My name is Eli and I’m a 17-year-old living in Central Indiana. I came out as transgender (female to male) in February of 2017. Since coming out and being more exposed to the trans community, I've found that there are so many misconceptions about transitioning. Continue reading below to learn about common misconceptions surrounding identity, medical transitions, and more about my experiences.
MYTH: Trans people are confused about who they are.
During the initial phases of my transition, I felt scared and confused. But after reflecting on previous years of my life, the way I had felt throughout my childhood started to make more sense. It finally felt like all the pieces fit together.
Transitioning is a process; and everyone is at different emotional/physical stages in their journey. Sometimes a family can feel confused when their child is questioning their gender identity. Transgenderism is largely misrepresented in the media, basing interpretations on prior false knowledge from those who are not living it. Being transgender is different for everyone, but it doesn’t necessarily mean feeling like you’re “trapped inside your own body.” For me personally, being trans is just another part of who I am. The best things parents and allies can do for someone who is trans include to research and be better informed, respectfully ask questions, and remain supportive throughout their journey.
MYTH: All transgender people feel the same.
Although the trans community is very supportive and helpful when looking for support, transitioning is different for many people. A large similarity between transgender people is that the vast majority suffer from dysphoria. According to the American Psychiatric Association, gender dysphoria “involves a conflict between a person's physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify,” but that can vary from person to person. For me, I feel invalidated when I see myself in the mirror; it’s like everything I have thought about myself is falsified by the way I look.
One example of a way I encounter dysphoria in my daily life: “Do I look masculine enough right now to go out of the house?”
I think most or all trans people can agree with me that dysphoria is one of the hardest parts about being trans. Being trans for me has constantly been a battle to accept myself for the way I am, despite the fact that I’m not totally comfortable with my self-image. For friends and family of trans people this is especially important to be respectful of other’s gender and identity preferences (pronouns, name, etc.) to help them feel valid.
MYTH: Being trans automatically changes your sexual orientation.
A common misconception about transitioning is that, when you do decide to start your transition, it decides your sexual preference. When you transition from your assigned gender to your new gender, typically your sexual preference does not change. The main similarity between sexuality and gender is that they’re both forms of identity and they are both fluid. “Fluidity” is the term that describes the way that they are both on a spectrum, and can be presented in different ways.
MYTH: You are only really trans if you have surgery.
I’ve heard way too many times “have you had the surgery yet?” and “Well you aren’t really a man yet until you’ve had the surgery, right?” One of the biggest misconceptions about the trans community is the medical process one goes through when affirming their gender.
While going through a medical transition may help affirm your gender and improve your body image, the transition itself starts when you feel you’re ready. Transitioning is a process and everyone goes through it differently. Some trans folk only go through hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Some have gender reassignment surgery. Some choose not to medically transition at all, and some people even come out as trans and continue to live as their assigned gender. Beginning your medical transition doesn’t make you any more or less trans.
MYTH: Being transgender is a choice.
“Wouldn’t it be easier for you to stop being trans?” Yes, it would be easier. Being transgender has a lot to do with hormone environment and development. But speaking as a trans man, I believe that being trans isn’t a choice; it’s just another part of who I am.
Videos that I've created to spread awareness:
"My Name is Eli": youtu.be/MbUkrnauPnc
"Mental Health Awareness Carmel High School": youtu.be/O_lydUQ0UZE
Resources that I recommend:
Gender Health Forum
TeenzTalk's Blog is here to amplify youth stories and perspectives on topics including personal challenges, self-care practices, initiatives in their community, and more.