I just went through my keyword data and was surprised to find that “how do I know if I’m trans” is the fifth most commonly used search term to find this blog. How I’d managed to miss that before is beyond me, but it’s a question that should probably be answered.
Problem is, there is no real answer. It’s like being gay, you either know or you don’t. Some people figure things out when they’re very young, others take longer. There are some things you can do if you’re confused or unsure, but they’re not exactly guarantees.
In my case the biggest indicator was that I really prefer guy clothes. I know, it’s stupid and shallow, but it was a big deal at the time. I was a young teen in the late 90s when the baggy skater style was popular and I stopped growing at 13 so up until a year before I officially came out I’d worn clothes that were technically from the girls’ section, but looked identical to the stuff in the boys’. Thanks to a set of genetics that gives me an androgynous-leaning-pretty-boy appearance this meant that I started being seen as a guy when I was nine and had teachers asking if my name was misspelled on the roll sheet by the time I was 12. Then at 19 I figured I should probably try that whole girl thing so I could finally get a damned boyfriend and get laid. When I came out at 20 I was at the height of the only “girly” phase I’ve ever gone through, wearing clothes from the guys’ section really helped me realise just how much more comfortable I was being seen as a dude.
What also helped was telling myself I could turn around at any point if I started to be uncomfortable. In fact, I seriously considered it twice. Once early in transition when I was being harassed daily by some asshole at my school, and then again when I’d been on T for about a year and was debating whether or not it was worth the hassle. I think most transguys question themselves at some point, we just don’t talk about it. Either way, always having that option to change my mind helped me quite a bit. It meant that I could wear girl clothes for a day without placing any value judgements on it, I was simply deciding which option I liked better. For me it’s very much being a man, I can’t even imagine living as a girl anymore.
One thing I always recommend to people who ask me if I think they’re trans is to find a trusted friend, the kind of friend who you can tell anything to without worrying about being judged. Ask this friend to refer to you using male pronouns and a name you like (doesn’t have to be the one you stick with forever) for a week or two. See how you feel. Some people realise they’re not so much FtM as genderqueer, others are fine with being girls, others find it reinforces what they already suspected. Either way, it’s a safe way to test out the waters a bit.
If you’re too afraid to tell anyone (I was) sit down and close your eyes. Picture yourself 10, 20, however many years in the future. Imagine yourself at college, starting a “grown up” job, retiring, married, with kids, researching for your dissertation, going through your second divorce, whatever seems like a long time away for you. Do you see yourself as a man? A woman? Someone in between? That’s probably the direction you want to head. If you’re like me and you can’t see anything other than a blurry figure you may want to do the more explicit version below.
Same as before, except this time imagine yourself in bed (yeah, that kind of in bed) with someone (or several someone’s, whatever works for you). What are you doing? What parts are required for what you’re doing? Are they the parts you currently have? If nothing else, this can be a fun way to spend a few hours.
At the end of the day you just kind of have to close your eyes and leap. Usually your gut instinct is right. Biggest thing to remember is that no one knows if you’re trans or not except you. People might think they know, they might try to convince you they do, but you’re the one who has to live with yourself. Try to ignore them, at least until you’re secure enough in whatever your identity is to not be swayed by what they say.