Get Real! I Hate Being a Girl. What’s Wrong?

Heather Corinna

Heather Corinna brings Scarleteen's popular sexual health advice column to Rewire! This week, Heather talks to a young woman who doesn't like being a girl.

abnormal asks:

I’m a 13 year old girl and HATE being a GIRL. I have the mind strength
hands feet and hairiness of a boy but still have the body of a girl
complete with boobs. Is there something wrong with me wanting to be a
boy?

Heather answers:

There are a couple of common reasons why someone might hate being a
girl: you might hate it for one of them, or you might hate it for all
of them. Regardless, you get to feel however you feel and there’s
nothing patently abnormal or wrong about being uncomfortable with your
own sex or your gender, be it for a little while, or even full-stop.

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The most common reason, by far, why girls can hate being girls is
because the world that we live in is generally constructed in such a
way that women are positioned to be lesser and/or feel lesser. (In
fact, it’s a pretty good illustration of that when anyone talks about
having the "strength" of a man, since men and women, by sex alone, are
equally strong: our physical strength just often can have different
centers of gravity…but not always!) Many of us are told — either
outright, or just by the messages we see and hear more subtly — that
it’s better to be a boy than a girl, better to be male than female.
There are also specific burdens most girls and women in culture carry
which boys and men do not (and vice-versa).

Too, a lot of the time, when we go through puberty — and this can
be the case for both boys and girls — and our bodies start to become
more gendered, and our sex becomes more obvious, it’s typical to feel
uncomfortable with the extra attention our bodies and our identities as
defined by biological sex can get, especially if certain or traditional
gender roles ascribed to us aren’t roles we like, want or are
comfortable with. A common term for a person, of any sex or gender, who
doesn’t feel comfortable with their gender is gender dysphoria.
Gender dysphoria is especially common at the age you’re at right now,
so this might be something that will change and feel better with time.

A less common reason someone biologically sexed as a girl may be
less comfortable being a girl, or want to be a boy is because that
person may be intersex or transgendered: in those cases, gender
dysphoria may not go away in time or feel better over time if that
person is trying to be a gender that they either simply are not, or do
not feel they are.

An intersex person isn’t biologically female (XX) or male (XY) but
instead, has a different combination of chromosomes, like XXY, XO, XXX,
XYY or other variations Sometimes, a given variation of chromosomes
can result in an intersex person feeling more like the "opposite" sex,
but at other times, an intersex person may not feel male OR female:
too, sometimes, intersex people don’t feel any different at all. Some
intersexed people will need medical treatment: others will not. Some
will look different in some ways than other people, most others will
not. A person can get a test from their doctor to determine if they are
intersex or not.

Transgender is a term for people who are usually (though some can
also be intersex: one doesn’t have to be XX or XY to be transgender)
biologically male or female — XX or XY — but who do not feel like the
gender that "matches" that sex, but like the opposite gender. There are
an awful lot of theories as to why some people (and it’s tough to
estimate how many people are, but it’s usually estimated at a maximum
of one in every 2,000 people, and a minimum of one in every 10,000
people) are transgender, so right now, no one has any one reason why,
but what we can say for sure is that some people ARE transgender and
gender dysphoric, and probably not just because of cultural gender
roles or sexism (though that can certainly make being transgender even
more uncomfortable).

I want to also mention that things like hands, feet, hairiness and
the makeup of our mind and personality aren’t just or at all determined
by our biological sex. Certainly, for instance, overall, men as a group
tend to have more body hair than women as a group, but at the same
time, there are some women who are hairier than men and some men who
are virtually hairless, and both of these variations are normal. And
what our mind is like — the way we think, what we think about, what we
like, what skills we have — really is not, so far as data has shown us
so far — about our gender or biological sex, period.

The real issue right now with you as I see it is that you’re feeling
really uncomfortable in your own skin, and obviously, that can cause
some real stress, suffering and agony.

So, what I’d suggest is just thinking about these things a little,
seeing which of them ring true for you, and then seeking out some good
support or counseling if you still feel so uncomfortable and/or like
you don’t want to wait this out a little bit and see how you feel in
time. There are some counselors who specialize in gender issues and
dysphoria, but this is also something you could address with a lot of
general counselors, or if you have a doctor or nurse who you like and
trust.

You might also want to hop over to your local bookstore or library
and check out some books on gender identity and/or intersex/transgender
to help you get a better read on how you’re feeling exactly so that you
can figure out what exactly you need most right now to help you feel
better. Kate Bornstein’s My Gender Workbook is one I’d very
enthusiastically recommend (and Kate is transgender herself, so she
gets it, big time). Dr. Anne Fausto-Sterling’s work with biological sex
and gender is also really illuminating, and you can read all about it
in her book, Sexing the Body. You might also look into some
books about dealing with puberty, since, as I mentioned, it’s really
typical to feel this way when your body and brain are changing
uncontrollably every fifteen minutes.

I do hope that you know that no matter what the case is here,
whatever gender identity feels best to you, and feels the most true to
you is okay.

What’s most important isn’t having a gender identity that "matches"
your biological sex, or one which everyone else thinks is best, but
having one that feels best to YOU and most authentic for you. So, I’d
advise you in exploring your feelings on this to do what you can to
accept that whoever you are is whoever you are, and to put your heart
and energy in finding out who that is, even if you don’t think it’s
what others would agree is right. It’s really no one’s place to decide
on gender and gender roles for anyone but ourselves, and none of us can
ever determine what the ‘right" identity or set of feelings about
gender is for anyone else.

 

News Law and Policy

Pastors Fight Illinois’ Ban on ‘Gay Conversion Therapy’

Imani Gandy

Illinois is one of a handful of states that ban so-called gay conversion therapy. Lawmakers in four states—California, Oregon, Vermont, and New Jersey—along with Washington, D.C. have passed such bans.

A group of pastors filed a lawsuit last week arguing an Illinois law that bans mental health providers from engaging in so-called gay conversion therapy unconstitutionally infringes on rights to free speech and freedom of religion.

The Illinois legislature passed the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, which went into effect on January 1. The measure bans mental health providers from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts or so-called conversion therapy with a minor.

The pastors in their lawsuit argue the enactment of the law means they are “deprived of the right to further minister to those who seek their help.”

While the pastors do not qualify as mental health providers since they are neither licensed counselors nor social workers, the pastors allege that they may be liable for consumer fraud under Section 25 of the law, which states that “no person or entity” may advertise or otherwise offer “conversion therapy” services “in a manner that represents homosexuality as a mental disease, disorder, or illness.”

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The pastors’ lawsuit seeks an order from a federal court in Illinois exempting pastoral counseling from the law. The pastors believe that “the law should not apply to pastoral counseling which informs counselees that homosexuality conduct is a sin and disorder from God’s plan for humanity,” according to a press release issued by the pastors’ attorneys.

Illinois is one of a handful of states that ban gay “conversion therapy.” Lawmakers in four states—California, Oregon, Vermont, and New Jersey—along with Washington, D.C. have passed such bans. None have been struck down as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court this year declined to take up a case challenging New Jersey’s “gay conversion therapy” ban on First Amendment grounds.

The pastors say the Illinois law is different. The complaint alleges that the Illinois statute is broader than those like it in other states because the prohibitions in the law is not limited to licensed counselors, but also apply to “any person or entity in the conduct of any trade or commerce,” which they claim affects clergy.

The pastors allege that the law is not limited to counseling minors but “prohibits offering such counseling services to any person, regardless of age.”

Aside from demanding protection for their own rights, the group of pastors asked the court for an order “protecting the rights of counselees in their congregations and others to receive pastoral counseling and teaching on the matters of homosexuality.”

“We are most concerned about young people who are seeking the right to choose their own identity,” the pastors’ attorney, John W. Mauck, said in a statement.

“This is an essential human right. However, this law undermines the dignity and integrity of those who choose a different path for their lives than politicians and activists prefer,” he continued.

“Gay conversion therapy” bans have gained traction after Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teenager, committed suicide following her experience with so-called conversion therapy.

Before taking her own life, Alcorn posted on Reddit that her parents had refused her request to transition to a woman.

“The[y] would only let me see biased Christian therapists, who instead of listening to my feelings would try to change me into a straight male who loved God, and I would cry after every session because I felt like it was hopeless and there was no way I would ever become a girl,” she wrote of her experience with conversion therapy.

The American Psychological Association, along with a coalition of health advocacy groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, and the National Association of Social Workers, have condemned “gay conversion therapy” as potentially harmful to young people “because they present the view that the sexual orientation of lesbian, gay and bisexual youth is a mental illness or disorder, and they often frame the inability to change one’s sexual orientation as a personal and moral failure.”

The White House in 2015 took a stance against so-called conversion therapy for LGBTQ youth.

Attorneys for the State of Illinois have not yet responded to the pastors’ lawsuit.

News Law and Policy

Texas Court Greenlights Discrimination Against Transgender Students

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The ruling was not a decision on the merits of the Obama administration’s policy, but rather whether it followed the correct procedure in crafting it, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor wrote.

A federal judge in Texas on Sunday issued a preliminary injunction barring the Obama administration from enforcing guidelines designed to protect transgender students from discrimination in schools.

The ruling came in the multi-state lawsuitTexas v. United States, challenging the Obama administration’s guidance to schools that receive federal funding that transgender students must be given access to bathrooms that align with their gender identity rather than their biological sex.

Schools that defy the White House’s guidance would face potential loss of funding or federal lawsuits.

The lawsuit brought by Texas and states including Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, targets various federal memos and statements that served as the foundation for the administration’s position that the Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972 federal ban on sex discrimination encompasses gender identity discrimination. The administration charges that transgender people should be allowed to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity.

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The administration overstepped its authority in issuing the statement in violation of both the Administrative Procedure Act and the Constitution, according to the states challenging the guidance.

A nearly identical lawsuit challenging the White House’s policy was filed recently by the state of Nebraska. That lawsuit was joined by Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor wrote that the administration failed to engage in the proper administrative rule making process when directing schools to not discriminate against transgender students in access to restrooms and facilities. The ruling, O’Connor wrote, was not a decision on the merits of the administration’s policy, but rather whether it followed the correct procedure in crafting it.

“This case presents the difficult issue of balancing the protection of students’ rights and that of personal privacy when using school bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and other intimate facilities, while ensuring that no student is unnecessarily marginalized while attending school,” O’Connor said in his ruling. “The resolution of this difficult policy issue is not, however, the subject of this order.”

Sunday’s ruling comes shortly after the Supreme Court put on hold a federal appeals court ruling ordering a Virginia county school board to allow a transgender student access to the restroom that aligned with his gender identity.

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