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Dear Christine, Depressed in Detroit

  • Posted on February 26, 2018 at 6:18 am

Dear Christine,

Gender confusion, Please Help!?

I am 21 years old, biological male, and suffering a from a very extreme depression. This depression has been quite a constant in my life and I’m keen to be rid of it. I know it’s stemming from the doubt, anxiety, and confusion that comes in the delightfully painful package that we call gender confusion. Mentally, at least, I’ve always been female. I’ve decided on two courses of action. Getting help from s’s many sources as possible in an attempt to fix myself and if that doesn’t work then I’m just going to see myself out. Talking me out of that part is pointless I might add. My life is a living hell and any alternative to living s’s a freak is highly preferable. I have spoken to a gender therapist already and they didn’t help. Just told me I should try and be a happy freak. 150$ a session and im never going back. So that is out of the question as well.

Sign me, Depressed in Detroit

Dear Depressed, What you are feeling is awful, but it is not unusual for someone who has Gender Dysphoria. Your body presents are one sex, and your brain identifies as the other. There is a disconnect that can be helped. You have the choice to accept this is your unique self and try to figure out what will make your life more livable and happier. Perhaps you will decide to take hormones, or alter your body to reflect physically what you experience psychologically. The other option is to not accept this unique self and be miserable. Suicide is an option that many people have taken when they don’t see a way to be who they feel they are on the inside. But getting some good, professional help would be worth checking out. Go back to the therapist you tried. Figure out what you mean and need to “fix yourself” and see if that is what the therapist can help you with. If fixing yourself does not include self acceptance but is only seeing yourself as a freak, then take a look at these pictures of women who are transgendered. Notice that they work in all sorts of professions and they have all sorts of ways of expressing who they feel they are on the inside. Not one looks like a “freak” to me! http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TSsuccesses/TSgallery1.html

If you really want to educate yourself about being transgender, also known as transsexual, please check out this website. http://forum.beginninglifeforums.com/ind. It is difficult when you are in such pain to realize that you can have a new and better life. It’s a struggle to come to terms with accepting who you are, but there are lots of examples out there of men who realized they really are a woman inside. The most recent one I know of is Bradley Manning, the US Army soldier convicted in July 2013 of violating the Espionage Act and 22 other charges after releasing a large set of restricted documents. He was exploring gender dysphoria as early as 2009 and in 2010 emailed his supervisor that he had gender identity disorder. The day after sentencing, August 22, 2013, Manning’s attorney issued a press release that Bradley identifies as female and request that the media refer to her by her new name and feminine pronouns. There couldn’t be a more public way to come out, but Chelsea Elizabeth Manning had been through it all, and in moving forward with her life, it meant accepting guilt for the charges, but also accepting her identity. She said: “As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt from childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that , starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility). I look forward to receiving letters from supporters and having the opportunity to write back.”

It’s hard to imagine a more charged and public environment in which to transition from male to female, but when you finally face your own truth, there is such relief at finally being at peace with yourself, it makes it worthwhile. IF you don’t want to go back to the same therapist, make a clean, new start and find another therapist who is qualified to work with Gender Identity Disorder and Gender Dysphoria. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about the therapists approach to working with these issues. Good luck to you, and write me again, to let me know how you’re doing. Christine Cantrell

Christine C. Cantrell, PhD
1026 W. 11 Mile Rd,
Suite C
Royal Oak, MI 48067
248-591-2888

Click here to email Christine.

Torn in Trenton

  • Posted on August 21, 2016 at 7:02 pm

Dear Christine,

I just turned 50 last week and it hit me. I’m finally ready to come out. I’ve led the life I thought I was supposed to for all these years. Married 22 years, two kids who are now 18 and 20 years old, and a successful career in auto sales.  I’ve never cheated, never sought out the gay community until now.  I put in some search words to find out how to handle this and found you. I’m ready to do this but need a push.  How do I do it without hurting the people I love and where do I start?  My plan is to come out at work as well as to my wife and kids. I’m terrified and have no idea how this will play out. 

Thanks, Torn in Trenton

Dear Torn,

Good question.  How do you come out and not hurt the people you love?  I don’t know if that’s possible. It sounds like you have lived your life according to others’ expectations and it isn’t working for you.  You love your family.  But you haven’t been you, who you really are, at your core.

The start is being honest with yourself about who you are and what you are feeling.  Then, you start telling people you trust.  People who can accept you for who you are.  Get some support for yourself as you go through this.  Get into psychotherapy with a gay affirming therapist.  Join a Coming Out group at Affirmations www.goaffirmations.org in Ferndale.  Find people who will listen non-judgmentally and with understanding.  http://www.goaffirmations.org/programs-services/support-discussion-groups.

Perhaps you don’t need a push.  You will know when it is the right time to tell family members.  They will not hurt less if you don’t tell them.  And perhaps some of them have seen this in you all along, or have wondered about you.  It’s a scary time, but give those you love a bit of time and space to deal with this.  You have been struggling through this for a while now, maybe even 22 years or more!  Your family will need support too.  Individual psychotherapy and  family counseling can help, and there are free support from groups such as PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).  There is a chapter, PFLAG Detroit www.pflagdetroit.org that meets monthly on the second Sunday at 2 pm in Troy at the Lutheran Church on Crooks Road just north of 16 Mile.  Their website has a page on Our Friends and Allies at http://pflagdetroit.org/Friends_Web_Links.html.  This list may open more doors to support and information for you and your family.

If your wife does not have an inkling, this can be very hard for her.  The hardest is if you are in love with a man and you’ve finally accepted yourself, and you are finally happy.  She could feel rejection, low self worth and find it difficult to be glad for you.  She may feel lied to an betrayed.  She may be understanding and relieved as this piece of information may make sense to her about you and the marriage.

Give your family and friends space and time to adjust.  Encourage them to talk to you and share their experience.  If they can’t share with you, then offer them resources such as PFLAG to assist them in adjusting to your new reality.

I have watched families go through this  situation.  There may be a time of distance, hurt or misunderstanding, but over time, sometimes months, sometimes years, the love can find a way to continue among all of you.  Keep in touch and let me know how your coming out process goes.  Take care,
Christine Cantrell, PhD

Psychologist

Terrified in Toledo

  • Posted on April 24, 2016 at 6:47 pm

Hi Christine,

I’m 22 years old and haven’t come out to my parents yet and I need to. I’m terrified because I know they are anti gay.  That’s why I’ve waited so long.  I’m trying to decide the best way to do it.  Should it be in a public place?  Should I have a friend with me for moral support?  Should I email them while I spend the weekend out of town?  Yes, I’m that nervous.  I don’t want a scene that I’m afraid is coming. Is there a good way to break this news to them that will be less shocking for them and feel safe for me?   I hope you answer, thanks,

Signed, Terrified in Toledo

Dear Terrified,
I feel for you, wanting to come out and just be yourself, but your parents are anti-gay.  Are you living with them now?  Are you financially dependent on them?  Is there a risk that they will kick you out or disown you, take away your transportation, cutting you off financially?  If those are possibilities, make sure you have a safe place to live, even in temporarily.  And make sure your support network of friends know what your plans are and will be able to be there for you.

I can’t really assess the best approach for you, as I’ve never met you or your family.  But I encourage you to trust your own gut feelings here.  Do what makes you feel safest.  If going out of town for a weekend to let them discover and digest an email feels right, then do that.  That will minimize a scene, as you won’t be physically in the same place when they find out and they will have to process it some before you see them again.

Meeting in public, like in a restaurant or a park, can be helpful to minimize the risk of an outburst. However, some people will still make a scene.  If you think they might make a scene, it might be wise to have a friend with you for your support.  Make sure you have your own transportation (or a friend’s) to and from that public place too, so you aren’t stranded.

Some friends of mine, Mike and Jan Neubecker, have a gay son, Lee.  He finally came out to his anti-gay, Christian parents by leaving a PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays  http://www.pflagdetroit.org/) brochure in his dad’s sock drawer.  Mike, the dad, found the brochure after Lee had come home from college one weekend, and he flipped.  He and Jan tried to get Lee into reparative therapy, to “make him straight” but finally realized that wasn’t working.  They joined PFLAG and educated themselves.  They learned that their son was gay because that’s who he is.  It wasn’t their fault as parents.  It wasn’t anyone’s fault.  No one is going to burn in hell.  They had grieving to do, because they had assumptions such as they thought their son would never marry and there would never be grandchildren.

Well, now Mike and Jan and proud grandparents of a sister and brother that Lee and his husband adopted several years back.  They are a close family and travel together and have fun on holidays.  Mike and Jan became active in PFLAG Detroit, and later founded PFLAG Downriver for many years.  They have retired, and have moved further down the river, but are still actively involved in regional PFLAG activities and agitating for understanding and knowledge about gays and lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people.  He has been a part of the PFLAG Speakers Bureau for years.  In fact, Mike has taken a Methodist Lay Preaching class, so he could talk to churches about his son and the importance of love and acceptance in families and in the church.  Then he took a comedy class at The Royal Oak  Comedy Castle.  He’s got a wonderful set I laughed through on his graduation night performance.

Your parents might not be ready for you to refer them to the love, support and education that PFLAG meetings provide, but PFLAG will be there, ready for them anytime.  Sometimes parents go into the closet when their son or daughter comes out.  You’ve been struggling with this information about yourself for a while, so give them some time and space to process all of this.  Sometimes it takes hours, sometimes months or years, but many many families come around to loving and accepting their gay or lesbian child, once they stop blaming themselves or fearing you might be headed to hell, or worrying that they’ll never have grandkids.

Write again, please, and let me know how your reveal goes.  The bottom line, is take your time and do this when you feel emotionally safe, financially prepared and ready to deal with whatever happens.  Sometimes it’s better to do it and deal with whatever happens, rather than wait and wonder.  Trust yourself in this matter.
Take care,
Christine C Cantrell, PhD,

Psychologist

 

Fearing Regret in Redford

  • Posted on August 24, 2015 at 5:04 pm

Dear Christine,

I grew up with catholic, republican, homophobic parents.  My dad passed 20 years ago and my mom is 85 and starting to have health issues.  I’ve never come out to her and we’ve never talked about the issue though I’ve always figured she must know or suspect.  She gave up asking for grandkids years ago.  I’ve had a “roommate” for 15 years and we’ve kept the appearance of not sharing a bedroom when my mom is over.

My question is, should I come out to her while I still have a chance?  I fear I will regret it if I never fully share who I am with her.  I guess I want her to love and accept the real me.  I’ve been weighing the pros and cons and need to make a decision soon.  The downside is if it will upset her too much as gays “go to hell” you know.

Fearing Regret in Redford

Dear Fearing Regret,

My gut feeling upon reading this is that you want reassurance to come out to your mom.  Fear is about the future and regret is about the past.  I don’t hear that you regret not having come out to your dad and that you are ok with having lived a “don’t ask, don’t tell” life with your mom.  You are right, she probably knows your truth.  What you and I don’t know is whether she will be able to cope with that truth being spoken.  Many conservative, religious, homophobic parents go into the closet when their child comes out.  They then have to try to reconcile the beliefs they have held for so long that are judgmental of their child they love.  PFLAG has helped many parents figure out how to hold their gay son or lesbian daughter in love and respect but not have to forsake their values or spiritual beliefs.  Those parents are looking for a way to bridge the chasm between loving their child and having always believed what the church taught:  “gays go to hell.”

I have a few quotes concerning fear and regret I thought might be helpful to you in your deliberations.

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” – Buddha

“My life is my message.” – Mahatma Gandhi

The message here is “be you” fully and completely everywhere and with everyone.  But that means “be” you, not necessarily proclaiming to others who you are.  Sometimes words are superfluous.  I heard a joke yesterday.     How do you find out someone is a vegan?  Just wait, and they will tell you! And they will keep telling you!

“Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Confronting the fear by speaking your truth will take away your fear, but it may be replaced with some other feeling, which might be preferable to living in fear.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

So, if you are going to confront your fear, prepare yourself well.  Make sure your heart, your soul are in the right place and that you are coming from love and truth, not self-righteousness or anger.  Write out what you want to say so you can take the time to sleep on it and then do a gut check on those words to see if they reflect you and your intention.  You may not get the reaction you want, but you will have been as clear, direct and loving as you are able.  You may not able to predict or control what your mom’s response will be, but if you use those loving and brave words, you are creating a space for a deeper level of honesty and a closeness that has not been available to both of you.  Your mom will not have had the time to prepare her reaction.  After time to reflect and process, she may modify her words.

“I don’t really have any regrets because if I choose not to do something there is usually a very good reason. Once I’ve made the decision I don’t view it as a missed opportunity, just a different path.” – Andrew Lincoln

“If you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, change your attitude.  Don’t complain.” – Maya Angelou

Examine your beliefs about yourself, your mother and the strength of your bond.  If you believe you must speak your truth to her before she dies, do it.  But be aware she is on a different path and expect nothing.  If her different values and beliefs  have too much risk of judgment or rejection, perhaps this is a very good reason for missing this opportunity.  And then, years from now when you look back, take responsibility for the choice you make now while she is here and know you did what you felt was best for you and for her, given your experience, awareness and understanding at the time you decide to take or forgo speaking your truth.  Accept whatever choice you make and be at peace in your heart whatever the outcome.  There are no regrets when you do what you are able to do, knowing that you cannot make someone else do, feel, think, choose or respond in anyway.

Whatever you decide to do, remember that there is no “right” or “wrong” decision here.  You may decide today that you cannot risk rejection from your mom, but a month from now, you may decide that you are willing to accept her no matter what she says or does, but speaking your truth is most important.  You will learn a lot about yourself from this process, and probably a lot about your mom as well.  Good luck, and let me know what you decide if you so choose.