You’ve had this feeling for awhile. Something isn’t right. You see other people your age live in their bodies perfectly fine. But for some reason you don’t feel the same. You don’t know why.
Because of that, you might be wondering if you’re transgender. Why do I feel this way?
It’s tough. Believe me, I know it’s tough. But I hope that after reading this article, you get some insight on how to know if you’re transgender or not.
What does “Transgender” mean? In the 2018 understanding, a transgender individual is someone who does not identify with the sex they were assigned to.
If you’re still confused, we can dig a little deeper.
What is “assigned gender?” Let’s say you look at a baby (either ultrasound or not), and it has full male genitalia. That baby would be assigned male at birth. The same is true with female genitalia and assigning the child female.
Of course there are caveats to this, but the traditional understanding is that a baby’s genitalia, and the subsequent body that grows because of it, makes the gender.
But a transgender individual could be someone who was born in a male-assigned body and not identify as male. Rather, this individual identifies as female.
So, simply put, if someone does not identify with the body they were assigned to at birth, this person is (most likely) transgender.
Seems pretty understandable.
Now, onto a brief metaphor.
Gender vs Sexual Exploration
Some people know their sexual orientation is queer before their gender identity is queer. Why? Because of the different ways in which we understand our sexuality versus our gender.
Sexuality is reactionary
I remember being young and not knowing what queerness or homosexuality is at all. But I still had eyes, and I used these eyes to look at girls on TV. I wanted to keep looking at these pretty girls. Something attracted me to them, but I didn’t know why. That’s the thing about being young and queer. You don’t know why you do those things, you just do.
And after looking at these girls for a while, I realized, hey, when I look at these girls I feel squiggly inside. I liked looking at girls. Add a deepened and expanded understanding of what these feelings mean, and I realized I was gay.
Sexuality is a reactionary process. That’s why when you’re confused, you experiment like in science. Variables and controls.
I can use my reactions to understand myself, what I like and don’t like, and gain better resolution on my sexual orientation.
But how does this apply to gender?
Gender’s Reactionary Too…Kinda.
I understood my sexuality through the reactions to other people. But all the while, I felt some internal turmoil concerning my gender.
Gender is ultimately how you feel on the inside. But because it’s so internal, you can pretty easily tell yourself you don’t like something when you do, or that you do like something when you don’t.
For example, I don’t like being called a lesbian. It’s the inherent assumption that you’re a woman who likes other women that irks me. But I liked feeling a part of the queer community, especially when I lived in the rural Deep South, so I continued calling myself a lesbian and let other people call me that, even when I didn’t vibe with it.
It’s so easy to cover things up, make things mean different things, and just avoid understanding your gender because it doesn’t deal with someone else, essentially, defining it for you. You have to define it yourself.
And that’s friggin’ hard.
But you can still set up some scientific gender experiments to help you come to that realization. Below are a few:
Things to help discover your gender
Change your hairstyle. Cut it, grow it, shave it, dye it.
Experiment with makeup. Or don’t. Buy some eyeliner and lipstick. Throw the ones you do have away. Or, hey, if you want to, give yourself a beard with some mascara. Whatever works!
Try on different clothing. Raid a sibling’s closet, a parent’s wardrobe, or try stuff on at goodwill. Do you like what you see?
Ask people to call you different pronouns or names. Sometimes that’s all you need to reaffirm your gender. If you’re not in a place where you can ask people that, websites like Pronoun Changing Room can help you out.
Get creative with it. There are tons of things you can do to find out your gender identity.
Something that can really help is keeping a journal and writing down the things you did in the first person. Then write down how you felt.
For example, an entry can look like this.
“Went to the store today. After ringing up my items, I paid and the clerk said, ‘thank you, ma’am.’ I cringed a little.”
“I stood outside the men’s bathroom. For a second I thought about going into the women’s bathroom, but didn’t. I went into the men’s.”
There are probably more gendered occurrences in your daily life, but you get the point. Being constantly aware of yourself, how you feel about being gendered one way versus another (or just not being gendered at all!) can aid you in discovering your gender identity.
That’s something I cannot stress enough. Knowing yourself and how you respond will provide that reactionary insight allowing you to understand your gender identity. If it works in sexuality, it works with gender. Gender’s just a little more muddled.
But hey, you can take stock of what you’re already doing and see if they coincide with other people’s experience of being genderqueer.
Things you’re already doing that might indicate you’re trans:
Wearing baggy, ill-fitting clothing that hides your body and secondary sex characteristics (breasts, hips, thighs, neck).
Speaking less because of voice dysphoria. I get misgendered the SECOND I open my mouth.
Eating less. It’s sad to say, but some causes of eating disorders is latent gender dysphoria. Transgender and genderqueer individuals are about 5 times more likely to develop eating disorders than cisgender LGBTQ or heterosexual individuals.
Wishing you had a different name or pronouns
Looking at a lot of pictures of trans people, consuming trans YouTube and other trans media.
Wanting the masculinization/feminization of hormone treatment. This one is probably the most telling for transgender people.
Of course the above actions don’t automatically mean your transgender, but they line up with the experience of other transgender individuals.
Only you know how you feel, only you can decide if you’re trans.
Hearing other people’s stories and understanding your own lets you know for sure. Below are some videos of trans people on YouTube that I thought were pretty informative and insightful. You’ll see video links and main takeaways within each video.
“How I Knew I Was Trans” Personal Stories
A video by Stef Sanjati, an iconic MTF transgender YouTuber. She describes how she knew she was trans, and how it felt more like a build-up as opposed to a sudden realization she was trans. Here are some retroactive things that made her realize she was trans.
Seeing people could be “trans,” transitioning, and seeing that people were happier after they shifted their gender expression/identity.
Being in school and being split up based on gender. She sat on the boy’s side of the room and didn’t want to sit there, because she didn’t want to sit on the boy’s side.
She wanted children, but didn’t want to be called a father or dad. She realized she wanted to be a mother, and that contributed to her transition.
She medically/socially/mentally transitioned from male to female and became a lot happier.
Take look back at your childhood and general life and see if things make sense in the context of being trans. Another example from Stef is that she didn’t want to change in the boy’s locker room in gym because she didn’t feel like she belonged there.
Everyone’s experience is different, but those experiences guide you.
Just remember: if you feel like a woman, you are. You don’t have to do a bunch of “tests” to confirm that.
This is a video by Jammi Dodger, one of the most popular transmen on YouTube. He offers practical advice for a wide audience. To sum up his video, he says
1) Don’t compare yourself too much to others. While other people’s experiences can validate yours, it can be even more confusing when those experiences don’t match yours. But it’s okay. Everyone is different. Just be you and try to find validation where it comes.
2) Experiment. Try different clothes, makeup, etc. And when you’re ready for it, different name and pronoun.
3) Do what makes you comfortable as much as you’re able to.
4) How you express yourself doesn’t make you any more or less trans. You can wear a dress and be just as much of a guy as someone who has short hair.
5) Take your time. Take as much time as you need to figure things out. Don’t push yourself into finding a label or category. It’s okay to explore and not have a label. And it’s okay to change your mind.
6) Trust yourself. You know how you’re feeling. Honor that feeling and go with it.
Jordan Volness just talks in her car explaining seven thought experiments you can do to figure out if you’re trans. She’s pretty funny and I recommend watching the video, but here’s the summary:
If you had a button that could change you into a woman (it’s painless, free, no one would bat an eye if you did), would you? While saying yes doesn’t necessarily mean you’re trans, it can suggest you’re more trans than cis.
Alternatively, if there was a button that would keep being a guy but would get rid of all your gender dysphoria, would you press it? For Jordan, the thought of being a guy for the rest of her life devastated her, so she decided to transition?
If you had both buttons at the same time, which would you push?
If there was a test that would tell you if you’re a boy or girl, which result would you hope you’d get? Which answer would you consciously/unconsciously try to get?
If you were stranded on a desert island, and there’s no possibility of escape but there are enough resources to feed and clothe yourself, would you choose to present as female? If enough hormones washed up on the shore, would you take them? If the button from the first question also washed up, would you press that button?
If you took a test that said that, yeah, you’re confused on your gender but you’re 100% not trans, how would that make you feel?
If you took a test and it told you, “Honey, you’re 100% trans,” how would that make you feel?
Again, answering these questions in certain ways won’t definitively say you’re trans but it’s definitely something to think about.
Ty Turner, another popular transmale YouTuber, describes what it’s like to be transgender. He offers more of a background on what transgender means and how you don’t have to identify as male or female to be transgender. He describes his own experience figuring out that he’s trans, mostly to experiment with gender presentation and gender roles.
(Please check out more great content from these YouTubers on their channels! Give ’em all the love and views they deserve).
How to know if you’re trans:
You feel comfortable with one gender binary and the things it comes with.
Pronouns, dress, clothes, etc, such as with the traditional FTM or MTF transgender binary.
Although check out this article for more details/nuance.
Pervasive gender dysphoria concerning the gender you were assigned to as birth.
Gender dysphoria at being gendered in the way that confirms the gender you were born into.
In terms of pronouns, name, gender roles.
Gender euphoria when treated as another gender (in terms of pronouns, name, gender roles, etc).
Do these things to help you figure out yo’self:
Experiment with your gender.
Process how you’re feeling with another person. Verbal processing is a thing, y’all. Typical places include Twitter, Tumblr, and YouTube, but other
A trans-specific hotline is the Trans Lifeline. It’s geared towards preventing self-harm, but if you just want to talk to someone about gender dysphoria and other ways you’re feeling, this is the site for you.
But don’t do these things:
Compare yourself to other people too much. Some experiences may line up, other experiences may not.
Keep it all to yourself. It’s easy to bottle things up, but talking to other people can really help you understand yourself.
Figuring out a transgender identity takes time, but the time-given will ultimately be worth it.