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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.

Dear Christine, Befuddled in Brownstown

  • Posted on February 19, 2018 at 10:08 am

Dear Christine

Hello! Is there such a thing as having an androgynous personality? Explain please 🙂 Thank yoooouu! Befuddled in Brownstown

Dear Befuddled,

Yes, there are androgynous people. I know a few people who are androgynous and like passing as both genders or neither. If you look at one of these people, you might not be sure what pronoun to use, she or he, and the person may not help you out on that, as they might like the fact that they don’t fit into any prescribed slot. Sexuality is simpler than a dual system of gay and straight, just as gender is more than male or female. We have brains as well as bodies, and sometimes the experience of the mind is different from the body, and vice versa. Sometimes the bodies are difficult to identify, as an intersex person may have genitalia of both genders. There are seven basic gender identities: heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transsexual, intersexual, asexual, and pansexual, then there is a sexual orientation for each one.

Sometimes people are chimeras, meaning they have more than one genetic code, such as when 2 fraternal twin fetuses combine in the uterus and become one body, but having 2 unique DNA codes, depending on which body part is being checked. There have been women who were genetically unrelated to their children as current cheek swab DNA testing can show. However, other organs or parts of her body do match up with her children, but might not have been checked initially. Also, any woman who has been pregnant has probably absorbed some genetic material from her baby, and if that’s a boy, then she probably has some Y chromosomes present in her body that most women would not have. Remember, female is having XX chromosomes and male is XY. Sometimes there are XXY people as well, which is Klinefelter Syndrome. Our genes and our environment determine our phenotype (physical characteristics) which can vary in different environments. Two identical twins raised in different families may mature differently, for example. All of this is just to explore how we really are unique beings. However you look, whatever you feel, whomever you are attracted to, or not, is really ok. And it can change. And that’s fine. 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.

Stay or Leave in Southgate

  • Posted on November 28, 2016 at 5:58 am

Dear Christine, I keep wondering if its it worth it to stay in this relationship.  My partner, who I’ll call Anna, works constantly!  And then when she does have free time, she’s too tired to do anything fun.  There’s no time for us!  To top it off, Anna can’t stop herself from constantly telling me what to do and how to do everything better. I mean, she corrects me about EVERYthing, like cooking cleaning, singing, dancing, sex, money etc. Anna is a  know-it-all personality and the worst yet, is she never tells me “good job!”  Always, she tells me, I should have done it her way, instead.  I’m going crazy! Signed, Stay or Leave in Southgate Dear Stay or Leave, There’s a lot I don’t know about you and your relationship, like how old you both are and how long you’ve been together.  I’m assuming you are both adults and have been together several years.  That means you both entered into this relationship freely.  And you have been together long enough to know that you are partnered with a smarty-pants.  Commitment doesn’t change personalities, but those characteristics that drew you to her may well be the ones that are pushing…

Deal Breakers and Dating in Dexter

  • Posted on September 25, 2016 at 1:46 pm

Dear Christine,

I am recently dating someone that I really like.  I have a list of deal breakers that she actually got annoyed with me when I listed them to her on our first date.

Deal Breakers = No Smokers, No Drug Users and No Alcoholics. Those are the big ones.

On a lesser scale, must have a decent job, be fairly intelligent, no fussy eaters and must want kids in the future.

We have two little glitches. One, she doesn’t think I should have voiced my deal breakers so early in a relationship. Two, she doesn’t want kids and I really do. I always have hoped to have at least one child, perhaps two.

So the following questions are, is it ok to let people know what I want and expect in a relationship?  Can you change another persons expectations for the future?  Can I get her to change her mind about kids when she seems pretty firm?

Deal Breaking and Dating in Dexter

 

Dear Deal Breakers and Dating,
Keep dating!  It may seem too early to bring up deal breakers early on, but it sure saves you time and heart ache!  Now you know that this woman is definitely not a keeper for a committed relationship including children!  Time to move on.

One of the advantages I found of dating once I reached my early 30s is that I no longer wanted to play “the game.”  I didn’t want to try to change anyone else, but instead, I wanted to let dates know who I know I am and what I need to make a relationship work.  For me!  The might have been fun in teens and twenties, but it grows old.  You may have offended her by getting serious too quickly, but you also learned that she’s really not into kids.  And you are.  You both now know that about each other and you haven’t wasted 3 years living together and fighting all the time.

Have you ever tried to change something about yourself?  Like lose weight? Quit a bad habit?  How did it go for you?  Was it quick and easy?  Did it just take a couple of reminders to yourself, a couple of changes to your routine and the weight was gone or you gave up the bad habit?  Hmmm.  I didn’t think so.  And this was a change YOU wanted for you!

So, if you try to change someone else who is OK with how they are (she doesn’t want kids) and now you make it your mission to convince her to be a loving mom to only 1 or 2 children, how will that go?  Smoothly?  Easily?  What will that do to the children that you want her to help you raise?  Will they feel loved and cared for by her?  Or might she feel resentful towards them and you?

Be glad you know yourself so well.  It’s not romantic to tell your date all your non-negotiables the first or second date, but it does move the process of finding a life partner along well.  Be who you are, with no apologies!  Keep dating!
And keep me posted, OK?

Christine Cantrell, PhD

Psychologist

 

 

Guilty in Grosse Pointe Shores

  • Posted on August 2, 2016 at 9:44 am

Dear Christine, 

 I’ve discovered evidence that my long time partner is cheating on me.  We’ve lived together for 15 years and a few days ago she left her email account open.  We normally respect each other’s privacy but I went and looked at her emails. I guess I’ve been suspicious.  I found more than I wanted to find. She’s definitely being intimate with someone else. Someone I don’t know.  That night I tried to get her to talk a bit about our relationship, give her an opening to confess. It didn’t work. I haven’t told her what I know. She’s acting like nothing is wrong between us. We are still very close and she tells me she loves me all the time.  Should I tell her I know?  It would mean admitting I peeked.  Part of me wants to ignore it and hope it blows over.  I don’t know what to do.  Any thoughts? Advice? 

Thanks, Guilty in Grosse Point Shores

Dear Guilty,

I am sorry to hear of your discovery of infidelity.  You’ve been suspicious.  Something hasn’t been right. Perhaps your partner wanted you to snoop to learn the truth.  Cheating trumps snooping, every time!

Healthy relationships are based  in trust.  The truth is often painful.  Couples often work through infidelity, but the slow drip of dishonesty will end the relationship. You need to understand why she lied and broke a fundamental boundary.  Tell her you read her emails.  She can then give her side of the story.  Then both of you decide if there’s enough worth working on.  If something has been missing in the relationship, this is the best time to get everything out in the open and discuss it completely.  Then, get counseling to rebuild the relationship or figure out how to part peacefully. There is no need to make any decisions immediately.  You have been together for many years and have a lot of memories, emotions and intertwined lives.

Keep healthy boundaries and don’t contact the other person or vent on FaceBook or tell friends all the gory details. They may feel a need to take sides and then be angry with you if you stay together, after all.  If you don’t have a neutral friend who can listen, they try psychotherapy.  Take your time to figure out what you really need and whether this is going to work for you as you learn the whole truth.  And take care.

Christine C. Cantrell, PhD

Piqued in Pontiac

  • Posted on July 10, 2016 at 1:49 pm

Dear Christine, I am married to a know-it-all!  I’ve dealt with it for years and it’s finally starting to get to me.  I had gotten used to her always having the better way to do something or the better answer but recently my grandson has come to stay with us for a while and she does it to him and though he’s being kind, it is really making me angry.  I’ve lived with it so long and accepted it, that I’m having a hard time trying to find a way to approach the subject. Subtle hints over the years haven’t worked.  Any thoughts? Piqued in Pontiac Dear Piqued, I imagine that your know-it-all wife has been knowing better than everyone else for many years.   You figured out a way to tolerate this arrogance in your marriage and you made the decision that staying married is right for you.  But now, your precious grandson is getting the same treatment! Subtleties don’t work with this sort of person.  I know.  My father is the same!  He’s always known everything and anything and has never been shy to voice his knowledge.  My parents will celebrate their 65 wedding anniversary in August.  I don’t…

Truth-Teller in Trenton

  • Posted on May 1, 2016 at 7:03 pm

Dear Christine,  

I don’t understand why people lie. It’s always been one of my biggest pet peeves and maybe I’m too firm on this but I generally find the offense unforgivable.  To me the truth always works better so I don’t get it.  Now, I’m in a place where I’m hoping I can forgive but I’m so torn.

My boyfriend who I’ve been dating for 8 months has just gotten caught in a big lie.  He got fired two weeks ago for not passing a drug test at work.  Yes he smokes marijuana a little and I don’t care about that.  I never realized they drug tested at his work or I might have advised him to stop his habit but the lie is that he didn’t tell me he got fired.  He even pretended to go to work after he was let go.  I only found out because he told his mom who accidentally told me because she assumed I knew.

It might not be an outright lie, maybe more of an omission but I’m really struggling with what to do.  The dishonesty is something I find hard to get past. Can I ever trust him?  Thanks,

Signed Truth-teller in Trenton

Dear Truth-Teller,

Yes, that’s a big lie of omission, to hide the fact that he was fired from work for failing a drug test.  I’m guessing he hid that from you because he knew you don’t like lying.  However, he’s not making very mature choices and they aren’t very good for his career or his relationship with you.

You need to think for yourself about what you need to have, what you must have and what you cannot have, to make a relationship work.  Make a list of those non-negotiables and communicate them with your boyfriend.  Both of you telling the truth, avoiding lies of omission, might be at the top of your list.  Being employed might be another.  There’s no right or wrongs here.  It all depends on what you need to feel emotionally secure in an intimate and committed relationship.

Dating is the time to get to know each other and find out if you share enough values, goals, needs and communication and trust to build a relationship that has staying power.  Falling in love is the easy part, but if you don’t communicate your non-negotiables to the person you fall in love with, you end up getting involved with someone who will break your heart.

Ask your boyfriend to make a list of what he needs in a relationship too.  What are his non-negotiables?  Does he feel you set the bar too high and he cannot possibly meet your relationship non negotiables?

Lying doesn’t build trust and the only way to repair trust is openness and communication, as much as you both need.   Consider couple’s therapy to have a neutral third party help you both discuss your needs, feelings and the fallout of this lie.

Good luck, and feel free to write again and let me know how you two are doing.
Christine C Cantrell, PhD

Psychologist

Labeled and Mislabled in Livonia

  • Posted on April 11, 2016 at 5:48 am

Dear Christine,

I have a question. Do you have anything to say about the misdiagnosis or misclassification of a bisexual person as  either heterosexual or homosexual? I dated a small amount of women and had a small amount of sexual experience with women, but it has always felt much better to me thinking about men than women.  I went to therapy because of depression and family problems, I first presented myself as heterosexual, then bisexual, then homosexual.  I consider my self as a “Top.”  The therapists told me gay top men are rare and you are not officially gay until you went all the way with a person with your own sex. I have terrible experiences with psychiatrists forcing me to like women, saying as a top I should be heterosexual. I would not say have zero attraction to women, sometimes I can be very attracted to them but I have always felt better and more comfortable about men in a sexual way. My first sexual experience with a woman was at 20 something, my first sexual experiences with men started at 30 something. I want to lead a homosexual lifestyle that values monogamy and integrity. I might date women as small amount (but I never want to have sex with a woman in the traditional way). At most I could give a sensual massage to a woman.  I want to lead a homosexual lifestyle, I still call myself bisexual but for most part I would rather avoid women sexually.

Signed Labeled and Mislabeled in Livonia,

Dear Labeled,
It sounds like you have been through a lot of therapy, and maybe not the most affirming, helpful types.  Since homosexuality, bisexuality and heterosexuality are all healthy, normal ways of being, I prefer not to “diagnose” or “misdiagnose” anyone’s sexuality.  Sexual identity is very personal, and each person  expresses themselves uniquely.  Some people only have same sex partners but do not take on the label of gay or lesbian or homosexual.  That’s understandable, because labels are political things, and if you use a label, it is notifying other people about an aspect of you that you want them to understand, and if you use “gay” they will understand you to prefer same sex partners.  If you use “straight” they will expect you to be a heterosexual.  If you are more comfortable with bisexuality, which assumes some openness to both sexes, fine!  Be you, completely you!

In my humble opinion, being a “top” or a “bottom” doesn’t make you homosexual, or not!  What you feel and what you are comfortable with is who and what you are, not a position. Years ago, I had a gay couple come to see me and they told me that they were concerned that I would not see them as a couple because they did not live together.  Their last therapist told them they had to cohabitate or not be able to say they were in a committed relationship.  This was obviously long before gay marriage became legal.  There are lots of couples that are in committed relationships (same sex, opposite sex) but don’t live together for a variety of reasons.  Where you live, what position you prefer, none of that really matters to anyone except you and the person you are in relationship with!

If a therapist or a psychiatrist is forcing you to “like women” I’d encourage you to get a second or even a third opinion.  A psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker or licensed counselor worth their salt ought to be open minded enough to help you discover who you are, not try to make you fit other ideal of theirs.  You are hiring these folks to help you, not to make things worse for you!  Pick a therapist who gives you the space and safety to explore who you are without pressure and without judgement.

Remember to be honest with yourself, first and foremost.  If you are attracted to someone and want to have a romantic relationship with that person, present yourself honestly with that person.  If you want monogamy and integrity, make sure you tell that person exactly what you need and expect.  Find out if that person is looking for the same qualities and characteristics you have.  And enjoy!  And have fun!

Feel free to write again with more questions.  I hope this has helped you.
Christine C Cantrell, PhD,
Psychologist

Pity Party in Plymouth

  • Posted on February 24, 2016 at 12:43 pm

Dear Christine,

Hi, I have been reading your advice and it all sounds good. I decided to write for some myself. I am getting older and I feel completely out of the scene I am overweight and feel unattractive. I have been single for six years now and miss having a relationship. I also live in the burbs and feel so disconnected. so I am feeling kinda disenfranchised, pathetic and lonely. Okay enough of the pity party but seriously how do you get back in the game with out looking too much like a goof (although I kinda like that look) I don’t want to be 80 and alone! not that I am that old yet but it could happen.

Pity Party in Plymouth

 

Dear Pity Party in Plymouth,

The best way to get back in the scene is to start liking yourself. Find things you like to do with you, and then find friends who can do those things with you, sharing in the fun you’re having with yourself. Meet new friends through activities and events that bring people together. Check out the listings of what to do on GOAL, and other gay/lesbian websites. Drop by Affirmations in Ferndale, join a softball league or golf outing. Do things that you enjoy and you are bound to find people that also enjoy these events and will find you easy and fun to be around. Look for friends first, not a relationship first. Once you’ve asked a friend enough questions to find out if they fit your needs, your non-negotiables, perhaps a relationship will follow. Don’t force it, don’t be desperate, but instead come to enjoy your own company and find interests in the community that will get you out and mingling with other people with similar interests and values.

Christine Cantrell, PhD, LP

In Love in Livonia

  • Posted on February 14, 2016 at 6:45 pm

Dear Christine,

“When is a good time in a relationship to say ‘I love you’??”

In love in Livonia

Dear in love in Livonia,

It’s probably easier to tell you when it’s NOT a good time to say those three little words! Like the first date! Or the second! Which also means it’s probably better not to rent that U-Haul either of those occasions. But when is a good time? Hmmmm. I imagine everyone you ask will have a different answer. Usually we are quicker to fall in love when we are younger, less experienced in heartbreak and are trying to figure out what, exactly, love really is. Love can be an amazing, overwhelming feeling! It feels just the same, and yet so very different from one relationship to the next. It takes experience and practice to understand what you feel when you love someone, and when to say it and when to hold back a bit. I guess telling someone “I love you” is a bit like when to have sex? If you do either one too early, it’s easy to feel all alone and vulnerable and perhaps make it difficult to develop a strong relationship with your beloved. In every relationship I’ve had, I’ve told that person “I love you” at some point. Some, it was way too early, before I really knew that person, and later I realized it wasn’t a lasting love, maybe just a little love psychosis (as the Japanese call falling in love). Others, I waited till the person I was seeing said “I love you” first, as that felt more secure. So, enjoy those wonderful physical and emotional feelings of love, as you consider the “right time” to share those words.

Christine Cantrell, PhD, Psychologist

christineccantrellphd@gmail.com