Great thread with informative and civil discussion for the most part. Have been lurking for some time and wanted to get some clarification on something I have been wondering about if anyone can answer:
Based on the discussion that has been going on so far, it seems like most of us feel that gender, sex, and sexual preference are all fluid but separate things. My understanding of gender is that it is the state of possessing traits typically attributed (seemingly arbitrarily) to one sex or the other and that it is basically a cultural and social construct. Given these assumptions, for those of us who feel that they may have the mind of someone of the other gender, how does this in some cases lead to wanting to alter one's sex? Is there a direct connection between feminine and masculine character traits and female and male anatomy?
I am genuinely curious and would like to hear about your experiences with this. I have been considered non gender conforming for most of my life but have never really felt any desire to change my body based on what our culture sees as man or woman. Obviously I can understand wanting to have a different body if one prefers the physical features of the other sex or simply wants to be seen as a certain sex by others but I guess the connection to a masculine or feminine personality isn't exactly clear to me. If gender is a spectrum, shouldn't any combination of behaviors and traits be acceptable for female or male?
Sorry if this seems like an ignorant question. I recognize that the gender binary is deeply entrenched and can't just be ignored but I am curious about the emotional aspect of this.
I'll try to describe my feelings about this.
Okay, I've started to write it and it turned out my whole life's story somehow. Direct(er) answer to your question below.
! In my childhood, I felt content with being a tomboy, and generally had no desire or even thoughts about having a different body. Then puberty came and with it, came a lot of "have to buy this, have the learn how to use that" and I started to drift farther away from that genderlessness I've enjoyed till then. At that time, I didn't realize this, although I said once in a while that "being a girl is such a bother". Then came a psychologist who was, like, a esoteric or I can't remember. He said if I want to be loved, I have to be like a real girl. After all, it's not a man's job to be pretty (Feel free to say "bullshit" out loud here). After that, I became sort of girly, with changing a big part of my wardrobe, letting my hair grow long etc.
It was… eh. I wasn't myself, and I just did it for attention and love, which I didn't get. The final blow was around my last year at high-school, where I realized the boy I was in love with didn't even have the curtesy to tell me he wasn't interested. My heart broke and I abandoned my girly way realizing it wasn't me.
! Hair got cut down, wardrobe changed. At this point, I still haven't realized I was trans, and I mostly just got along by not really thinking about my clothes and such. I fell back into a sort of genderlessness (I will force this word as long as it takes), or gender-indifference. Then, I got my first boyfriend ever, and I kind of enjoyed how my body was (and still is) pretty beautiful. I have larger than average boobs that looks nice and a slender, but not too skinny figure. I enjoyed that some people told me I'm looking nice. I enjoyed the praise, even if it was for something I didn't really have a say in.
! Then, disaster struck, we broke up (it wasn't a spectacular relationship anyway), and I fell into a very deep pit of depression, suicidal thoughts, cuttings and so on. I was devastated. Now I kind of realize it was partly because I had no stable picture of myself. I was not a whole person. I was broken in a way. My parts were all over the place and I struggled to find them and piece them together to make a comprehensive whole.
Thanks to my friends IRL, people here at APForums and a wonderful psychiatrist, I was able to fight back depression to a state where I was able to function well. That was 2 years ago (I think).
As I was getting by in life, I realized something was missing. Like, I functioned properly, but I lacked a deeper understanding of my own self. I didn't really know who I was.
I explored some possibilities. I slowly got back to being a tomboy, purchased my first pair of briefs (and haven't looked back since), my hair got shorter and shorter.
I was a tomboy again and I realized I enjoyed it. I was getting close to myself. I was back at my childhood state.
I was close, but still not there. At first, I tried being an alpha-female (this is a word from now on). Started working out and was all over a warrior spirit. Also became more confident and outspoken (which led to some arguments with some of my friends, but eventually, it worked out). I wasn't afraid anymore to speak my mind.And it still wasn't it.
! Next came my second boyfriend who was also the first big one (in a sense that it was working quite nicely for a while). He told me he loved my boyishness and it was pretty nice.
Then I started to come to realization. I wasn't really happy. I was trying my damnedest, and everything was working really well, but it wasn't joy I felt. It was a sort of emptiness.
! So came the thought "what if I have to go one step further?"
! One step further meant thinking through my gender and sex thoroughly.
This is where gender-dypshoria comes in. It basically means there's a dissonance between one's sex and gender. It causes discomfort, distress and sometimes depression.
Discomfort and distress is a big thing here, since depression can have as many causes as there are stars in the sky.
Let's start with discomfort. Imagine it like having uncomfortable clothes on. They bother you constantly. Now imagine the clothes being your own body. Clothes can be taken off, you can feel "free" during showers, the night and so on. But you can't just take your body off. You can try to hide it even from yourself, getting non-revealing and non-skintight clothing that don't emphasize the thing that causes you such discomfort. But you always feel like something's wrong, even as a lingering thought at the back of your head, you know it's just not right. You see, most of the time I try not to think about my still ever present girlhood. Unfortunately, multiple times a day I encounter the reality be it in the shower, getting dressed for the day or even running after the goddamned bus.
Distress comes from this as you just can't seem to forget or go by 5 minutes without your body bothering you, even if your body's perfectly fine (healthy and so on).
I can best describe this as introducing another word (yay): self-image. How you see yourself, or more precisely, how you feel you look like in accord with your inner self. This isn't the same as imagining yourself stronger, prettier etc. "If I was stronger/thinner etc."
Using myself as an example: my self-image is a guy, kind of short (because hey, my height won't change), with a moustache, smiling a lot but determined and wanting to constantly learn, self-confident.
And what do I see when I look into the mirror? A gal that a lot of people see as a lesbian. Someone that kinda looks like a guy from behind, but when you peel off the layers, you can see boobs and such, so it's a girl.
And that's not me. And I don't say this because I think girls/women blow, or inferior to guys. No. I believe in gender-equality.
I say this because it does not and can never represent what I truly am inside.
You can say that it doesn't really matter, because as long as my friends/family/love and myself feel I'm a guy, I don't need to transition. And maybe that's true for some transgenders. And that's perfectly fine and there's nothing wrong with it.
I'm just different in that sense. I cannot feel like myself in this body I'm currently occupying. Even if my friends call me "guy" and we talk about pretty girls and drink beer, and even if I say manly stuff and they laugh and we all laugh and they treat me like guy, my body is not in the state it was meant to be in. I can be a tomboy, an amazon, a tough gal. But I am not. I am a guy, a man. And my body does not represent that as it should do.
So I've decided to transition to make my body as close to what's inside as possible. It won't ever be perfect. I don't care. This is a journey I took on and will see through till the end. I will become whole. My mind, my soul and my body will finally be aligned.
This is how I feel. I would also like to hear others' opinions and thoughts and feelings on this, so if anyone has the time, please share them with us. Even if our feelings differ, it won't make them invalid in any way.
And to those who are here to learn, as a non-transgender person, please, ask away. However, be prepared to challenge some things you know, and to be open and understanding. In turn, we'll be the same. Because hey, we're all in this together, and we can all help each other to understand all this~