Trusting Gender Identity
A phase – a temporary process of discovery – can be a liberating period of one’s life and lead to genuine growth. By honoring “phases”, we allow children a safe space to change their mind or change their identity without backlash, repercussion or the infamous, “I told you so!”. Dismissal of phases invalidates one’s ability to change. You might unknowingly send messages that a child is worthy of support and belief only when their identity is not a phase. We are teaching kids that identities must be set in stone and that gender must be permanent in order to be valid. This is a ton of pressure on a child to inadvertently expect them to know at age 5 for example, exactly who they are going to be for the rest of their life! [Read full post here].
Today I want to expand on this topic about which I previously wrote.
First, I want to reflect on my own coming out fears. One concern that held me back most was – What if I changed my mind? What if I decided one day that I wasn’t trans- that I no longer felt like a boy? In my mind this translated into: What if I made a mistake? What if I decided that I actually felt more like a girl and people used me as evidence that transgender people are wrong? What if they used my uncertainty against the entire trans community to paint trans people as crazy, wishy-washy, and going against nature? What if they used my indecisiveness as proof that god doesn’t make mistakes?
As I write these words, I cringe to even put them out into the universe so I want to stress that the myths above are not true! Nevertheless, these ‘beliefs’ float around the general consciousness through the media, books, and political and religious scare tactics that can quickly be eaten up my confused, grieving, or searching parents.
When did this become the dreaded scenario? When did being uncertain or changing one’s mind become such a bad thing? When did changing one’s mind become the determining factor as to whether or not gender-questioning persons would be validated?
The bigger the decision, the more certain people expect us to be. The less certain, the less people are willing to validate one’s identity. This puts trans people between a rock and a hard place because the truth is that the bigger a decision, the more likely one is to be uncertain! Ever quite a job? End a long-term relationship? Not an easy decision. You probably did not feel 100% certain.
To clarify, being trans is not a decision but telling people and coming out are.
Can we remove the stigma that comes with changing one’s mind (frequently called “de-transitioning”)? Parents, loved ones and even the medical community expect trans people to be certain before they can be believed.
Let’s stop this. Figuring out any part of the identity is an ongoing process. One’s gender identity can and might change and that is perfectly okay. We are not static beings; we evolve, we transform, we shed old skins, we grow. If you can let go of the unfortunate and limiting belief that gender at birth is written in stone, it makes perfect sense that like the brain, the body, the spirit, and the mind, gender can change. Gender is a product of all of the above and in addition, a societal construction. The neurons of the brain develop then deteriorate, the body ages, the spirit twinkles and dims, and every aspect of society advances, undergoes modification and revision. Many believe that sex and gender are the two constants but sorry, there are no constants in life.
Reversing course does not mean a mistake was made. It does not mean that the child, the parents, the therapist or the doctor were wrong; it just means that the person is insightful, self-aware and brave enough to enter a new stage of development AND they trusted you enough to share that process.
Life is an endless cycle of transformation. This is inevitable so embrace it without judgement.