Samantha is a 15-year old girl who does not feel comfortable in her own body. However, this is not a new feeling. Samantha has never felt comfortable in her own body. When Samantha was a child, she always felt that she wanted to be a boy. During play time with friends and other kids, Samantha would play the boy when his friends played house. She would call herself Shane.
Up until the age of 12, things were okay. Samantha would wear boys’ clothes. Her figure was fairly straight, not many curves in her body. Then, she noticed a change when she started to develop breasts. When her mother told her that she was becoming a woman and they needed to buy a bra, Samantha did not want to. She did pick one out, but when they got home, she cried. She hated her body and did not understand why her outside was female when everything in heart and soul felt like a boy. It did not seem fair. However, by the next year, Samantha figured out that by putting an ace bandage over her chest, she could hide her chest and feel more masculine.
Little by little, Samantha become more withdrawn and did not hang out with her friends as much. She felt different and did not want to be around people who did not understand her. However, that did not stop Samantha from connecting with people online, people like her. Samantha made a couple of friends online named Jerry and Garett. Both Gary and Jerry were in the process of what is known as transitioning. Transitioning meant that one was going from one gender to another. In the case of Jerry and Garrett, they were switching from female to male. Jerry was 20 years old and Garrett was 18. She could use her name of Shane with both of them.
Samantha felt that nobody really understood what she was going through. From Jerry and Garrett, she learned that a person could take hormones and become more like a man. Jerry and Garrett both knew what she was experiencing, the sadness, discontent, but also the hope that someday the outside of her body would match the inside. Jerry told Shane about a doctor who performed gender reassignment surgery. However, the cost was really high, but if Shane started saving now, she could eventually afford it and become male.
Erik Erickson’s stage of Identity versus Identity Confusion is where adolescents are trying to find themselves and where self-esteem and self-concept are formed. While it is tough for heterosexual teenagers, it is even harder for LGBT youth to find their identity and feel good about oneself. They feel like they do not fit in and that nobody understands them (Feldman, 2007).
The Cass Identity Model describes the stages that LGBT individuals go through when trying to figure out one’s sexuality. The first stage is Identity Confusion, in which a person feels like they do not belong and gets a sense that he or she may be gay. In Identity Comparison, the person has even more of an inkling of being gay and it becomes more of a possibility. In the case of Samantha, she is showing Identity Tolerance by reaching out to other transgendered youth. Identity Tolerance includes trying to find other LGBT people. This is the stage where I feel that Shane/Samantha is. He is connecting to community resources and realizing that he or she is not the only transgendered person who feels the way that he does (Cass, 1979).
In Erikson’s Intimacy Versus Isolation stage, youth are more interested in establishing relationships and experiencing romance with other people. First loves, broken hearts, and figuring out what we want in a partner or mate is what figures prominently here (Feldman, 2007). However for Shane/Samantha, this stage is different. Not only does he have to find someone who loves him for him, but he also needs to find a mate who can accept a transgender person. Perhaps, Shane can eventually move into the Identity Acceptance stage of the Cass Model, where one is more comfortable being seen with LGBT people and dating (Cass, 1979).
Shane also has to come out to many people in his life. Coming out is not just a one- time process, but a decision that one must make over and over. Once Shane is able to come out as transgendered and be who he is, things will probably get easier for him and his self-esteem and self-concept will improve (Signorile, 2005).
Shane/Samantha is a case of a transgendered youth who is going through the stages of finding one’s identity, developing self-esteem, and forming relationships with other people. Unhappy with being a female, Shane hopes that she will be able to fully transition into a male someday. The Cass Identity Model describes some of what Shane is experiencing. Hopefully with some time, Shane will feel comfortable with himself and live the life that he wants to live.
- Cass, V. C. (1979). Homosexual identity formation: a theoretical model. Journal of Homosexuality, 219-235.
- Feldman, R. S. (2007). Development Across the Life Span. Upper Saddle River, Inc.: Pearson Edcuation, Inc.
- Signorile, M. (2005). Outing yourself: how to come out as lesbian and gay to your family, friends, and coworkers. New York: Fireside.