31 January 2015

We're Not "Confused"

I have often been asked whether I "always felt that way",

The answer is, of course, yes.  Actually, I have to qualify that:  I always knew I was a girl.  I managed, with varying degrees of failure, to suppress my identity and be the man I was "supposed to" become by playing sports, taking lots of math and science courses, dating girls, getting married, being in the Army and any number of things you can think of.

Some have asked me whether I was "confused".  Had I expressed, when I was very young, a desire to transition--if indeed I knew what that was!--I probably would have been told I was confused.  Some would have said it in a condescending way, others in an imperative tone and still others with belligerence.  Actually, I experienced all of those things when I started my transition in my 40s, so I can only imagine how things would have been in my twenties or teens.

The answer to whether I was, or am, confused is "no".  Even when I was doing well at "manly" things, and being praised and rewarded for it, I did not take it well.  If I was, and am, confused about anything, it's about getting positive feedback for anything because, so often, I got it for being inauthentic.

But, as far as my gender identity goes, I am clear about that.  And that's why I don't regret my transition or my surgery, though I wish I didn't have to experience some of what I've gone through since then.

According to an article in Medical News Today, I am typical. ("I am typical":  When did I ever think I would say that?)  That article reported a new study, soon to be published in Psychological Science, saying that the gender identity is "deeply held and consistent, rather than the result of confusion as many have previously maintained".  

The study used implicit measures as well as conscious self-reporting in an effort to understand the identity of transgender children.

According to that study, a child's transgender identity is not the result of "pretense" or a desire to shock or rebel.  

Now, of course, that doesn't mean that every boy who tries on his mother's clothes is a trans woman, any more than it means that a trans girl's femaleness can be beat out of her.  It means that those who are trans will identify that way, whether or not they have a means to express it and, by implication, those who are "experimenting" will quickly "grow out of it".  At least, that's how I read the results of that study.

I hope I cleared up some confusion with this post!


Coline said...

I reacted badly to my old presentation gaining success, it just felt so wrong that I could have any success while being totally fake!

I slunk away and his whilst those who were with me back then have gained even higher success. How much talent gets wasted by holding us down?

Justine Valinotti said...

Coline--Thanks for coming back. You very beautifully described how it feels to be "in the closet." When we're there, success never feels like success because it doesn't feel right.

Your question is a great one. What does any society gain by keeping someone from reaching his or her potential because she or he happens to be different from everyone else?