Can someone be ‘mildly transgender?’

by Felix Conrad - Clinical Philosopher on September 29, 2015

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While writing an essay this morning I found myself using the term ‘mildly transgender.’ Immediately, alarm bells started ringing. I could imagine a knock on the door at 3AM as the LGBT thought police came to take me away.

This is because they want to carve out a complete and tangible identity in society: transgender; and if we start allowing people to be ‘mildly’ transgender it really screws with that identity. Imagine! you go to a party, tell people you’re transgender and they’d be like… ‘Oh really? Mild or full blown?” For many, the fact they’re transgender is the main building block of their identity and they dont want some Vanilla Ice version knocking about (NOTE TO SELF…. 90s cultural reference… don’t reveal you’re an old cunt, Felix.). As members of the LGBT community they’d say… ‘Gays don’t go about saying they’re mildly gay and you can’t go round saying you’re mildly transgender.’

In my opinion, though, while I see that ‘mildly transgender’ is a clumsy term… we have a desperate need for something in that general area. I will explain why.

Every year an unkown quantity of people ask themselves an important question in their lives:

Am I transgender or not?



It is the most badass, megalithic motherfucking binary question of all time. There’s no like ‘maybe’…’partially’…’lightly’… there’s just two motherfucking boxes to tick. ..

Transgender… or… Not.



The interrogator’s lamp is on your face as you sweat under the force of the two polar opposites. This is George Bush’s axis of evil right there… you’re either with us or against us. There’s no Switzerland here.

Mildly transexual
But is that correct? I propose we modify the question.

First of all, let’s remove the ‘not.’ You’re asking yourself if you’re transgender so there’s obviously something going on. Normal dude – Barry the builder – doesn’t just wake up one morning, look in the mirror and say… ‘am I transgender?’. The ‘not’ option is silly… like you choose it and by 5 pm you’re in a bar with the guys, knocking back a coldie, scratching your balls and expressing your views on the Redskins new quarterback: gender crisis over.

So, because you’ve obviously got some gender issues it would be much better to have the binary…”Am I transgender… or mildly transgender?”

Again, I know some people will go nuts at this expresion but I really think we need it. There’s a huge amount of peope who never reach a satisfactory answer because the two choices are so far apart. They chose the ‘or’. The result is a tonne of people in some kind of limbo not knowing what the fuck they are.

We humans need labels… it’s the only way we understand and cope with things. Have you ever read Heart of Darkness or seen Apocalypse Now? Why do you think it’s so chilling when Kurtz says ‘The horror, the horror’? It’s cos he didn’t put a label on it. It’s just… ‘the horror.’

What horror, motherfucker? Can't we play charades on this one? Book, movie, play?    Okay, so I'll get you a pen and you can write that shit down.

What horror, motherfucker? Can’t we play charades on this one? Book, movie, play? Okay, so I’ll get you a pen and you can write that shit down.

Returning to the gay analogy (people don’t say they’re mildly gay so you can’t say you’re mildly transgender) you can start to see why LGBT is an uncomfortble alliance; though sharing so much in common – we are different. There’s no test for being transgender, or even an agreed upon definition, and that’s why you could say something like ‘I’m mildly transgender.’ With a gay it’s simple…

“Do you love the cock?”
“Yes.”
“You’re gay.”

No, wait… I love the cock. I’m not gay. Ok… let’s modify that one.

“Are you, and do you identify as, a man?”
“Yes.”
“Do you love the cock?”
“Yes.”
“You’re gay.”

Oh shit, thinking about it, I am mildly gay. Maybe you can say it. Okay, let’s just move on from that one.

The point is that if there existed some kind of peer approved, vaguely medical diagnosis – mildly transgender – I think alot of people would feel comfortable with that notion. Like I said, humans need labels that make sense – especially in our community where absoloutely everything is disputed.

What do you think? Is ‘mildly transgender’ a meaningful label?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

IanBrianna August 13, 2015 at 4:40 am

Of course it is real. It is what I am. And I am living in Norway, where everything has to fit into neat little boxes, so buying Estradiol is out of the question unless: (1) You are SRS-track; (2) You are under 30; (3) You have a doctor’s prescription.
But fortunately, the Norski squareheads are unaware of the effectiveness of pueraria mirifica, with which I am making slow but significant progress!

How do we get to be mildly T? Well, in my case I took a walk with my father at age 3 or 3-1/2, and as we turned a corner, he said “I understand you’ve been playing with yourself down there. Better stop, or you’ll turn into a girl.” That did it! But it probably also helped to have a dominant aunt who set the whole thing up. Yes, dominant aunts really exist! She abused and feminized some of her sons, I hear. I am her creature.

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Anonymous August 16, 2015 at 10:48 am

Thanks for your comment,. There’s clearly a story you have to tell there, my friend!

It’s funny… you say ‘Norwegian blockheads’ we have the idea that Scandanavia is one of the most progressive place on earth.

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Michelle Kelly August 27, 2015 at 3:39 am

If a person wants to use the term “mildly-transgender”, then I say go for it. Just need to let me know what it means to the person saying it. We may need our labels, but the horror with labels is the assumption that everyone is using the same definition. Which in 99.99% of the time in my experience is not the case at all. Which leads to misunderstandings and that leads to all kinds of other nasty things, Then there is the expectations that come with the label that have nothing to do with the definition of the label which leads to even more nasty things.

We spend too much time on labels in my opinion. A person should use whatever labels work for them. Call them mildly-transgender, could-be-transgender, doubtful-transgender, questioning-transgender or just plain transgender.

The person is communicating an idea with the label and if me or anyone else has doubts about the label then we can ask for clarification so we understand the idea the person is trying to say. That way we can spend more time being ourselves and less time worrying over a definition that works for everyone. Which is impossible anyway since we have our own ideas what the labels mean to us.

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LisaT August 31, 2015 at 3:52 am

There is nothing really new about this, in fact that is why the term ‘transgender’ is used now, to cover the range of gender identity drives, how people deal with them and express them in society.

Simplifying quite a bit (a lot in fact): there are two main factors here; the strength of the innate gender drive and how strong is the person’s coping/denial/hiding/suppressing/etc abilities.

Those coping (etc) mechanisms will greatly affect the level of gender dysphoria they experience over their gender feelings.

A lot depends on how the person is brought up, if they were from a place or time period where there is very strong negative connotations about being TG, then they will often try to suppress and hide it from everyone (even themselves).

Someone with a strong gender drive, but also strong coping (etc) abilities and conditioned socially to be guilty about being TG may go for a long time as (a) not showing any external transgender signs whatsoever (2) being part time in the closet or out and about (3) expressing being ‘gender fluid’.
This may go on for some time until those coping (etc) mechanisms start to break down due to the internal stress they entail. In the end their gender dysphoria will increase greatly and they will die or transition, perhaps after a time of being a part time trans woman, butch lesbian, etc or just plain attempting suppression and denial.

Some people have weaker gender drives along with good coping (etc) mechanisms and they may find a life ‘compromise’ that suites them (part time or gender fluid). Albeit they may go through a period of guilt (self loathing etc) until they come to terms with themselves and can finally achieve that.
This is a good and sensible path for those that can achieve it and greater social acceptence of ‘gender fluidity’ gives them far more options now than in the past.

In fact I predict that in the future the majority of transgender people will identify and express themsleves as gender fluid and older terms for that (such as ‘crossdresser’) will go the way of the dodo.

Those that have a strong gender drive and good coping (etc) mechanisms, plus are brought up in a TG supportive environment will usually transition early and successfully.

I predict that in the future there will be few ‘late transitioners’ as those generations from earlier anti-TG times transition (or die) and everyone who does in the future (and there will be a far larger number than there is now) will do so in their 20s at the latest.

Perversely a strong drive and weak coping (etc) mechanisms can cause issues for a time until they have settled well into transitioning. The reason is that, pre transition, they are very emotionally vulnerable to things like bullying and exclusion and even self loathing and hatred etc (all precursors to depression and suicide). They will experience high gender dysphoria from an early age and struggle to deal with it.
Though transitioning is far better for them (life saving actually) it is stressful at first and can cause issues in those early periods, so they need good support to help them through that ‘awkward’ time until they settle down their dysphoria has finally disappeared and they become happier and more comfortable..

Partner, family, financial and social circumstances will affect all of the above greatly.

So you can be transgender, but socially express it only occasionally, regularly, never, or all the time. You can express it in different ways too, which is a more recent phenomena, giving people more options and freedom.

You can change over time as well. The classic is the person who suppresses it for ages until they cannot do it any longer and their dysphoria starts to spike.

You can transition in different ways as well:
Socially with no HRT or any cosmetic surgery.
Socially with no HRT but with some cosmetic surgery.
Socially with HRT and maybe cosmetic surgery.
Socially with HRT and gender affirming surgery (GRS/breast removal/etc) and maybe other cosmetic surgery.

That’s why transgender people are so complex…. there are as many ways of being transgender as there are transgender people.

But the term ‘mildly transgender’ is not really accurate, useful or correctly describes the issues and complexities involved.

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Transcend Everything September 1, 2015 at 11:04 am

Thanks for such a great reply. x

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Angie October 21, 2015 at 10:38 am

This was awesome — I guess the people that have low drive and low coping, probably don’t generate enough internal tension to be mentioned in the 2×2?

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