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The Psychological Journey of a Transgender Person

| Apr 3, 2023
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Transgender people put a lot of time and effort into passing. We worry about trying to change our outer appearance to present as the gender to which we have transitioned. For birth males trying to live as female, this means working on dress, makeup, hair removal, voice, and other issues.

But what about the changes that we experience in our psyches, either through deliberate effort or unconsciously? Are not those changes just as important as the physical changes? The subject deserves to be examined, so here are my thoughts on the subject.

It takes a major reorientation of our internal self-image to see ourselves as a different gender from the one we have lived in for most of our lives. It is probably easier for the kids who know immediately that they are different from their physical bodies. But the late bloomers have spent almost a full life living in the gender of their physical body, only to realize many years later that they were wrong all that time and they were really the other gender. No matter how quickly they may realize it, it is still a shock.

I remember the time when I suddenly knew that I was a female. Even though I quickly knew that I would make the transition if given the chance, it still sent me into a maelstrom of doubt and wonder. I would not call it a tailspin, because that implies a crash and destruction. It was not that. But the world seemed a quite different place once I knew that I was really a female with a body that did not match.

Suddenly, I had a host of questions with no immediate answers. I would have to work on them as time allowed. For example:

  • How well would I be able to pass as female? (That was a major question.)
  • If I could not pass as female, would I want to make the transition?
  • How long would it take before I would be ready to live as female?
  • To which gender was I sexually attracted?
  • How did I feel about transgender persons?
  • Could I see myself as LGBT? (After all, I had been straight all of my life up to that point.)

Most of these questions involve one’s interior psyche. How do you go from straight male to transgender female? Can you even do it? If you think you can, how hard will it be and how long will it take? In fact, if you start later in life, can you do it in your remaining years?

I will admit that I have not completed finding answers to all of the above questions. I may never be able to finish it. In that sense, I envy the young kids like Jazz who know that they are transgender and can live that way. I also feel sorry for them that hateful and misguided politicians are using them as human targets for their political ambitions.

Related to young transgender minors, I have said in other writings that I do not support surgeries for these minors. In that one limited sense, I might agree with some of these politicians. [Editor’s Note: Gender reassignment surgery is typically only available to those 18 and older in the United States.]

But I definitely support puberty blocking medicines and other non-surgical procedures for transgender minors. The politicians claim that these meds leave the kids sterile. I have not seen any confirmation of that in other areas and wonder about the truth of those claims. It seems to me that a kid who was taking them could just stop taking them and resume the march of puberty.

Then again, the fight over trans medicines for minors is really only a diversion for a bigger fight. It looks like the anti-trans politicians secretly hope to deny hormones and other medicines to all transgender persons in hopes of getting rid of us completely. They will not admit it, but that seems to be the long-term goal. They think they can turn us back into our birth genders, by force if necessary.

Let us return to the topic of psychological changes in trans people. How much do we change when we make the transition? Can it happen without our noticing until some pivot point forces us to become aware?

I suspect that we do change, if only slowly and subtly. It can definitely happen without our knowledge. Something in us makes us very aware that we are the gender to which we made the transition. That something also gets upset when others question our new gender.

Something happened to me while I was writing this piece that illustrated this conundrum. It was not at all pleasant, but perhaps it was a necessary part of my emergence as a female.

I was at a gathering with a group of friends in a small resort town. We ended up going to a Thai restaurant for supper the first night.

The waitress misgendered me — not once, but twice. I was not angry because I was sure she had not done so intentionally. Still, I was frustrated and a bit upset.

I let her know that I was not a male. She corrected herself. As we left, I thanked her for the hard work she had put in for dealing with our group of 15-20 people. As far as I knew, that was the end of the situation.

It was not. Soon after, one of the people in our group came over to me while we were sitting around. She acted like she only had my best interests at heart, but she made it very clear that my behavior was unacceptable. Specifically, I had shown rudeness to the waitress. She said that other people had also noticed this. The berating went on for around ten minutes. This was in an open room where everyone else in the group could hear her.

It shook me up. After she left, I sat there for a few minutes with my head in my hands. Then I went back to my hotel room, contemplated the situation, and cried. I did not see my actions as being motivated by rudeness or anger. If I had truly been angry, they would have known it. But this person thought I was rude or angry because I had dared to stand up for myself while being misgendered. It got to me.

A few minutes later, I went to the front desk to ask if I could check out and not be charged for the next day. It was a little bit past the deadline, but the hotel graciously allowed me to leave and not be charged. I quickly packed up and left the room. I let the unofficial coordinator of the meeting know that I was leaving, then I drove home.

The whole situation made me realize that some straight people will never understand transgender people, no matter how much they may believe they do. They have no idea of the pressure under which we live every day of our lives. I now realize that if I had gone outside in this resort area, some redneck might have attacked me for standing near their children. In retrospect, that was not a good area for me to stay in for any length of time.

I have heard some trans people say that when you finally make the transition to your true gender, it works better if you plan to make a new life for yourself. It is sort of like being in a witness protection program. You should plan to change as much of your life as you can. You should look for new friends who do not know you as your previous self. If possible, you might even want to move to a new area where nobody knows you as your previous self. That is not always possible or desirable. But a fresh start will make the transition work better.

I did not believe this at first. But now I do. The degree to which one can make a totally new life varies from person to person. Not everyone can or wants to move to a different area. But we can look for new friends who only know us as our new self. We definitely should not expect our old friends to understand our new selves. It can happen, and should be celebrated when it happens. But do not count on it.

I will see what I can do to find new friends. It is not easy for a person like me who has had challenges with socialization. At times it feels like I am a social leper. Every day of my life, I feel like I am walking through an unmarked minefield that could blow me up at any moment. Try living like that and see how it feels.

Yet I know that is what I need to do. I do not need to get rid of all of my old friends. But it would be better to find more people who only know me as Michelle and not as my previous self.

I will not pick up and move immediately, even though that might help in some ways. It would also cause major problems in my life. The older you are, the harder it is to just move. That is a young person’s game. It might happen later, but for now I will keep my current living arrangements and deal with them as well as possible.

One thing I need to realize is that I am more fragile than I used to be. Maybe the estrogen is finally kicking in. I thought I was not feeling much of anything from taking it. People say you become more emotional when you take the drug. Then again, my dosage is not all that big. A friend told me that I am the emotional equivalent of a 15-year-old girl. I asked where the 15-year-old body went, because I certainly did not get it.

Another thing that is weighing on me these days has to do with my intended breast augmentation surgery. I thought I would have the surgery last spring. But a round of antibiotics postponed that. Then I thought it would happen fairly soon. But my heart is causing problems – nothing life-threatening, but enough to need action. I am having episodes of atrial fibrillation. I cannot feel them, but the EKG shows them. One cannot have elective surgery with this problem. I am probably going to have a procedure to work on the heart to try to eliminate this issue. Until then, no boob job. It sucks.

So what can we do to summarize this topic? It looks like a gender transition affects your psyche in ways that you do not expect and may not even see. You need to be aware that this can happen and to make allowances for it. In fact, you probably need to try to make as much of a new life for yourself as you can. Your old friends might be able to understand the differences in you due to the transition, but do not count on it.

A gender transition is not just a physical transition. It also transforms your psyche. Be aware of it and try to deal with the transitions. You will never be the person you were before the transition, even if you reverse the transition later. You will be a new you. Try to be as beautiful as the butterfly as it emerges from the cocoon. It is you.

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Category: Transgender Opinion


About the Author ()

Michelle L. Rogers is a transgender female from Chattanooga, TN. She has been out as trans female since October 2018. She is retired from the computer industry and is the author of the book Trans Right.

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