You won’t find a reputable gender and sexuality therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist that will deny that difference.
Some of you may not know the specifics behind the differences, so just for clarity’s sake, here are one liners pulled from Wikipedia:
Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.
Sex refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women.
Gender and sex are, simply put, not the same thing.
Except for the 98% of the population whose sex and gender are the same. For them, there is no difference between gender and sex. As someone who has never experienced a disconnect between the two, it’s hard to grasp.
On Earth, mass and weight are functionally the same. In my day-to-day life, I see no reason to recognize the difference.
Does my experience of a total match-up between mass and weight discredit the scientific finding that the two are different?
Absolutely not. My lack of expertise is irrelevant. A difference exists, whether I chose to acknowledge it on a daily basis or not.
The distinction between mass and weight may only matter if you are in the context of a technical or scientific sphere, but by that logic the distinction between gender and sex only matters if you are in the context of people who experience gender dysphoria. And when you talk to me, a girl with a trans boyfriend, it is an extremely relevant distinction.
Just because we haven’t experienced the difference between two things, doesn’t mean that a difference doesn’t exist.
I was reading this article the other day and it got me thinking…
One of the most common questions I got when I started my transition, one of the most infuriating struggles with my school administration in college and high school, and the most uncomfortable and dangerous part of being trans… all have to do with bathrooms.
Once, when I was in high school, I was having dinner with my parents at one of our favorite Mexican joints downtown. Both of my parents were there, despite being divorced. I can’t remember what for though, the following experience overshadows anything else that was important at the time.
I hadn’t even started seeing a gender therapist yet, nevertheless started transitioning, and yet I passed nearly half the time. I was also, therefore, still using the women’s restroom in public, and especially with my parents. Halfway through our meal nature calls and I leave to use the facilities.
I enter the restroom, do my business, and go to wash my hands and return to my (likely) hilariously awkward company when a woman stops dead as she walks into the bathroom, stifles a whimper of sorts, and exits. I can hear her shouting around for a manager outside and make to steady my breathing since I can already feel myself teetering on the edge of an explosion of teenage angst and the kind of happy anger that only comes from being correctly gendered in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I made it out of the bathroom before I was bombarded by this lady, a clearly unhappy, middle aged woman who was too heavy handed with her perfume. She starts yelling to me and the manager about how she felt violated that a teenage boy would use the women’s toilet and how dare I and where the hell are my parents and she’s going to see that I’m kicked out of this place forever. I square up to her, cutting off the manager, and tell her, flatly, that I’m legally female and have every right to use whichever bathroom I want even if I wasn’t.
I don’t think she was expecting my retort. I only vaguely remember the manager apologizing to my parents when I got back to the table, though I never explained what it was for or what had happened. I do remember that we never went there again.
In college I was reprimanded for using the men’s showers and toilets on my own dorm floor after being asked to stop using the women’s showers and toilets, all before I had started testosterone.
I’ve been beaten up, verbally and sexually harassed, and generally pushed around in concert hall bathrooms and gay bar bathrooms and dive bar bathrooms and roadside bathrooms.
I’ve been harassed for avoiding using a bathroom for fear of being harassed or bullied or assaulted.
So why is it, that whenever we talk about trans folk and the great bathroom debates, trans men never seem to be accounted for? I’ve known trans men who have been treated far worse than me, raped and assaulted for simply using the restroom and having whatever genitals they possess or lack.
Perhaps we, as trans men, feel that we need to weather our abuse. That somehow, this is just a part of our rite of passage as men.
I don’t have answers. I don’t have a plan to make bathrooms safer for trans men or to begin the kind of discussion needed to make them safer in the future. I just have more questions and the ever-present bathroom anxiety that seems to be a side effect of transgenderism.
Throughout my life I’ve had more short-term passions than long-term pursuits, with a few exceptions. About once a week or two I would come up with something new that I was super interested in. I remember being enthralled in space exploration one day and obsessed with medieval weaponry the next. That’s how I’ve always been wired.
Some things just naturally don’t fit into the category of “hobby” or “interest,” notably sexuality and gender identity. However, that’s a hard thing to come to terms with as a parent, so it’s understandable how my folks were temporarily just going with the idea that I was a guy. Emphasis on the temporary bit.
They would eventually realize, at some point between two weeks and two years of confiding in them, that it was not a temporary thing. My dad has always been the skeptical one, and I don’t blame him at all since I’m just as skeptical about other people’s stuff and things in general. He was skeptical about anti-depressants when I was a teenager, he was skeptical about my decision to go from a computer science major to an English major, and he was pretty skeptical about the whole me being a guy thing.
To be very clear, he has always accepted me and shown me his love in the ways that make sense to him. Only in my most irrational moments did I ever interpret his skepticism as something other than the deepest concern that parents have for their children.
All in all, it made a lot of sense when I was on the eve of my name change, and again on the eve of starting hormones, and yet again on the eve of my surgery and my dad made me do a gut check just to make sure one last time.
When the gut check is coming from him, I don’t mind asking myself, and in turn reminding myself, that this is the right path for me to be on and to reflect on how much more comfortable I’ve become after each step in my transition.
And then, random people ask me what it would be like, or even worst, what it will be like when I de-transition.
I shit you not, through college I experienced more than the recommended dose of stupidity and rudeness when people would tell me that I would never pass well enough, that I would be ostracized, that I would be emasculated and broken to the point that I would willingly slink back into womanhood.
It still doesn’t even make me mad. Ok, maybe a little frustrated, but mostly it’s just hilarious. Beyond the face-palming initial reaction, I am faced with a person who is so internally conflicted about the idea that their own gender identity might be in question that they are telling me how impossible it would be for my own brand of masculinity to be accepted as natural fact.
So, no, I don’t wonder what it would be like if I de-transitioned just like I don’t think that happily cisgendered people wonder what it would be like if they transitioned. However, for the sake of pondering, my results are quite comical.
Time has a way of changing people and minds, and if me and mine change then I guess I’ll just roll with it. Hell, that’s basically what I’ve been doing so far and it’s been working out alright.
This question baffles me.
No one has ever asked me what I would do if Matt changed his mind, but I’ve read of many parents of gender-nonconforming kids being asked this relentlessly.
I don’t think a person could meet Matt and then ask me what we would do if he “changed his mind”. There isn’t a fiber in his being that suggests he’s anything other than male.
But, I love Matt. I love him immensely.
If he changed his mind, about being trans, I’d do everything in my power to help him feel loved and safe.
Would it be easy? Absolutely not. Generally speaking I don’t find myself attracted to feminine features. I love beards. I love treasure trails. I love deep voices. I love tough, strong men. But would I still want to be with him? Yes.
I would do everything in my power to help get him back to a place where he feels comfortable in his body.
I am so lucky to have met Matt at this point in his transition. I feel so lucky that he is established as a man in his (and everyone in his life’s mind). Blessed, actually.
I see stories often on the /r/MyPartnerIsTrans subreddit of couples who have been together, as seemingly cisgender individuals, now faced with one partner transitioning. The toll on each partner, not to mention the relationship, their families, their friends… it’s unimaginable.
I like to think that I am a strong woman. I like to think that the love that I feel for Matt is unconditional. That being said, I can never begin to guess how I would feel if he told me he needed to transition for the first time or even to detransition.
In trying to understand dysphoria’s place in my life, Matt’s life, and our relationship I had been pondering what I thought dysphoria felt like for Matt and not what it felt like for me.
I’ve been struggling to find words to find something I’ve never felt before. It doesn’t really feel like my topic to talk about. Dysphoria is a trans thing. Right?
Dysphoria is something I can witness, but it feels weird for me to talk about it from my perspective. No one has ever asked me what it feels like to be dysphoric, so I never considered it. But it still exists in my life. I still encounter dysphoria because I have a trans boyfriend.
Matt is generally really comfortable in his skin. Suddenly he didn’t want to be naked in front of me. I’m not sure if it was embarrassment fueled by the dysphoria, but I went a few days without seeing him totally naked. I’d tug at his boxers and he’d give me a look of discomfort. Like, what was underneath was foreign and he didn’t want to have to look at it.
So, what does it feel like for me when Matt feels dysphoric? I feel helpless. I feel absolutely useless.
There is nothing I can read on the internet to help me understand dysphoria. There is no quick guide for dealing with a dysphoric boyfriend. These first six months of our relationship have consisted of me learning about trans-ness as a general topic. There isn’t any way for me to understand away dysphoria. It’s not something I said, it’s not something I did, it’s not something I triggered.
I wanted to caress his face, and feel his beard, but I was worried he’d think I was drawing attention to one of his “manlier” characteristics. I wanted to lay my head across his chest, he always loves that, but I was worried he’d think I was drawing attention to his post-op chest. I wanted to tell him that I’m here for him. That I love him, no matter what. That I would do anything in my power to ease his pain. But I still fight an internal struggle. I don’t want him feel demasculinized. In that moment, I want to help him forget all the things that hurt him, not emphasize the things that are hurting him.
And then suddenly, the dysphoria passed.
It was like a switch. It seemed to be a really short time between Matt wanting his boxers to stay plastered just beneath his belly button and Matt wanting me to rip his clothes off and screw like little bunnies.
It was surprising. We didn’t really change anything in his routine, I didn’t do anything differently… There wasn’t a fix that I could see and it was unsettling for me.
In a perfect world, I wish that he had the ability to communicate what he’s feeling. Not just to help me visualize what hurts (emotionally or otherwise), but to help see how he went from 0 to 60. What triggered him. What flipped the switch.
That being said, I recognize that Matt generally does things to the best of his ability. When he’s dealing with dysphoria, I might as well be talking to Harry Potter seated next to a dementor. I get that that’s all he’s got in him. There are some days where I come home from work in a huffy. It had nothing to do with Matt, but I’m in the fuck-everyone mood. I understand that Matt is human, and that he probably wants the exact same thing out of me, when I’m in a bad place.
The best I have to offer is this: Ask your partner, in a time that they’re not feeling dysphoric, what they want, need, or expect from you. Respect their response, whether it was what you expected or not, whether it’s how you would want from them in the same position.
Know that you cannot solve their dysphoria. The best you can do is love and support them in the same way you have in every other aspect of your life together.
I like deadlines. Well, no. I hate deadlines, but I find them useful.
Without deadlines I tend to not do things… have you noticed?
So, after a little bit of nagging from Steph–and to be clear it’s the only nagging she ever does and only because I’ve given my approval for her to nag–we came up with a day that seemed to be ok.
Actually, the conversation went more like this…
Matt: I think that since I’m doing weekly injections now that I’m going to start doing them on Wednesdays.
Steph: Alright, cool. Sounds Great.
Steph: We need to start posting more.
Matt: Ok. Yeah. You’re right. I need a deadline.
Steph: How about on Wednesdays, the same as your injections.
Matt: Yeah, that’s a good idea.
Steph: Yeah, and then you can’t do your injection until you post on the blog.
Matt: *a look of horror*
Now, this is all in jest. Really, it is. But then I had an idea since I’ve been going through a rough time lately with my T levels and it’s been sooo bad some days… I’m going to tell you all what my levels are (to be followed up with some posts about dysphoria from both of us).
Prescribed Dosage (May 2011 – September 2013): 200 mg / every other week
New prescribed dosage (September 2013 – present): 100 mg / weekly
- Total Testosterone = 1010 ng/dL, normal range is 240-950 ng/dL
- Free Testosterone = 46.0 ng/dL, normal range is 9.0-30.0 ng/dL
- Hemoglobin = 14.9 g/dL, normal range is 13.5-17.5
- MCV aka Average Red Blood Cell Volume = 93 fL, normal range is 80-100 fL
- Total Cholesterol = 164 mg/dL, normal range is 100-199 mg/dL
- Triglycerides = 122 mg/dL, normal range is less than 150 mg/dL
- HDL Cholesterol = 44 mg/dL, normal range is greater than 40 mg/dL
- LDL Cholesterol = 96 mg/dL, normal range is less than 131 mg/dL
- ALT (SGPT) aka Liver Test = 19 IU/L, normal range is 8-45 IU/L
- Hemoglobin = 15.1 g/dL, normal range is 13.5-17.5
- MCV aka Average Red Blood Cell Volume = 90 fL, normal range is 80-100 fL
As you can see, my levels were completely bonkers back in April, and while I don’t have new T levels since I’m in the middle of switching doses and stuff, all of my other labs came back squeaky clean.
I should, according to my labs, be growing two beards a day and be in tip-top fighting shape.
So where’s my dysphoria coming from and what is it doing to me and Steph?
We’ll try to get to the bottom of that…
Matt (and Steph)
There are a few really simple answers:
1. Don’t. Not everyone displays kid-pictures, right?
This one just isn’t good enough for Steph. I love having pictures up. It’s one of those things that turns a house into a home.
2. Just do it. People might ask questions, but if we’ve let them into our home, then that’s “to be expected”.
This one just didn’t sit well with Matt. There are a lot of people in our life together that don’t know Matt is trans. While some of our readers don’t believe this is the best way for us to “live our life”, we feel it is. For instance: Neither of us are ready to out Matt to Steph’s parents. There may be a time and a place, but here and now is not it. Having pictures of Matt, with long pigtails and pink dresses, doesn’t bode well for keeping stealth.
So, like always, we went into brainstorm mode to find a solution.
3. Reddit. Check out one of the many subreddits: /r/picrequests.
Matt and Steph submitted a request for the photo manipulation masters of the web to give his pink clothes a blue-tint and shorten his hair. The results? Absolutely fantastic and 100% framable. We’ve actually shared the digital copies with Matt’s parents, who were thrilled.
Remember, if the solutions presented to you aren’t adequate, keep thinking.
This past weekend was a monumental one, both in our relationship and in Matt’s life as a whole. For Matt, it was his first time being shirtless around people who weren’t aware of his trans past, it was the first time we faced the possibility of needing to come out to Steph’s family (with Matt being shirtless and all), and it was the first time ever that Matt brought a girl to meet his extended family.
So here’s a look into how it went down for each of us:
1. How were you feeling about the holiday weekend before it started?
I was pretty nervous about the initial shock of her family seeing my chest and what their first impression would be. I had my excuse ready but I’ve had some experiences in the past where people have been violently shocked, and I hated that.
Nervous and excited. We had a lot planned and we were both coming off of stressful weeks. Often vacation with family (especially new family) is more stressful than relaxing. I prepared for this to be the case.
2. What was your biggest fear with Steph’s family?
That they would know what my scars were from and I wouldn’t have been able to use my gynecomastia excuse. It was actually a tie between that and not being able to water ski/sky ski/wakeboard/etc. They’re big into water activities (which I have virtually no experience in), so I didn’t wanna suck.
The drinking! Oh, the drinking. My extended family tends to do a lot of our bonding over drinks. Often… that trickles into naked swimming. Naked swimming and trans-boyfriends (even cis-boyfriends…) don’t exactly mix well. I was worried that Matt would get pressure to take off his clothes. Thankfully, the drinking was minimal.
3. How did you recall the shirtless situation going down?
I think her sister-in-law saw first and was like, “woah, those are wicked,” or something and I was like, “yeah, I had gynecomastia as a kid.” I don’t think she really know what that meant (expected) so just went with it. Repeat for Steph’s dad and uncles. No one else cared.
A few family members asked about them. My sister-in-law inquired with a few questions out of concern, being that she’s in the health field. My father/uncle asked out of awe of the gnarly scarring. Matt’s response was smooth; I had gynocomastia as a kid. The guys nodded and moved on. It was a non-issue.
4. What was the most memorable moment with Steph’s family?
Getting up on the sky ski on my first go at it. Apparently it’s really hard to do that, so it was pretty great that I did. Also, they didn’t want us to leave early (to go see my family) so it was nice to feel wanted.
My family’s cabin experience, when not centered around drinking, is focused heavily on water sports. Matt got up on my dad’s SkySki on the first try. No, that’s not him, but he did look pretty darn great 🙂
5. Overall, how do you think it went with Steph’s family?
Really well. I’m more of an introvert and it takes me a bit to open up, but Steph’s family is great and I’ve gotten pretty comfortable around them. The being shirtless thing was a non-issue, which I’m glad for.
Great! He’d already met everyone there, so I wasn’t really worried about much other than the swimming. Once that cat was out of the bag, it was smooth sailing. (Omg. So many cliches!)
6. What was your biggest fear with Matt’s family?
That my less that sensitive uncle would mess up my pronouns or name (on accident or purpose). I knew it wouldn’t bother Steph, but he can be a huge dick. Also that I would get shit from my family for needing time away from them since I can only handle them for a few hours before I need some “me time” or “Matt and Steph time.”
Interrogation. My first meeting with Matt’s mom and her boyfriend included a lot of questions. Including, but not limited to, what my favorite part of sex is.
7. What was the most memorable moment with Matt’s family?
My Uncle saying “fuck you” to my mom when she was razzing him in front of the WHOLE family and my grandfather telling Steph and I jokes and just talking with him for once.
Probably the whole picture taking ordeal and Christmas name drawing. In my dating history I’ve never felt so accepted into a partners’ family so soon. I was asked to be in all the family pictures AND to be a part of the name drawing. Very, very cool.
8. Overall, how do you think it went with Matt’s family?
Well, no one fucked up my name or pronouns in front of me and my tiny cousins think I’m the best cousin ever, so there’s that.
Pretty good. There were a few minutes where I wish I’d have bitten my tongue, but the whole weekend went really well. It was great to get to put faces with names.
9. What would you have done differently?
Made the weekend longer. I had a great time, actually. Once I got over the nerves of being shirtless around her family for the first time, I had a lot of fun swimming and hanging around drinking beer.
There was one memorable negative moment, in which I was teasing Matt for a long-ago bonding experience with his cousin. I’ve since replayed that two minute segment in my head a number of times, and wish I could get a do-over. I won’t go into specifics, but I teased him for being compassionate. I wish I would have just “aww’d”.
10. Did you have fun?
Enough to keep Steph around for a little while longer…
Absolutely. There hasn’t been a day in the last four months that I haven’t been having fun. I guess that’s how I know I found the one. 🙂
As of right now, we’ve not told any of my family members. Two of my friends know and, for now, that suits us well.
I would like for my immediate family, my parents and brother, to know at some point. The number one reason being that it’s possible that they could find out from another source. A gathering of Matt’s family and mine for instance. I want them to find out from us. I want it to happen in a positive environment where they can have the opportunity to ask questions and process however they feel necessary. I don’t think that they’ll react negatively, they’re open and understanding, but it’s a topic that I don’t think they’ve ever had to confront head-on.
I don’t think it’s relevant for my extended family, or even most of my friends to know. I frame it similarly to ethnicity. There are a lot of people who are very proud of their ethnicity. They love to educate others and spread the beauty of their culture. That’s great, but there are plenty of people who identify as an ethnicity, but feel no need to advocate for it. Matt isn’t a trans-advocate (I wouldn’t mind if he was, he just isn’t). He isn’t particularly involved in the trans or LGBT community. There’s no reason to tell people his life story unless he wants to.
Until then, I guess we’ll just keep being stealth 😉
Steph and I are gearing up for a holiday that we’re splitting between our respective families, which includes swimming and being semi-naked frequently. Understandably, the topic has come up… do we tell her family that I’m a trans guy or don’t we? So that got me thinking…
Do you wanna know something that I don’t know?
I don’t know how big everyone’s dick is. My boss, my brother, my best friends, strangers on the street, not even my old roommates’ dicks… I don’t know and I don’t care.
This is my rationale when people ask me why I decide to be stealth and why I don’t think it’s all that important to tell people that I have a trans status/past/history/experience/etc.
Let me explain…
I have yet to encounter someone who has been circumcised or not circumcised who feels the unavoidable need to disclose that information to all of their friends, relatives, and in laws let alone complete stranger. It’s not a judge of their character, it was almost certainly not their choice, and it had absolutely no effect on their ability to receive or provide pleasure to someone (given that there were no lasting medical complications, which happens at a rate of 1.5% for newborns and 6% for older children, source).
Side note: circumcision is a little different with respect for the individual’s bodily autonomy, etc, etc; which is a great discussion but not one for this post.
So, anyway, other than the instances where I’ve gotten impressively drunk with my friends and we all decided to drop trow, I can’t see how the topic would ever come up among decent, socially aware human beings.
To be clear, I’m not ashamed of my trans status/past/history/experience/etc, I just don’t embrace it or think that it accurately expresses how I feel and what I’ve gone through.
Ok, so you get the big idea here, right? People don’t need to have intel about my genitals to know who I am as a person, and really my genitals are the only thing that’s visually affected by my trans status/past/history/experience/etc. There is actually another reason too…
People generally treat me differently when they know.
Some people have a very static idea of what being trans means and what trans people are like or how they look. People in the past have noticeably shifted their attitude towards me when they found out including…
- Treating me more delicately
- Being more guarded about certain topics (like sex or profanity)
- Questioning my sexuality
- Distancing themselves from me physically and emotionally
- Using incorrectly gendered pronouns
- Simply being mean and rude
So, at the end of the day, I don’t feel like anyone needs to know. I definitely don’t owe it to anyone to disclose my trans status/past/history/experience/etc and actually feel that it’s not worth my time/attention/sanity/safety/anxiety/stress/etc to fully explain who I am and why I don’t give a shit what they think. However, if someone does find out or if I tell someone, I’d rather educate them properly then have another ignorant jackass running around misgendering people and asking rude questions.