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Dear Christine, Anonymous in Ann Arbor

  • Posted on May 8, 2017 at 10:15 am

Dear Christine, I know that it’s wrong to doubt the validity of someone’s trans status, but I have this thing going on with another friend of mine. We’re both trans, and we have our different ways of going about it (how we dress, act, etc.) But whenever I’m around him, I can’t talk about anything trans related because I can’t look at him like a man. He became trans overnight, and I took months and years. He’s always weirded out by the fact I’m gay, and he has a girlfriend. We both seem to doubt each other.
Anonymous in Ann Arbor

Dear Anonymous, There’s no right or wrong way to be whoever you are, and the same goes for your trans friend. How you identify your own gender is a completely separate thing from what you experience as your sexual orientation. Some people look feminine and are men, some people look masculine and are women. Some of those feminine men are gay, and some of those masculine women are lesbians. But not always! There are men and women who ‘look good” and “pass” and those that don’t, whether they are trans or not. Same goes for sexual orientation. There’s also no “right speed” of transition, or even “right goal” of transition. Some people transition when they are young (teens, 20s) and it can happen fast, as their body has not been exposed to sexual hormones shaping their skeleton and body one way or the other. Some people choose to just change their attire, dressing as the opposite sex of their body’s physical appearance, usually called cross–dressing. Interestingly, it’s been welcome for women to cross dress publicly since the World War II era, and I, for example, only wear skirts in the summer, but pants almost exclusively in the winter. For my comfort! No one calls that cross dressing, but it actually is! Some people choose to take hormones and cross dress, and some people go all the way through hormones and having various surgeries, including Gender Reassignment Surgery. That is the surgery that is usually required by the State of Michigan to be able to change your gender on your driver’s license. Some trans people, particularly women to men, don’t bother with the GRS, as it is a difficult surgery without the best results for many people, and so they are able to legally change their gender with the appropriate letters from medical and psychological professionals. Some people don’t have the money to have the surgeries, and some don’t consider those physical changes necessary for their feeling at home in their own body. It’s a very individual thing. Some people can afford to race through the process, and other take many years, both for the financial and for the emotional and psychological changes that the physical transformation takes. It’s not only one way.

Some trans people have physically changed their bodies with clothes, hormones and even surgery, but still have not emotionally internalized their new gender. Some male to female trans people still hang on to their “male privilege” in how they carry themselves, how they walk and how they interact with women and men. Some trans female to male men are not fully comfortable interacting as a man, as others may have a hard time realizing they are a man, because their voice still sounds in a higher register, like a woman still. So, over the phone, someone may not realize they are interacting with a man until they meet face to face. However, once again, there are lots of people who aren’t taking hormones and aren’t trying to be anyone different than their body presents itself, and some men have high voices and some women have low voices. I’ve heard such people complain about the assumptions of gender that are made over the phone, when people hear them and assume. Assume. Bad word. Remember what it stands for: To assume is to make an ass out of u and me!

So, if you can’t find a way to accept your trans friend as he identifies himself, maybe it’s time to back off from that friendship, and give it time: for you to be able to accept him however he presents himself and for you to understand that every trans person is on a unique and individual journey. Just because yours has gone in a certain sequence and timing, it doesn’t mean anyone else’s has or will again! Try to relax, and just let your friend be himself, and see if you can begin to see who he is, as he defines himself.

Christine C. Cantrell, PhD
1026 W. 11 Mile Rd,
Suite C
Royal Oak, MI 48067

Click here to email Christine.