Am I trans enough?

By Janet Logan

Have you asked yourself “Am I trans enough?” This is a particularly significant question for transgender people who waited until later in life to transition or are only just now exploring their gender as adults. The standard narrative of “I knew since I was a child” and “I transitioned young” certainly is a feel-good narrative. However, the alternative that turns out to be true for many, many people is that we knew something was wrong, but couldn’t understand what that something was. We went many years thinking that we were somehow wrong, and begrudgingly accepting that we were broken.

When the curtains finally part, and we realize we might be transgender, that’s when we start questioning “Am I trans enough?” That standard narrative doesn’t apply to us. We didn’t know at a young age. We probably felt “wrong” but didn’t understand how we were wrong. We didn’t declare our true gender to our parents as toddlers.

Let me be succinct: There is no such thing as “trans enough”. In our peer group, we say that “You are trans if you say you are.” There are many paths that people follow to come to the realization that their gender identity doesn’t agree with their assigned birth sex. There are many different gender identities beyond male and female. We (older trans people) may not have known about transgender experience at all, or we may have only heard the occasional snicker about a sex change operation in a faraway place by a flamboyant individual.

That didn’t fit our lived experience. We were everyday people, living everyday lives. Sure, something within us was not right, but that wasn’t us. We did everything we could to pretend we were just like everyone else, and to live in the gender we were assigned. We performed that gender to the extreme, in many cases, in order to try to fit in. And as we did so, we caused our discomfort to deepen into pain, rather than go away.

Many, many of us reached a point in our lives where we firmly believed we could not continue as we were. Far too many of us see suicide as the only option to end the pain. We are deeply embedded in that life as the wrong gender, and there are so many people whom we are convinced will never accept us as we truly are. And leaving that life to start over somewhere else simply isn’t an option, whether it be because of family, career, or financial constraints.

We face a metaphorical “long dark night”, where we ponder ending our lives. What lies ahead if we choose to transition is incredibly daunting, especially if we think we will be facing it alone. We fear that our friends will never accept us. We worry we will lose our family, our jobs, indeed our careers. We need someone to talk to, but whom?

Gender therapy is incredibly valuable, and not just for the trans youth we hear so much about. Peer support groups are worth pursuing as well. Speaking for myself, answering the question “Am I trans?” (not trans enough) was difficult at first. My gender therapist was someone with whom I could discuss this in a safe space. For peer support, I found an online community that has helped me through some very difficult periods.

I wish the same for you. Find your people, and tell them what you are feeling.