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Forums / Sexuality and gender identity / Supporting a friend with gender issues

Topic: Supporting a friend with gender issues

6 posts, 0 answered
  1. Mil
    Mil avatar
    57 posts
    4 June 2018

    Hello,

    This forum has been great and I'm happy there is a LGBTQ+ section! I'm bisexual myself and in a loving relationship with a wonderful woman. I was somehow super lucky to not plague myself with questions about my sexual orientation, and even more lucky that I have a very accepting family, but I know a lot of people don't have it that easy. Community support like this, even online, is awesome!

    I'm writing because a friend of mine just told me she thinks she might be trans/gender fluid. She doesn't know herself what's going on exactly so I'll refer to her with female pronouns here as that's how I've known her most of my life, but of course I will respect her choice of pronouns if/when she makes one. She lives in Europe whereas I have moved to Australia so we communicate online for now, but she will come visit for a few weeks soon and I want to make her feel as comfortable as possible. She's going through some pretty tough stuff right now.

    Actually, she's been going through a tough time since her early teens. We've known each other since pre-school, but haven't always been super close and kind of lost touch during middle/high school. We reconnected on a more regular basis in our early twenties. I guess you'd consider she had a bit of "behavioural" problems as a kid but it got much worse when she hit her teen years and has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals. She's been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, induced/reinforced(?) by trauma, so she has PTSD too. I think finally getting the diagnosis has helped her tremendously as she was finally able to find answers/resources and she has been doing generally better in the last two years. She's an awesome person, full of energy, and a talented artist.

    A few days ago she disclosed to me she has recently started to dress like a man and maybe wants to be one. She said she never really felt like she fit the "girl" requirements but not really the "man" ones either. She also told me being a man makes her feel "safe" so she wants to remove all marks of her femininity. As a friend, I will support her in whatever her everyday or life-long needs are. But I'm also thinking it must be pretty hard to navigate between what she really feels she IS and what her brain tells her would be "safe to be" after being sexually assaulted.

    So how can I help? It's not my place to address this directly with her (I'm a friend, not her psych) but we do talk about it so I don't want to say the wrong thing.

    Cheers,

    Mil

  2. Doolhof
    Champion Alumni
    • Community champion volunteers who are not currently active on the forums.
    • Life membership is awarded by beyondblue for providing outstanding peer support to the online community over a period of 3+ years.
    • A special award for members who go above and beyond to support others here on the forums
    Doolhof avatar
    8756 posts
    4 June 2018 in reply to Mil

    Hi Mil,

    I would like to suggest to your friend that you tell her exactly what you have written here, that you like her as a person, that you are not a professional at all, and that any comments you make are just your opinion and not facts.

    It is wonderful you want to support your friend.

    As she is coming to visit for a few weeks, you may be able to do some research now to find some support groups, telephone help lines or links to the LGBTI community she may benefit from while she is with you.

    If you have some ideas on support people, that may be beneficial if she starts to have issues and problems while she is with you. You can listen and help her and also have outside help if required.

    Do you know much about Borderline Personality Disorder? It might help you to do a little reading about that as well to help you better understand your friend. I have BPD and I know how distorted my thoughts and ideas can be at times relating to all kinds of matters.

    The more I have learnt about the condition the better I am able to help myself.

    Hope you have a wonderful time with your friend while she is here with you!

    Cheers from Dools

    1 person found this helpful
  3. jay1998b
    jay1998b avatar
    8 posts
    4 June 2018 in reply to Mil

    Hi Mil,

    It's awesome that you're asking advice on how to help a friend with gender issues! The best thing my friends did for me while I was questioning was simply give me a safe, non-judgemental space to try out new pronouns and all that, and talk about my insecurities or fears. Questioning can be a very stressful time for people, supportive environment or not; just knowing they can continue on or go back, no justification needed, is the most important thing (I think).

    Hope that helps

    Jay

    3 people found this helpful
  4. Mil
    Mil avatar
    57 posts
    5 June 2018 in reply to jay1998b

    Hi Jay,

    Thanks so much for your answer! I'm happy you had good friends to support you during this no doubt stressful time and super thankful for your answer. I think she's an awesome person and honestly couldn't give a damn if she comes in the female, male or neutral "version" - gender is just a form, personality is the essence :) I just hope she does find out what suits her so she can be more comfortable with herself and I'll try to provide this safe space! It might do her good to come here where she only knows my girlfriend and me, then she can have the opportunity to try different things out without worrying about being judged/shocking her relatives etc.

    3 people found this helpful
  5. Mil
    Mil avatar
    57 posts
    5 June 2018 in reply to Doolhof

    Hi Dools,

    Thanks for your advice! You're right, I know it and she does as well but I should probably say it out loud, too, just to remind us. I have an interest in psychology so it's tempting to analyse everything but that's not what she needs (unless she invites me to overthink everything with her, haha) and obviously I'm no expert at all.

    She has a good support network for BPD but I don't know how they go with gender issues and if she feels at ease to discuss it with them. Finding one here for when she visits is a great idea. I'll see if there's some around.

    I do know a bit about BPD - my friend rocks and has founded a support group for people with BPD / connected symptoms / their relatives on Facebook and I'm an active member. She has shared a lot of helpful info, literature, explanations etc. and one of her psychs is also a moderator for medical advice (only steps in if needed, it's more of a community support thing), so I understand the mechanisms of her mind a little. She's also in training to become a kind of specialised assistant in psychological/psychiatric units - it's a new job that aims to facilitate communication between the medical team and the patients through people who have been patients themselves but also studied psychology and communication. It's really cool and has given her a great sense of purpose.

    Overall I think she's still in a lot of suffering, but can handle it better and has learnt a lot of strategies to cope. But the gender questioning probably adds a whole new layer of troubling thoughts. She's been sharing quite openly with me, I think because it is somewhat easier in writing and she expresses herself a lot through art and I love art :) When we see each other though, we don't talk so much about her (or my) troubles and just have a good time. So hopefully she'll enjoy her time here too!

    Cheers,

    Mil

  6. Doolhof
    Champion Alumni
    • Community champion volunteers who are not currently active on the forums.
    • Life membership is awarded by beyondblue for providing outstanding peer support to the online community over a period of 3+ years.
    • A special award for members who go above and beyond to support others here on the forums
    Doolhof avatar
    8756 posts
    5 June 2018 in reply to Mil

    Hi Mil,

    It certainly sounds like you both have a lot of experience and knowledge between you to help each other out in many ways. That is excellent. It is wonderful to read there is so much support available for some people.

    Your friend is very fortunate to have someone who is willing to share their journey with them.

    As far as I am aware, gender identity can be something people with BDP may have more thoughts about considered to the general population. I'm certainly not saying that all people with different gender ideas have BPD just that from what I have read, questions around gender can be part of BPD.

    I to hope you and your friend have a wonderful time together, exploring each other's lives and creating new memories and experiences!

    Cheers to you both, from Dools

    1 person found this helpful

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