SL Letter of the Day: Confused And Depressed
by Dan Savage
on Wed, Feb 5, 2014 at 11:34 AM
I'm not sure if you are the right person to ask, but I don't really have anyone else, so here goes. I am a 15-year-old girl. I entered puberty later than any of my friends, and I haven't had any sexual feelings up until a couple of months ago. I've never dated anyone; my parents gave me a book about the birds and the bees, but that's about it. Then all of a sudden, I started thinking about sex all the time. Almost every night I touch myself and fantasize—about males and females—and I don't know if that's normal or not. But in these fantasies, I usually envision myself as a male. I like to cut my hair short and I haven't worn a dress in years, but could I be male inside? Is that even possible? This has made me very confused and depressed, and I don't feel like I can talk to anyone about it. Recently I tried to kill myself by taking a whole lot of pills, and ended up puking for days. My parents doesn't know any of this, they just thought I had the flu. I don't know what they would think if I told them. I feel miserable most of the time. What do I do?
I lined up a guest expert to tackle your question, Confused. M. Dru Levasseur is a trans activist, attorney and the co-founder of the Jim Collins Foundation, an organization that funds gender-confirming surgeries. Dru's advice for you is after the jump. But I wanted to say this before I turn it over to Dru: your fantasies are perfectly normal and you're not the only person who has struggled with questions about gender identity. Also normal: to be 15 years old, totally inexperienced, insanely horny, and completely perplexed by the places your hormones, libido, and fantasies are taking you. But there's no need to panic because there's no rush. Your sexuality and gender identities are yours to determine and explore—they're not majors you have to declare or armies in which you have to enlist—and one day, Confused, if you hang in there, I promise you that your sexuality and your gender will be sources of joy and connection, not confusion and panic.
Dru's advice for you is after the jump. And I'd like to encourage other readers to swarm into the comment thread and share your advice with Confused. You guys really came through for Pissed Off Dyke. I trust you'll come through for Confused.
Confused is not alone. I’m really glad they reached out since that’s the first step to feeling better. It can be really scary to start figuring out who you are inside and who you will be in the world, especially when it comes to gender and sexual attraction. If you are different from what the world expects, things can get totally overwhelming and you might question whether you can handle it.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute just released a new report looking into why there is a staggering 41% attempted suicide rate in the National Trans Discrimination Survey. At nine times the national average, it’s an epidemic. The study shows that risk factors include things like lack of family acceptance, homelessness, and being out, but surprisingly, the stats were high across the board for all trans people. Why is that?
When everyone around you tells you that there is something wrong with you for being different, seems like people lose hope. When the world tells you that you are crazy or wrong, it's hard not to internalize it. I would tell Confused, first, there is absolutely nothing wrong with them. If they end up trans—yay! Welcome to the club! If they end up gay or bi, that’s awesome. You have a whole community to get to know. Figuring out who you are takes time, but never doubt or internalize other people’s bullshit. It’s all human variation. Stick it out. We need you. I need you.
I want to tell Confused to do what it takes to stay alive. One book that really helped me when I was in a dark place not knowing how I would go on being so different was Kate Bornstein’s Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws. Or go on Youtube and watch a million videos of trans kids talking about how they feel and what they struggling with and how they feel happy. See that you are not alone. You are not crazy, but the world around you might be.
This is a good time for Confused to explore and find out who they are. Whoever it turns out to be, they are unique and we need them alive. You are the only YOU. The world would not be the same without you.
Reach out to someone you trust. Tell a friend or a guidance counselor. Call a hotline. Get support wherever you can get it. The more you open up, the more you will see that you are normal and okay and not alone.—M. Dru Levasseur