5 Things I Wish I Could Tell My Teen Self — After Transitioning from Female to Male
If I were able to go back in time to my younger teen girl self, there are a few bits of advice and observations I would impart to her.
It gets better.
Being transgender is just as confusing for me to understand as it is for you. Trust me. Beyond the socio-political context of being transgender, I do often wonder what has gone on in my brain or body to have wrought gender-dysphoria in the first place.
Even so, life is what it is. Thankfully I live somewhere in the world that has been able to provide me with medical assistance and therapy to help me live as comfortably as possible.
Now I’m on the other side of transition (which, in truth, never really ends), I can honestly say it feels as though I have already lived two different lifetimes. As if I have been reincarnated anew.
Looking back, I wish I had more trans* role models to look up to. Not just to compare my experiences with theirs, but also knowing even if you are trans, you do have a chance of happiness — that it doesn’t always end in tragedy. I hope I can be that person for someone else someday.
But if I were able to go back in time to my younger teen girl self, there are a few bits of advice and observations I would impart to her.
1) Gender identity and biological sex are not the same things.
You don’t know it yet, bless your 2010 socks, but there will be raging online culture wars about the concept of gender identity vs sex in a few years. People tend to think gender is just the XX and XY chromosomes (which excludes the intersex population — of course).
For most people, following the ‘rule’ of biological sex is all fine and dandy for them. But life is rarely ever that black and white and you’ll realise you don’t fall into that old textbook rule. And it’s totally fine.
It’s only a minority of people who care deeply enough to vocalise their hatred or fear towards exceptions to the rule like you. And they won’t say it to your face; they’ll rely on internet anonymisation to voice their opinions most of the time.
You’ll also come to learn that gender identity, as well as expression, comes in all manners of shapes and sizes. You’ll struggle to understand those who are outside of the gender binary, sure, but let that remind you how it feels to be confused when confronted by something or someone you don’t understand.
2) The world can be a scary place, but there are good people in it.
As a 15-year old in 2010, you don’t realise how powerful social media will become. Do you think it’s terrible for you? Just you wait. In 10 years, online actions will have real-world consequences.
As scary as that sounds, you’ll also find the other side of the coin. You’ll see how it can bring people together in times of crisis. Strangers on opposite sides of the planet can lend each other a hand and communities form without the restrictions of distance.
You’ll be able to see people aren’t always as terrible as you think they might be. Though just be aware, you’ll spend a lot of time watching animal rescue videos to restore your faith in humanity.
3) Though you’re not comfortable with your feminine side yet, you’ll learn to accept and embrace it.
I get it, you were a tomboy, and now you’re trying your best to act ‘girly’ with makeup and short shorts. I know it doesn’t feel right. When you start to go by Alex, you’ll try your hardest to be as masculine as possible — but that won’t be comfortable either.
As you get a little older and mature, you’ll learn to accept the parts of you that are considered feminine and embrace that aspect of yourself. There’s no shame in femininity, no matter how many alpha-dude-bros try to say there is.
By the time you’re 25, men embracing femininity will become quite fashionable anyway.
4) Getting therapy will help a lot; it’s no joke.
I know you’re nervous about the idea of getting therapy, but trust me, it does help. Ignore the people who seem to think having access to therapy somehow makes you an unworthy member of society.
In a few years, the conversation around mental health will get louder. More people will listen. More people will take it seriously.
It’ll take some time, but you will be able to stop those self-destructive behaviours and realise your worth. You’ll be able to speak to strangers without panicking and go shopping without worrying whether people are judging you for being the men’s section.
Most of the battle is self-confidence and belief. You’ll get there.
5) People are afraid of what they don’t know — don’t hate, educate.
You’ll learn there are generally three types of reactions from people who realise you’re transgender. The first are people who are fascinated. They’ll be very interested in the inner workings of your mind and want to have long, deep conversations about it.
The second are people who don’t care, or at least, don’t think it’s that important. They’ll carry on, you’ll carry on and nothing much will change.
The third are people who become standoffish and afraid. Their fear might come across to you as hatred or rudeness, but it’s because they’ve never met someone like you before. If you take the time to allow a conversation to take place, more often than not, you’ll change their perceptions.
When you have genuine conversations with people who don’t share your views, you’ll both have the opportunity to learn something from the occasion. And you’ll be better for it.
Unfortunately, time travel isn’t possible — not yet anyway.
Despite the fact I wish I knew these things when I was a teenage girl, I am grateful for the experiences I’ve had up until now. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them, even though that person is entirely different on paper.
In hindsight, perhaps things were just as they were meant to be.
But if you’ve read this and you are struggling with gender identity, or know someone who does, I hope these observations are relatable and helps in some way. Sometimes, a sense of knowing you’re not alone in life is all it takes to grow a seed of hope in darker times.
And there is far more love in the world than you think.
Alexander Boswell is a Business Ph.D candidate specialising in Consumer Behaviour and uses this knowledge as a freelance writer in the Content Marketing and B2B SaaS space. Find him on Twitter @alexbboswell or his website alexanderbboswell.com