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How To Tell If You Are Transgendered

By Melanie Anne Phillips

"Am I a transsexual?" That is the first question all of us ask. By the end of this article, you'll either have the answer or know exactly how to go about finding it.

You may also wish to order our audio program,
“How to Tell if you are Transgendered”
Click here for complete details…

Introduction: Trangendered or Transsexual?

First of all, there is a big difference between being transgendered and being a transsexual. Transgender folk feel like the opposite sex mentally. Transsexuals desire to change their bodies to become the opposite sex physically.

You might think these always go hand and hand, but they don't have to. I met a transsexual once who went from male to female physically, but continued to live as a male. He was completely happy with his identity as a male, but plain and simply couldn't tolerate his male physical self.

I also know a transgendered person who lives and works as a woman with complete success, but absolutely never wants to have sex reassignment surgery. She was born male and loves her male sexuality but feels completely female of mind.

I bring these examples up to illustrate a well-known psychological distinction - the difference between gender dysphoria and genital dysphoria.

In plain language, "dysphoria" means "can't tolerate." In the real world, it means you are so unhappy with the way things are that you are nervous, anxious, and may even consider suicide to end the mental anguish.

"Gender" is not about what's between your legs. It refers to your gender identity, and that is best described not as male or female but as masculine or feminine. In the real world the term "gender" is bandied about as if it were a synonym for "physical sex." You see it when filling out applications - "Gender - M or F."

But gender is really all about your emotions (and, as we shall later see, also about the way you think logically too!) In short, are you happy and satisfied with the way society treats you on the basis of gender or are you not?

If you like some parts the role society lays out for you, but don't like others, or even if you like all of the role you are assigned, but yearn to experience some aspects of the other, you are not alone!

In fact, there are very few people who are one hundred percent of one gender and nothing of the other. Laying it out flat: everyone is transgender to some degree or other.

It is when that degree is very large that the feelings of dysphoria become very strong, and that is when people begin to question their gender identity.

If society allowed and completely supported any individual acting and dressing any way he or she wanted, there would still be two genders but they wouldn't be based on physical sex. But society isn't like that. Even today, society expects men to act like men and women to act like women. And so, since just about everyone has some degree of transgenderism, just about everyone feels at least a little constrained in their assigned gender role.

Think of gender not as a binary choice of one thing or another, but as a spectrum or range with "Masculine" on one end of the line and "Feminine" on the other. If you had to class any given person on that scale, you would place them somewhere along the line between the two.

But in reality, that just sums up all of a person's traits, averages them together like making a smoothie in a blender, and then describes what the whole thing tastes like.

A better way to think about gender is as a collection of distinct traits, each of which has a range from masculine to feminine. For example, does liking to watch football mean a person is masculine gendered? Of course not. Like me, you probably know a lot of women who enjoy football, though most, it is true, do not.

Does enjoying knitting prove someone is of a feminine gender? Nope. My daughter is an award-winning knitter, and her fiancée has taken up the craft with great enthusiasm. He's a masculine dude, but finds it a relaxing hobby.

Still, do real men not eat quiche, as the book title states? Society would have you think so. Just look at television commercials and you'll see that 98% of them cast men and women in masculine and feminine roles based on their physical sex, as if the two attributes were tied to each other.

How did it get like this? Simple, really. Society is like a living machine. It doesn't care if you are happy; it just cares if you do your job. It assigns jobs to those best equipped to handle them - that's how society keeps itself strong.

Due to differences in the brains of men and women and also due to the effects of testosterone vs. estrogen, adult men and women are not equally equipped, mentally and physically.

For example, if have a need for big strong people to help lift heavy loads, you'll find more men than women. There aren't a lot of women working on moving vans, for example. Men, in general, are just physically bigger and stronger than women.

But, when it comes to handling electronic components on an assembly line, you'll find almost only women. Women's brains (and hormones) make them far more patient with repetitive tasks then men for whom it is almost torture.

So, society keeps itself efficient by creating unspoken boundaries between the sexes that guide men and women into activities for which they will be most efficient overall.

Though just about everybody is transgender in at least a few small ways, there are so many different kinds of jobs, activities, and lifestyles available that nearly everyone can find a niche in society where they perform a function and fit in with others who are attracted to that niche.

Think of all the stereotypes - the computer geek, the debutante, the football player, the housewife. There's a job, activity, or role for just about everyone - just about. But for some of us, no matter which niche we tried, we found the fit a little too tight, like a pair of jeans a size too small.

Can you still squeeze into them? Sure. But are you comfortable? Not hardly.

Suppose the jeans were two sizes too small? Or three? What if they were so small you couldn't get into them at all? Well, this describes the varying degrees of gender dsyphoria.

Most people have such a mild case of gender dysphoria that they can forge a happy life, even if the jeans don't exactly fit in all areas. After all, how many of us can't buy off the rack and need tailored clothes instead?

But if the role is too tight, we live uncomfortably. The worse the fit, the more we chaff and fidget. Eventually, we may become so uncomfortable that we think perhaps a different role would fit better.

But how can we tell without actually trying it on? And therein lies the rub, as it were. How can we go about sampling the other role without destroying everything we've built in our current role - relationships, seniority, perhaps career recognition?

For males seeking to explore the female society role, the first step is often cross-dressing. For women , the tendency is to explore being a tomboy. Why the difference? In society, the male role is a lot more restrictive. So, any outward expression of feminine traits brings immediate ridicule. In addition, men are not "allowed" by society to wear anything pertaining to the opposite sex. So, alone, at home, men exploring their gender identity will try on female clothing as an aid to imagining themselves as women, so they can act, move, and even practice speaking as a woman.

Now there's an important differentiation here. So far, we've said nothing about sexual stimulation, essentially, what turns you on? Does cross-dressing turn you on? If it does, does it mean you are a transvestite rather than a transsexual. Naw. Not that simple.

What turns us on is as unconnected to any other traits as gender dysphoria is independent of genital dysphoria. For example, gay men come in a whole range of varieties from very feminine to very masculine. But, they all like other men. Some like women too. And some are auto erotic.

Some who like women also are really bisexual. Some straight men to also like men a bit are bisexual. But like everything else, it is a matter of degree - do you find both sexes equally attractive? Do you find one more than the other? Are you attracted to one of the sexes but also to just one attribute of another?

Many gay men who would never want to make love to a woman find themselves oddly titillated by female breasts. Go figger. In a phrase, anything goes. So, when trying to figure yourself out, don't box yourself in.

If you are turned on by cross-dressing, you might just be a cross-dresser who gets off on the experience. Nothing wrong with that at all. As we used to say in the 70's, "Whatever turns you on."

But, a lot of true, majorly dysphoric transsexuals also started by cross-dressing and were also stimulated by it. I can tell you for a fact that a little known secret is that many 'true" transsexuals who started out men but whose minds are totally female still get turned on by wearing women's clothes everyday, even decades after having sex reassignment surgery. What's more, a lot of born women get turned on by their clothes as well. Why do you think lingerie is so popular? You think women do it just for the guys?

Any time anyone enjoys some kind of activity sexually, it is a normal reaction. When a lot of people do the same thing, society either condones it or looks the other way. For example, men and women can kiss in public, but look what happens if two people of the same sex kiss in a shopping mall in most parts of the world.

Whenever less than a majority of people engage in a particular form of sexual gratification, it is branded a fetish by society, which frowns on "aberration" because it threatens the efficient operation of the social machine. But there's really nothing wrong with it per se - it just gums up the works of the Great Engine of Society.

Not all transgendered or transsexual folk start by cross-dressing. Some bypass it completely. Those are the ones for whom gender dysphoria is really strong but genital dysphoria is weak. In other words, they like their bodies but want to express themselves femininely.

So what about this "genital dysphoria" anyway? Some clever person described genital dysphoria in born males as "venus envy." In short, they want to swap their genitalia for the other kind.

Again, this can simply be a comfort thing where you feel as if you have some sort of alien growth between your legs, feel unclean, and have to change it to the other kind. Or, it can be a sexual thing where you have no particular attachment to what you've got, but would really enjoy wearing the other sex as your body.

Once more, a lot more women than men get off on their own bodies. Women's brains and hormones tend to make them feel more like the bait wiggling on the hook than the fish looking for a quick lunch. Who do you think enjoys mirrored ceilings more? (And speaking of mirrors, how often do you see women checking out their reflections? In men it is seen as vanity, in women, well, "Woman, thy name is vanity." In other words, its normal for girls.

Okay, I've dumped a lot of information on you, especially if you are a beginner just trying to understand yourself.

So how can you find the answer to the question, "Am I a transsexual?"

While there is no single test you can take or single activity you can do to answer this question objectively, I've listed a number of smaller questions and tasks below that will enable you to answer this question for yourself with confidence.

You may also wish to order our audio program,
“How to Tell if you are Transgendered”
Click here for complete details…

1. At what age did you first feel different than other kids of your sex?

Help: Many kids feel out of place or outcast for lots of reasons other than gender issues. Maybe they are smarter than the norm, or a little odd physically. Maybe they had an unusual or restrictive upbringing or are just naturally shy.

For kids with serious gender disorders, they usually feel that other kids of their sex think in ways they can't comprehend. This usually gets worse throughout the school years.

I, myself, found boys to be so mean and rough, and I just couldn't understand why anyone would want to hurt others like that. I was sick a lot in elementary school and actually thought I had missed the day in which they taught the boys how to think like they did - I kid you not!

For a while I thought my parents simply had chosen not to teach me what the other boy's parents had taught them. I began to wonder if my parents didn't know that information or really didn't love me and didn't want to share it with me, even though I was in a warm, supportive family.

It never occurred to me that I might think like the girls. In kindergarten, the difference between boys and girls was pretty clear, so I just thought I was a defective boy.

Others I know tell me they immediately knew that they were like the girls and not like the boys, from the first day of school. It didn't hit me until my 30's that I might actually have a female mind. All thought years I had just thought I was a defective boy/man with a weird sexual fantasy about becoming a girl.

Only when I actually began transition (and was well into it) did I learn enough about the real differences between men's and women's minds. And that is when I realized that it all made sense. I could look back and re-examine how the boys and girls acted in kindergarten and throughout school. Based on what I learned, I could see that I was so like the girls but never, ever saw it.

For example, in kindergarten a group of girls used to chase the boys around and try to kiss them. They called themselves the "Kissing Girls." I thought that turnabout was fair play, so I told the other boys that we should chase the girls around and call ourselves the "Kissing Boys."

They all thought it was a stupid idea and ridiculed me. I couldn't understand their reaction - my plan made perfect sense to me!

And this leads to our second question"

2. Can you recall times in which (in retrospect) you naturally acted more like a member of the opposite sex when you were a child?

Help: You probably didn't notice these things at the time, other than perhaps being a little perplexed at the reactions you might have gotten. But, in looking back now, you can see that your outlook and interests were a lot more like the opposite sex than your own born sex.

We're not looking for big things here - just a whole series of little things - a trend that you can follow throughout your school years, dating even before you were aware that anything like "sex change" existed.

Of course, these days, sex change stories are all over television in both fiction and the news. So, it is likely that younger people reading this might very well know all about it even before going to kindergarten, so that change the parameters a bit.

These days, even before school age some children are telling their parents they are not a boy or not a girl. They ask questions like "When am I going to get to wear those clothes?" or "When will I get to be a [boy or girl]?"

So take into account your generation when answering this one. Regardless, can you see a trend in your natural approach to live or manner of thinking that seems a lot more like the opposite sex than your born sex?

3. As a child, did you ever yearn for things appropriate to the opposite sex?

Help: Did you ever envy things girls or women did? Were you ever attracted to items of clothing or jewelry that you thought were pretty? Most cross-dressers, since they are primarily driven by sexual interest, don't start experimenting until puberty. But most transsexuals either begin cross dressing at an early age well before puberty

A lot of us find clothing or jewelry pretty and want to try it on (dressing up like mommy) but are told we can't because we are boys. We soon learn not to ask because we begin to get reprimanded sternly. But, for me, I was about five years old when I was first attracted to articles of my mom's clothing, wanting something like that for myself. I started cross-dressing at age seven, secretly trying on clothes of little girls my mom had taken in to iron for hire.

And while we're on the subject, ask yourself if you ever lost the urge to cross dress for perhaps years at a time. Most cross dressers never lose the urge. Many transsexuals do lose the urge if their lives are going well. Makes the role fit better, so the dysphoria diminishes.

For example, after I got married and up until my children were young, I didn't cross dress for a span of many years because my career and finances were going well and my family life was fulfilling. I was plenty content enough during those times to not even think about gender issues.

And while I'm on the subject, there's a roaring debate in the transgender community about who is more "real," those who change early or those who wait until later. Many of the early changers feel that those who marry and have families can't be real at all.

That's plain wrong. Though there are many who wait until later who are just looking to try anything to get out of an unfulfilling life and may have some mild tendency toward transgenderism, true transsexuals who wait until later life often do so because their maternal instinct is so strong they yearn for a family more than to be in the right role.

Often, those who change early, while pretty and (forgive the expression) "cock sure" of themselves, are not nearly as maternal, not nearly as shy or demure, and get a head start only because they are more assertive, or perhaps because they come from a negative home environment.

Fact is, the age at which someone changes neither validates nor diminishes how "real" they are.

4. Looking back, have you been closer in your feelings toward your male or female relatives?

Boys and men generally aren't really all that close to anyone. Although sensitive and gentle men are not at all necessarily transgendered, most men don't make those kinds of connections.

Male relatives are, therefore, also a bit stand-off-ish. So, take that into account when considering your answer to this question. Don't assume that just because the men were more distant that makes you closer from your side to the women in your family.

But, if you take that into account and find that rather than emulating the attitudes and philosophies of relatives of your born sex, you were in greater empathy with those of the opposite sex, then you are in line with what most transgednered people felt as they grew up.

For me, I felt all cuddly when I hung out with my mother, grandmother, and aunts, but felt uneasy and almost "on trial," or that I had to continually prove myself when I was with my father, step father, grandfather or uncles.

Doesn't mean I was a feminine kid though. I learned early on to play the game and by the time I decided to transition in my late thirties, it came as a total shock to everyone, without exception.

Other friends tell me that when they changed, relatives told them, "well, that makes sense." Again, go figger.

5. Have you had lifelong fantasies of becoming female?

If so, you are either a cross-dresser, transgendered, or transsexual. All people occasionally fantasize about being the other sex. That's why so many stories are made about that for the mainstream audience. But for it to be a lifelong fantasy, especially to the exclusion of other sexual fantasies, well that pretty well speaks for itself, especially if the fantasies started before puberty. In such a case you are far more likely to be transgendered or transsexual than anything else.

6. Do you have to be on guard all the time to prevent yourself from falling into feminine poses and movements?

This is a big one - one of the best questions to help you sort out if you are really transgendered. Crossdressers tend to naturally move, pose, and act masculinely. When dressed, they have to make an intentional effort to act in a feminine manner.

Men who are transgendered tend to fall automatically into feminine poses and movements all of their lives, even back in school. They have learned how to act in a masculine manner, but even with years of effort, they have to constantly monitor their movements to make sure their arms are held "just so," their legs move with authority, and so on.

In school, someone once told me I walked like a girl. I spent the whole next Summer watching movies with strong male characters and practicing their moves. By the next year, someone asked me, "Why do you always walk around like Captain America?" I had to tone it down after that, but it was always consciously applied, for every step I took until I went into transition.

My step-dad kept having to tell me to stop putting my hands on my hips: "Men don't do that." A friend's father complained about the way she took off her tee shirt, pulling it up by the sides instead of from the back. Why? because guys and girls do it differently?

Yeah, but WHY do they do it differently? Because male and female bodies are built differently at the skeletal level. Its just easier for each to do it the way they do. Which, is why my friend did it the girls way - she had female skeletal features.

Which brings us to our final question:

7. Do you have any physical characteristics that are far too female to be normal?

Transsexuality is believed to be caused by an aberration in the flow of hormones over the brain of the developing fetus during pregnancy. Turns out, that the more intense the mental transgenderism, the greater the female physical attributes as well.

Now, this isn't to say that it's not possible that the mind of a teenage girl might be trapped in the body of The Hulk. I'm just saying that I haven't encountered such a thing.

I personally know a lot of transsexuals who had all the surgeries and now look pretty much like women, but they never had the telltale physical characteristics. Every single one of them acts more or less like a man, with male-ish attitudes and perspectives. You know, sure they are right, aggressive, competitive - and they still, of all things, treat other women as if they were second class, not one's peers.

Now, they have just as much right to get the surgeries and live as women as anyone, but I doubt you'll find anyone who thinks of them as being mentally female. Yet, they are, for the most part, well liked and loved by their friends and relatives, and just seen as a bit quirky.

So what are these characteristics (so you can look for them in yourself)? Here are a few - smallish hands, narrow, delicate bones overall, wide pelvis compared to shoulders, narrow shoulders compared to men, ring finger and index finger same length (men have a noticeably longer index finger), and then my two personal favorites:

1. Elbows. If you let your arms hang down by your sides and face your palms forward, male physical arms will be almost straight line from shoulder to wrist. Female arms will be straight down to the elbow, but then the arms angle outward, away from the body at about a thirty degree angle.

Why is this? In evolution, the angle makes it far easier to nurse a baby; Male arms can't easily twist into a position to bring the baby to the breast area, while cradling the baby's head in the crook of the elbow.

It is this angle that makes girls throw like girls (and that led my friend to take off her tee-shirt the way she did).

2. Crossing of legs. We can all cross our legs, but can you double-cross them? In other words, after you cross your legs, can you then tuck your ankle around again, under the ankle of the leg on the bottom.

Guys can't seem to do this because of the width of the pelvis and the angle at which the legs are attached.

You may also wish to order our audio program,
“How to Tell if you are Transgendered”
Click here for complete details…


1. Never crossdressed? Try it!

If you think you might be a transsexual but have never crossdressed or perhaps not in many years, give it a try. Of course, you want to be careful to make sure you aren't caught. And, you don't want to break any laws. And, you don't want to venture out of your house until you are a LOT further into this thing - nasty things can happen - you can be found out, embarrassed, beaten up, or even killed. Be safe!

Still, do it right. Go online and learn how to do make-up properly without looking like Bozo the clown. Get clothes that fit, and a wig that looks natural.

One of the big mistakes people make when crossdressing is to overdo it. Garish make-up, huge boobs, short skirts on fifty year olds. Yeach!

We all wish we were young and pretty. Some of us transition while we still are. For those, the skimpy, sexy outfits actually work. But no woman wears that stuff all the time, and some of it most women never wear.

Now, if you are a crossdresser, then you will want to ignore the above advice because it is the very nature of the extremes that bring the most fulfillment to most crossdressers. That's how you can usually tell the differences between CDs and TSs. The Crossdressers are all done up like a streetwalker and the transexuals are dressed dressed like the girl next door.

Don't worry - we all start out going overboard. We've been deprived for so long that when we finally give ourselves permission to explore our desires, we push it to the limit - well past the point of good taste or common sense. Only later do we finally get down to a realistic mode of attire for our age, our personalities, and our lives.

Still, until you start you'll never get to that point. And regardless of whether you are CD or TS, enjoy yourself! This hurts no one (unless they are embarrassed by your activities) and it is just plain fun for both groups. Drop the guilt and get on with it!

2. Join an online message board

Back when I started, there was only one puny online "bulletin board" to which you could connect at blazing speed with the new 300 baud modem on your Commodore 64 computer.

When the internet came along for public use in 1994, I set up this web site - the very first transgender support web site in the world. (Pat on own back).

These days, there's tens of thousands of web sites, videos on the subject all over You Tube and My Space, and hundreds upon hundreds of blogs and message boards.

The best way to find out what kind of bird you really are is to join one of these transgender message boards. Many of them have several different boards for whole ranges of kinds of folk who frequent the TG community.

You'll be able to anonymously read postings and ask questions of people just starting out like yourself, and of people who did it all five, ten, even thirty years ago!

The main thing is to see how you appraise others as being more of a male or female mind, and then to honesty determine which ones you are most like (no cheating or rationalization or you're just cutting your own throat).

Perhaps the best, most gentle, and most knowledgeable message board began as a simple place to post on this very web site. After years, I let it go and my friend took it over and built it into what I feel is the premiere transgender support message board on the internet.

It is called Beginning Life and you can find it here:

3. Be Yourself

We all want to fit in so much that we subjugate our true self to be like others. We even try to convince ourselves that is who we are. You've don't that for years, trying to make your current role work.

Don't make the same mistake now!

You are about to embark on a journey of self-discovery that still will have surprises twenty years from now. It's great to have dreams and goals and a positive self-image - it helps you get through. But don't lie to yourself. Keep your eyes open and see yourself for who you really are.

Just because you can get away with being a certain way doesn't mean it is your natural way of being. Don't blow this chance to be yourself because of pre-conceptions or fantasies of who you'd like to be.

If there's one thing I could share 19 years after transition started, it is that. I motivated myself through all those years by striving to be this 18 year old beauty in a bikini. But I didn't start transition until I was 36! So, I did the mini-skirt thing and I pictured myself as being other than I was, and even today at a month short of 55 I still think, "You know, with a few more facial surgeries and a skin peel on my hands, I can still be that 18 year old bikini babe.

Get real! Transition is a process, not a miracle. There is no magic involved, though internally it sometimes seems as if there is. Keep your fantasies, but recognize when they can truly only ever be fantasies. But also keep in mind that it is NEVER too late to change from one sex to the other. People have done it in their seventies, and are very, very happy.

Lastly, though, no matter what anyone tells you, no matter what peer pressure is brought to bear in the TG community, be yourself. Don't play roles, be genuine. Let all falsehoods and affectations melt away. Shed yourself of anything that is in conflict with your true self, and live a life in the light and in harmony between your heart and your world.