I've been struggling with my gender identity... Is the want to be a man a fetishization thing?
I’ve been struggling with my gender identity for the past couple of months, though I feel like this has been an ongoing thing I never noticed until now. Every spare moment I have I’m questioning who I am, who I want to be, and who I want to be perceived as.
The main issue is that I don’t feel comfortable being seen as a girl anymore. I’ve tried using some different pronouns to see how I felt, and it was nice for a bit, but I realized there was still something missing. I think I’m still in a lot of denial over how what’s missing is the fact that I want to be perceived as a boy, but I feel like I can’t have that, because physically, it’s logical that I’m not one. Plus, I’m scared of even considering transitioning, it feels like a huge step that I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready for. While most of the time I’m yearning to be a guy, there are a few times where I feel okay as a girl. It’s just so confusing, and I don’t want to stick with something and then regret it later.
I also feel like, is the want to be a man a fetishization thing? Because when I see healthy and happy male relationships in books or shows, I feel a sense of happiness from it and can relate to it to an extent. Does that mean these feelings of dysphoria are based on that? Because while it’s one thing to put yourself in another character’s shoes, I feel like there’s a bit more to these feelings than that. Any insight would be really appreciated!
Thanks for reaching out to us! You have very legitimate questions and fears, and I get how it can get overwhelming sometimes. Throughout your message I can sense that you have great introspection and critical thinking skills and I think these will be great tools to face gender adversity. 🙂
So you don’t feel comfortable being perceived as a girl anymore, you tried new pronouns but you feel there’s still something missing. Yet you’re not sure you’re ready to transition just yet. I’ll give you what insights I can spare!
First off, I think it’s extremely unfair to expect teenagers and young adults to know exactly who they are and what they want for the rest of their lives, in terms of gender or otherwise. It’s just highly unrealistic to make up your mind on something so major and never change it in your life. Personally, I’m almost in my mid 20s, I’m starting a masters degree soon and I still have no idea what I’m doing with my life! I switched my career plans three times, same with gender and transitioning. I don’t expect to figure everything out anytime soon, and that’s okay. My point is that you don’t have to know for sure where you’ll be in 10 distant abstract years right now. You’re allowed to keep your options open, to try new things and that can be fun and liberating.
That being said, not knowing can also be overwhelming and scary at times. We live in a society structured around a rigid gender binary and hierarchy. Institutions, strangers and even the people close to us constantly remind us of the existence of gender, so much so it’s hard to avoid it. From the day of the first echography, people assign us to a gender without asking us. It’s especially hard for folks who do not fit neatly into one of the two boxes made available to us. You said “physically, logically, I’m not a boy” like that’s an obvious, objective reality and I’d like to try to challenge that. What’s a boy? Is it short hair? Facial or body hair? Muscles? Liking sports? Being masculine or acting though? Explaining things to people who didn’t ask? Taking up too much space in public transit? Anyone can have, do or be any of those things, or not. So what is the one single thing that seperates boys from the non-boys people?
Some people will mention a penis, but even that’s not true. Even if it was, usually most people don’t see each other’s genitals. In the end, the one thing that makes a boy and that all boys have in common is thinking they are one. After that, the ensemble of everything you are and how you present yourself can be modified and rearranged to your liking. Your presentation be thought of, understood and judged by others, yes. But for what it’s worth, I don’t think any man has ever been 100% masculine in every possible way. All this to say, no matter what society tells you, your body is your own, if you think you’re a boy, then you have a boy’s body. Boys can have very different bodies (and minds, hearts, hands, hips, heights, t-shirts, etc.).
Gender can feel different for different people, and it can change with time and in different contexts. In my own experience, I also started realising things by noticing I didn’t like being perceived as a boy most of the time. But I was afraid that I’d never be able to be seen as anything else, or that it would take tremendous efforts and sacrifices to transition. Today, I’m happy being non-binary, I was lucky enough to find people who understand me. I still have to deal with close-minded people in my day-to-day life, but I care far less about their perceptions of me. But I know it’s easy to say and not something you can always really control.
I hear your hesitations about transitioning. I wanna start by saying that you don’t have to transition medically to be valid and taken seriously in your gender. There’s a million ways to masculinize your appearance besides taking testosterone or having affirmative surgeries. It can be a haircut, masculinizing makeup techniques, compression shorts, a binder, a packer, shoes that make you look taller, larger clothes, etc. It depends on what you’d like to change and what you think would make you feel good. It’s okay to try things even if you’re not sure and to experiment, whether you change your mind later or not. You’re the one who sets the goals, the means and the pace. You might find more examples and details in those links :
- How I’m Transitioning Without Transitioning
- Are you still transgender if you don’t want, or are scared, to have surgery or hormone therapy?
The unknown is often the scariest. So reading up and finding information alleviate your anxieties. This link explains a lot of the changes and side effects that come with testo, which ones are reversibles or permanent, when they appear, the ways you can get it prescribed and more. I think it can be helpful to have a clear informed idea of your possibilities to set up your expectations and objectives. Every person is different and there are always consequences you can’t anticipate. In the end it is your decision. As for “yearning to be a guy and sometimes being okay with being a girl” I would answer fluidity is okay. It’s not necessarily a reason not to transition. Most people, even cis people, don’t feel an extreme version of their gender all the time. I linked to it a few times already, but the blog “Transgerder Survival Guide” is a good place to start gathering information, ressources and feedback.
It might help to surround yourself with diverse trans models and representations (@alltransbodies, @ftmtranstions, r/transtimelines). Seeing other folks success transition stories can be a double edge sword, it’s inspiring and affirming but also daunting and crushing when you’re not there yet in your path. Talking about your feelings and experiences with other people in similar situations can be very helpful. Since you’re in Montreal, perhaps you could look into the peer support programs of Project 10, ASST(e)Q or the Center for Gender Advocacy or share in Facebook groups like this one or this one. Remember that you are not alone in this, there’s a whole community out there that will understand and support you.
I find it interesting you draw a link between your feelings of identification with fetichisation. There’s a long history of trans identities and experiences being associated with a fetish in popular culture. This misconception led to the concept of autogynephilia which was used as an excuse to delay transition care. If you relate to male characters and relationships they make you happy, that’s wonderful. Fiction and daydreaming are great tools to explore our own thoughts, feelings and values, gender-related or otherwise.
I don’t think there is one “cause” to gender dysphoria, in the sense that it’s not a specific hormone or one character you saw once. It’s a complex biopsychological phenomenon, but more than that it’s a reality of life. Transition is usually the best way to attenuate dysphoria and feel better.
I hope this helps! I know it feels like a lot of big life decisions and that it can get heavy. Take the time to breath and enjoy lighter things when you can. You can always write again if there’s anything.
Maxime, intern for AlterHeros