Some profound conversations I've had with friends wanting to gain understanding around what it means to be transgender

Throughout my experience transitioning, I've had some deep conversations with friends. These conversations were helpful for my friends in gaining an understanding of what it means to be trans, how to treat trans people, and why. They've been equally helpful for me, as they challenged me to thoroughly examine my experience and explore my identity and its implications on my life.

One thing I've often heard--and had felt myself--is hard for cis people when trying to learn about gender and sexuality is that it's very hard to know what to ask--what is okay to ask--without hurting their trans friend. The conversations I post here are those with close friends that I've known for years and respect at the deepest levels. This allows me to trust that clumsiness used when expressing their questions and thoughts comes from a place of both ignorance and a genuine desire to remedy that ignorance. That's something I'm all too eager to help with.

All that to say, do not just go up to a random trans person you meet off the street and ask these types of questions, or things will go poorly for everyone involved.

Gender and Pronouns

C is a friend I've known for about six years. He holds moderate-conservative values and has asked to remain anonymous. He grew up in a similar environment to my own, ideologically and religiously, and we share much in common. I trust C with my life, and I'm not saying that lightly.

What does gender feel like?

A is my friend Amy. She's very open-minded, curious, genuine, and kind. She has a distinctive chatting style. The xx's at the end of each message just denote that it was said with a friendly tone.

  • I'm feeling oddly masculine today. 😕

  • How so? "Feeling" a gender or masculine/feminine has always been a strange concept for me aha xx

  • in four years, I've only come up with one analogy that kind of works
    first off, it's not an emotion, as my mom would have you believe

    Suppose you have your eyes closed and you're handed a piece of unpolished wood. If you rub your fingers across it, you can feel the direction of the grain of it. There is a definite and indisputable direction that's there even if you aren't feeling it or looking at it. It's a property of the wood, but if you touch it, you can feel it. Gender, to me, is like the grain of a piece of wood.

    Where this analogy falls short is that the grain can change directions sometimes. For some people it varies wildly by day, or even by hour. For most people (cis and otherwise), if it changes at all, it only shifts a few degrees here and there. I usually fall in this latter category. For the first couple years, and even a bit before I came out as trans, I considered myself agender: very weak feelings of both masculinity and femininity, though more strongly feminine. As time passed, and I lived more and more as the woman I am, my masculine component stayed about the same, but my feminine one jumped significantly.
    and for whatever reason, today, I feel about twice as masculine as normal, and a bit less feminine.

    People were referring to me as "she" in meetings, and I thought, "That's kind of strange." I think today, if I wanted to bother with telling people, I would use they/them pronouns, but odds are, I'll be back to she/her by tomorrow at the latest

  • So, what do you constitute as male and female? Like I have some masculine behaviours, I tend to think more masculine than feminine, and I enjoy feeling pretty as much as I do feeling strong. While those things are typically male or female, I don't feel like feeling or being that way impacts my gender identity. Does that make sense?

    What are the actual differences/changes in today rather than yesterday?

    You don't have to answer BTW, it's just always something that has interested me as I know someone who goes by they/them and changes by the day, and the things they describe to me are things I on some level feel too but don't think it changes my identity xx

  • Yeah, it's hard to explain. I don't even really understand it. It's kind of one of those "it just feels right". If I remember right, you said you were tone deaf?

  • Yeah I can't sing for shit xx

  • if you listen to a piece of music, can you tell if someone doesn't quite hit a note? like if they're a little flat?

  • Most of the time but not always xx

  • yeah, I think that's most people, including me
    if you ever listen to a violinist tune their instrument, they'll use the peg at the top of the instrument for larger changes, and most violins have screws at the other end of the strings to fine tune the pitch.

    To tune a violin, you typically tune the A string first, usually with a tuning fork or against a piano or whatever. Some people can just picture the tone of an A and tune to that (I can sometimes).

    After the A string is in tune, they'll play both the A and the D string together in order to tune the D. An A and a D are what's called a fifth apart, and when they're in tune together, they have this remarkable resonance that just feels right. It is easy to tell, without knowing anything about music theory, that the D is correct when it hits exactly a fifth below the A.

    Gender is kind of like that. It's like I have this underlying identity in my soul, and I know what my gender is when I hear it resonate.

    As for practical differences, I'm not really sure. At the moment, I don't really feel like wearing a dress, though I do badly feel the need to shave before my counseling appointment in a couple hours.

    It's also hard to separate the gender binary stereotypes (pretty = feminine, strong = masculine) from gender itself. Men are "supposed to" take charge. Okay, but women are supposed to take charge too, whether society wants to acknowledge that or not. Women who do take charge or no less women than women who prefer to follow.

    Maybe the best indicator is in what we feel like doing. When I'm feeling especially feminine/girly, I want to put on makeup, dress up as cute as possible, find someone to dote on me, act sweet, giggle, be more playful. When I'm feeling more masculine (which hasn't happened until today in quite a long time), I feel like doing more practical things. I care less about my appearance, I'm a little more assertive, and I think maybe I want to go outside and do some adventuring, maybe toss a football around (American football).

    Again, those are all stereotypes of feminine and masculine behavior, but I don't think the behavior defines the gender--the gender influences the behavior.
    of course, the easiest litmus test is, "Do you feel like making a sandwich or asking a woman to make you a sandwich?" ðŸĪŠ

  • I get that, I think because to me gender is just a thing that is rather than something I am aware of feeling.

    I have days where I wanna go hiking, build a table, don't wanna wear make up or feel cute, other days I wanna wear heels, do my hair and feel pretty, but again I don't think I associate those with genders as they're just different aspects of my personality, not my identity.

    I think it's inherently personal what someone associates with their gender identity, and its fascinating how something I just take as part of who I am, someone else views as another part of them (if that makes any sense). The difference between something being part of a whole, compared to that same something being associated with something "separate" and a different part of their identity xx

  • I think gender is just a lens on top of identity. So yes, "they are just different aspects of my personality" and your personality is a major component of your identity. Gender--which many people will tell you is just a construct--is a way to interpret that identity.

    As far as it being inherently personal and subjective, you are spot on.

    That said, there are definitely "right" and "wrong" pronouns for me. It's deeper than just a preference.

  • Oh definitely its understandable to have a right and wrong pronoun, like I'm a woman and I expect to be addressed as such it shouldn't be different for other people xx