Let me first say that I am not in any deep depression, I am more or less content with my life. I have a great family and amazing friends. I am doing things I want to do and my future career looks bright. I have had my downs, but I assume that is a common things among teens. I will get on with the issue at hand;
I never developed an interest in boys and I never understood what the big deal was. I learned about love, sex and everything around it at school and through my friends, but I was never truly interested. At some point (three years ago or so) I decided that since I didn’t have an interest in boys then I must be a lesbian. It took me about an hour to realize that I had never been interested in girls that way either. About a year later I was talking to someone online who called themselves asexual. I asked what it was and realized that it described me pretty well. After this I’ve identified myself as asexual. I don’t really say that as I present myself, but if someone asks it’s not really a secret. Ever since I found out I wasn’t the only one I’ve been a lot more at ease and feel a lot happier with myself and my family doesn’t have a problem with it whatsoever.
Then comes the second matter. I’ve begun to identify myself as nongender. I have lived my whole life as a female and I don’t necessarily feel uncomfortable in my own skin, just a bit odd. I have pretty feminine features and I always envied the girls who weren’t as curvy and the girls who managed to bulk up a lot more than myself. It is important to state that I’ve never felt penis-envy though. I really don’t want something between my legs. I guess what I’m saying is I don’t really want to be very feminine nor do I really want to be a guy. I don’t really know how to accomplish this. To add to all of this the bleeding freaks me out. I guess I’m one of the lucky ones who doesn’t really feel much pain or bleed a lot, but it seriously makes me cry every dang time. I hate wearing a pad and I hate the fact that my body wishes to produce a baby. If I could have my way I would remove the whole womb.
That brings me to the third matter. If someone is transgender (say, a girl born in a guys body) there are some steps you have to go through, but you can have a sex change. But in my case, what the hell do I do? I don’t really want to take hormones, grow a beard or anything else that comes with it, I just want to stop being so obviously female as I am. I want to have a flat chest and I want to stop bleeding 1/4 of my life. I don’t know who to talk to and I don’t even know if it is legal. The only thing I’ve been able to do so far is lose some weight and gain a bit of muscle, especially in my arms, but that doesn’t really help the two things I really want to get done.
This is not something that just popped into my mind, this is something I’ve had in the back of my mind since I went through puberty eight years ago. My sexual orientation is fine and I am content with my life as it is. I’ve always been envious of guys and certain girls and the thoughts of going through and operation has been there for at least three years as I remember thinking that I couldn’t hope to do anything until I was 18 anyway. Now I am 20 and I still have the same ideas, I just don’t know what to do from this point…
PS: Let me just add that I do not live in the US at all, but the field wouldn’t recognize any state/province in Norway.
Letter submitted by:
The issues you wrote about and the feelings you are grappling with are shared by other teenagers over here in the United States, in Norway and throughout Europe, and to some extent everywhere in the world. You appear to be thinking carefully and in an nuanced way about each of them while at the same maintaining overall contentment in your life. That alone should make you proud – it can be very distressing to wake up each day feeling like the body you live in isn’t quite the right body for you, and we do hear about that in many of the letters we receive each week. So know at least that others share your experience. Some, like you, feel that only a few parts of their body are out of place – people born as women who do not have “penis envy” as you described it. Others seek to transition from completely female to completely male. And there is a range of possibilities here. Nothing is unheard of. The question simply is how can you get to the point where you feel a level of personal contentment about what your body looks like and how you identify yourself in terms of sex and gender, and how you identify in terms of sexuality.
I want to refer you to this article that actually appeared in the New York Times newspaper this week. It is called “Generation LGBTQIA” (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/10/fashion/generation-lgbtqia.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0) The article talks about how a new generation of gender and sexuality minorities is choosing to use definitions of gender that aren’t as clear-cut as “male” and “female” or sexual orientations like “gay”, “straight” or “bisexual”. For example, the article talks about those who identify as “intersex” (I) which you find my be similar to your identification as nongender. I share this with you so that you are aware that here in the developed world like the US and Norway there is a conversation taking place about how people like you can find a way to “fit in” and use labels they can be happy with, as well as how to dress, reshape one’s body and lives one’s life to its fullest.
To connect with some other people who share your feelings about body image and sexuality, you might want to consider joining Trevor’s online social network, Trevor Space www.trevorspace.org, in which young people 13-24 can create profiles and exchange messages in a safe environment. You might also want to get in contact with the LLH organization in Norway, whose website is here (we read the English page) http://www.llh.no/eng/LLH+%3D+The+Norwegian+LGBT+Organisation.9UFRjOZn.ips They might be able to offer you some contacts within Norway to talk about these issues.
Speaking of contacts, we think one contact you should try to make is to speak with a medical professional like a doctor or a psychologist. You mentioned that you did not want to grow a beard, take hormones or necessarily “become a man”. However, there are several other steps that you can talk about with a doctor that may be possibilities in Norway. Some of these include surgeries that can remove breasts or a uterus (womb) which would stop monthly periods (bleeding). Alternately, there are certain medications you could take that can stop most bleeding and that can make you feel less physically female and something more in-between female and male. These are major decisions and major changes to one’s body, so you may find you need to speak with doctors over a period of time to make sure those are the right decisions for you. However, the fact that you have felt like these elements of your body were “wrong” ever since puberty is a common trait among people who have such surgical procedures or medications and who become happier with their bodies and themselves after those changes. The key for you is to ask your doctor about putting you in touch with another doctor or psychologist who specializes in so-called “gender and body dysmorphia”. Then you can begin a process of regularly meeting with those doctors so you can figure out what is best for you. If you feel your parents will be supportive, you can also involve them in the conversation.
Unfortunately we are not experts in the exact laws of what is available in Norway, although generally our understanding is that Norway now has legal protections for both transgender people who have had gender reassignment as well as people who identify in between and who have not had a gender reassignment. If however the medical community in Norway cannot offer you exactly the solution you are looking for, it may be available for you in one of the European Union countries nearby – even if you have to wait awhile and save up to access it.
In the meantime, we know it can be hard to wake up each day, look at yourself in the mirror, and think “this isn’t quite who I am supposed to be”. And it may be some time before you do feel that way. In the meantime, we ask that you try something, even it if sounds silly. Look beyond the young lady that you see in the mirror to look within yourself. Think instead of your body about the person in your mind, the person who has made the choices you have made, the things you have accomplished, the friendships you have, and the career that looks bright for you ahead. And in doing that, remind yourself that even if your body doesn’t feel right today, you are still a wonderful person inside, and it is only a matter of time before the day when you will feel the outside fits as well.