How do you discover you’re trans?
Translation by Finn Saager
How do you discover you’re trans? This is a difficult question for many trans people.
Something I have wrestled with myself, and I’ve run into many things while figuring it all out. This is my story in short: Through YouTube videos and the internet I discovered that I’m trans. I went through this entire journey by myself and I’ve never asked for help during it. There was also not one definable moment in which I suddenly knew I’m trans. It all went very gradually. I’m curious about the experiences of other trans people. I’m visiting Kai (37), Roos (20), Max (23), and Mika (31) to listen to their stories. How did they realise they were trans?
Kai Grey (37, he/him)
“When I was younger I was already a boy in behaviour. I played with cars and trucks. Both my boy friends and girl friends treated me like a boy. When I went to birthdays or parties of friends, people would always ask if I was their boyfriend. When I was about fifteen years old, I had a secret online identity as a trans boy. Everyone I spoke to online saw me as a boy, I really liked that.
In hindsight that’s when I could’ve already known, but I’ve only known for a few years. Years after that secret identity I discovered videos on YouTube. They were videos by trans boys. They made me quite happy and so I watched a whole lot of those videos. I kept all of this a secret, it felt like I wasn’t allowed to watch these videos. If I look back at this now, this was also a sign.”
“Don’t be afraid to be alone with your feelings”
“When my ex-partner and I split up, people on the street started asking me more and more often whether I was nonbinary. I didn’t have an answer to those questions. I started asking myself who I would want to be if I would be the only one in a room. The answer to that was very clear: I am a trans man.”
“Imagine, I had to describe myself. I wouldn’t want to be a cis man, definitely not. When I think about trans men, I think: ‘yes, that’s what I want to be’. I identify a lot with trans men and not at all with cis men. But I’m also sure I’m not a woman, absolutely not.”
“A tip I want to give people who are still struggling with their gender identity is: don’t be afraid to be alone with your feelings. There’s a lot coming for you and there will always be people who have an opinion about you. You should try not to care about this. Your happiness is what matters and your own mental health. Not that of someone else.”
Roos Sinnige (20, she/her)
“Somewhere I’ve known my entire life that I’m trans. When I was ten I encountered the concept transgender. I liked women’s clothing more than men’s clothing and didn’t want to play football with the boys, but dance with the girls. No one knew about this at that moment.
When I went to the first grade of secondary school, we got sex ed. The idea was that ten minutes of that class would be spend on transgender people. My classmates had a lot of questions about it. The teacher spent the rest of class talking about gender and explaining how everyone experiences it differently. I felt very seen by the teacher. It felt like he knew that I had a lot of doubts about my gender.
I hadn’t accepted it yet at that moment and I would often push it very far down. Often that fight with myself would surface in the middle of the night. I’d be in bed, crying. During that time I’ve often thought about going to my parents and confessing my struggle. When I moved out, I came out as homosexual, even though that wasn’t what was actually going on. I’m not even attracted to men. At that time I was spending a lot of time trying to find a label, but I couldn’t find the right one.
On the American social media website Reddit you can find subreddits for transgender people. Through the memes I encountered there I realised I’m trans. There was one specific meme that really resonated with me. The meme showed me that not every man wants to be a woman. That’s when it clicked for me, when I knew for sure that I’m trans.”
“You’re worth more than you might think”
“What’s helped me during my search is finding recognition. Because of this I found the courage to experiment wearing women’s clothing. That alone already created so much space in my head; I could finally think about other things again.”
“A tip I want to give everyone is that you’ll feel better once you accept yourself. It’s really worth it to accept yourself. You shouldn’t push yourself away, because you’re worth more than you might think. It’s intense to be alone with your feelings, but it’s very important that you give yourself space for all those emotions, because in the end they’ll help you a lot.”
Max van den Heuvel (23, die/hen/hun en hij/hem)
“As a child I was really boyish. I played with cars and not dolls. I didn’t wear dresses, but trousers. I didn’t know yet though that I was trans. I didn’t realise until I was 21. That’s two years ago now. I first came out as lesbian. That’s why I was already a member of Dito, that’s a LGBTQIA youth association in Nijmegen. I had a group of friends there of which a lot of people were queer.
With those friends I looked up different pride flags for fun. That’s when I found a flag that made me think. The flag represented people whose gender is influenced by their mental state. I was very preoccupied with what gender meant to me. These thoughts kept going through my mind for a long time. I started questioning whether the gender I was assigned at birth fit me.”
“Not long after that I discovered the term genderfluid. Genderfluid is a term for people who don’t wholly feel like a man, but also not completely female. At the time I felt like that concept fit me well; sometimes I felt more like a man, sometimes more like a woman. Now I don’t have that anymore, the feeling that I’m a woman. It took some time to accept that I wasn’t a woman and I’ve discussed this with my counsellor. Besides them, no one knew. When the moments that I did feel like a woman were as good as gone I continued looking. I came upon the terms nonbinary and trans boy.
After I found these terms I encountered the Transgender group Nijmegen online. This is a club for trans people. I’ve met a lot of new people there, each with their own story. I went there as a kind of experiment, with a new name and new pronouns. I introduced myself as Max, and I was on cloud nine for another three days after that night.”
“I can get more gender euphoria from things that work out, than gender dysphoria from things that don’t”
“What’s helped me during my search is experimenting. With my friends I could just wear a binder and a packer without getting any weird looks. SInce I no longer live at home I could, without my mother’s knowledge, try things out. My mother didn’t accept me for who I am: I was still her little girl. The visits to the Transgender group Nijmegen have also helped me a lot. I’ve found a lot of recognition there.”
“I admire people who are already further along in their transition than I, but luckily I don’t feel jealous. I look up to people who aren’t afraid to be openly trans. People who speak on the things that happen and aren’t afraid to stand up for our rights. Trans people who want to help other people and give them recognition.”
“A tip I want to share: find people who are on the same boat as you or people who understand you.”
Mika Kuiper (31, he/him)
“I’ve known my entire life that I’m trans. I was born in Poland and I lived there until I was six. Poland is a very Catholic country. A girl is a girl and a boy is a boy. I felt that something was wrong. I hated having long hair and wearing a dress; you were really treated like a doll over there.
When I was adopted and came to the Netherlands, I was allowed to wear trousers. That was like a whole new world to me. Of course I had to wear a dress sometimes, but I really didn’t like that. I always thought it was all in my head and that I was weird. My whole life I’ve wrestled with my body and I hated my birth name. I had to live with it and accept it.
I kept doing that and at a certain point I thought: “I can’t transition anymore, it’s too late.” I was eighteen then and I thought you could only transition until a certain age. When I was 28 I went to a meeting of LGBTQIA people. There we talked about gender. Questions like ‘Do you feel more like a girl or a boy?’ were discussed during those meetings. I felt a lot more like a he. That’s when they asked me why I didn’t sign up at one of the hospitals with a gender clinic, even though all that time I thought that wasn’t possible. I was already 28, I couldn’t transition anymore. Those people told me I could and that’s why I signed up.”
“It’s helped me a lot during my search to talk to people. The visits to those meetings of the LGBTQIA group have also helped me a lot and stimulated me. They showed me that I, even at an older age, could transition.”
“I think I’ve always known”
“I don’t look up to certain people, but I do have a lot of respect for people who are trans. To people who haven’t come out yet I want to say: ‘just do it.’
Don’t worry about those other people and how they react to you. You’ll realise that everything will have its place. You’ll be able to do a lot more things, you’ll get more and more confident. You are who you are and other people will have to deal with it.”