A reader writes: “Here is my question, which may or may not be written fully PC, so forgive me if it is not. My child is in the process of deciding about how far to take his gender change – and at age nineteen, is wisely not moving forward until he knows what he knows from the truest place within.
“He is sure he hates being called she, and he passes at college as male and was accepted as male even by the admin (yeah!), but he wonders about changing his body and if that is too far to go. He knows at age nineteen many things are uncertain, and he doesn’t want to make a choice for life that he is not sure about. He’s pretty mainstream, an engineering major on full scholarship, and “shades of gray” are not his cup of tea.
“What I see out there, so far, is that things are changing quickly in the world of the trans person – and hopefully inclusion of all gender identities is on our social horizon. And yet no matter how much the world changes, and he changes, as a trans man he will always be caught in some shade of gray. By this I mean born female, living male; some body parts changed, or all, or none; intimate relationships that require knowing his shade of gray; living stealth or not or something in between. He knows this, but this is the hardest part for him.
“So how do you deal with shades of gray within yourself? Does it feel like that? How do I support that reality without sounding like I’m not supporting him as a male only – how he has requested to be seen? Do I keep that ‘reality check’ to myself, since life requires shades of gray from everyone, and that’s just a life lesson that comes in time?
“My number one goal is to be supportive, but not blindly supportive in an inauthentic way – honestly supportive of the amazing young man I have raised and his courageous process. Bottom line: Am I doing more harm than good pointing out the shades of gray issue?”
First of all, let me thank you for being such a supportive mom. This is a difficult thing to go through, and it can be very hard on family members, so kudos to you for caring and for wanting to do the right thing to make your son feel comfortable.
I have some thoughts, as always, and I know my readers will, too, so be sure to check the comments for the real wisdom.
I think that your son is wise for not jumping into anything with regard to correcting his body until he is absolutely sure that it needs correcting. There are many trans people who live their entire life in the body of their birth, either by choice or because financial or health reasons prevent any surgical (and sometimes even hormonal) interventions.
There are many more who live with some surgical corrections, but who would still be seen by a binary sex and gender system as possessing physical attributes of their sex at birth. This is primarily true of people who do not have genital surgery. And then there are those who have had as much surgical intervention as is possible or available.
In all of these situations, there are no doubt people who feel as if they are living in the “gray area” that you are talking about, and in all of these situations, there are people who do not feel that way at all. So I think that feeling of being “in the middle” or living in some “shade of gray” or however someone wants to define it depends less on the configuration of the body itself and more on the person whose body it is. (more…)