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.

  • growsomethinggood
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    1 month 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@lemm.ee
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      1 month 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 Dandy@lemm.eeOP
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      1 month 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.