Update: I contacted the author of this piece, and she had the following comment to add. I hope it gives heart to the parents of teens and young women who congregate here. It may not seem like your daughter is paying attention to you now, but your words may echo later. She said she is also open to responding to your questions in the comments section below.
Three years after it was originally posted on The Dirt From Dirt, this beautifully written piece by a young woman who “transitioned,” then made her way back home to female again, was recently pointed out to me. I recommend reading the whole thing, including the comments, which contain a great Q&A with the author. It’s bursting with insights that will be especially meaningful to parents of young women who are contemplating–or have already embarked on–transition. There are some particularly cogent passages on interactions with parents which will be very familiar to many regular readers here.
Anyone who wants to better understand the experience of female gender dysphoria, what motivates a teen or young woman to want to inject testosterone, and the complexities of parent-daughter dynamics through the whole process will find much to appreciate here.
The author (now in her late 20s) has recently stated that in the years since writing this piece, she has found healing by connecting with other women who understand her experience–understand why she distanced herself from femaleness. This community she’s found has been crucial to resisting the pressure to identify as male.
I would suggest that readers share responses to the piece in the comments section here; the article is three years old, so comments submitted to the original post on TheDirtFromDirt blog might not be seen.
A few tastes from the original–which, again, I urge everyone to read in its entirety, below. Boldface emphasis is mine.
With groups of guys, I was totally comfortable. I felt equal, like one of their peers. I was interested in the same things that interested them and related to the way they interacted with one other. There was a lot of music and video games, and not a lot of sitting around talking and gossiping. These were the ways that I interpreted “female-bonding” and “male-bonding” back in those days. I got very involved in the local music scene, playing guitar and bass in a lot of hardcore, punk, and metal bands. I used Craigslist and other local sites to find bands and band mates. I quickly learned to leave the fact that I was female out of my ads and emails. Being female impugned my credibility as a hardcore musician, it seemed to me. At the time, I thought it lucky that my name was very androgynous. More often than not, I was perceived as male.
My discomfort with my body never left me. My jealousy for my male peers grew. I bound my chest for the first time when I was 15, with duct tape over a tank top that I wore over my sports bra. I tucked my hair up into my hat, as I had continued to do since grade school. I swiped a button-down flannel shirt and some baggy jeans from my dad’s closet, tucked a sock into my underwear, and then took my girlfriend out to a movie. The feeling that all of this gave me was indescribable. For months, my girlfriend referred to me as her “boyfriend”—this, as a kind of sweet talk. I really liked it. When she saw me that night, I remember her face, and the way she looked so happy. I don’t remember anyone’s treating us any differently than they had in the past. I wasn’t trying to pass, as I didn’t even know what that meant yet. All I knew was that I hated my breasts. I felt as if I would have been much happier had I been born male; this would’ve allowed me to do and be all of the things I wanted to do and be, without getting hassled, without constantly feeling like an outsider.
On meeting with a “gender therapist”:
I graduated from university and attended counseling sessions with a gender therapist when I was 21. In our first meeting she informed me that she usually waits several months before seriously discussing medical transition with her clients. However, during this first meeting, she indicated she was comfortable discussing medical intervention and my feelings about it, because of my already extensive “real life experience” and the fact that she could “clearly see that I was a transsexual.” I informed her that I intended to medically transition as soon as I found the courage to tell my parents, and that I didn’t want to start without their at least being aware of my condition. She asked me to write down all of my earliest memories regarding gender and how I related to my body. She explained that we would use my writing as a starting point for our next meeting, during which we could begin discussing how I would come out to my parents.
Six meetings and three months later, I had my letter diagnosing me with “General Anxiety Disorder,” with a recommendation for hormone replacement as treatment. Still, I was no closer to actually telling my parents. She refrained from a “Gender Identity Disorder” diagnosis, because of my intention to live “stealth.” I saw my condition as purely medical and not something I wanted to acknowledge in the future. I had already drafted several letters and scrapped them all. I called the clinic and set up my first appointment for blood work.
On her parents’ reaction to her decision to transition:
My father was furious. My mother was heartbroken.
I still remember his calling me that night and telling me he loved me dearly and that his love for me would never change. However, he also told me he thought I was dead wrong about the decisions I was making. The next night I went to their house to talk about it in person. We had one of the longest conversations of my life. For about four hours, we picked apart the way I felt, why I felt that way, and what it meant. My father infuriated me when he told me that he actually thought I was pretty stereotypically female, in that I have a large amount of compassion and tend to be very sensitive. He asked me what I thought was different between myself and my mother—who is a very strong, driven person, and who embodies many of the qualities I strive to embody. I remember trying to explain to him that it all comes down to what people identify with in their brains, how they relate to their own bodies. I tried to tell him that it has nothing to do with characteristics like intelligence, compassion, athletic interests, or familial roles (e.g., “the breadwinner”). At every step he refuted me. He asked me if it were okay for women to want and think the things that I wanted and thought. I repeated over and over that it was, of course, okay. I asserted that it didn’t make such a woman any more of a man than my compassion made me a woman. At the time, I didn’t understand that he was bringing up all of these socially structured gendered expectations in order to encourage me to think critically about my identification and why I felt that way. All I felt was angry and trapped and disrespected. I left that night without feeling we had resolved anything. I was glad I had told them, glad I knew I still had their love. I was still so, so angry that they couldn’t just accept what I was telling them at face value.
I remember asking my father if he would still feel like a man if he woke up the next morning, inexplicably, with a vagina and breasts. He told me that he “wouldn’t give a fuck” and would go about life as normal. He told me the only thing that would change would be the way society reacted to him, but that it wouldn’t change who he was on the inside. I asked him if “who he was on the inside” was male. He told me that who he was on the inside had absolutely nothing to do with his reproductive ability or his genitals. I thought he was absolutely out of touch with the reality of the world, and of course he must have some internal sense of himself as a man, or as male. I’ve since come to realize that he meant exactly what he said.
We had a few more intensely strained conversations over the next few weeks on the subject, and eventually came around to agreeing that my parents love me and support me no matter what, but they did not believe in “gender identity.” They agreed to do whatever would make me comfortable, including refraining from using female terms regarding me, but neither of them thought they would come around to calling me “he” or their “son.” I took this as consolation enough, and resolved to move forward with my appointment to get testosterone.
There is much more at the original link. Do read it if you can.