From time to time, I wonder what my life would be like if I had chosen to transition. What if I had become a woman? Would I have chosen a name similar to own — like Deanna? Where would I work and where would I be living? Would I have a family?

A few years ago (wow, can I really say years now?) I shared about my struggle with gender identity. For most of my life, I had people telling me I was basically a girl. Additionally, these same people reminded me I was supposed to a boy.

I was conflicted — a boy on the outside but a girl on the inside.

I clearly remember being a 13-year-old researching gender transition surgeries. At the time, it was not culturally acceptable to be transgender. Pop culture ridiculed and made jokes of transgender individuals.

To be transgender was to be a joke in the eyes of society and an abomination in the eyes of the church.

While I went along with these unfortunate opinions out of sheer fear, I did always identify with the individuals brave enough to make public transitions. I remember deciding to wait until I was 18 to begin that transition process myself.

I already had a future planned. I’d transition to being a woman, most likely with just top surgery. I’d find a man to love me for who I was, inside out, and I’d become his wife. I’d run away with him, escape my family, and find freedom to be the woman I was supposed to be.

This is not what happened, of course. Some would call it a mercy; others, a tragedy.

I call it taking ownership of my gender identity.

You see, in both options I was letting someone else define my gender. In the first, I was letting my brothers, dad, and church define me as a pitiful excuse for a man who should have been a woman; in the second, I was letting the culture define me as a woman trapped inside the body of a man.

In either case, I was not defining my own gender.

Before I could ever attempt transition, I had to come to grips with this: I had no concept of my own gender. I couldn’t offer self-realized evidence for being a man or a woman.

I had lost all sense of gender identity, and I realized an important fact: you have to own your gender identity.

Whatever you believe, you have to recognize that the mind plays a role in self-identifying one’s gender. Each person has a self-conception of what makes them male or female. Each person ultimately defines their own gender.

For 99% of the adult population, this is straightforward. For the 1% who transition in varying degrees, it is less straightforward. Biologically or psychologically, something incongruent happens between our sex and gender identity, and we have to find a way to resolve it.

For some, they transition. “Transition” could mean simply dressing differently and using preferred pronouns. For others, it could mean hormones and surgery.

Others still simply live in the tension, finding beauty in their sex and gender.

That’s where I live. I own my gender identity.

I was born outwardly man, I have remained outwardly a man, and I have the qualities and attributes that spread across all genders.

My gender identity is mine to define.

Do you wrestle with your gender identity? How do you reconcile conflicts within culture, family, God, and yourself?

About the Author

  • Hi Dean, thank you very much being so brave to write about a struggle that is so deeply rooted. That took real courage. Thank you!

  • Yeah, this is one of the reasons I don’t ask about you almost transitioning into a woman. Whether it be me forgetting to ask you, or wanting to ask you, but the timing isn’t right, I can always count on you for always writing a fantastic post, and it blowing my mind! Dean or Deanna, I know you would be a great friend in the long run.

    • Thank you, Matt! I know you would be a great friend to me, no matter my gender identity. And never fear about timing- I’m almost always up for talking about my journey of gender identity.

  • I really liked this post – gives me something to chew on and process. I guess I never thought about it like that, but it’s definitely an interesting concept and I think it’s one that translates well. Even the broader lgbt community I think would maybe disagree on how you are “defining” your gender identity, but would definitely agree that YOU are the one who defines it Like, I would never go as far as saying that I fully understand gender dysforia or even know what it feels like; but I can say that I have always struggled with how people see me in the way that I present myself. It’s only been within the past few years that I am willing to say with conviction “I am feminine” and at the same time being comfortable in my “version” of femininity. I thought “girly” and “feminine” were the same thing, and they’re not. I am not girly, but I am feminine. And as hard as it may be to explain, it’s when I dress in a slightly androgynous+feminine style is when I actually feel most girly.

    • Ashley, I like how you point out the different between “girly” and “feminine”. I think that’s something that has gotten lost in our culture, the difference between your gender and your actions. We place so much emphasis on doing the “girly” or “manly” thing, we’ve forgotten what it means to be feminine or masculine and we’re having to regroup. I completely get your final thought about feeling more feminine when dressing slightly androgynous. I think that shows the true different between feminine and girly.

  • Thank you so much for sharing this Dean. While I myself have never struggled with gender identity I am definitely interested to hear your story and struggles with it so I can learn more.

    • Thank you, Eugene! I am happy to share more of my story, though mine is just one unique one out of many.

  • Spot on Dean! Haven’t ever struggled with my identity. But I can relate with needing to own my identity. I grew up with most of my family giving the signal that I had more in common with the girls. I’m a guy and have all the parts of a healthy guy. Still had to own that myself. Just wanted to say I’d respect you either way.

    • I’m sorry you had to endure the insinuations about your gender, Robert. But I am thankful you have been encouraged to make sure you own your identity, no matter what. That’s something that all of us need to ensure we do in every area of our lives.

  • I never really wrestled with being a man or a woman. Still I always wondered ‘what if?’ No one taught me how to be gay. One would think it is natural. Me, I was just awkward. Too feminine to play sports; too masculine to dress up like a woman. Still, all I had to go on was what the football players said: all gays were queers who dressed up in women’s clothes. I was naïve and didn’t know any better. I was gay, so I thought I had to dress like a woman.
    I bought myself some make up and a dress (a maroon sort of thing, kind or sporty and business like). This brought some curious stares and disapproving looks as this is a VERY conservative area. I am tall and the sales person had trouble fitting me. When I was finally dressed up, I looked in the mirror. All I saw was Dr. Frankerfurter from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I looked terrible. Still, I thought I was supposed to do this because I was gay. Problem was that I didn’t have any shoes to go with the dress. I didn’t want to go through the humiliation of shopping for ladies shoes (shopping for the dress was bad enough!)
    I went downtown miles away from where I bought the dress. I discovered that a man’s foot was very different in size than a woman’s. The only shoes they had in my size were stiletto heels. I tried on three pairs, having a difficult time walking. On my third pair, I fell over into a rack of shoes. Then like some horrible plot in a comedy movie, it fell over into another rack, which fell over into another rack.
    The workers of the shoestore rushed over and found me wearing bluejeans and heels, sprawled out on that rack and covered with women’s shoes. They did their best to not laugh, though they couldn’t keep from smirking. I left the store with what was left of my shattered dignity. When I got home, I burned the dress in the sink ($59.95), threw the makeup in the trash, and never had the urge to dress up again.

  • My struggle has not been so much of a, “Am I male or female?” But more of am I an “it” or a male. I always knew that I wasn’t a girl or woman, but very rarely did I ever feel like a boy or a man. So I get the emotional struggle. In some ways I envy the author, at least he felt that he belonged with one group or another. I did not. But getting back to the reason I am commenting…I notice that one thing is missing from this discussion…and perhaps it is missing because it is so basic that it is assumed that everyone realizes it. It is not of feelings, but of biology. Males have both X and Y chromosomes. There is nothing that we can do to change that, its just the way it is. A man might feel like women trapped in a man’s body, he might even go through with surgery and hormonal therapy to look female. But on the most basic level this person is still a man. Why not develop and offer therapy on helping this person to see themselves for who they really are and not who they feel they are? They are males who have an internal conflict. And what man (or woman for that matter) is totally free from internal conflict! Lets help settle the conflict towards reality. It seems to me that all our society offers is the chance to hide in the fantasy that one can be whatever gender that one wants, reality being just an inconvenient truth to be ignored.

    • Scott, the reason I didn’t bring up the biologic is because that was not what I was discussing. Gender is actually separate. It deals solely with the psychological aspect of a person’s understanding of what makes them male or female. I agree that I had a male body- but my psychological understanding of myself was the same. I had gender dysphoria.
      This distinction is important to note because, otherwise, you can actually deny the stress or struggle people are enduring. If you say simply, “Your biology always determines your gender,” then you miss the fact that someone is struggling with being the exception to that. You, simply put, call them a liar and make it like it’s a simple choice. That’s not the case at all. Gender identity is something that is so complex that no research group, Christian or secular, has been able to determine a single genetic marker that determines the psychological understanding of gender. They can find contributing factors from biology just as they can find contributing environmental factors. But it is far more complex than anyone can understand.
      Additionally, if you rely too heavily own the biological argument, then how do you explain the portion of the popular who are born intersex? And note that intersex conditions can actually be found down at the chromosomal level. If everyone is supposed to be “XX” or “XY”, how do you explain individuals who are not that? And if it’s possible to be born with nebulous biological sex, could it also not be possible be born with a nebulous psychological gender?
      Ultimate, Scott, I want you to be cautious about simplifying this argument because it is anything but simple. And if you would like a clinical and Christian perspective on this, check out Mark Yarhouse’s “Understanding Gender Dysphoria.” He is, by far, the expert in this area in the Christian world. I appreciate your comment and the points you brought up!

  • Wow Dean, thank you for this post. In a more mild sense, I’ve struggled with my gender identity. When I was growing up, I was able to pick up on some things in me that weren’t like the other boys, SSA aside. I described it to myself as, “some wires are crossed in my head”. I often thought about how some parts of me were “female” and others were “male”.
    Growing up, I was already different from everybody, this was just one more way I didn’t fit the expectations. I’m not sure if my parents ever noticed the gender identity questions in my mind. The people I did talk to about it, just tried to tell me “how to be a male”, in the “Wild at heart” sort of way. Internet searches at the time led me to ex-gay ministries that lumped gender identity in with being sexually attracted to men. None of these answers helped. I eventually just accepted that I’m different- my reality isn’t the same as other people. And one of the ways I’m different is that, in my head, part of me is female.
    I don’t think I ever felt uncomfortable that my body was male, and insides were a mix of male and female. And, early on, the gender question was overshadowed by my struggles with SSA. So I didn’t go through the resolution process that most do. But I can see how complex and difficult this struggle is, and I have lots of empathy for those that struggle more intensely in this area. I still struggle when i want to do something that is ‘feminine’, but for the most part I’m comfortable with my gender.

    • Thank you for sharing, Jel. It has been a common mistake for people to approach gender dysphoria with “Just be more of a man!” or by addressing it as a sexual identity. Neither method helps, as you’ve experienced. I would encourage to understand how you define what is masculine and what is feminine. Sometimes, our perspective of ourselves is too greatly affected by incorrect descriptors.
      I am thankful you realize you have the power to understand your gender your own way. And you are correct- you have a greater empathy now for those who struggle with the gender identity. Hold on to that because it can be easy to lose.

      • Dean, do you still struggle with your gender identity? The post feels “resolved”, but is it still a struggle for you? Has your life made it easier, harder?

    • I don’t find it strange or naive for you to feel those things. How about we go to the Scripture and find out the truth?
      Genesis 2:21-23 here it is plain to see that God took the rib out of Adam and made Eve.
      Why then would it be strange that you would feel like some part of you might be more feminine? I am sure that it’s much more important that a person come to Christ Jesus and believe on Him! Don’t get sidetracked by the confusion of this day and age but, let your desire a close and clear relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. May I suggest that you give a listen to Dr. J. Vernon McGee? You can find him on YouTube and I do know that through the Spirit his messages and study of the entire Bible continues to help me.

  • Dean, how vulnerable of you. You are so right, and if more young people understood this, there would be a whole lot less transitioning going on in this world. There is an agenda by the LGBTQ community, and that is to push transition. Experts say that the vast majority of gender dysphoria cases resolve on their own, given enough time and support.
    In your case, you were made to feel like a girl by those you loved the most. That’s hard, brother. I didn’t grow up gender confused, but I wasn’t the sporty, popular or traditionally masculine type, either. Grew up without a dad in the home, so my role models were women. I am softer and more “motherly” in my relationships and friendships because of it, but I don’t view that as all bad. Everyone needs someone who feels for them and dotes on them.
    All that said, I am still a man. Very happily so. I can’t bench press 200 lbs. but I am a man nonetheless. And I am raising boys to be men. Quite a challenge for me. I’m learning so much in the process!

  • Hey Dean… I’m sorry to say that I can’t quite relate gender identity issues personally. I was born a male and I tend to gravitate towards traditional masculine interests. Sure I entertained the notion in my mind in brief passing of what or how my life would have unfolded had I been born female. Yet I quickly dismiss this train of thought as irrational. I can’t really formulate whether my life would be any better or any worse. Even if I could transition instantaneously, the lifestyle adjustment living as a woman may be too much to bear. Nevertheless, I was born a guy and despite my shortcomings God still loves me and considers me as His child.

  • I have never struggled with what gender I was or if my gender is what it should have been. I can remember at a very young age hearing a soft spoken preacher tell how we are made in the image of God. He didn’t yell it or follow the statement with any other opinions, it was given to the church and to me that was enough. Don’t get ahead of me and think I am saying I was made perfect after that information. May I say that I am the darkest sinner and deserve to be eternally separated from God and burn in the hottest part of hell!! My assurance rests in the fact that Christ suffered the shame of the cross where He brought my salvation by His BLOOD!! You see, in my flesh is no good thing! The very best work that I would or could possibly do in myself God would hate, and rightly so, however because I have faith in my Jesus and believe on His name, God’s grace is abundant towards me! But not only me but to everyone that will believe on the name of Jesus, realize your sins and confess them and God will take care of the rest.
    I started out to say something that I heard Dolly Parton say to a man who was going to have the operation, “Never perm your own hair and don’t walk on wet grass in high heels.”

    • Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one’s heart, it’s pleasures, and it’s pains, to a dear friend. Tell Him your troubles, that He may comfort you; tell Him your joys, that He may sober them; tell Him your longings, that He may purify them; tell Him your dislikes, that He may help you conquer them; talk to Him of your temptations, that He may shield you from them; show Him the wounds of your heart, that He may heal them; lay bare your indifference to good, your depraved tastes for evil, your instability. Tell Him how self-love makes you unjust to others, how vanity tempts you to be insincere, how pride disguises you to yourself and others.
      If you thus pour out your weaknesses, needs, troubles, there will be no lack of what to say. You will never exhaust the subject. It is continually being renewed. People who have no secrets from each other never want for subject of conversation. They do not weigh their words, for there is nothing to be held back, neither do they seek for something to say. They talk out of the abundance of their heart, without consideration they say just what they think. Blessed are they who attain to such familiar, unreserved intercourse with God.”
      ~ Francois Fenelon

  • I’m so glad you were willing to talk about this. Let me first start by saying no, this isn’t an area of struggle for me. I am a man and feel like one, and I don’t want to be a woman at all (even being born one sounds yucky to me, I enjoy manhood). As I’ve said previously, masculinity isn’t much of an issue to me either. I’ll be perfectly honest: I, as many other SSA men do, have a skewed view of the transgender community. I had a lot of hate in my heart that God is flushing out.
    I’ll never forget when a gay friend of mine asked if if he should transition (he did) and I said no. A story for another time.
    I want to be more open minded to this whole area of the struggle because I don’t personally have the issue. That’s what makes it interesting! I’m glad I heard your perspective, as it helps get an inside look at a struggling person, which I need to hear. Please continue to talk about this.
    Although I want my viewpoint to be clear: it’s the same as SSA. People with gender identity dysforia struggling sinners, like me and every other human being, and need to deny themselves and stay the way God created them, as each person in their gender has a role in His kingdom to fulfill. With a heart full of true repentance and the Holy Spirit, anyone can be saved.
    And the joke about your name was absolutely gold.

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