What is it like to be transgender?

Hi, I’ve been questioning my interests for a while and I’ve previously identified as asexual, bisexual, and CIS female. Always an ally though. Although I’ve generally felt comfortable in my skin, I realized something about myself that is making me want to learn more about what it is like to be transgender. I can’t recall having ever viewed my dreams from a female perspective. In my dreams I’m always male or non-gendered. Always. That among (many) other things makes me want to talk to a trans person about their experience. Is there any way that I can learn more about this from someone at Guelph? I’m not at a point where I’m comfortable talking to someone about this in a more than one on one setting, and I don’t know enough right now to be able to talk without the possibility of accidentally offending someone. I would really appreciate some help here. Thanks!

Hi asker,

First of all, as always, thank you so much for your question. It sounds as though this may be something you’ve been thinking about for a while, so I can imagine how much it has been weighing on you. It takes a lot of courage to reach out and talk about these things, and I’m glad you feel like you’re in a place now to do so. Gender can be an extremely complex and confusing thing, especially when it’s not so cut and dry.

I must start by mentioning that I myself am a cis female, and haven’t questioned my gender identity, but I am definitely here to listen. Because of this though, I want you to know that I am friends with an amazing trans guy who would love to talk to you one-on-one about his lived experiences and any questions you may have. These discussions can definitely be difficult to navigate, so I’d always encourage talking with someone who has been there. If you’d like to set this up, you can email me at outline@uoguelph.ca, though I have to mention the non-confidential nature of email. I would just act as a middle person, and am trained and committed to maintaining your anonymity as much as possible.

To get to your concern, it sounds like there must be a lot that has contributed to you feeling this way, your dreams only being one of them. One thing I think your experience sounds to speak to is the fluidity of gender and sexuality. There’s a lot of pressure, both internal and external, to identify with specific labels and ‘decide’ concretely what/who we are. As strong as this pressure is, I’ve come to learn that it’s not always realistic or healthy to expect that of ourselves. As frustrating as it may be, sometimes we just have to live our lives one day at a time, being true to who we are and how we feel at that moment. If you wake up one morning feeling more masculine, perhaps you could present as such in spaces and ways you feel comfortable.

Gender identity, just like sexual orientation, (unfortunately) isn’t something we can always understand as easily as we may like. It’s certainly not static or binary either. So consider giving yourself permission to embrace the uncertainty and fluidity. Be true to yourself in whatever ways feel right to you, and talk about how you’re feeling. A great space to do this is The Gender Conversation Group. The Group meets Thursdays from 5:00 to 6:30 pm until November 19th. A referral from Counselling Services is required, but this measure is meant to ensure that the safety and values of the Group are upheld. You can email Suzanne Welstead at swelstea@uoguelph.ca for more information or to set up an appointment for a referral. After November 19th, there’s a Gender Intersect group that meets the 3rd Monday of every month at the Red Brick Café, 8 Douglas St., at 7 pm.

Overall, there’s no one way to experience gender, and even those who identify the same way may feel completely different. While talking to others who are in a similar boat can definitely be helpful and certainly encouraged, don’t forget that the most important person to listen to is you.

If you ever want to chat anonymously real-time, you can visit qlinks.ca/outline from 5-10 pm 7 days a week to talk to a trained LGBTQ2IA+ peer who has been there.

All the best,
Amber

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