13 August 2021
Can trauma impact on gender identities?
Can trauma impact on gender identities because I feel more feminine during the day and masculine during the night but I realised years and years before I did feel masculine and feminine but there wasn’t a time where I would feel that, it was more random and kind of just there but now it’s becoming a time for my genders. I remember traumatic times happens at night from my mum when I use to live with her and that might’ve affected my masculinity to come out at night. Otherwise I’m unsure why I feel more masculine at night, why night, I’m still confused if my trauma isn’t the answer.
Thank you for sending your question to AlterHéros’ team.
If I understand correctly, you feel more masculine at night and you’re wondering if it could be related to traumatic times you experienced at night when you lived with your mum. It wasn’t the case before, so you’re wondering why your gender fluctuations are less random now. Did I get that right?
First of all, thank you so much for trusting us with these feelings and experiences. I feel so lucky to be able to answer questions like yours.
The answer is yes, absolutely: Gender can fluctuate for a variety of reasons, trauma included. Some people who identify as genderfluid can pinpoint exactly why their gender fluctuates in time. For example, I know that my gender fluctuates according to seasons, because I’ve always felt more free to be myself during the summer, when I wasn’t oppressed by the very cisnormative school I was attending. Other people cannot identify any reason why their gender fluctuates, and they don’t need to.
Sometimes, when trauma flares up, our gender and our relationship with it can suddenly change. A couple of years ago, I started experiencing flashbacks of abuse I had endured years before and I felt my gender shift towards masculinity all of sudden. It was surprising to me, but I understood it as a protective mechanism. I had been abused as “a girl” and feeling more “like a boy” made me feel safer. In a society where violence is gendered, it’s normal to me that our experiences of our gender identities fluctuate according to the violence we are (re)living. Does that make sense to you?
I don’t see my gender identity as an objective fact of life or a truth that lies somewhere in my brain and that I can uncover. Gender is a map that I’m navigating and the experiences I live, whether they be positive, negative or traumatic, steer me in different directions. Sometimes, it’s really important to me to know where exactly I am on this map or where I’m headed to. Sometimes, I don’t care or I choose to invest my energy otherwise. What about you? If you drew a map of your gender, what would it look like? Could it be ok, sometimes, not to know what your gender identity is or why you’re experiencing your gender in a specific way?
In any case, I want you to know you’re not alone. A lot of us experience shifts in our gender identities because of trauma. It can be confusing, annoying or liberating. Whatever you’re feeling right now, you are valid.
If you want to explore the relationship between gender and trauma, I recommend the book Written on the Body: Letters from Trans and Non-Binary Survivors of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence. It can be a hard read, but it can also help a lot on our journey to feel safer in our bodies and identities.
I hope my answer is helpful to you. If you need to chat more about this or you have another question, our website is always open! Don’t hesitate to reach out again.
Sending care and hope your way,
Séré, outreach worker for AlterHéros