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Posts tagged ‘gender variance’

Poll Results – Hiding and Gender Variance

I’ve been interested in the issue of hiding and its effect on the personality for transgender individuals for some time and have had a poll going on my website to ask questions about it.  Even though the results have been “open”, not all results are visible (the text answers), so I’ve now closed the poll and am publishing the results here.  It’s a four question poll.  It was up from April 2011 till Sept 2013.

1. Was your family aware of your gender variance when you were growing up?

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                                                    # of responses                     %
they were not aware of it             24                                  33%
not sure, probably not                   16                                  22%
not sure, probably were                18                                  25%
they were aware of it                      14                                  19%

2. For how long did you keep your gender variance secret from those closest to you?

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                                                                                of responses              %
I never hid it                                                                   10                      14%
Less than a year <1                                                         5                        7%
one to five years 1-5                                                      3                       4%
five to ten years 5-10                                                     2                       3%
ten to twenty years 10-20                                            26                      38%
more than twenty years >20                                       23                      33%

3. If you actively hid your gender variance, what do you think the positive (if any) effects were on you?

                                                                                                        # of responses           %
I didn’t hide it from others                                                                     10               15%
Hiding my gender variance had no positive effects on me        47               72%
Other:                                                                                                               8               12%

(text results for “other)

“Passing as cisgender normal allowed me to use male privilege and advantages.”

“It gave me time to figure things out, and prepare for negative reactions. “

“I didn’t have to fight for treatment before I was grown up and able to figh “

“This action has given me time to understand myself better.”

“Kept me safe “

“I have had a very satisfying family life. “

“i kept friends and family”

“Independence”

4. If you actively hid your gender variance, what do you think the negative (if any) effects were on you?

                                                                                      # of responses        %
I didn’t hide it from others                                                                 10                23%
Hiding my gender variance had no negative effect on me        5                11%
Other:                                                                                                          29               66%

(text results for “other)

“suppressed sociability”

“Huge”

“it almost killed me”

“I was lonely and in denial”

“Living life as someone I wasn’t has hurt me emotionally.”

“depression, anxiety”

“delayed transition, disastrous personal relationships, low self-esteem”

“regret because I did not hide it as well as I thought I had”

“I am always questioning my own perception of reality”

“bad coping mechanism, burnout, acute stress disorder and in the end job loss”

“Anxiety, Fits of Rage, Not feeling right between the brain and the body “

“Feeling more alone.”

“it has caused me to be alone and asexual”

“Mental & physical stress”

“low self-esteem, not comfortable as self, suppressed personality”

“always worried someone would find out and ridicule me”

“i felt like my relationships weren’t solid with the people i cared about”

“Terrible dysphoria and guilt late in life”

“It cost me a lot of my life”

“trauma, depression, self-loathing, distrust, anxiety”

“Got dpressed”

“low self esteem, anxiety, depression”

“plentifold of which emotional isolation had the biggest impact”

“Inability to express oneself.”

“I wasn’t me”

“My more dysphoria due to people calling me she”

“lonliness”

“No feedback, therefore no dealing with problem”

“emotional dishonesty”

Some thoughts on Shame and being Transgender

There has been very little in-depth exploration of the role of shame in transgenderism, yet shame as an emotion is listed in nearly every trans-related history.  In this post I will attempt to examine the feeling of shame as it relates to transgenderism.

To be clear at the start, I am in no way suggesting that transgendered individuals have anything to be ashamed about or that they should feel shame.  What I do want to acknowledge in this post is that shame does exist for many trans folk (at least for most who are over 30 years old) and that it is largely unacknowledged and ignored, often with deleterious consequences.

Why do transgendered people have shame?

Simply being different is enough for any child to develop some shame, but being different and getting messages from family, teachers, other kids and society that your difference is undesirable, less-than or something to be made fun of can create shame.

Signs that shame is present:

Carl Goldberg(1991) wrote an excellent psychoanalytic take on shame, in which he notes that shyness – a symptom of shame involves “a shrinking away from one’s full presence in the world.” And that “a depleted sense of personal identity is an essential characteristic of shame”.  I have certainly seen transgendered individuals who grew up shy, and held back from participating more fully in life due to shame.  For example many transgendered people avoid or put off dating till after some form of transitioning.

How do you deal with shame?Transgender, about shame

This is one area where it really helps to be in therapy.  It’s hard to deal with alone because most people, left to their own devices will simply avoid dealing with shame.  So the short answer is: don’t deny that you have shame, acknowledge it, talk about it, try to understand it, look at it, and hold it up to the light.  Ask yourself what am I ashamed of?  – And try to honestly answer it.  Don’t skip over the answer by saying – “well, I have nothing to be ashamed of” – You need to understand that there is shame there and what it’s about.  For example: “I have shame that I was born a girl but am not more feminine, that I never liked wearing dresses, and that my family seemed embarrassed by me… etc..”.

Then you can move on to the question of if you should be ashamed.  And the answer to that is usually no.  But it needs to be dragged out into the light of day first and acknowledged.  It’s hard to do, but a very worthwhile endeavor. By the way, this process usually takes a long time.

Goldberg, C. (1991) Understanding Shame. Jason Aronson Inc, Northvale, New Jersey.

Find out about Psychotherapy when dealing with Gender variance in yourself or someone close to you.

What is the Difference between Gay and Transgender?

This may be a very basic post for some and if so I invite you to skip it, but it is one of the most frequent search requests that land people on my blog, so I thought I should write a very clear answer to this query. (I wrote previously about the difference between some experiences of gay and transgender people here.)

OK, to begin with let’s define some terms.

‘Gay’, ’Lesbian’ and ‘Bisexual’ refer to sexual orientation, in other words – who you are attracted to.   A man who is attracted to other men could identify as ‘Gay’ or ‘Homosexual’.

‘Transgender’ is often used to mean ‘Transsexual’(Transgender refers to a larger group of people than that) has to do with one’s gender identity.  Gender Identity is how one identifies in terms of maleness or femaleness.  For a transgendered or transsexual person one’s gender identity is different from what one might expect given ones natal or biological sex (‘Sex’ here refers to one’s biological sex – how one was born.)  Gender is not always the same as one’s sex.  ‘Gender Identity’ is how one feels inside, and Sexual Orientation is who one is attracted to vis-à-vis your current gender presentation.

To get back to the question ‘What is the Difference between Gay and Transgender?’ – we see that the difference is one has to do with sexual orientation (who you are attracted to sexually) and the other has to do with gender identity (who you feel yourself to be).

Why then all the confusion?

I think it has to do with the fact that queer folk – (i.e. gay lesbian and bisexual) might have more overlap with gender queerness than other (heteronormative or ‘straight’) folk.  In other words – among gay men – there may be a larger percentage of gender fluidity – or those who identify as somewhat more feminine than among straight men and the same with gay women.  This is their natural ‘Gender Expression’.  Indeed Freud remarked on the biological characteristics of gay men back in the early 1900’s.  Therefore it is possible to confuse or conflate sexual orientation with gender identity.  In addition, much of the stigma and discrimination suffered by gays and lesbians over the years has more to do with their visible gender non-conformity than with their invisible sexual preference.  The world has very little tolerance for gender non-conformity, although the world is changing.

Find out about Psychotherapy when dealing with Gender variance in yourself or someone close to you.

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