The following article was written by Janet Logan, who lives in the United States and is both a friend and someone I highly respect and admire. After having to delay transitioning due to her wife’s illness and subsequent passing, Janet transitioned nine years ago. I value her wisdom and insight and was grateful when she agreed to write this article.
Am I Transgender?
I am a transgender woman. I am not a professional counselor. I have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria. I am romantically attracted to women, which makes me a lesbian. There is a common misconception among cisgender people that trans people, by definition, experience a particular sexual orientation. To be specific, that trans women are really just effeminate gay men, and that trans men are just masculine lesbians. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The reality is that neither gender identity nor sexual orientation are truly binary, and they are not directly linked. Just as we now recognize a broad spectrum of sexual orientations, from pure heterosexual to pure homosexual, and everything in between, so are we beginning to recognize that gender identity experience also exists along a similar continuum. Those continua exist separately in most, if not all, individuals.
There is an ongoing controversy among trans people as to whether being transgender is truly a mental / emotional issue, or whether it arises from physical causes. My opinion is that it is analogous to the way homosexuality was at one time considered a mental illness. I see the evidence for the physical causes of being trans, and at the same time, am willing to acknowledge that my culture’s reaction to gender variance causes emotional problems for many, but not all, trans people. Acceptance is growing. Sadly, so is the backlash to that acceptance.
Appropriate medical treatment can go a long ways toward alleviating those emotional problems. Therapy focused on coping techniques can also be highly beneficial for many transgender people. Gender therapy in general can be instrumental in answering the question “Am I transgender?”
Unfortunately, many of the reasonable and necessary treatments are, in much of the world, not covered by insurance and must be paid for out of pocket. Medical transition, particularly, can be quite costly. Trans people frequently go without needed care due to the expense of that care. Others will engage in the underground economy in order to get the care they desperately need.
From personal experience, I will say that my life became immensely better as a result of my transition (at age 52). I encourage anyone questioning their gender to seek counseling. Should you decide to transition (socially or medically) you will likely find that peer support is also very valuable. Having someone to talk with about this momentous decision is a wonderful feeling. You don’t have to do this alone.