Happy New Year to you all out there! First Identity blog of 2019! I hope 2019 brings you much love, peace, and inner happiness!
When it comes to a sense of self confidence and external support relating to transition, I've noticed that many of the trans female clients I see appear to be limited in acceptance and support from others. Is this mere coincidence in the people that I happen see in my office, or is something greater at play for MTF's versus FTM's? Let's discuss some of the potential reasons why this might be occurring below.
The Female Stigma
As is common knowledge to I hope everyone at this point, we as a society still continue to place greater importance on the opinions, values, and authority of cis gendered men. We can even go as far to say that male importance is greater than female importance globally, and has been for decades upon decades. Now this is not to bash on men-it's more to shed light on the social discrepancies between men and women. Because being male, acting, or imitating male behavior in any form is often considered dominant, being female, acting or imitating female behavior can be perceived by some as 'subordinate.' For many of my clients who identify as trans women, they've often reported encounter with this outdated stigma, making it harder to step away from traditional concepts of male gender roles.
Outdated Medical Gender Concepts
Another concern facing all of my trans clients are concepts of old terminology describing transgender people. Before the most recent positive updates to our mental health and medical diagnostic information within the past 10-20 years, transgender individuals were often looked at by the medical community as having a mental health disorder that needed 'correcting.' Derogatory terms were also often used to describe trans individuals, and specifically trans women were shunned at greater rates by many cultures around the world. Although these derogatory terms were not and are not exclusive to trans women, MTF's have been at the forefront of the battle for trans rights for many years in American culture.
Following our societal move into a sex and gender positive era within the medical and mental health field today, most of our outdated concepts have shifted to being more inclusive and understanding of trans needs. Despite the light we've shed on trans rights as a whole, the trans female clients that step into my office continue to fear the most judgement by those they might encounter out and about in their communities. Therefore, the educational hurdle of reteaching new material and new ways to go about trans treatment remains predominant.
The topic of passing is often very individual and specific from person to person. Whereas some trans individuals focus their transitional journey on an ultimate goal of passing, others simply look for emotional and physical comfort in whatever shape or form it comes in. A big discrepancy among the trans male and trans female clients I've seen is definitely in the realm of passing privilege. For trans men on testosterone, the ability to eventually blend into society as another cis gendered male is a great possibility. For trans women on estrogen and even testosterone blockers, blending in as a cis gendered woman presents as more challenging. While testosterone is a great masculinizing hormone, estrogen does not follow suit in a similar feminizing way.
For trans men testosterone brings voice deepening, facial and body hair, and even squaring out facial structures. Trans women on estrogen do receive any vocal changes from estrogen, nor is there a complete removal of facial or body hair. This is turn can mean additional medical and/or surgical procedures that trans women must pursue to 'feminize' further if they are seeking a specific physical look.
Letting Go of Expectations and Building Support
All of the topics above may appear daunting and emotionally exhausting to read, and if you can relate on a personal level to even think about! These are not new topics in any way, and appear to be common among many of the trans women seen at Identity Insights. However, you don't have to feel stuck in rut in any of those categories above. Through building community with those who do support you, and in finding others who can empathize and are going through similar situations within their transition, positivity can be found. Shedding expectations of ideal and perfect images post transition, and recognizing that changes in social and personal perceptions might and can change is also a first step in a healthy transitional journey.
If you are seeking support and assistance within your transition, whether you are a trans woman, trans male, or trans leaning, please reach out to us by scheduling a consultation!
Devin Pinkston is a local mental health counselor and Gender Therapist in Grand Junction Colorado. Call to schedule a consultation today at