Am I Trans Enough? Addressing the Transgender Experience
Updated: Apr 14
As a therapist working with trans* clients and specializing in gender, it’s impossible not to notice patterns that come up time and time again. These patterns are inevitably tied to our particular moment in history and the culture we live in.
Right now, as discussions around trans identities are increasingly polarized, many of my clients come to me with the question of whether they are “trans enough.” Many fear further marginalizing trans people by taking up space that they do not “deserve” in trans communities.
Embracing Your Identity
In my sessions with clients who are coming to therapy with these questions or anxieties, two of the places I like to start are:
What beliefs do you hold about gender - where did these beliefs come from and who do they benefit?
How is this problem a product of the culture around you?
Question one often leads to the realization that because of the ways that we are socialized into gender (the social process of learning what gender is and how to have one) we have come to believe that gender, and therefore, transness has something to do with biology.
According to this view, there is something biologically different about trans people, and it is up to each individual trans person to figure out whether they are one of the rare “true” trans people, despite the fact that no such blood test, MRI, etc., exists. No wonder people are coming to therapy because they feel anxious!
This is a pretty high bar, and one that discourages people from identifying with transness. And when people are discouraged from identifying with transness, trans communities stay small and trans people stay isolated. So, who benefits from this idea? Not trans people.
Redefining Gender Identity
The view that gender has something to do with biology has also contributed to the idea that people are either trans or they aren’t; that there’s a trans gene or trans brain difference that marks trans people and we just need more sophisticated tests or machines to be able to find it. This way of thinking limits transness to the idea that being trans has to mean that there are only two genders, and the only way to be trans is if we were born with sex organ A, but know ourselves to possess gender B. If we ask ourselves who benefits from the belief that there are only two genders and that they are tied to biological sex, the answer is definitely not trans people.
So, if the idea that trans identity is rooted in biology, and that you’re either trans or you’re not limits and disadvantages trans people, what’s the alternative? A much broader and more inclusive definition of transness, where gender isn’t something you have, it’s something you do. If transness is a rejection of the view that masculinity and femininity are necessarily tied to what sex organs or chromosomes we have, could it also be a rejection of the idea that we are either trans or not trans and the idea that our organs and gender either match or they don’t?
And in the spirit of a broader and more inclusive definition of transness, my own view is that it doesn’t matter whether you knew you were trans when you were 5 or 65, trans communities will benefit, not suffer, from having you in them. Many of my clients grew up not knowing that trans was something they could be, or that the pain they felt might be gender dysphoria, but I don’t believe this makes them any less trans.
Your Path to Inclusion and Acceptance
If you are struggling with these questions, I would love to talk with you more. Another invaluable resource is the book “Am I Trans Enough,” by trans therapist Alo Johnston, which guides readers through some of these questions in a warm, supportive, conversational style.
Schedule your complimentary appointment today and find the gender affirming support you need.