The start of periods and the growth of breasts in girls and facial hair and voice change in boys. Common signs of puberty in most boys and girls. But what if you are a boy who feels like a girl or vice versa? What would puberty feel like then? Very confusing. Won’t it? We talk about puberty for transgenders in this week’s That’s Puzzling.
What is puberty exactly?
Who else can answer this better than you, right? For most adolescents, puberty kicks in usually between 10 and 14 years for females and 12 and 16 years for males. This process takes place at both the physical and emotional levels. Biologically speaking, this is the time when the body develops fertility due to the development of the reproductive organs. Check out puberty here in detail.
What does puberty change?
Apart from the growth and development of genitals, puberty brings about ‘secondary’ changes due to the growth of sex hormones (testosterone for males and estrogen for females). In the case of boys, such changes usually include muscle growth, deepening of the voice, facial hair growth, growth of the testes and the penis, etc.
In girls, the usual signs are breast development, hair growth in the armpits and the pubic areas, the beginning of menstruation, etc.
It is important to remember that there are many boys and girls who do not experience one or many of these changes.
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What does puberty mean for transgender people?
Transgender people do not identify with the sex assigned to them at birth. This means that they prefer to dress, behave and feel like the opposite gender or may insist also on biologically converting to the opposite sex as well.
Regardless of these differences, for transgenders in general, the onset of puberty can be a bit more complicated than for cis-genders (people who relate to the gender they were born with) people.
The stresses of it could lead to what is called gender dysphoria which means a general discomfort and disconnect between the mind and the body.
Some transgender adolescents may also resort to the process of puberty-blocking which involves blocking the development of features ( via doctor’s advice) you don’t identify with gender-wise.
Challenges for trans men
Transmen are people who are born female (with a vagina) but think and feel like men. Puberty brings in certain uncomfortable changes like menstruation and breast development that makes them come face to face with their female hood in a manner like never before.
It may get embarrassing for transmen, for instance, to use sanitary napkins because that would be yet another reminder of the sex they don’t relate to.
Challenges for trans women
Transwomen are people who are born male (with a penis) but think and feel like a woman. Certain changes like a discharge of semen from the penis, erections, and body hair can cause real discomfort for transwomen.
This can lead to depression and feelings of helplessness as they are not able to understand and correlate their physical changes to what they feel in their minds.
What can be done?
Here are a few tips that can help you feel better in your journey to explore yourself:
- Talk to a trusted adult about how you are feeling. It could be anyone in your family – your elder sibling, a parent or an elder cousin.
- Speak to your school/college counsellor – there is one in most educational institutions. Find out who is the one in your school or college. They may refer you to a doctor who can help with dealing with puberty.
- Read about puberty in transgenders online on trusted websites and build a community online for your support. Make sure you are getting information from trusted sources such as Transgender India by Neysara Rai. She also spoke to TeenBook on this podcast.
Photo: Shutterstock/incognitophotos/Persons in the photo are models and their names have been changed.
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