Re: Doubt

My good friend DK posted a thought-provoking entry about doubt, on his blog (L)earned Masculinity. I started to reply to him there, but it turned into a whole essay, so I’m answering him here, instead. He said, among other things:

“… I was a little discomfited, and I made a fairly ruffled, heavy-booted teenage girl who wanted to copy everything my dad did, but I didn’t have that full-fledged ‘MY BODY IS WRONG’ that you hear in a lot of trans stories.

I was just… a little off. And always kind of wished I could be a boy, instead.”


This is me, too. If you read my letter to my dad, you could construe what I said there as “I always knew I was a boy.” Perhaps I’ve written it that way because to someone like him, that’s really the best way to structure the argument. But I didn’t always know.

I think a lot of transfolk didn’t. I think, actually, that trans people who have always felt solidly, firmly, with a sense of undeniably certainty, that they were completely male in female bodies, or female in a male ones, are the exceptions, not the rules.

What you do hear from many trans people, happily transitioned to living in their chosen gender, is a lot more like what DK said: I always knew something was off. I never felt comfortable with my assigned gender. I always wished I could be a boy (or a girl).

It takes a peculiar sort of obstinacy and perhaps even a touch of delusion to grow up with a female body, in a society that treats you as female, with people who value you as female, and in a culture that offers several compelling ways to go about being female (that aren’t all the Disney Princess® model), to simply reject it out of hand and insist that you are male, no questions asked.

They exist, certainly, these people who from the age of three declared that their penis was a mistake, or their name was Richard, not Ella Louise, or otherwise strongly asserted a gender identity at variance with their bodies. Their experiences are valid and real, but they are the minority. Holding all trans people to a standard that says you have to know, to have always known, what your gender identity is, would likely exclude the majority of trans folk from ever claiming a trans or genderqueer identity.

The rest of us, I think, didn’t just know; we suspected. We wished we could be that other thing that our bodies and our culture said we weren’t. Then one day, for one reason or another, we realized that maybe there was something we could do about that wish.

The big step, at least for me, wasn’t one of knowing, but of shifting my thinking from wishing for something impossible to wishing for the possible. Taking the mental leap to identifying as transgendered has allowed me to look back on a whole lifetime of wishing and suspecting, and see all the ways in which that feeling I thought was so secret and tentative was in fact rather obvious. That’s what comes out in my letter, I think, sounding like I always knew.


~ by Nezu on 24 May 2011.

4 Responses to “Re: Doubt”

  1. The big step, at least for me, wasn’t one of knowing, but of shifting my thinking from wishing for something impossible to wishing for the possible.

    *hugs you*

  2. beautifully said.

    we’re having a discussion about trans and community over on my blog, if you’re interested in throwing your opinion out there. 🙂

    • Thanks, Victoria 😀

      I was a little late to the party, alas, but I really appreciated the invitation.

  3. Thank you. I appreciate your perspective on this, and this rings true to me. As I learn more about myself, some details about myself occasionally take me by surprise; I might not have always known about whatever it was, and I might not have expected to come to the conclusion that I did, but I can always look back and see that there have been signs from the beginning that indicated this possible outcome. I agree that probably most people didn’t always know everything about themselves, but going through a period of revelation and discovery and doubt and questioning doesn’t make the eventual conclusion any less true than it would have been if they’d known all along.

    So thank you for giving me stuff to think about, and I am proud of you for being brave enough to take on these questions and to trust yourself in the gray areas of uncertainty and change.

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