Here’s a big reason why plenty of us might not figure out we’re trans until we’re 20, or 30, or 60:
Of all the perspectives on transness that are offered in mainstream society - whether they’re “he or she?” episodes of Maury, gawking documentaries, or cheap “tr*nny” jokes everywhere we turn - not a single one ever suggests that this could actually be you.
People ask us why we didn’t know sooner. Well, maybe there was no way we could have known! The world doesn’t readily grant us access to the information we would need to know what it is we’re experiencing, to put it in the proper context, to understand what it is we are, or to pursue the things we need to help ourselves. The world makes us fight fucking tooth and nail just to find what the goddamn words are for what we are. It discourages us at every turn from even being this, and makes us go through hell to access what we need just to live our lives.
And then the world asks why, in the face of all this, we didn’t do something about it sooner. Why, in a world where everyone is assumed to be cis and transness is some weird thing that’s super rare and only happens somewhere else far away, it would take us decades to realize we’re not cis. Well, what the hell were they expecting? We live in a world that fucking punishes children and then teenagers and then adults, too, when we ever dare to voice that sentiment. And they expect a vulnerable, innocent child to somehow know all that, and to say it out loud, in a world like this?
When I was a kid I didn’t know it was even a possibility for me to be a girl. I didn’t know this was something that could happen. It was positioned so far outside of my reality, I didn’t even reach the point of wanting it but dismissing it as impossible or infeasible. It didn’t even occur to me to want this; it was something so unknown to me it would have been like wanting to be a unit circle or an Einstein-Rosen bridge. Being a girl, of course, is actually possible - but nobody told me that!
My entire life as a kid was so consumed with living up to others’ expectations and doing what everyone told me to do, I didn’t have time to think of who I was, or what I wanted, or even envision myself as a person in my own right with my own goals and image of who I am. I was just this little kid who apparently did really well on IQ tests and got promoted ahead by two whole grades and was expected to ace every class and some day I would go to college and that was the sum total of who I was and there was nothing, nothing else, not a single stand-out feature of who I was as a person beyond what I could do at school to impress a bunch of adults.
It took me until I was 19 and almost died, to realize I might actually just straight-up drop dead at any time, and that I needed to start figuring out what mattered to me and who I was and what I wanted my life to be like.
From that moment, it was maybe 6 months before I started putting on makeup for the first time.
Everyone develops as a person at their own pace, and there can be any number of factors that interact to influence how and when we come to understand who we fundamentally are. The challenges of being trans on top of that are enormous. A therapist - particularly a therapist working with trans people - should be the first to recognize this. They are professionals. It’s their job to know these things.
This is such a fabulous and spot on answer and I can totally relate. I had been taught that transgender people had to be weirdo versions of child molesting drag queens. I buried any thought of gender so deep in shame and fear that it took me until my late 30’s to even start digging myself out of it. I’ve become so buried in hiding myself that I’ve focused on the wants and needs of everyone else, so creative in creating personas for myself that I’ve had to get a running start to break through each one to get to the real me, and so brainwashed into wrong thinking that I have to remind myself to love myself and to stop being mean to myself.
After society leads you to this poisonous pool, it then has the gall to both be surprised and angry that you’ve worked through it all and are ready to be true and it asks why you didn’t come to this realization sooner. Well fuck that and fuck asshole gatekeepers who would treat you that way.
I’ll bet this question generates lots of answers and I hope you find the ones that ring true to your experience. Hugs and love for you along the way!