While I’m certainly on the transsexual, female-identifying, binary-switched end of the transgender spectrum, the truth is I don’t understand gender in the slightest. People ask me what I think the relationship between masculinity/femininity and male/female is, and I try to come up with answers, but the truth is I haven’t the slightest clue. I don’t understand how these boxes work. I don’t know what makes a person one or the other. I don’t know why it matters.
Let me be clear: ideologically I take a pretty moderate stance about gender. I don’t want to tear down the entire male-female dichotomy or create a gender-liberated world of androgyny.
It’s just that when I’m honest with myself, I really have no clue what I’d be tearing down or defending if I were to take a more militant stance on it.
And as far as being Catholic is concerned, I always try to see the good thing that the Church is trying to defend in its teachings, even if I struggle to understand the peculiarities of specific teachings. So while I really struggle to see how its teachings on same-sex relationships are internally coherent with the rest of its philosophy, I can quite clearly see how it is fighting for good things – marriage, fidelity, openness to life – and I can join it in that fight. Similarly with gender, even while I haven’t the slightest clue why most Catholics hate transgender people, I can still see the good thing the Church is afraid of losing: that mysterious romance, that vague yin-yang which we call gender.
That being said, I really don’t have the tiniest clue about any of it. Sure, intellectually I can build up a castle of reason to take everyone else’s assumptions and try to make sense of them. But it’s hard to make those assumptions mine. My own experience of life simply doesn’t gel with these mountainous presuppositions that everyone has about gender and sexuality. I just don’t get it. My mind draws a blank; I blow a fuse when I try to really see things from other peoples’ perspectives.
Again, this is coming from someone solidly in the “MtF transsexual” part of the transgender spectrum. I don’t feel particularly androgynous or bi-gendered or two-spirit or third-gender.
At the same time I do. It’s hard to explain. Maybe it’s because while I feel a whole lot more like girls I’ve met than guys I’ve met, and even my relationship with my body seems, for lack of a better term, something akin to “a girl in a dude’s body,” I’m still trapped in this world in between worlds. I’m still always transgender. I’m still an enemy to a system that utterly bewilders me. I’m outside the gender dichotomy whether I like it or not.
I guess the crux of the issue is that at the end of the day I’m just me. My relationship with myself isn’t particularly complicated. My feelings aren’t particularly complicated. This whole transgender thing, this reality of feeling like what people call a girl and having a body that other people identify as male, is certainly difficult at times. I mean, I experience body dysmorphia like other transsexuals, including pain regarding those damnable nether regions. But on the whole, I just am what I am. It’s really that simple. I don’t need to ‘understand’ myself when it’s just a matter of my existence. Existing is a fairly simple affair: you either exist or you don’t.
But then I find that my existence requires an expression. That expression itself is fairly simple. I mean, Anna does as Anna is, and Anna is as Anna does. There is a natural flow that can happen. I can wake up in the morning and just live, without examining every gesture I make or over-thinking simple things like whether to paint my nails or not.
But then I find that this expression requires relationship. We don’t live in a void. In fact, as a Christian I believe the whole point of life is right (loving) relationships with others. This is where it becomes complicated. All of a sudden expression becomes the most complicated and painful thing in the world. All of a sudden there are all these demands about how I behave and assumptions about who I am that make no sense. And I desperately try to make sense of these demands – I fake it ’til I make it – but all the while feeling utterly mystified about what is really being demanded of me and why.
So there are days like today that I despise gender. As central as it has been to my life, I want no part in it. Sometimes I really wish there was no such thing as ‘man’ and ‘woman.’ It’s not because I want to recreate the world in my own image. It’s not because androgyny would be better. It’s just that I don’t understand why these walls are erected. And the ironic thing is that I think if there was no idea of gender, people would be more genuinely gendered. A man with a genuinely strong masculine identity would be more genuinely manly if he acted masculine because it’s his personality and not because it’s how people with xy chromosomes are supposed to be.
Please, can I just conscientiously object to the gender war? Can I just lay down my arms and live life? Do I have to make sense of this bizarre and intricate system of categories? It makes no sense…
In my opinion I think you can lay down the arms and live life. After all all these categories are just definitions. A way for people to sort people into nice neat little slots to make it easier for them to know you or put expectations on you. What really matter is what you think of and be yourself not that you fit into a category or try to change the categories to fit you. I think we all better off if we threw all the categories out and actually get to know a person not try to mold them into what we think we should be. Don’t worry about the definitions or categories or trying to make sense of their system, just focus on you. That being said there will always be people who will try to start the war by telling you how should be to fit into their category. Best just to ignore them as much as you can and keep being yourself 🙂
Btw, how have you been doing? Do you still have a blog?
Thank you for asking 🙂 I have my good and bad days, which I imagine you can relate. I have been changing things around with my blogs and having one instead of having several. It can be found here http://www.notathoughtgiven.com
I believe it was Hilary Howes who recently quoted Joan of Arc saying something in response to those who demanded Joan act more lady-like. Joan refused, saying that there were plenty of women who would fulfill that role. Likewise, I see good in the man-woman image portraying the mystery of Christ and His bride, the Church (Ephesians 5) but am beginning to be more comfortable with the idea that those of us with transgender natures don’t have to worry about destroying the image by being who we are. There are plenty of regulars to take care of that image. God bless and guide you ever more. Thank you for sharing your life.
I totally agree. As I love to say: the exception doesn’t destroy the rule; if anything, it proves it! Thank you.
(Do you know where you read that quote? I’ve read most of Hilary’s stuff but I haven’t seen that one)
I should probably mention that reading your articles makes me cry because it’s really nice to find my own views echoed by a total stranger.
I am touched that you are touched. It’s always so refreshing/cathartic to find others who share our experience. I am just as edified to know that you share my views.
cool test to check for femininity and not just looks, but your true personality as a womanFemininity Test
I got: “Your test results show that you have a high level of feminity, and regardless of your physical looks, you give off a perfect female image.” 🙂
Although this test seems to be about how to “come along” and “progress” in “becoming” more feminine. Honestly, I hope I’m not trying to be anything other than myself.
I realize this was posted a while ago, but I’ve just found it and am so thankful for your words. So I wanted to say thank you. And amen, sister.