I'm disgusting. I'm filthy. There's something wrong with me. These malicious thoughts swarm my mind as I ponder why I'm attracted to women. That's not natural. Why am I not attracted to men? What am I doing wrong? As a closeted lesbian in the past, these were the thoughts that constantly harassed me every minute. It feels like this happened 20 years ago, but it was only 2 years ago that I struggled with accepting the fact that I’m a lesbian.
Recently, I have been reflecting on my past struggles. During my reflection, I realized that I wasn't only struggling with sexual orientation, but with gender identity as well.
As a young girl in middle school, I wanted to be a guy. I hated God for making me female. I loathed him. I'm attracted to women so why am I a woman? It is considered normal for men to be attracted to women in this world. Not only that, women are pressured to marry men. I truly believed that I was born in the wrong body because if I was a man attracted to women then that would be considered natural.
This sentiment was only exacerbated by my misogyny. Living in a traditional Bangladeshi family, I was taught that women were inferior beings that are meant to serve as companions to men. People will never take inferior beings seriously, which is why I was frustrated with the fact that I'm female.
I eventually reached the light when feminism entered my life. Feminism taught me that I wasn't inferior. It taught me that I can love and accept myself as a woman who deserves the same treatment a man receives.
However, I was still confused about my gender identity because I'm attracted to women. I thought I can change my orientation, but that is obviously impossible. These days, there are more LGBTQIA+ figures in mainstream media compared to the past. I was able to learn the differences between sexuality and gender identity from them. This didn't erase my denial of my sexual orientation, but it did erase my toxic feelings of desiring to become male.
A lot of people fail to teach their kids at a young age the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity. This is extremely dangerous to the LGBTQIA+ community. Most people who go through sex reassignment surgery do not regret their decisions, however there are some people who do. These people regret it so much that that they undergo surgery again to revert back to their birth sex. I sincerely believe that this is because we fail to teach young people the differences between sexual orientation and gender identity.
For example, in Iran, homosexuality is illegal, however sex reassignment surgery is legal. This pushes a lot of gay men to undergo sex reassignment surgery to become female even though they aren't transgender. They're doing this because they will legally be able to enter a romantic relationship with a man without suffering repercussions because they will be women. This obviously doesn't work out because a lot of these gay men undergo surgery again to revert back to their birth sex because they're not trans. They're gay men who don't understand the differences between gender identity and sexual orientation.
Even Marsha P. Johnson, one of the greatest LGBTQIA+ figures in history, thought that she was a gay man when she was actually trans. Now why did she think that? We can speculate all we want and we may never know the truth, but I believe that Johnson thought she was a gay man for the opposite reason that I thought I was a man. She believed that it didn’t make any sense for somebody to desire to become a female. She was attracted to men, which is why she thought she was a gay man instead of a trans woman. However, after a period of self discovery, she eventually realized that she was a straight trans woman not a cisgender gay man.
There are people who eventually reach the light like I did. However, there are many people in the LGBTQIA+ community who don’t as shown by the Iran example. This is hurting the LGBTQIA+ community. If you consider yourself to be an ally or even a decent person then you should care in order to stop this dangerous cycle from hurting even more LGBTQ youth.
Hamedani, Ali. “The gay people pushed to change their gender.” BBC News, BBC, 5 Nov. 2014.
Kasino, Michael (2012) "Pay It No Mind - The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson
Kuiper, Bram, and Peggy Cohen-Kettenis. “Sex reassignment surgery: A study of 141 dutch transsexuals.” Archives of Sexual Behavior, vol. 17, no. 5, 1988, pp. 439–457.
Lawrence, Anne A. “Factors Associated with Satisfaction or Regret Following Male-to-Female Sex Reassignment Surgery.” Archives of Sexual Behavior, vol. 32, no. 4, Aug. 2003, pp. 299–315.