Rachael's Garden


Search IconIcon to open search

A Trans Experience

Last updated Apr 2, 2023 Edit Source

I am Rachael, a woman of transgender experience who has been living as my authentic self for a little over two years. I wrote an article near the beginning of my journey to help people see an experience of a transgender individual up close and personal, including finer details that a lot of people would rather keep private. I share these details because it’s difficult for anyone to humanize something if they don’t know anything about it. More so, it is easy to find an experience like mine rather confusing. If you haven’t already, you should read that one first!

I want to talk about a few things when it comes to me learning to understand myself on a deeper level with regard to my gender. The intuitive way to look at things is a lot like a line, where on one side you have “Woman”, in the middle you have “Non Binary”, and on the right you have “Man”. I quickly found that this “line” actually confuses things, and does a disservice to anyone attempting to resolve issues with their gender. Before I can talk about the system I use, I want to clear up what I mean when I use specific terms.

# Identifying

It’s become almost a meme to “identify as” something, with common jokes including identifying as an Apache attack helicopter. Upon your first encounter with this sort of joke, you may find that annoying, funny, or not understand it at all. I want to clear this specific usage up because the words used are super close, but still not quite there.

You may have heard of people use “mood” to acknowledge that someone relates to a feeling or experience someone is expressing, or “X is my spirit animal”. That is what it means to identify with something on a basic level. Imagine now that level is deep, to your very core. Something so visceral that it almost consumes you in your attempt to explain to the outside world what you mean. Whether you lack the words to describe it, or you lack the awareness to tell what it is, identifying with something is a universal human experience.

You can identify with the feeling of a joke being funny, of love being enriching, of betrayal hurting you, and of anger being difficult. However, if your experience of who you are is out of alignment with how the world treats you, there’s a struggle to identify with that treatment. It doesn’t necessarily have to be bad treatment, just that it is treatment. You regard someone in a specific way when you see they are royalty, when they’re a child, a senior, or a violent psychopath. These sorts of treatments are intrinsic, and you learn the patterns as you age.

This process of identifying with an experience is what I want you to focus on. I want you to take a moment, and imagine that there’s something deeply wrong with your sense of reality. The way people treat you, the way you are expected to interact with the world, the way you have sex, and even the clothes or behaviours you are expected to exhibit. You are trying to be accepted, but every single way you present yourself feels misaligned and you can’t identify with it. Almost like if you are expected to be angry all the time when you are a gentle, loving human being.

You go through your life and you encounter new situations you don’t know the “rules” to. You haven’t come across it before, so what do you do? You do what feels natural, or you observe what others are doing and copy them. You feel insecure because of your uncertainty, so you even try to pass that off with humour because that’s the only way you know to break the tension in your lapse of being part of the situation organically. Let’s say you did what feels natural, and all of a sudden you were criticized for it because it was “too girly” or “too manly”. The criticism feels bad, so when you combine that with your uncertainty driven insecurity, you feel embarrassed or ashamed. Your brain learns that this is “not safe”, because if we were back in the times of living in caves being hunted by lions, isolation means that you are going to die.

Now, imagine a lifetime of these situations. You go buy clothes, but you can’t get the ones you want. You see toys in your childhood, but you’re shut down for wanting the toys you like. You try to hang out with the girls, but get made fun of or excluded because you’re not a girl, or vice versa. You’ve had a lifetime of situations where every attempt at natural social integration fails because you’re expected to be different than you are. Now you have to live a lie, and pretend to be someone you’re not because every single time you have tried to be authentic, you’ve received “unsafe” (remember: cave people brain) push-back every step of the way.

This is what it’s like to not identify with your own lived experience. When people say they “identify as”, it’s because they’re trying to cross that barrier to their authentic selves. “I identify as a man” means that the person speaking underneath the flesh authentically is a man, but their presentation or physiology may say otherwise to the outside world. It means they’re trying to communicate with you “Hey, something went wrong and what you see is not who I really am. If you communicate with me as you would the gender I identify as, it’ll make it easier for me to be real with you.”

With this foundation set, I want to move onto the model I used to figure myself out.

# The model

Disclaimer I am not a psychologist, nor am I a psychiatrist. I am a transgender individual who struggled with my gender for a long time, and I have found what you are about to read brought me a significant amount of relief.

If you cite or reference this, bear in mind that there are no studies, no scientific data, no information to back any of what I am presenting to you EXCEPT my personal lived experience.

I realized that seeing the differences between men and women as a gradual line, as in it shifts along a line with a middle point clearly separating the two, didn’t really work all that well. Every time I tried to understand myself through that model, it didn’t work out the way I anticipated. Instead of clarity and confidence, I was left with insecurity and uncertainty. No, I don’t like frilly white wedding dresses. No, I don’t like barbies, (most) Disney movies, and gossip girl. So where does that leave me on the line? What about the things that are traditionally male, like the fact I like lego, video games, computers, or technology? How does it all stack up? They don’t.

Instead, I want you to disregard the line and instead think of categories of characteristics. These categories are: Physiology, Presentation and Tendencies, and Ungendered Characteristics. These categories are used to help you resolve your sense of gender more clearly, and is NOT something that has been researched. This is a personal model that I used because it eased my own struggles with my gender. I will first discuss these categories, then I will tell you how to use it.

I will use phrases like “feel like”, “should have”, and other unclear terms and phrases in these following sections. While reading, remember that every time I use these, it is to unburden you from reading ridiculously complicated sentences. Remember that you should be searching within yourself for what you identify with.

# Physiology

The physiology category is where you put your physical attributes. Do you feel breasts would be natural on you? Do you feel a penis or a vagina would be more natural? Do you even care one way or another? The important part of the Physiology category is that they are only physical attributes that are directly related to your body. When you think about this category, set aside your insecurities first and allow yourself to consider the experience of living with a different physiological makeup.

If you had a vagina, would you be comfortable with the implications? Would you feel comfortable being on the receiving end of having sex? If you had a penis, would you feel comfortable with that experience? What about breast-feeding, or having to wear a bra? Do these things feel like they are naturally in alignment with your sense of being?

For me, it looks like this:

I feel a vagina is what I always should have had. The way I can sexually connect with those I am in a romantic relationship with feels incomplete without it, and attempting to use the genitals I was born with makes me feel hollow. I find myself feeling depressed as if I have lost something, and I motivate all my actions based on what I would want if the roles were reversed. It also feels horribly violating to try to use the genitals I was born with in the way “nature intended”, as if I am literally raping myself and trying to be okay with it.

My categorization may feel extreme, but I want you to realize that this is my experience. Yours may be entirely the same, or completely different. The key is to remember that you need to use your experience and your feelings. You may not care at all, and that’s completely fine. You don’t have to care, but not caring is also a useful piece of information.

# Presentation + Tendencies

This category is heavily cultural, so bear in mind that I am speaking from a white Canadian perspective who was raised in a conservative part of my country, where even the term conservative is relative to my country. Conservative in Saudi Arabia is radically different from Conservative in Sweden, Canada, Italy, or the USA.

How do you feel you should be interacting with the world? What clothes do you feel are most natural, and how do you feel you should fit socially? How do you feel your voice should sound, and what habits do you feel are most natural? How do you categorize them, if at all? The presentation category has to do with how you interact with the outside world, and how you want the outside world to interact with you.

This is “presenting as your gender” for those who know the phrase. “Present” is to display, and those who receive what you are presenting are on the receiving end of your presentation. If you feel you would be most comfortable wearing makeup, wearing dresses, have a feminine voice, you would also have expectations for how the world should naturally respond. This isn’t you declaring “the world should treat me this way”. This is you searching for how you’d present yourself authentically to the world.

This includes your habits, behaviours, voice, choice of clothing, choice of makeup, everything that the outside world can see and interact with.

# Ungendered Characteristics

There is literature that states that “women are more interested in people, and men are more interested in things”. I want you to bear in mind that motivation counts. I like technology because it means I can help people solve problems. I am interested in how people can benefit from what I know and create. My “thing” interests are human focused, and my motivations are based on people.

If you find yourself confused with anything that is true about yourself, put it here to resolve later because self-discovery is a journey, not a checklist. If you don’t see that Lego is a thing with gender, that itself is a piece of information you can use to put your characteristics here.

This category is a dumping ground for all the things that do not have a gender relative to your experience. If you get the sense that liking Lego, video games, makeup, or any other thing is not a reflection of your experience with your gender, then feel free to place it here unless you feel it more appropriate to be placed somewhere else. This is your “messy” category for things that aren’t cleanly gendered, or that you don’t know if they reflect on your gender.

This category is important because not everything is about gender. I know it is tempting to put everything under the Gender categories, but for real. Owning an iPhone is NOT a gender attribute, neither is liking 3D printers, Ferrari super-cars, nice headphones, or anything else that is important to you. Gender is not your entire being, and you should not attempt to gender your entire identity. It’s probably not healthy to try to gender everything anyways, because there’s absolutely no way that obsessing over everything needing to have a gender is healthy.

# How do I use this?

Now that you have a cleaner perspective of how to look at things, go ahead and think about yourself. Consider your identity under these three categories, and consider where you fall honestly. Do you feel your experience is “Woman”, “Man”, or neither? Remember it’s not a line, but Man and Woman are valid, traditional, and COMMON experiences of gender. If you are born with a penis, and find yourself a man, then congratulations! You don’t have to suffer through a dysphoric experience of reality, and that’s awesome!

The important thing to remember here is that you want to detect within yourself what the most accurate assessment is. If you cannot cleanly “find yourself” (I used this phrasing intentionally) as a man or woman, then this is where non-binary comes into play. There is a significant resistance in society against non-binary experiences. If you do not understand non-binary, now you do. It is an experience of one’s reality that doesn’t align with Man or Woman. It’s only called non-binary because we have used the Man and Woman model for SO LONG that Non Binary can be seen as more of a placeholder, or as an “I don’t know, but it sure ain’t those two”. It may even be seen as a neutral in-between, or that you simply do not care at all, and experience no distress one way or the other.

You want to be truthful with yourself here. You cannot declare yourself a woman, a man, non-binary, agender, two-spirit, or anything else. The cleanest thing you can do is to find yourself by just being true to who you are, and seeing if there’s a term you can use that resembles the experience you identify with most.

# Where do you (Rachael) fall?

For me, this stacked up as “Woman” with a few tomboy tendencies. Since I have come to this conclusion, I have felt nothing but peace in the idea, and only frustration in my dysphoria when I have to combat the realities of having a misalignment in my physiology. I still find myself saddened that I do not (yet) have a vagina, and I find myself struggling for a sense of peace with the reality that I will not be able to bear a child. I don’t feel the need to wear skirts until I want to, and I honestly don’t have to put much thought into my gender anymore.

For me that problem is resolved. I am Rachael, a woman of transgender experience who is a bit of a tomboy, who likes the things I like, and is interested in helping bring the world hope in any way I can. I don’t have to reconsider, wonder, struggle with, or be confused by my gender anymore. I simply take actions to get closer to the authentic, highest version of myself in all that I do.

I genuinely hope that if you are struggling with your sense of gender that this helped. If you find it more difficult to see your experience using this model, don’t use it. It’s my model that I came up with as a system to ease my own pain. It’s not backed by psychological literature in any way, but it feels the most intuitively correct to me and has provided significantly more peace to my life.