to do any explicit “convincing”
Best of luck pal
Okay, the first thing I will say is: breathe. It may seem overwhelming but not only can you survive this (whatever “this” ends up being), but you will be better for it. One thing that I want everyone who is questioning or beyond questioning and just plain worrying to know is that being trans or gender-variant is very far from the end of the world.
And I’m not just speaking from my lucky and, yes - privileged, experience. I know guys that have gone through really really hard shit in coming to terms with their gender, coming out, and/or transitioning, and they are alive and will all tell you that they are glad they did it.
I don’t have time right now to tell my story of how I knew, but it wasn’t a lightning bolt epiphany. It was a multiple-month- (and in many ways multiple-year) long process. For some people it is more of a lightning bolt.
Poke around on here a little and look for some of the things I’ve written about gender identity and “knowing,” as well as this interesting concept of “knowing for sure.”
You need to be able to talk to someone, though, even if it is online (like with me - if you write back with yr email I’ll be happy to speak with you after my surgery). At the very least, keep a journal and be as honest as possible, even if you have conflicting thoughts. Write it all out. Keeping it in yr head is going to stress you out and confuse you.
As far as parents go, it’s tough. Some parents never get over it. Some parents are on board right away but never really understand. I’m lucky enough to have parents who had pretty honest but misinformed negative reactions in the beginning but worked really hard and learned a lot and were honest with themselves and me (and our therapist) and are not only accepting of me, but proud and supportive and vocal in their pride and support.
One of the really unfortunate things about being trans is that it somehow is so horrifying to people and so disruptive to their worldview that they do not feel comfortable continuing the same kind of relationship they had with you pre-transition. This is not true of most people, I have found, and I am constantly surprised by the support myself and others have received.
I think there is a lot you can do to help people, particularly family, understand - if and when you get to that point. Look under my tags parents, letters, and SOFFA for some thoughts and suggestions.
Most importantly, though, try to relax. The only way you will be able to really see yourself for who you are is if you can breakdown the barriers that others and you have put up. And you can only do that if you are not freaking out about what others will do or think or what it means for your future. Easier said than done, I know. But like I said, feel free to give me yr email so we can talk. You need to be in an environment that is comfortable.
Also, in terms of the “How did you first know” question, since I can’t write about my experience just now, I once again recommend Jamison Green’s book Becoming a Visible Man. Even if you go to a library and read it there, because you don’t want to check it out, I think it will be helpful.
For a little background, I had told them I was going by “Sebastian” in October and it was very difficult for them and us. After some very emotional conversations, I just sort of agreed to not discuss it with them until I was home. (My mom at this point was preparing for reconstructive surgery and I wanted to minimize stress… plus I wasn’t really prepared myself to move forward in conversations with them).
Coming home for Christmas was very hard for me, because I pretended to not be bothered by the use of female names and pronouns, but having lived comfortable as Sebastian and “he” for almost three months at that point, this caused a lot of anxiety and discomfort and dysphoria.
Two days after Christmas, I emailed my parents this letter with the following heading:
Hi guys, I’ve been holding off on this as long as I could, but it’s constantly on my mind and has been really difficult for me. I don’t want to be distracted from doing the family things that I love, so we need to address this now. I’ve sent you a letter. Please know that through everything I do and everything I wrote there, I was thinking about you and considering your letters. Dad, if you don’t want to go to brooks brothers tomorrow, I understand.
I love you both forever and ever no matter what
I think it is actually really smart to give yr mom a 2 week buffer. I would definitely include something about that in the letter so she understands what is going on and doesn’t feel like you just dropped a bomb and ran away but instead sees that it was a well thought-out and deliberate decision.
I will post parts of my letter to my parents on here. I think it is important to keep yr own parents in mind though - what do they need to hear, what kind of things appeal to them the most. IE are yr parents the kind of people who want to understand the science of things or are they going to be more focused on the risks involved for their child, etc.
For me, I felt like my parents needed to be presented with a bunch of evidence if you will. I laid out my entire history with gender and gender identity. Be honest with them about how you feel in yr current gender presentation and how living as yr true gender will make you feel.
Also remember that transitioning socially comes first and yr mom needs to know that. Don’t throw a physical transition at her from the start. Be honest that it is something you are considering, but don’t make that the focus of the letter. If you have the money (or yr family does), ask to see a therapist to help you during the transitioning process.
And make sure the end of the letter addresses yr mother. Tell her that you know this is a difficult thing for her. Tell her that you want to work with her on it so that you can help her with any concerns and so that she can help you, too. This is a question I answered about talking to a mother after coming out. This is a list of resources I put together for parents. And feel free to direct her to this blog or any other that you think may be helpful.
And this is something you might want to include if you think it will help her.
COMING OUT RESOURCES:
Coming Out as Transgender (from HRC - I actually read this before I came out to my parents)