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.