The following story is posted from a very brave patient who in her search for identity and meaning turned to counseling services. Although she was not my patient, her story was a powerful example of how therapy can change lives . Her name has been changed to protect her identity but she wanted to share her story through blog posts on my website in case it might help others. If you would like to share your story or your life experiences, please contact me.
When I started to realize that my gender may not be the same as the one I was assigned at birth, I had no one to talk to. I was afraid to say anything to my friends and family because I hadn’t even come to grips with it myself. The internet was a wonderful resource, but it could only provide so much. It couldn’t talk back and that’s what I needed. I needed to talk to someone.
I found a therapist that dealt with gender identity and started seeing her twice a month. She didn’t tell me I was wrong. She didn’t tell me I was going through a phase. And she didn’t tell me it was going to be easy. My therapist didn’t tell me the things I necessarily wanted to hear, but she told me all the things I needed to hear.
She gave me hope. And in the sea of fear and isolation in which I was swimming, having hope to cling to was literally a lifesaver.
I saw her for a year before I left to go to college. During that year she helped give me the strength and tools to come out to my friends and family. And most importantly, she helped me come out to myself.
I’d always identified with my mother. I wore her clothes, her make-up, her jewelry, and imagined myself as a mother someday. This never seemed strange to me. It wasn’t until I was about 8 that I realized it wasn’t the “norm”. So I started doing what I saw all the other boys doing, behaving as I saw them behave.
I was never comfortable doing it and I still imagined all the time what it would be like if I could live as a woman. But I never mentioned it to anyone. I just acted the way I thought I was supposed to act. While it never felt completely genuine, I became pretty good at it. And even though I grew more and more depressed over not feeling “complete” I kept it hidden because I was afraid of how it would be received by friends and family.
When I was 22 I read an article about a woman who had changed her sex from male to female. She looked legitimately happy. I read the article over and over. I stared at her photo for what felt like hours. With this single story I realized that, not only were there other people that felt like me, but it was possible to do something about it.
Telling My Friends
Telling the people in my life that I was questioning my gender was one of the most emotionally difficult experiences in the whole process. I knew that my friends and family loved me, but I was frightened to see that look of shock, disgust, and disappointment splashed across their faces. In a time when I needed as much support as possible, I didn’t want to lose anyone.
Before coming out, I researched it first. I read everything I could get my hands on about what to say, when to say it, and how best to react if I didn’t get the response I was expecting. I talked to people who had had similar experiences. I talked to my therapist about what she recommended. And I made sure I had resources to give to those that wanted to know more.
Most of my friends were completely accepting. They may not have entirely understood but they simply wanted me to be happy. And of course there were a few that I never spoke to again. Some familial relationships were strained but I remained strong and determined. Like the friendships, most came around and some didn’t.
In the end, the friends and family who stuck by me and accepted me for who I was more than made up for the ones I lost.