There’s a narrative that goes something along the lines of Trans people have always known they’re Trans.
It’s nearly always one of the first things people ask me about when we talk about Trans stuff. I’ve been asked the question “When did you know?” more times than I can count, and when I answer that question, and tell people that I didn’t really know till I was a teenager, and that I didn’t fully form exactly what my identity was till I got to my thirties, there’s often an element of surprise in people’s eyes.
Sometimes there’s an element of judgement there as well. I can see them thinking, but if she didn’t know till then, how can she be sure now? Surely all Trans people just know?

Thing is, there are Trans people who haven’t always known, but that doesn’t make their identities any less Trans than someone who’s always known.
I sometimes think that maybe, if you have to ask, then asking “How did you know” is a more important question than “When did you know?”

So, how did I know?
There were two essential things that let me know what it meant to feel what I felt.
Language and knowledge.
Seems obvious right, if we can communicate how we feel, then we can understand what it is, and find out what we need to do.
Today it’s pretty easy to find out what it means to feel things, the Internet changed everything when it comes to freedom of knowledge, and with that change came greater visibility, and with greater visibility it became easier to find others that feel how you feel. Yeah Internet!
Thing is though, it wasn’t always like that. I grew up in the seventies and eighties, in the last century. (Sounds dramatic when it’s put like that doesn’t it?)
There was no internet then, there was virtually zero visibility for Trans people, and so I had no reference point as to how I felt. As a teenager I genuinely believed I was the only person alive who felt like this. Imagine my absolute fucking surprise when I found out I wasn’t.
That’s when I really started to form my identity as a Trans woman, once I had the knowledge and language, once I discovered I wasn’t alone.
Even then it took a long time. It’s only really now, thanks to a ton of reading, a reasonably large amount of therapy, and the support of truly amazing friends and family that I’ve really got it pinned down.
This is why asking a Trans person when they knew isn’t helpful, or in any way insightful to understanding what it means to be Trans. Knowing that I started understanding that I was Trans when I was a teenager doesn’t give any context to that fact. All that most people get from this is that it doesn’t fit with the narrative of always knowing.
Ask me how I knew though and suddenly things have context. There are reasons, emotions, and ultimately understanding.

The preconception, that all Trans people have always known, is ultimately damaging. It doesn’t help anyone, and that should be reason enough to stop doing it.
Maybe though that isn’t enough, maybe you need more reasons?

How about the fact that it also devalues the identity of those who haven’t always known, and it stigmatises an already stigmatised identity even more.
Or that it creates a hierarchy of validity, which is incredibly destructive, and hurtful to many, many Trans people.
Oh, and yeah it can also divide communities, and damage personal identities, both of which are fundamental to our existence in this world.

Yeah, that’s probably enough reasons.

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