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What does it feel like?

Discussion in 'Gender Identity and Expression' started by Lear, Jan 31, 2015.

  1. Lear

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    I'm not entirely sure if it is ok to ask this, so I want to apologise in advance if this is a sensitive topic...

    I've been thinking about gender identity, transsexualism etc. lately and I suddenly realised that I do not entirely understand it. I used to think of it like this: you are born in a male body, for example, but realise that you are actually female and so this body feels wrong to you and you cannot identify with it. This made complete sense to me for years, until I started thinking "What does being male/female actually feel like?" As for me, I am biologically male and I identify as male and never had any doubts about that. But I do not "feel" male. I do not feel female either. I never had the impression that my personality, my identity or whatever is in any way connected to my genetalia.

    Maybe I just misunderstand this completely or it really is something you can only understand when you are in the position yourself.

    I do not, by the way, in any way want to doubt or belittle the feelings of any transgender/genderfluid/... person or question their right to feel the way they do, I simply want to understand what exactly those feelings are.

    If you could help me understand this a bit better, that would be great!
     
  2. Miiaaaaa

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    I wouldn't say I could comprehend a male/female state of mind either to be honest; but I know I want a female body, so maybe that's it?
     
  3. antibinary

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    Not understanding something is not a crime. Gender is one of those things where everyone thinks they understand it, but very few people do.

    Do you feel like being male is the 'wrong' gender, if not then you probably just have never had to think about it.
     
  4. PossumJack

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    It's hard to describe how a being transgender person *feels* because experiences are largely subjective, and you can't relay something like that to someone who never experienced the same thing before.

    In a sense, you're right. Gender identity doesn't make up the entirety of what someone is. There's so much more to a person than being a boy/girl/something else, but at the same time it's essential quite simply because of how people perceive you based on that small part of your identity.

    That's exactly the point though, your identity is not connected to your physical anatomy in any way whatsoever. This is probably an extremely overused example, but imagine if you woke up one day with breasts and a vagina. Does that mean you immediate change from identifying as male to identifying as female? No, you'll still think of yourself as a man. But people in the streets will see and address you as "Miss" and treat you as a woman, you'll feel wrong with the anatomy you have, not to mention many more varieties of shit you'll have to put up with.
     
  5. WillowRose

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    I think the trans* experience varies widely from person to person. Some people describe simply knowing, with absolute certainty at age 3 or 4, that they are a girl despite having standard boy plumbing (or vice versa). Others start realizing around puberty that the secondary sex characteristics that start developing just are "wrong" for them.

    For me, it was different from either of those. I realized by 8 or 9 that I was somehow different from other kids, but especially I just wasn't much at all like the rest of the boys. I've had low-grade depression since about age 13 ( though not diagnosed until my 20s). It took me until age 30 to start putting the pieces together - I just felt more comfortable in the company of women. I preferred my woman professors. I insisted on being treated by women doctors. I felt strongly drawn to feminist theory and studies, and was active at the Women's Center at grad school. The few close friends I had were women, and the best of those friends were a bi woman and a lesbian. And so on and so on. My current therapist uses the phrase "social dysphoria" to describe this.

    And once I had jumped through the hoops so I could start HRT, the feeling I'd had all my life - that something in me was wrong or misaligned - basically disappeared. I'm even tapering off (under a physician's supervision!) the antidepressants I've been reliant on for years.

    That's probably not the kind of answer you were looking for, but I thought I'd share my experience, since it is maybe a less common one. The short answer is that before I came out to myself, I just knew that *something* was wrong, but it took me decades to pin it down as gender dysphoria and to start correcting it. And now that I've started, it's very clear to me that what used to be "wrong" is now getting "right."
     
  6. Michael

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    Imagine that you, since you were a child, felt like a wolf. Imagine you felt like howling at the full moon, and you felt like hunting and running free. You've been observing other wolves for all your life, and you want to belong to a pack. You want to be accepted by them, the reason being you feel you are just one of them.

    Now imagine one of your parents is an eagle, and tells you : You know, you are an eagle and you should act like one. That is why we gave you that beautiful eagle-name! You don't have a fur, and you don't have prominent incisives. You've got wings, so you must learn to fly.

    Then you look at yourself and you see the wings. It's a shock : Every year seem to get bigger. They might seem beautiful on others, but they just don't look good on you... They look wrong, and you feel ashamed because you are not an eagle... You just know you are a wolf...

    Usually your own body, your own reflection on the mirror, plays an important role on how you and the world around you perceive you. All the assumptions they make about you based on how you look, on your gender, etc. You'll get different kinds of reactions in very the same situation, depending on your gender and/or presentation.

    So, you said you feel like a guy. How would you feel if everyone around you called you "miss"? How would you feel if your mother suggest you to dress and act more feminine? How would you feel when a cis guy calls you "gorgeous"? Do you think you could "infiltrate" your group of girlfriends and go to hunt for sales? Can you picture yourself fighting with another woman about a wonderbra?...

    You would feel a bit sick... To put it mildly.

    Wishing you had another parts or as if you were playing a role is not meant for you at all is called dysphoria. It exist with various degrees : From some people their secondary characteristics are mildly annoying... For others are a real pain, they can't live with it.

    Depending on your gender, you might have top or bottom dysphoria. Hair dysphoria (too much or none at all). There is voice dysphoria, muscle dysphoria... From your toes to the top of your head, every part of your body that doesn't match your gender identity is going to give you troubles... Everyday, for the rest of your life, unless you decide to act...

    You don't really have a choice here.

    I agree there is a division between body and mind, but for most of transpeople they seem to go hand in hand, plus the social dysphoria. Imagine you wake up tomorrow as a girl, and that girl has her own existence : Your (real) life is over and you are stuck on her role forever... How would you feel?

    You feel ok with being male, so you kind of "forgot" or you don't really register it anymore. Probably it's not important for you, because it's not giving you troubles. It's like having the nose in the middle of the face : You can see it sometimes, but most of the time it doesn't interfere on your vision.

    Some transpeople supress it, and then the issue just "pops up" as aggression, anger, substance abuse... Until suicide. There is a high rate of suicide among transfolk, obviously.

    I hope this helps you to understand better, or at least have another point of view.
     
  7. Lear

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    Thanks your replies! (*hug*)

    I still have trouble understanding it, to be honest... Well, maybe not with understanding it per se, but with entirely grasping it. As I said, I fully support transgender people and I don't want anyone to misunderstand my question and think that I don't and that I'm trying to invalidate anybody's feelings, which is in no way my intention. It's just that for me it makes a great difference understanding that some people feel in a certain way and being able to fully comprehend what it must feel like.

    I'm wondering how much of gender dysphoria is something that comes from "inside you" and how much it is something that is formed and influenced by the society you live in. As in: what would happen if we lived in a society where gender roles did not exist and everyone was free to do whatever they wanted without any regards to gender stereotypes?

    As I said, I never had any problems with my assigned gender. But I have never been a textbook example for masculinity, I always found stereotypical masculine behaviour stupid and got on much better with girls. No one ever pressured me into doing things more "appropriate" to my gender. I wonder, if I had grown up in a less liberal and understanding environment, would I have developed some kind of dysphoria as well?

    I don't know if I'm just too ignorant or if I can't fully comprehend it because I'm not in the position myself or if is because no one ever gave me the impression that I couldn't be who I was just because I didn't fit the stereotypes.

    (I feel like all this sounds extremely dumb and ignorant. I'm sorry. Please call me out on it if I say something offensive.:help:slight_smile:
     
  8. NingyoBroken

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    I think most cis people would never understand what it is like to be trans.
     
  9. Acm

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    I don't think you sound ignorant. It's normal to be confused by it, it's not really something cis people can ever fully understand, but I think it's great that you're trying to learn more.

    Although the cause isn't fully known yet, there is evidence that it's a neurological thing, so I think even if there was no concept of gender or gender roles, it would still exist. Personally I know that even if we lived in a totally genderless society, or I was alone on a desert island, I would still need to transition.
     
  10. Jellal

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    OP, I'll just give you my experience—this is coming from someone who has asked the same thing you asked in your post. I too, don't know what it's like to "feel" male or "feel" female. But there are some things I do know, and this is what informs my gender identity.

    I know the body I would rather have, I know I wish others would perceive me as female.
    I know I am bothered by being called "he," I know I am bothered being perceived as male.

    I don't think I was born in the wrong body. The fact of the matter is that I didn't get to pick what I was raised as, and who I was taught to be. I was raised as a boy, and taught to be one, to separate into the boys' groups, to use the boys' locker rooms, to act in a fashion befitting a male in accordance with the standards set by those around me. For the most part, this is easy to do and comes naturally to me. My obvious gender should be male.

    But by middle school I was developing behaviors that contradicted what I'd been raised with. In private I had a couple rare instances of cross-dressing, online in secret I was presenting myself as a girl, at first just with avatars and unstated/unmentioned gender, then I was less coy and told people I was female. Why did I do it? Perhaps because I was curious at first, but then I know I did it because it felt great, and not just as in "I get off on this," but primarily it felt right. Something I'd been prevented from doing in the past was now an experience that had opened up to me, and it felt simultaneously like liberation and a secure, comfortable position/identity, being "she" and not "he."

    If I didn't think there would be negative backlash from people finding out, I know I would have done it way more frequently, but I was afraid of their judgment. And it took me a long time to honor myself in terms of my gender and come to terms with my preferred identity. Dysphoria is not as strong in me as with some others; it's more of a headache than a heartache, if you know what I mean. I definitely have a long way to go before I can feel truly comfortable in my own skin.

    For me, I don't "feel" one way or the other, with a true grasp of what it means to feel like a man or to feel like a woman. My mind is simply more comfortable with a self-conception of my identity which is somewhat at odds with my biological sex. Why I'm that way, I don't know. I just am, bro.
     
  11. confuzzled82

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    On a site like this one, it's definitely OK to ask.

    As others have mentioned, it is a very very individual experience, in some ways I suppose it may be shaped by environment, but that's definitely not the only thing. One of the things pretty much everyone that is trans has in common is asking themselves the same question - what is it really like to feel male or female. Honestly, I don't think anyone will truly be able to actually answer that question completely, but...

    In my case, it's best explained as I've never fit in as I was expected to. Like I've been putting on an act my entire life. When I was younger, I didn't know why. I started questioning my gender a few years ago, and I haven't yet determined with certainty where my gender is exactly, but generally it keeps circling around my gender being female -- in direct conflict with my anatomy. When I was younger, and facial hair started, I always had to have it shaved off. Still do. At the time, I couldn't explain why, but it always bothered me. I also couldn't explain why, but I always have been jealous of girls having longer hair, cute things, even their curvier figures. After I was out of high school, I went off a prescription that had a side effect of appetite suppression, and packed on the pounds, including causing certain areas to become curvier. Unfortunately there's also the more masculine pattern of weight gain as well. Every time I try loosing weight, I first loose the curves before anything on my gut goes away, and this becomes very distressing.
     
    #11 confuzzled82, Jan 31, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2015
  12. Michael

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    For some it is not a matter of "doing", and not even a matter of "becoming"... 'Cause they ARE already.
    It is a matter of looking at the mirror and finding an image that is in tune with the real YOU, and being able to touch your own body and now going all :tantrum: , or :eusa_doh: , or even :tears: ...

    Every transperson got an image of themselves, as clear, and true and legitimate as the image you've got of yourself.

    To fully describe right here and right now (imho, of course) how it feels to be dysphoric will sure be triggering for the rest, and therefore I won't do it. It is also not neccesary, I think : There are descriptions of dysphoria everywhere on EC. Transfolks go as far as wanting to just 'cut them off'

    Being trans has nothing to do with an ideal of beauty, or wanting some privilege (male or female). It's a matter of personal identity (a.k.a. your true self) and the right to express it and let it be known to the rest of the world, same as a political opinion and same as your religious beliefs or your favourite chinese food. It's about correcting a mother nature's mistake, which is not the mind itself (there is no therapy to 'correct the wrong behaviour'), but the body. And from there you can finally start to live your own life.

    And it is about getting rid of all the suffering that comes with being trans.
    Some people feel proud of the chance of having had the transexperience, 'cause they see it as something that enriches their lives, while others don't and simply consider themselves... you name it.

    Everyone has the right to decide what works best for themselves.

    You are not going to feel exactly how a transperson feels, but you can try as an experiment to live one single day as the opposite gender. Ideally, you should completly pass, and everyone should treat you as if you've never existed. The real you, I mean.

    ... And this would not even get closer to it: The epiphany of realizing I am not what I look like is... Just not easy to describe with words. You'd need also hundreds of them. Or be the next pulitzer prize.
     
  13. WillowRose

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    That's one of the big questions in gender studies: how much of "gender" is biological, and how much is "socially constructed"? It's a real can of worms, politically, too. There's some evidence of differences in brain structure between men (including trans men) and women (including trans women). There's also plenty of obvious evidence that much of what gets described as "gender-specific behavior" is socially constructed and differs from culture to culture. So the answer is probably "a little bit of both," which satisfies the political agendas of exactly nobody.

    But what's undeniable is that a small (but still significant) fraction of the population has the experience of knowing that the gender they were assigned at birth (usually based on the shape of their plumbing) is definitely not consistent with how they experience or understand themselves. Also, that that "dysphoria," whatever specific form it takes, can cause a great deal of distress, and that there are well-studied medical and social interventions that are very effective in relieving that distress. The detail of how one experiences that distress, and which combination of interventions will best treat it, is specific to each individual.

    Gosh, listen to me trying to sound all academic and stuff. What's the right emoji for "self-deprecating blush"?
     
  14. Tardis221B

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    No worries, about the questions. I'm glad you want to learn more. I have a great deal of respect for people who want to learn, research, and are willing to ask questions about things that they don't know.

    It never occurred to me until just now that my ability to instinctively understand people who are trans is likely an indicator that I'm not cisgender. Just like I'd never really know what it'd be like to be cis, its likely the same for you and imagining being trans. We can try to imagine what it would be like if we were "in someone else's shoes," but we'll never really know what the other person's experience is.

    And also every trans person has a different experience but, there are some similarities.

    As far as gender dysphoria social versus biological. Its of course a mix, but I'm very feminine, despite the fact that I lean a bit more male each day. Even my interests as a child were stereotypically female: little mermaid, beanie babies, barbies, dressing up cats... it really wasn't obvious that I was something other than female. And despite all of that I still don't feel female.

    But once my friends started growing up our interests seemed to split away. Even with my less stereotypically female friends, I have a hard time connecting. There are moments when I can, but very rarely do I feel female even in those moments of connection. There is just an easy simple connection that I feel with other guys.

    Once I hit high school puberty.... won't do details, but it wasn't like an over whelming nightmare, it was more of a disappointment. Sort of like getting a present you don't really want at the holidays/birthday. You nod and smile, act like everything is okay, but secretly you're unhappy.

    Also the mirror. I know this is a cliché, but even before I realized I was trans, I'd stare at the (not my) reflection in the mirror. Simply slightly perplexed, because I could never really connect with that image reflected back. There are brief moments, rarely do they last longer than a day, when I can connect with my female image and be happy. I just assumed everyone sort of had an out of body experience looking at their reflection. When I was a bit older I thought maybe I had depersonalization disorder for a brief period of time, it wasn't until I fully accepted that I'm not cis gender that it finally made sense.
     
  15. jay777

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    Many people now say being tg is biological. Theory has it it has to do with brain development before birth. So its nobodys fault, neither that of parents nor of tg people.
    Of course there are different stages to this.
    This is a brochure for the british national health service :
    http://www.gires.org.uk/assets/DOH-Assets/pdf/doh-transgender-experiences.pdf
    (What I do not like is on page 7 talking about stress... many experience relief...)

    Well its kind of a feeling for what seems right for you...
    its like you are tuned in a spectrum between woman and man, where you have your own spectrum where you are most comfortable with.
    Like being around certain people... or with certain expressions...

    Now leaving away stereotypes, this still leaves certain preferences.