Are you a boy or a girl? Yes! Alex Iantaffi shares his journey to gender identity

 

Hello! Alex Iantaffi here, one of the authors of How to Understand Your Gender: A practical guide for exploring who you are published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Our publisher asked Meg-John Barker and I to write a blog post each about our own gender journeys, so here I am.

Are you a boy or a girl? Yes!

When I started to come out as trans masculine (that is someone assigned female at birth and presenting and identifying somewhere in the masculine region of the gender landscape), some people felt this made complete sense to them and some were befuddled. I empathized with the befuddled, even as I was being hurt by it. After all, it had taken me over three decades to even figure out that there were options beyond what I had been assigned to be at birth! But let’s back up a little.

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Have you ever questioned your gender identity?

‘How To Understand Your Gender’ is the ultimate gender identity bible. Here, we share some of the lived experiences of the many different gender diverse people who have contributed to the book. Do you recognise yourself in any of these accounts? 

 

Sex, gender, and sexuality

‘I just couldn’t figure it out. I was born female, I am attracted to men, but I never felt comfortable wearing skirts, makeup, or spending time with girls, like I felt I was supposed to do. People kept assuming I was a lesbian, and even I wondered about it for some time. Eventually I realised that’s just who I was. I am a masculine woman, attracted to men.’

‘People kept wanting me to choose, but I just couldn’t. I’ve always been sexually attracted to women and femininity, while feeling much more relaxed with, and emotionally close to masculine people, regardless of their gender. I now identify as a bisexual, homoromantic trans man.’

‘Everyone assumes I’m gay because they think I’m “soft” and “artistic” for a man. I guess my mannerisms can be more effeminate than those of most guys. However, I am straight through and through. I just can’t be bothered with proving my masculinity in a way other people want me to.’

‘I love everything about femininity: the clothes, makeup, the fierce feminist history. I am just a proud femme who also happens to be a lesbian. Unfortunately, often people assume I’m straight, even at lesbian events. They also seem surprised at my job as a mechanical engineer. I always liked pulling things apart, figuring out how they work, and putting them back together, or even making them better!’

‘I’ve never felt at home in dresses or lipsticks. I always wanted to play with boys. Eventually I found other people like me and who were into me. I am a stud and proud of who I am.’

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Your partner tells you that they’re trans. What do you do?

 Finding Out Your Partner Is Trans

Finding out that your partner is trans can be quite confusing for people, and the responses can vary greatly depending on loads of different factors. The first factor is how far into the relationship you discover this.

For people who know their partner is trans before they get together, managing transition and their identity as a partner of a trans person can be easier.

“I found out when my wife and I got together. She was still living as a man and spent most of the evening trying to convince me that her being trans was a reason for us to not be together. She felt that being trans meant that she could never be in a successful relationship because her transness would always get in the way. I, of course, spent most of the evening convincing her that she was worthy of love and that we could make it work together. To be completely honest, I had no idea what being trans meant, other than being a huge fan of the Rocky Horror Picture Show when I was a teenager (I now recognise how massively problematic Rocky Horror is for many people). I sometimes think that it was this fact, asserting that trans people deserve love just like everyone else without any idea what the practicalities would be, that kept us together. No matter how hard things got, no matter what we went through, it always came back down to the fact that she is deserving of love, and I took it upon myself to prove to her that I was right about that.” (Jo)

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