Please Note: I use the word ‘transsexual’ rather than ‘transgender’ because it is a term I am comfortable with. Also, in the context of this blog ‘gender identity’ refers only to ones internal sense of being male or female.
It takes a lot to get me annoyed. I admit I don’t suffer fools gladly, I go nuts at blatant stupidity on the roads and I hate bad customer service. But there’s one thing that really gets me seriously pissed off, and that is people who comment and pass judgement on my being transsexual without knowing all, or sometimes any, of the facts and, just lately, there has been a lot of that. I would like to try and provide some sort of education. This is an entry I’ve been meaning to write for some time.
The OED entry for “transsexual” is: noun: a person who emotionally and psychologically feels that they belong to the opposite sex. I don’t like to say “I feel like a woman”, since I don’t know what a woman feels like. I only know what I feel like. I’ve felt like this since I was a child, (as far back as I can remember. See here ). I am now going through transition which, without reiterating details elsewhere in this blog, is physically and psychologically painful. Very painful.
Contrary to what some people seem to think we do not get up one morning and think “I want to be a woman”. Its not something that suddenly comes on us out of the blue, or something that we have “picked up” from somewhere. Nor is it “just a phase” that we go through. Its something that is with us from birth. No-one can say exactly what happens in the womb, what goes wrong but, all foetus’s are initially female until the introduction of testosterone for the boys and oestrogen for the girls. Maybe we get enough testosterone to develop a male body but retain a female mind. Who knows? What I do know is that the end result is growing up with what sometimes appears to be one of the most reviled conditions in recent times. Recent studies have shown that the rate of suicide attempts for transsexuals the UK is 34% (>1 in 3, N=872) and in the US it is 41% (N=7000). These statistics are not the result of transsexualism itself, but the result of the fear, depression and anxiety caused by society’s intolerance towards it.
When we are born, the midwife or doctor looks between the baby’s legs and, if there is a penis, assigns male, or a vagina, assigns female. Unfortunately, on occasion, they unknowingly get it wrong. As I said initially, as far back as I can remember, (about the age of four, I think), I have felt wrong. At that time I didn’t have the knowledge to put it into words, but it was there. This ‘wrongness’ sat in my mind, nameless, for several years before I began to have an inkling about what it was. I had begun to learn about the physical and social differences between boys and girls and, during this learning period, the wrongness I was experiencing began to coalesce. I began to realise I was a girl. There was no getting around it. My body was wrong, that of a boy, but I was a girl nonetheless. I tried explaining it to my family, but they just laughed and told me I would grow out of it. I tried with my friends but they also laughed and started bullying me. At this time, I had several female cousins living not too far away, (practically next door, in fact), so I used to go round to see them. Eventually I plucked up the courage to tell them how I felt. They started to treat me as a girl almost immediately. It felt right for the first time. I can remember how it felt so normal to be treated as one of the girls and not a freak or a joke. Unfortunately my parents had to move and that was the last time for nearly forty years that I felt like a normal person.
What you have to remember, dear reader, is that at this time I really had no concept or knowledge of gender, of any kind of gender spectrum, nor of gender roles, presentation or identity. I didn’t even have a word for how I felt, I just knew I was a girl cursed with a boy’s body, end of. Laying in bed every night, praying that I would wake up with the right body, or hoping that if my parents saw me enough times as a girl that they would realise I was one. It never happened and, as it turned out, it was never going to.
My experience, along with the experiences of so many others, refutes the argument put forward by so many, that gender identity is socially constructed and can be changed. Gender presentation and gender roles are a product of society, almost certainly, but gender identity is innate, built in and unchangeable. I repeat:
Gender Identity is innate, built-in and unchangeable.
For those who have trouble understanding this I am afraid that there may be no hope for you, but I can come and shout it in your ear for a large sum in untraceable notes.
For most people their gender identity matches their physical sex, for others, transsexuals like myself, it doesn’t. Where the majority of people grow into gender roles and have gender presentations that match their gender identities, transsexuals do not. We are forced into gender roles and presentation that fit our physical sex only and are labelled misfits, deviant or abnormal when we try to correct our physical problem. This is where the depression, fear and high suicide rates come in. This is where the education is needed. Society’s disdain for us is caused by its collective fear of the unknown. Once the unknown becomes known then there is no need for fear. In this day and age there is no excuse for ignorance. There is no excuse for hatred and oppression. Parody is also a way of dealing with fear of the unknown. There is no need for this, (television and film makers please take note here). The knowledge is freely available, and if there is some doubt then please ask. None of us will bite heads off because someone asked a sensible question, but we do get annoyed at stupid questions.
I only hope that this goes some way to dispelling the misinformation about transsexuality and reducing the fear and ignorance surrounding it.
As for me? Well, I’m just a woman trying to make life a little easier for herself. If anyone has a problem with that well, come up and see me.