Hi there,

I hope this is allowed. I need some help gaining an understanding of trans life and some of the issues that are faced, what defines it and a couple other things. It won’t hurt my feelings if this gets deleted. If so, I won’t bother you again.

To help explain why I’m so clueless, I’m a white 50yo married guy with one young adult hetero child. I have absolutely no real life context to apply and I’m not what you would consider culture-savvy(I don’t follow news/media, have no circle of people, basically, I hang out in the woods by myself). I understand very little of the relative explosion of references that I see on the web.

First, the only thing I think I understand is that gender is considered a social construct, leading to the popularity of choosing your own pronouns( I know there’s much more, I’m using the pronouns as something I often see). Understanding as little as I do, I try to frame discussion in a way that I don’t ever use pronouns to try to keep from offending. I’ll say something like “I think the OP meant this” instead of using a pronoun.

That’s sadly it. I don’t understand anything else but I do have some specific questions that are intended to inform me, not to offend. Please forgive me if I’ve framed these inappropriately. It’s due to ignorance that I’m trying to rectify, not from a place of ridicule.

First, from wikipedia: A transgender person (often shortened to trans person) is someone whose gender identity differs from that typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Question 1 - I think I understand the part where a person disagrees with the gender assigned to them at birth but when I see a transgender person, they seem to be striving to dress and look like the opposite gender. What I mean by this is I rarely see a picture of a person choosing she/her but dressing and having hairstyles more associated with their assigned birth gender. Does this mean that although they were born with certain reproductive organs at birth normally associated with a particular gender, they feel that some part inside them(soul, mind, etc) feels they should have been born with the opposite socially constructed gender?

My second question and this is where I swear I am not aiming to offend. I will try to explain what led me to this thought - When a person chooses to take hormones that their body doesn’t make on it’s own or chooses to have surgery to rebuild sexual organs that they weren’t born with or to add/remove breasts, Is this element of trans life considered a mental illness? The only reason I ask this is I remember watching a documentary where people lived a life in which they felt, for example, that one of their arms didn’t belong to them and they pursued surgery to have a working limb removed. During the documentary, some of the people during therapy and medication were able to change their mindset to the point that they could live with the offending limb but there were some people that were traveling to other countries to have it removed (the doc was based in the US and they couldn’t find a doctor to perform the surgery). The only reason I ask is because of that, My mind goes to body parts that the person doesn’t feel belongs but that they were born with and not something socially attached to them.

There’s much more that I don’t understand but I really feel like this wall of text is enough to unpack, if you choose to do so. Thank you in advance for your time and patience. I appreciate any insight you choose to provide.

  • Good Girl [she/they]@lemmy.blahaj.zone
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    15 days ago

    Question 1 - I think I understand the part where a person disagrees with the gender assigned to them at birth but when I see a transgender person, they seem to be striving to dress and look like the opposite gender.

    You’re sorta conflating gender expression with gender identity here. Gender expression is the outward way one presents to society. Your gender identity is part of how you relate to those around you and society at large. A good example is with cis male drag queens. In drag, they’re presenting with a feminine gender expression, but they maintain their cis male gender identity.

    What I mean by this is I rarely see a picture of a person choosing she/her but dressing and having hairstyles more associated with their assigned birth gender.

    Further, with trans people, there’s an extra layer of scrutiny from our transphobic society. Trans people are pressured to appear as though they fit a binary gender expression in order to be recognized as their gender identity. (This also extends to those who fall outside the binary, they are expected to display an androgynous gender expression)

    However there definitely still are gender non-conforming (GNC) trans people, just as there are GNC cis people, despite those pressures.

    Does this mean that although they were born with certain reproductive organs at birth normally associated with a particular gender, they feel that some part inside them(soul, mind, etc) feels they should have been born with the opposite socially constructed gender?

    This one is kind of fuzzy, I think every trans person kind of feels their own unique way about it. For example, some trans women keep their genitalia as-is and some trans men are fine with keeping their breasts and these things may not cause them as much dysphoria as it might another trans person. There is also a social aspect to it, in that if one person wants to be perceived as one gender, they may also want their “expected” genitalia, post-puberty body, etc. Note that those who chose not to medically transition are just as trans as those who do.


    My second question and this is where I swear I am not aiming to offend. I will try to explain what led me to this thought - When a person chooses to take hormones that their body doesn’t make on it’s own or chooses to have surgery to rebuild sexual organs that they weren’t born with or to add/remove breasts, Is this element of trans life considered a mental illness?

    What you’re describing are various steps of medical transition; to answer your question, no, medically transitioning is not a mental illness. There is mental illness in the trans experience however, and that is gender dysphoria.

    Gender dysphoria is the word for the mental, psychological, emotional, and sometimes physical pain, anguish, or torment trans people may feel prior to receiving gender affirming care. Gender affirming care is considered to be the cure for gender dysphoria and may come in different forms: it can be medical transition, social transition, a good support system, therapy, or any combination of these things and more.

    The only reason I ask this is I remember watching a documentary where people lived a life in which they felt, for example, that one of their arms didn’t belong to them and they pursued surgery to have a working limb removed. During the documentary, some of the people during therapy and medication were able to change their mindset to the point that they could live with the offending limb but there were some people that were traveling to other countries to have it removed (the doc was based in the US and they couldn’t find a doctor to perform the surgery). The only reason I ask is because of that, My mind goes to body parts that the person doesn’t feel belongs but that they were born with and not something socially attached to them.

    A better comparison would be if you had a third arm, or if you were short one arm due to a genetic anomaly or injury. You may feel social pressures that you may not fit in or maybe you feel body dysmorphia about your body being different from other people you identify with. You likely would want to seek care to more closely align your body to one that is socially expected.


    Never feel bad about asking questions! You’re making an attempt to learn and understand, and that’s way more than some people (allies included) ever do.

    • Schwim DandyOP
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      14 days ago

      A better comparison would be if you had a third arm, or if you were short one arm due to a genetic anomaly or injury. You may feel social pressures that you may not fit in or maybe you feel body dysmorphia about your body being different from other people you identify with. You likely would want to seek care to more closely align your body to one that is socially expected.

      This was very helpful, thank you. I also understand better regarding gender-affirming care. That seems very hard to receive currently, at least in the US. Perhaps it’s being politicized by those in power but I see more comments about not being able to receive any care than I do about successful treatment.

      • Good Girl [she/they]@lemmy.blahaj.zone
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        13 days ago

        I’m very happy I could help!

        I also understand better regarding gender-affirming care. That seems very hard to receive currently, at least in the US. Perhaps it’s being politicized by those in power but I see more comments about not being able to receive any care than I do about successful treatment.

        It’s very rough for a lot of trans people in a lot of states. I’m very lucky in that I had the privilege of being born in a state where a lot of the medical steps are covered by insurance, but a lot of trans people aren’t afforded that luxury. To make matters worse, some of these treatments are only gatekept when it comes to trans people, while cis people get access to those very same treatments.

        Cis kids who may be going through puberty too early or too quickly are given puberty blockers, while trans kids who feel they’re going through the wrong puberty have those same puberty blockers withheld because they “could be dangerous.”

        Cis women can be given testosterone blockers for various medical conditions such as PCOS, and may even be prescribed estradiol for postmenopausal symptoms or because they had a hysterectomy. Cis men could be given testosterone blockers like finasteride for male pattern baldness or prostate issues. Spironolactone is a high blood pressure medicine that also can acts as a testosterone blocker at high doses. I’ve even heard of cis men being prescribed testosterone if they simply have concerns about their T levels being too low.

        Not to mention the various gender affirming surgeries many cis people go for such as breast augmentations, plastic surgery, hair transplants, even dangerous ones like the penile ligament surgery or BBLs.

        Gender affirming care just isn’t politicized when it’s affirming a cis identity.

        I’m sorry if I’m being too much, I just have a lot of thoughts on this.

  • growsomethinggood@reddthat.com
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    16 days ago

    Hello! I am a cis person who is close to the trans community. I’m happy to try to answer your questions a bit.

    Question 1: Gender is a many faceted beast, but for now, let’s focus on two aspects: gender as one feels internally, and gender as outwardly expressed/perceived by others. An easy way to describe the trans experience to cis people is through internal gender, knowing that you are something other than your gender assigned at birth, turning into an externalized gender expression; wearing the right clothes, the right hair length, etc. However, not every trans person is going neatly from one gender box to another. Maybe they like a few certain things picked up from their assigned gender, maybe they’re nonbinary, maybe they’re gender non-conforming (think of feminine gay men and butch lesbians for examples of cis people like that). Trans people deserve to have at least as much range of gender expression as that! The reason you might not see a lot of people with conflicting gender expressions and gender identity, is, well, these folks don’t have to come out to everyone they meet. If you assume someone is a man and they’re not, often they won’t correct you.

    Question 2: Previously (and similarly to homosexuality), being trans was categorized as a mental illness, but doctors took a closer look and found that was incorrect at least a decade ago in the 2013 update to DSM-5. Now, gender dysphoria (the diagnosis most trans people get) is described as an incongruence between the mind and body. Consider your limb example in the reverse: if someone were missing an arm and complained of feeling a phantom limb, you’d understand that to be an incongruence between the mind (expecting a limb) and the body (missing a limb). Most trans people are experiencing something like that, a desire for something positive (experiences of a “true”, or preferred, gender) rather than just something negative (removing the experiences of the gender assigned at birth). The best treatment for trans people’s mental health is to have a well-supported transition.

    Not a question, but in regard to your intro, you don’t have to worry so much about pronouns, rarely are people going to get pissed at you for an honest mistake. Other people using the correct pronoun for trans people (even if it’s after correcting) can be very validating. As long as you’re trying and listening to feedback (like, not repeatedly using the wrong pronouns for someone who told you otherwise), you’re doing just fine, no need to be anxious over it!

    Also, if you want to learn more in a casual setting, trans memes are 🔥, keep an eye on some of the communities around here!

    • Thurstylark
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      15 days ago

      Ooh, the recommendation of trans meme communities is a good one!

      Fair warning: there’s a lot of implied context that’ll be thrown around, but if you approach it with open-minded curiosity (which OP seems to have nailed, btw), then you can usually work backwards to gain understanding.

      If you’re a fan of reverse engineering, this method will be fruitful.

    • Schwim DandyOP
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      14 days ago

      Thanks very much for taking the time to help.

      However, not every trans person is going neatly from one gender box to another. Maybe they like a few certain things picked up from their assigned gender, maybe they’re nonbinary, maybe they’re gender non-conforming (think of feminine gay men and butch lesbians for examples of cis people like that). Trans people deserve to have at least as much range of gender expression as that!

      This really stuck for me. Straight people really do the exact same thing. We pick and choose how we’d like to be perceived every time we get dressed and go outside. Where (at least in the US) I and my friends grew up getting army stuff for presents, girls got dolls and toy kitchens. The gender training is quite strong from the beginning and I can only imagine how bad one would feel when they get a kitchen for their entire lives and they just want to play with some GI Joe stuff. On top of being shoved into a container you don’t fit into, it seems culturally, we try to punish the people that don’t fit our social container for them.

  • MindTraveller@lemmy.ca
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    15 days ago

    A mental illness or disorder is something bad. That’s part of the definition. Missing a limb is bad, so doctors think that wanting to lose a limb is bad. Being a woman isn’t bad, so doctors think wanting to be a woman isn’t bad. That’s why body identity disorder is a disorder, and being trans isn’t.

    • Schwim DandyOP
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      15 days ago

      Being a woman is bad, so doctors think wanting to be a woman isn’t bad. That’s why body identity disorder is a disorder, and being trans isn’t.

      Can I ask if you meant “wanting to be a woman is bad.”? If so, culturally, is being trans in the opposite(a culturally recognized female wanting to be male) more accepted?

      • MindTraveller@lemmy.ca
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        15 days ago

        I meant that wanting to be a woman is not bad. And wanting to be a man isn’t bad either. Neither is bad.

  • KazuchijouNo@lemy.lol
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    16 days ago

    I would recommend that you watch some of the videos from the youtube channel Philosophy Tube. She’s very good at explaining things and perhaps you’ll find some answers in her videos. Here’s a link to the channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2PA-AKmVpU6NKCGtZq_rKQ

    She’s got an amazing video about the struggles of the trans community with the healthcare system where she addresses gender dysmorphia. It’s definitely a must watch.

  • Zeke@fedia.io
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    16 days ago

    Scientists are doing research into why we feel this way and are actually discovering connections from birth, but I don’t know that much about it yet so I’ll leave those explanations to others who have read the study. For now, here’s my experience with it.

    For me, I’ve hated my body and how I’ve looked since I was in high school. I grew up being brainwashed by old movies and tv shows that separated sexes and that made it seem like I had to try to be feminine and to look pretty at all times and try to fit the gender norms. I hated everything about being female and I’ve tried everything to love myself as AFAB, but none of it worked. I’m 32 and the years since I entered high school have been rough and have put me through so much depression, suicidal tendencies, and panic attacks. I only decided last year that I’m finally taking that step that I hinted at in high school. I like things made for guys and I prefer to hang with guys and I’ve always leaned in that direction and have been called a tomboy many times. I’ve never fit in with women or felt any real connection to being female. I feel so much better already just with the hair and the changes in my thinking and I haven’t gotten my surgeries yet. It was crazy the difference just switching to seeing myself as male has made on my mental well being. I actually smile when I see myself in the mirror now.

    • Schwim DandyOP
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      14 days ago

      If you don’t mind me asking, do you feel the surgeries are necessary to feel as at peace with yourself as you can or do you feel that the steps you’ve taken to this point might suffice in giving you a chance at a happy life? If you feel the surgeries are a necessary step, can you put into words why? Unlike society forcing things on you, it seems at the point of surgery, it has less to do with that and more with changing you for you. I struggle to understand what causes a person to feel that way.

      I’m definitely not asking you to justify your desires and I understand if you’d rather not speak about it to me, I’m just wondering if you can help me understand the necessity of something that seems like such a drastic measure to me. The reason behind it must be very powerful.

      • Zeke@fedia.io
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        13 days ago

        Yes I do feel it’s necessary, but I’m someone who’s coming from being “well-endowed”. I live with the literal weight of my birth gender. That plus having people say she/her because I sound like a girl when I’m a gamer and streamer is a constant reminder of it. It weighs on me and I can’t help feeling like I need to push for that change. It’s a need, not a want for me. For me, the surgeries would make a major difference in how I feel mentally and physically. Imagine being a cis-man with a feminine voice and excessively large man boobs. Would you want to have that corrected or would you put up with it? That’s what it’s like.

        (If it didn’t come through, part of this is light hearted)

  • retrospectology@lemmy.world
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    16 days ago

    Being confused about xenogenders and the claim that “gender is a social construct” stuff is not unusual since a lot of it is just that; socially fabricated stuff, a lot of which has nothing to do with gender identity or being trans. A lot of people confuse gender expression with gender identity. Expression is a social thing (ex. How you dress, words you use to describe yourself etc.), gender identity is innate and unchanging, it would exist regardless of society.

    It’s easier to understand it this way; gender identity is based on how a person relates to their sex characteristics, most people are cis, meaning their sexual neurology is aligned with the rest of their body’s sex characteristics and thus feels “invisible”. Some people are born with neurological make-up that doesn’t match their bodily sex (believed to possibly be due to timing of hormone exposure in the womb).

    This causes a deep sense of distress (i.e. dysphoria), the closer a trans person is able to get their body to match the sex that their neurological make-up is telling them they should be, the less dysphoria they experience.

    If you want to understand how it feels to be trans, imagine you suddenly had large breasts tomorrow. Think about how uncomfortable that would be having to live like that as a man, how “foreign” and unnatural that would feel.

    That’s dysphoria, for trans people it’s their entire body that feels out of place, and it underpins the entire trans experience, it’s why people are compelled to transition even in the face of extreme resistance. If you, as a man, had the breasts removed that would be gender affirming care that would help you live a more comfortable, honest life.

    • Schwim DandyOP
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      14 days ago

      This was incredibly helpful, thanks for the explanation. As I learn more, it’s helped me understand better why people choose such a hard path in their life. It’s been very hard for me to understand what could make a person face such hostility but I’m starting to get it.

  • gandalf_der_12te@lemmy.blahaj.zone
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    15 days ago

    I read some definition of “mental illness” that stuck with me:

    A mental illness is something that seriously impacts your quality of life, as defined by the patient.

    So, if the patient doesn’t see it as impacting their lifes, then it’s not a mental illness.

    (Of course, one could consider this definition incomplete; But I still find it sticks.)