Questioning your Gender Identity

What to do if you’re questioning your gender identity

Questioning Gender Identity

Questioning Gender Identity

Written by Jen Bell

  |  Reviewed by Mason Dunn

Many people go through life without ever thinking about their gender, but some of us do think about it, a lot! If you’re questioning whether you’re a boy, girl, a bit of each, or another gender entirely, you’ve come to the right place.

While some of us have strong feelings about our gender from a young age, many of us don’t fully understand this part of ourselves until later in life. It’s OK not to know, or to be questioning your gender identity. No matter what, your feelings and your identity are valid.

It’s important to know that you don’t have to figure this all out by yourself. There are many people who have been there before and will be happy to support you on your gender journey.

If you are questioning your gender identity, read our guide below to help you find your way.

Questions to ask yourself about your gender

Gaining awareness of how you feel in your body and mind is a powerful step in this journey! Try journaling or spending some quiet time alone to reflect on these questions.

  • Do you feel like a girl, or boy, or someone else?
  • How do you feel about how society categorizes you based on the sex you were assigned at birth?
  • If you see someone on the street whose gender is unclear to you, what do you think?
  • Who do you want to be? How do you want people to see you?
  • Do you feel uncomfortable when people use a certain pronoun (he/she/they) to describe you?
  • Do you feel discomfort about changes in your body during puberty, such as breasts, facial hair, etc?
  • If you woke up one morning and discovered you were a different gender, what would you do?

Your answers might give you some clues about your gender identity, but there’s no need to make any decisions yet. First, let’s learn a bit more from others who’ve been through this already.

*If you’re questioning your sexual or romantic orientation, check out BLOOM’s Questioning Orientation page.

Resources & stories to check out

Reading books and watching videos can teach you about other people’s gender journeys, and maybe provide some inspiration for your own.

How you might feel

Learning about your gender identity can be a wild ride.

  • You might feel confused about your gender and unsure whether you are trans.
  • You might feel happy or excited when you present yourself as the gender you feel you are.
  • You might feel discomfort or distress about certain parts of your body.
  • You might feel euphoric when other people see you as you see yourself.
  • You might feel anxious or afraid of being rejected by your family, friends, or community.
  • You might feel ambivalent or angry about others’ reactions to you.
  • If you believe that there is only one “right” way to be, you might feel ashamed if you think that who you are is somehow “wrong.”

Remember, if you are cisgender or transgender, these are totally OK and normal ways to be.

It’s estimated that 4.5% of people in the U.S. are LGBTQ+. That’s more than 14 million people!

Neurodivergent individuals are 3-6 times more likely to also be LGBTQ+. Research currently shows that neurodivergent people, particularly those on the autism spectrum, are more likely to be gender diverse and have a lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, or asexual sexual orientation, compared to neurotypical people. While research can not yet tell us definitively why, it may be because people who are neurodivergent may feel less pressure to fit into social pressures and expectations. Others may report even more fear of disclosing due to concerns around potential discrimination.

Gender dysphoria & gender euphoria

When your identity, body, how you present yourself, and how others see you all fit together, this is called gender congruence, gender harmony, or gender euphoria. All of us need to feel gender congruence, and any lack of it can be distressing.

When someone feels very unhappy, uneasy, or dissatisfied about their gender, this is called gender dysphoria. These feelings can range from mildly annoying, to completely overwhelming, and can make you feel like skipping school, avoiding showers, and not wanting to see or talk to your family and friends.

What can I do if I’m experiencing gender dysphoria?

One of the ways to address gender dysphoria is to notice when it is happening to you. Start to think about:

  • What does dysphoria feel like in your body?
  • What started the feeling? Was it something someone said? Was it because you had to wear a certain type of clothing?
  • Did you do an activity that made you feel uncomfortable in your body?
  • Did someone use the wrong name for you or address you in a way that did not feel good to you?
  • Do you feel worse with certain people, in specific places, or certain times of the day?
  • What do you notice about your reaction? Do you feel anxious, angry, numb, or hyper?

“Transitioning” is a term commonly used to refer to the steps a transgender, agender, or nonbinary person takes in order to find congruence in their gender. This term can be misleading, because it suggests that the person’s gender identity is changing. Most often the thing that changes is other people’s understanding and how they see that person’s gender.

The journey towards gender euphoria may involve:

  • Changes to clothing, hairstyle, gender identity, name, and/or pronouns
  • Changes to identification documents such as a birth certificate, driver’s license, or passport
  • The use of medical approaches such as hormone “blockers” or hormone therapy
  • Surgery to add, remove, or modify gender-related physical traits

More permanent changes to your body should be taken into careful consideration and discussed with a trusted adult and health professional. It’s important to recognize that not all transgender people transition, and those who do, do it in many different ways. Some change their legal name, pronouns, and clothing, but don’t use hormonal treatments or have gender-affirming surgeries. Transition might be a long, ongoing process, or it might happen over a short period of time.

Trans people’s genders are real, regardless of the decisions they make about transitioning. Someone who chooses to transition is no more “trans” than other trans people who don’t transition. Finding gender harmony is an ongoing process that continues throughout our lives as we grow and gain insight into ourselves. Most often, we find it through exploration. For some of us, finding gender congruence is fairly simple, while for others, it is a much more complex process.

How to communicate with family or friends

Decide who you want to share this with.

If you’re thinking about telling someone you are transgender, make sure it’s a person you trust. Figure out who in your life you think will be the most supportive and come out to them first. You can often get a sense of how friendly someone is to transgender people by watching how they react when the topic comes up in conversation.

Get prepared ahead of time.

Is there someone you would like to have with you? Who can you talk to before and after? This is a good time to reach out to your LGBTQ+ youth group, a trusted queer-friendly adult, or call a helpline.

Think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. What would feel best for you? Some people prefer talking face to face, while for others writing a letter or email is easier.

  • Possible conversation starter: “I have something private I want to talk to you about. I am choosing you because I trust you and I know you care about me.”

Let them know how you want the conversation to go.

Do you just want to say what you have to say and have the people you’re telling just listen? Maybe you’d like to have them watch a video or read something before they respond.

Share what’s most important to you.

Remember that you are valid, you don’t have to articulate everything perfectly or have everything figured out to communicate what’s important to you. If you want the person to use a new name and/or pronouns for you, let them know. While you might have been thinking about this for a long time, it could come as a surprise to the person you tell. Give them time to digest and accept the new information. No matter how they react at first, remember this is just the start of the conversation.

Sometimes it takes people a while to get comfortable with your new pronouns or name, and they may make mistakes when referring to you, even if they don’t mean to.
 You can provide resources for your loved one to do some research and learn on their own. Try to be patient as they learn too. We’ve created guides for your friends, and your caregivers to learn how to best support you.

Do something nice for yourself afterwards.

Maybe you want to check in with a friend or support group, listen to music that makes you feel good, call a helpline, take a rest, go for a walk, or journal about what you’re going through. Give yourself a pat on the back, you’re awesome!
Looking for more guidance on how to come out as trans? We recommend this Human Rights Campaign Guide.

It’s OK if you’re not 100% sure

Remember that you’re not the first person to ask these questions about your gender identity and you’re not alone. For many of us, it can take time to have the space to explore our gender and figure out what feels right. There is often pressure from society to “hurry up and figure it out already,” but don’t rush to take any steps in your gender journey just because someone else wants you to.

Try to surround yourself with people who will give you space to explore, try things on, and see what feels best. Often we don’t know what we like or don’t like until we try it, give it time, and decide for ourselves. Some people know strongly how they feel about their gender, but for others it can take some time and that is 100% OK!

The only person who gets to decide your gender is you.

Explore More in Gender Identity & Sexual Orientation!

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