Can Childhood Trauma Influence Gender Identity?

You may be surprised to learn that childhood trauma does indeed influence one's gender identity. But, how does it do it?

Have you struggled with your gender identity, thinking that you were meant to be the opposite sex? Have you also dealt with abuse, trauma, and abandonment when you were young? If you answered ‘yes’ to both of these, do you think they could be correlated? There may be a lot of overlap, but can childhood trauma actually affect your gender identity?

Close up portrait of a thoughtful transgender
© michaelheim

Trauma is subjective in nature, since what makes someone traumatized will vary from person to person. Generally these things can be physical, emotional, and sexual abuse that cause one to have heightened anxiety and flashbacks. They may avoid situations that make the memories return, and may even seem irrational. When it happens during childhood, the entire way of life of that individual changes since abuse during this time becomes much more ingrained in the subconscious of the person.

Often those who have experienced trauma do not want to associate with anything that could bring back the painful memories. They deny and repress it so much that their mind dissociates from the negative experiences, blocking it out to a degree that they are not aware of the conscious effects the repressed memories and emotions are having on their life.

You may be wondering how this could be related to gender identity. A large portion of those who struggle with their gender are often plagued with traumatic experiences from the past. These negative past experiences can and do shape the person as they age, making them want to find a solution to remedy the pain. Coping is also subjective since everyone has different mechanisms for dealing with traumatic memories and events. Most resort to negative ways of coping.

traumatized and emotional child
© AungMyo

Trauma has the power of causing depersonalization, which is a detachment one can feel from the mind and body. They may recognize that their birth sex was the one that was traumatized and abused, and want to distance themselves from this person. Thus, they may desire to transition to the opposite sex to escape the pain they feel from the trauma they endured. They feel that by being the opposite sex that all problems will be solved and they won’t feel the negative emotions. This, however, is not the case.

Transitioning for this reason doesn’t actually address the root cause of the problems. This person may still have a deep rooted hatred towards their birth sex, denying their existence. It is possible that by addressing the real issues, the person will no longer feel a detachment from the mind and body and actually be comfortable with living as their birth sex. The ones who transition, both with hormones and surgery, however, may be in for a rude awakening later in life, wondering why they did this to themselves as the depersonalization and detachments of the past and present self wears off.

It is very possible that childhood trauma and abuse affects one’s gender identity, making them want to escape from the person that endured the abuse. However, it’s only when addressing the root issues will the person find true happiness. Transitioning should not be done until then as they may end up regretting their decisions that were based on escaping their problems instead of coming into their true self. Whatever the case is, anyone who has struggled with abuse and trauma, or their gender identity, should get the appropriate help they need to live a successful life, free of resistance and denial.

Let me know how this works for you. Have a great day!

Additional Info

This was my exact experience. I was abused and neglected, felt unwanted and unloved, and thought that if I was a female that my problems would be solved since my mother wanted a girl, not a boy. I should have addressed those issues first, but I instead transitioned since I thought it was better for me. While transitioning did help me finally address the issues, would I be able to live as a male if I didn’t address them first? It’s hard to say. While I have no desire to live as a male again, I no longer have the hatred towards my male self that I pushed away to live my life as a female. I do wish I gave these things more thought and appropriately addressed them before I changed, however.


LGBT / Transgender / TranssexualAbuseTransgender / TranssexualTransitionTrauma

About the Author

Autumn Asphodel
My name is Autumn Asphodel (also known as Elle Stone) and I am a motivator and coach to help others live a better life through natural means, hard work, and dedication.

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