Pastor torn between being an LGBT ally and being angry with a young father who suddenly wants to live as a woman

Pastor torn between being an LGBT ally and being angry with a young father who suddenly wants to live as a woman October 10, 2014

Here’s a letter I got in yesterday from a pastor whom I know to be a good and true LGBT ally:


I’m having an issue coming to terms with something that’s happening in the life of a woman at my church (whom I’ll call Sue), and was hoping you could offer some insights or words of wisdom about how I might best counsel her.

Sue has a married son. He and and his wife have two young children, and she’s possibly pregnant again. He also has a child from a previous marriage. They are both in their late twenties. (Though I know her son and daughter-in-law, only Sue attends my church.)

Recently, while Sue was away on vacation, her son let his wife know that he wanted to become a woman, and began going to work dressed as a woman. He has only told his co-workers, his wife, and his ex-wife about this change. He swore his wife to silence about it. The mother could tell, though, that something was up with her daughter-in-law, and coaxed out of her what it was. (The son has also sent a friend request, as a female, to a young man who is a member of my church.)

The son told his wife that he didn’t want to leave her, that he wasn’t particularly attracted to men or women, and that he didn’t see gender. She responded that she wasn’t interested in being married to a woman because she wasn’t a lesbian. The son told her he didn’t see what the big deal was, because he had done other body modifications (tattoos, piercings, lobe stretching, subdermal implants, etc.)

Here’s my dilemma: I don’t understand transgender enough to know how to counsel the mother. I want to help her not to add damage to an already out-of-control situation.

Furthermore, I’ve only worked with adolescent individuals dealing with transgender issues. This situation makes me angry because I feel like even if this is genuine, this young man has brought three and possibly four children into the world, and is abandoning his responsibility to them as a father out of a selfish desire to resolve his own gender conflict. I feel like he has lived as a man for 28 years, and should continue to do so until the commitments he made as a man are fulfilled.

I’m concerned about maintaining my integrity as a pastor who is an ally. I want to maintain a legitimate reputation of being a safe resource to the LGBT community, but am unsure how to deal with my conflicted loyalties to this community, and to the children who will be living in poverty if this situation continues to spiral out of control.


So my first question for this good pastor (whom I hope is aware that he can establish a wholly anonymous Disqus account by way of responding to my question in the comments) is this: What makes you think that the man’s children will wind up poverty-stricken if he continues living as a transgender woman? (And yes, I understand that in the first half of that sentence I “mis-gendered” the woman, for which I apologize.)

See what I mean? Why is that inevitable? It doesn’t sound like [she] will get fired from her job or anything. Sound like at that place of employment being transgender might actually be a way to get promoted.

So—and this is a serious and respectful question, because children in poverty is hardly a matter of light concern—what’s up with the fear of poverty thing? Is that real? It is truly a given that poverty will result from the father of that family transitioning into the second mother of that family?

If so, then that certainly is a problem.

If not, then my Big Recommendation is to let life take its course. In my recent post, We’re Christians whose son-in-law has come out as transgender, I talked about much of what it sounds like is now concerning Sue and her daughter-in-law. I would (humbly, of course) recommend that essay to her. (And I might my piece Christians: Be thee not discombobulated by transgender persons!)

Bottom line: counsel Sue to sit tight, trust God, trust human nature (and nature generally), and allow what’s happening in her family to unfold in its own time and way.

You can’t rush stuff like this. You can’t direct it. You can’t control it. You can’t really even influence it.

You just have to let it be.

You do, that is, unless kids are being hurt. If in this situation kids are, or certainly will be being, hurt, then of course let’s make sure to deal with that. But otherwise? Otherwise love is love. And if there’s one thing you can say about love, it’s that it always surprises us with its core, organic, inviolate, righteous, healthy, enduring, wonderful, dependably solid goodness. In the main all we have to do is stay out of the way and let that happen.

[UPDATE: The pastor and I have been emailing back and forth quite a bit. Some developments have emerged that have eased his mind about this whole situation, and particularly with regards to the well-being of the children. So it looks like everything with the family is likely to work out. Yayeth! 😀 ]

I’m the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question:

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • BarbaraR

    “Hey, this woman in my church was told this about her son by her daughter-in-law who actually wasn’t supposed to tell anybody but here is the DIL’s side of things. What should I do?”

    Has the mother actually asked for help? Has anyone in this situation (except the pastor who is asking you) asked for the pastor’s help?

    Maybe I’m misreading/reading too much into this, but this is third-hand information at best. There is a lot missing.

  • Was it not clear that this pastor is asking for advice on how to counsel the mother? “I don’t understand transgender enough to know how to counsel the mother,” is … well, what he wrote.

  • BarbaraR

    To me, it wasn’t really clear that the woman was asking for help, or if she was just unloading this story to the pastor. I know he said that he didn’t know how to counsel her… maybe I am overthinking this as it was written, but I didn’t specifically read it as a request from the mother for help in dealing with this.

    I could totally be wrong here.

  • And you’re one of the mods here! That’s it! You’re fired!

    Oh, wait. You rock this place for free. Um. Never mind.

  • BarbaraR

    That made me laugh out loud.

  • My 2 cents

    Maybe I’m reading this wrong but I see a problem, not with a person making the difficult decision to transition, but with him swearing his wife to secrecy but then going ahead and contacting people as the hoped for gender. Also acting like going from male to female is as big a deal as a piercing… Which it isn’t.

    I am wondering at his sincerity, if its transgender or something else on the spectrum that’s going on. Some rings a bit off to me

  • Guy Norred

    These things were kind of jumping at me as well.

  • Totally. But then I remembered–and this is meant with absolutely no disrespect–that trans* individuals can carry a lot of other baggage. I mean, that would be rough, not coming to terms with your gender until 28. A lot of coping mechanisms have been formed, some better than others.

    Best of luck to her. (And you, allegro63. Mad props as usual.)

  • BarbaraR

    That’s part of it, and it doesn’t sound… right. There is a lot missing.

  • Junie Girl

    I think the pastor was worried about poverty because he made the assumption (as I do) that the daughter-in-law will not remain married to the spouse if the spouse continues the transition. It is not always the case, but is often enough the case, that finances are negatively impacted as parents go through divorce.

  • Rev. Anon

    This is a correct, but it is more than an assumption, as the daughter in law has bluntly stated this. The financial impact of divorce, and the absence of a father/second parent in the home are well documented.

    Additionally, the family has financially struggled to keep their nose above water for as long as I’ve known them. They are unable to afford the expenses of maintaining a single household and the expense of multiple households, as well as the also well documented negative financial impact that transgendered individuals face, make poverty a statistical probability and honestly an all but foregone conclusion.

  • Rev. Anon

    She is, and she is freaking out and asking a lot of people for help. She isn’t showing much discretion and believes that the DIL is under no obligation to maintain the secret because it is something that is happening to her.

    I’m not saying I agree, but it is an actively developing situation that I’m not even going to try to control.

  • Rev. Anon

    This is one of the things that is throwing me off on how to advise the mother to respond. There are enough pieces that are fitting properly that makes several situations other than gender dysmorphia likely.

  • That’s a hard one. Me, since I’m not a lesbian, I would probably come to the same decision. What it sounds like the real problem, though, is that a trans/female or female/female couple have a [crap] ton less financial stability than a traditional male/female or even gay male couple. That’s an indictment of America, not this couple.

  • BarbaraR

    she is freaking out and asking a lot of people for help. She isn’t showing much discretion and believes that the DIL is under no obligation to maintain the secret because it is something that is happening to her

    OK, there are a whole lot of factors here that are making a difficult situation into an impossible one.

    Whatever you say to Sue is not going to be confidential. “Rev. Anon said this and that!” And I see it as likely that Sue is trying to pump everyone who knows anything about this situation for whatever they know.

    And as allegro63 said, the secrecy and the casual attitude of the husband about the transition – there is something else going on. People don’t just say one day that they’ve decided to switch sexes on a lark,. And why swear your wife to secrecy but not your co-workers? Either the DIL hasn’t told the entire story or she’s amended it, or the husband hasn’t told the entire story, or there’s another completely different aspect to this situation that’s still secret.

    You’re right – don’t even attempt to control this. You’ve only got Sue’s version of the DIL’s version to go on.

  • Oh, really? Gosh, okay. So for sure the wife will divorce her spouse if for former-he continues to present as a she?

  • Rev. Anon

    This is what she has said, and I have no reason to doubt her resolve.

  • Eloquent Kolobok

    I don’t know much about how trans gendered issues impact relationships and so won’t comment on that. However, I do come from a culture that values the raising of children highly. Meaning, that whatever else is happening to the adults, they are, after all adults and have much better coping skills than children. So while I am not minimising the trauma or severity of the situation, I would counsel the mother (personally) to assure the DIL that she will do everything in her power to ensure that the children and she ( by the virtue of being their mother) are helped financially. Even if they have to move in with her. This should be regardless of what happens in the marriage.
    You may ask why. Because regardless of whether her son stays a son or turns into a daughter the children are and will always remain his responsibility and by extension, hers. In addition, it will be a lot easier to deal with any transitions when that is one less thing they have to panic or worry about. It also ensures that he remains in the lives of his children. Even if the DIL doesn’t want to stay married to a woman, which isn’t unreasonable, children still do better with two parents. It may even calm her down a bit, to have a “job” to do.

  • Matt

    I am inclined to agree with the general tone of the other comments: Something else is up here. Maybe it’s nothing awful. Perhaps this person has just been so deeply closeted for so many years that the euphoria of finally expressing their true gender is overriding their good judgment, which I have seen happen and felt myself. It’s a powerful feeling to finally get even slightly more comfortable in a body that can sometimes feel like a prison. But at the very least, this person is very misinformed about medical transition if they think that it’s like a piercing or tattoo. It’s a long road, even if everything goes smoothly.

    However, having the wife keep the secret is not unusual. My ex-partner, my boyfriend, and everyone in my inner circle has kept the secret of my transition for more than 2 years now in the interest of my physical, emotional, educational, and occupational safety. Imagine that you are undergoing something extremely personal that requires deep emotional vulnerability, and you will have to tell everyone eventually, even those who may be vicious or cruel. People don’t wait to hurt you when you’re strong or ready. So in a sense, coming out needs to happen somewhat at that person’s pace, based on the unique dynamics in their life.

    I want to take a minute to be angry with my community of fellow transgender people. This fear that has been expressed by the past few letters about not being a “proper ally” simply by having conflicting feelings or discomfort is unnecessary. And I know it has come about because of a lack of patience on our part. Biting people’s heads off about mis-gendering does not help. Removing people’s ally status on a whim does not help. We need a far more constructive outlet for our collective pain. This is about humans understanding each other further, not the extra-enlightened beings lowering ourselves to educate the mere mortals.

  • Ellen K.

    The pastor seems to have a very gendered view of parenthood. Including that fathers, men, are the breadwinners, apparently. And so this woman, in his view, can’t fulfill her duties as a father to those children if she is living life as a woman. It seems like, in his view, neither she, the father, living life as a woman, no the child’s mother, can properly provide for the children, because that’s a male role. So, if she doesn’t continue to live life as a male, her children are doomed to poverty.

    I really, really dislike that attitude. The woman can continue to be true to her commitment as father of those children while living life as a woman. And maybe even can do so better because she will be being true to herself instead of feeling like she’s living a lie.

  • Ellen K.

    Okay, I see after reading the comments that there’s concern about finances that’s separate from assumption of gender roles. Still, the letter did express the idea that the woman cannot fulfill her commitment as a father to those children unless she lives her life as a man. And I disagree with that.

  • Mary Welborn Underwood

    The son has said he isn’t attracted to men or women. It may be more complex, but on the surface it sounds like (s)he is asexual. If that is the case, this could indicate significant marital problems regardless of whether this person transitions.

  • Pavitrasarala

    Not to mention, if the spouse goes through gender reassignment surgery, won’t this also impact finances? Am I correct in that this is not exactly a procedure covered by health insurance?

  • Pavitrasarala

    The attempt to compare gender transition to tats and piercings also bothered me in a big way. So totally not even close to the same ballpark.

  • Alliecat04

    Ya know, just because someone is a member of an oppressed minority doesn’t mean she’s not also a jerk. Expecting the wife to remain in a relationship with someone of the opposite gender from the person she agreed to marry, and not seeing the problem there, is pretty jerk-like. Demanding that she keep the secret and then messing about within her social group is pretty jerk-like. This person is a jerk. She may have some extenuating circumstances, but that’s about the size of it.

    However, since when did pastoral counseling make you the jerk police? Telling people they are jerks is not generally a rare enough skill to be worth getting paid for. Earn your salary as pastor by showing actual wisdom and not telling it like it is for once. Fostering the mother’s anger isn’t helpful. Trying to force a woman to remain a man isn’t helpful. It is 100% guaranteed that calling a jerk a jerk will not get that person to be any less of a jerk. Counsel the people who are not being jerks, and tell them to be as pleasant as they can and make the best of a situation that sucks. And tell the not-lesbian woman that since she is now married to a woman, the marriage is effectively over. It’s not fair for her to have to live her life without sex and that’s not what she signed up for. The husband reminds me of the husband of a friend of mine who moved out and in with another lady and stayed married (doing taxes jointly, and dropping off occasional laundry, and plundering her bank account) because he was comfortable that way and “didn’t see the problem.”

  • wakingdreaming

    I know a few transgender parents. They are just as loving and committed as parents as any of the cisgender parents I know.

  • “It is 100% guaranteed that calling a jerk a jerk will not get that person to be any less of a jerk,” is one of my all-time favorite quotes.

  • Rev. Anon

    She has always been a very nurturing father, and I never had any doubts about her ability or willingness to be a great mother. My concern was with her being forced out of the picture the children’s mothers, and the financial hardships that would be caused by the divorce and having a transgendered parent.

  • Karen

    I understand that the focus here is on a pastor wanting to know how to counsel the MIL of the person wanting to transgender. But why no apparent compassion or concern for the wife?? It must be a huge thing for her to be dealing with! It certainly won’t just affect the children. There just didn’t seem to be much concern for her in the article.

  • JenellYB

    As I read all this, Sue’s DIL told her that Sue’s son, DIL’s husband, father of her 2 children and a 3rd on the way, whose income is hardly sufficient to support them has decided to transgender. And pastor is concerned about how to counsel Sue while staying true to being supportive of transgender people????

    Seems to me the first ‘counsel’ pastor needs to give Sue is for Sue to talk to her SON, and get HIS version of what is going on. I can’t understand how or why Sue would be talking to anyone else about this, without first talking to her son.

  • I agree. I must admit, I was put off by the husband basically saying why’s it such a problem if he’s a she now, after the wife said she’s not attracted to women. The wife has a right to say how she feels as well.

  • JenellYB

    Karen, I was thinking the same thing, it does not seem much considered in the original letter, or most follow up comments. To be married, with 2 children, pregnant with a 3rd, and have your husband drop something like this on her? This man took vows and made commitment to be her husband and father to their children. He has supposedly said he isn’t ‘attracted’ to either men or women, but he has married two women (the ex) and fathered 4 children. What is his wife to think or feel to that, that she has been having marital sex with and bearing children with a man that now tells her he doesn’t find her sexually attractive? And in the questions of being a father to those children, I’m having problems with only the financial aspect being raised, not the emotional on the children whose “Dad” has decided to become a second “Mom.” Commitments of being a father isn’t just about providing income, but a male role model. How confusing and potentially damaging this could be to these children’s developing awareness of gender and sex?

  • Jonas

    Hey, as a trans woman myself, I’d appreciate if you’d edit the misgendering. You apologized but failed to change anything. Please change it. Misgendering is wrong, violent and dangerous. And your comments about “former-he” shows a clear misunderstanding about being trans is about. So, please, consider editing this post and making sure to never misgender.

  • “has decided to transgender”

    Well, that’s a new and exciting use of the English language!

  • Are you and JenellYB one and the same, or related, or part of the same very tiny cult? I notice a lot of similarities in your writing style – the curious use of ‘transgender’ as a verb, in the context of ‘to transgender’, the love for in-law acronyms – ‘daughter-in-law’ to DIL and ‘mother-in-law’ to MIL, and the multiple question marks to make your confusion abundantly clear.

  • “How confusing and potentially damaging this could be to these children’s developing awareness of gender and sex?”

    I’m guessing not a lot, given that I grew up in a traditional Christian nuclear family with clearly demarcated gender roles, and yet still turned out both gay and trans. Or are the identities of cisgender heterosexual kids so extremely fragile that merely seeing examples to the contrary is enough to make them decide that their lives aren’t hard or oppressive enough as it is, and they should try out this whole LGBT thing?

  • Would it be possible for her to continue financially supporting the family (and/or raising the kids) even post-divorce?

  • I love this.

  • Yes.

  • Some insurers cover it. It differs from state to state and country to country. Even then, not all trans people choose to undergo surgery.

  • It’s possible that there are other mental health issues going on, but that doesn’t necessarily make her trans identity illegitimate; a lot of trans people who transition later in life (and non-trans LGB people, for that matter) tend to develop other mental problems from the psychological stress, resulting in all kinds of irrational and erratic behaviour.

  • Trans guy here. I’d usually agree with you, but based on his other posts John has shown that he does understand what being trans is about (and as a rule, doesn’t misgender people even when others do). So the misgendering here seems to be for the sake of linguistic convenience rather than misunderstanding; which isn’t the best either, but it’s a different issue.

    (oh, I read your blog post linked in your profile, and a few others. Fight on for the truth. I wish you all the best on your journey.)

  • Karen

    No need to be snarky, @anakinmcfly. There is no “tiny cult”. I have never met or heard of the other poster you insulted and even if I had, so what of it? 99% of people commenting here are saying similar things in support of the transgender person! does that make them related or part of a “tiny cult”?

    I am no expert on this issue and therefore misused the word. Huge apologies for that. I was simply asking, where is the compassion for the wife? The article and the other comments seem to totally overlook her and the awfulness that it must be to have your male husband decide that he identifies as female.

    I don’t judge him (or do I say her? I honestly don’t know how to do this “right”) but I think it is good to also show compassion and empathy for someone who is going through the experience of having the man you married, the father of your children, deciding he is a she.

  • Brandon Roberts

    Well it’s not the young trans mens fault god made him/her with gid this is the only way to help it and I don’t think god would be mad considering he made the individual that way.

  • Nah, it had nothing to do with your similar opinions, but the strikingly similar use of language and punctuation in comments posted back-to-back. But if I was wrong, I apologise.

    I agree, there needs to be compassion for the wife as well. In and of itself I agree with your comment; it was Jenell’s that rubbed me the wrong way (what with the emphasis on ‘son’ and ‘his’, and yours sounded too similar in writing style that I ended up carrying over some of that. I’m sorry.

  • Karen

    Thanks for your reply. Much appreciated.

  • Hmm… very little credence seems to be given to the power of the parental archetype during the early years.

    Everything is NOT about gender.

    My take on this is that there WILL be suffering and damage.

    The situation reeks of a self-centeredness, if not outright narcissism.

    John is probably right though. It will all have to play out. It just is what it is.

    The concerned pastor can still minister to the pain of the Grandmother. Helping her to not compound the confusion.

  • Susa

    My heart goes out to the whole family, and I hope they will be all right. I think it can hardly be easy for the wife. I do not want to imply that this decision is/has been easy for the father, either, but I admit from the wording of the letter there are a few things I do not quite understand… The transgender spouse says she “didn’t see gender”… as in gender is not an issue for her? But since she wants to live as a woman (which impact imho goes quite a bit beyond the decision for a lobe stretching), it clearly IS an important issue. I’d be grateful if somebody could help me to understand this better. Thanks.

  • spinning2heads

    My guess, which is only a guess since I don’t know any of the actual people involved, is that the trans spouse means that she does not factor gender into her ability to love and form romantic attachments with people. The typical ways to say this are bisexual (which is sometimes seen as limiting as it implies only two genders exist) and pansexual (which is being attracted to people of all genders), but I have heard people say “I don’t see gender” as shorthand for either of these.

  • Alliecat04

    That’s really no different from financial hardship caused by divorce for any other reason, is it? I mean, this spouse has broken the marriage contract irrevocably. It’s not just sort of over, if the wife feels that she can’t be married to a woman, it’s already over. Transitioning is a thing that happens on the outside; inside this husband is ALREADY a woman. You might wish it weren’t so, you might think it’s insane to pretend it’s no big deal, you might reasonably ask why, if it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other to the husband, she doesn’t just do it the way that would make everybody happy.

    But of course, it’s not six of one and half a dozen of the other to the husband. The husband is lying about that. It’s obviously a huge, honking deal to her. A big enough deal to be worth estranging everybody, facing a lifetime of difficulties, maybe even getting painful surgery. She just expects it to be no big deal to everybody ELSE. Which is, yes, sociopathic, but what can you do?

    So you offer the same counseling you would to any other poor person: move back in with mom if you can’t afford two households. (Poor mom!) Keep paying support and get a better job. I’m guessing husband has already abandoned the idea of earning enough to care for a family in favor of self-expression through body modification. Well, news flash, there are ways to earn money where people don’t care if you have a hoop through your lip. Most are in the arts, but not all; my tree surgeon has insane tats and he makes more money per hour than an anesthesiologist. There are no excuses, none, for sitting around being a wart on the world while your children do without.

  • Yes. If a parent has duty it is to offer love, as in full attention, toward one’s children. Without that love children will tend to look for it, unconsciously, their whole life. The guy is already lying and manipulating, so she is put into the tough position of being parent to three children, of of whom doesn’t care what she thinks and who will be bringing into the house at least instability or worse. So what is the guy to do? Agree to separate, to pay support, to take care of the kids, to realize his needs do not come first. Or, be someone who clothes his desires in a socially acceptable mantra while neatly filleting everyone around him.

  • Psycho Gecko

    I do know of an individual who had a problem somewhat related to this. She started to transition and it was great for her, but then stopped in order to be there as a father for her kids. I think it sucks that people are so tied up into gender roles that even those acknowledging that there are problems deciding that birth determines a societal role can get sucked into it. But that was her decision as an adult, not made due to any coercion that I know of. I’m not the boss of her life and I’m certainly not qualified to tell anyone they’re selfish for wanting to be who they really are.

  • FrJesusGaylord

    Sounds to me like the confusion and potential damage to the children is coming from people like you and Karen more than anybody else.

  • Nita

    Having grown up with an abusive father, sometimes not having one isn’t so bad. Sure, I have good memories with my Dad, but he wasn’t a good male role model. He was a pretty horrible one.

    I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD thanks to my traumatic childhood, so when I read that kids need a father in their lives, I scoff. Just because she may have been born male doesn’t mean she will not or cannot love her kids as a woman. Sure, it may be confusing at first for the children, but you know what they need more than anything? Unconditional love from their parents, in whatever form they come in.

    A male role model doesn’t have to be a father. It can be a grandfather, an uncle or a good friend. Counseling would probably help all involved in this situation, but she doesn’t need to stop her transition in order to be a “male” role model. Children need loving, happy people in their lives, no matter the gender.

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  • JenellYB

    The language in this post we are responding to refers to “him” as her “son.” I simply referred to him as in the post itself.

    The language in this post also states the “he” told “his” wife that “he” wants to “become a woman.” To “become” would be verb form. Not that “she” IS a woman.

    In my understanding of transgender, the sense of self-identity as the sex other than as their body has been born is something the individual is aware of from a very early age. The transgender child does not think of themselves in terms of wanting to become the other sex, but that he or she IS actually the other sex, that is stuck in the wrong body model.

    This man has married twice, already fathered 3 children, has another on the way with his present wife. As I read the post, he has had no problem with being a man, living as a husband to a wife, and fathering babies with her. There’s nothing in it to suggest this is something he has struggled with all his life.

    In the post, his “wanting to become a woman” has begun going to work dressed as a woman, but wants this kept secret everywhere else and from everyone else. I am wondering if there might be some confusion about what this situation is really about, the man wanting to change identity from a man to a woman, or a man engaging in cross-dressing in some situations and places, but keeping his male identity in others.

  • JenellYB

    That is true. However, for children to witness someone important in their life, as here a parent, that they have known as of one gender/sex, suddenly transform into the opposite gender/sex, would be something very outside the usual range of experiences of gender and sexuality that children deal with. To a young child, such a matter could easily cause confusion about what gender/sex actually is, and uncertainty about their own gender identity. The child could wonder, I’m a boy/or girl right now, but does some people change into the other? Could that happen to me, change into the other?

  • JenellYB

    I have been trying to say it less bluntly, but yeah. That’s about the size of it. The wife and children did not ask for or expect life as they know it to be turned upside down so dramatically and suddenly.

  • “The transgender child does not think of themselves in terms of wanting to become the other sex, but that he or she IS actually the other sex, that is stuck in the wrong body model.”

    Not necessarily; while the feelings involved are usually the same, the way individual trans people conceptualise and express it is often different, depending on things such as culture. For instance, while I experienced gender dysphoria as early as 3 years old, I thought of myself as “wanting to be” a boy, because from my understanding then, ‘no penis = ‘not boy’. The idea that I *was* already one thus did not make biological sense to me, because I was fully aware of what bits I had and did not have.

    Regarding the late transition, though, I know of lots of trans people who didn’t come out until very late in their lives – 60, 70 years old – for the same reason that lots of gay people also don’t come out until very late, often after they have married and had kids in a straight relationship. It’s the same factors at play: repression, social pressure, the idea that if you just tried hard enough and prayed hard enough you would become ‘normal’, lack of information about LGBT identities (e.g. for years I assumed I was just a lesbian who was exclusively attracted to men, because the common knowledge held that ‘girl who wants to be boy = lesbian’), and so on.