Sunday, September 25, 2011

Introduction: Transgender without Transition


When it comes to gender and sex, mainstream public sentiment is pretty clear - there are two sets of options: boy or girl, male or female. Despite our generally more expansive notions of gender, I think trans and gender queer folks are frequently backed into the same corner. The medical establishment, for one, has an easier time understanding an individual who says they feel like a "woman trapped in a man's body" or vice versa, than they do understanding a person who, as at least one trans activist has put it, doesn't necessarily feel trapped in the wrong body, but just feels trapped.

This is my problem. The truth is, I don't feel trapped in the wrong body. There are things about my body that I'd like to change, sure, but for the most part, I think my body reflects who I am. It's got plenty of gender ambiguity built right in. It's mine and I like it the way it is. It's other people's perceptions of me in this body and how they act on those perceptions that I don't like. Sometimes others read me as a teenage boy. Sometimes as a young woman. Sometimes a butch lesbian. I am none of these things, at least by my own identification, and there was a time when I felt tremendous pressure to physically alter my body in order to make other people understand me better. But I resent the idea that the world doesn't want me as I am - that I'd be more palatable to everyone if I would either resign to identifying as a masculine lesbian or go ahead and take the testosterone plunge so everyone could squarely fit me into either the female or male box. Screw that. Who says I can't embrace the term "queer" over "lesbian"? Who says I can't change my name to whatever I want even if I don't transition? If I ever become a parent, who says I have to be called "Mama" just because I hang on to my female pronouns?

In my mind, "transgender" is more often a verb than a noun. Transgender means to transcend the established rules of gender. The idea of transcending gender has been liberating to me - that rather than be stuck with only two options – either to embrace femaleness or transition from female to male, I can transcend the rigid definitions of both. I could be a transcender. I have no doubt that this makes a lot of folks - queer, straight, trans, and cis-gender - uncomfortable. On a daily basis, people attempt, often via dirty looks or uninvited commentary, to reinforce the notion that in order to be a good person, one must be identifiable as a man or a woman. I would like to make clear to those people that their discomfort and hostility towards gender ambiguity calls into question not the quality of my personhood, but theirs.

I offer this blog as a forum to explore questions about being transgender without transitioning in greater depth... transcending of the gender line.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you. For putting into words what I have been feeling ever since I was 19 years old. Why should we feel the need to surgically assign ourselves the "opposite" gender, just to make society more at ease about us? We were born this way, fluid and undefined, we certinly didn't choose it to get more time in the spotlight.
    I believe the gods created me way I am for a reason, and I am certainly not broken or a mistake. One thing it's allowed me is tolerance for a lot of different people and ways of life. I don't fit into any cookie cutter definition, male or female, but rather as human.
    I want to thank you again... it's so nice to know that there are other queer folk out there not conforming to what is expected, but rather remaining true to themselves. Stay strong!

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