People can realize that they’re transgender at any age. Some people can trace their awareness back to their earlier memories –they just knew. Others may need more time to realize that they are transgender. Some people may spend years feeling like they don’t fit in without really understanding why, or may try to avoid thinking or talking about their gender out of fear, shame, or confusion. Trying to repress or change one’s gender identity does not work; in fact, it can be very painful and damaging to one’s emotional and mental health. As transgender people become more visible in the media and in community life across the country, more transgender people are able to name and understand their own experiences and may feel safer and more comfortable sharing it with others.
For many transgender people, recognizing who they are and deciding to start gender transition can take a lot of reflection. Transgender people risk social stigma, discrimination, and harassment when they tell other people who they really are. Parents, friends, coworkers, classmates, and neighbors may be accepting—but they also might not be, and many transgender people fear that they will not be accepted by their loved ones and others in their life. Despite those risks, being open about one’s gender identity, and living a life that feels truly authentic, can be a life-affirming and even life-saving decision.