Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ramblings on Transgenderism, Part I

One of the notes left on a previous entry asked a very good question: why do I want to become a woman? Fair enough question. I’ve been looking over the other folks expressing interests in the transgender topic, and I haven’t seen any other transsexuals at my particular point in the journey – not many of us at all, as far as I can tell. I don’t know how many folks out there have ever talked to a transsexual, or known one, or heard the story, other than maybe on TV. I’d like to lay out my personal beliefs here, and philosophy, and we’ll see what happens.

So, I’ll start with the trite answers and responses and move to the deeper ones (this may take more than one entry).

Let me ask you: if you’re a woman now, why do you want to stay a woman? If you’re a man now, why do you want to stay a man? How many of you answered right away, “because this is what I am.”? What if one of you woke up tomorrow morning and found your body had changed genders on you? How many of you could adjust? How many could be learn to be happy? How many would commit suicide? How many would try to find a way to change back?

(There’ve been several interesting sci-fi stories (and other genres as well) that have experimented with this. The “Lords of the Diamond” series by Jack Chalker, for one (Chalker must be closet TS – sex changing runs all thru the Well World series too). Clive Barker had a great short story/novella that had male-to-female transformations at its core (sorry, I can’t remember the title right now) – what was interesting there was that some folks could stand it, others, the change drove them insane. More on the fiction angle later if I get back to it.)

So, you like being what you are because that’s what you are. Hmm. And you wouldn’t like being what you aren’t because that’s not what you are. Okay. Let’s expand the dimensions a bit:

Are you gay or straight, or somewhere in between? Have you ever wanted to cross the line? Now, regardless of where you might be on that spectrum, you do realize, don’t you, that there are folks all over that spectrum? That no matter how straight you are, there’s probably somebody straighter than you? Or somebody gay-er (is that a word?) than you? By this I only mean someone who might have a harder time crossing over the line to the other side.

So, we’re all on a spectrum with regards to our orientation. I hope I haven’t offended anyone yet (and I am a Zappa fan). Now, what I believe, is that INDEPENDENT of your orientation, there’s some masculine and feminine in everyone of us. There are some very feminine heterosexual males, some very butch lesbians, very femme lesbians, and very masculine gay males. Okay?

(arg. tried to paste in a graphic from powerpoint, and it won't paste. pretend there's a square here, with the bottom edge labeled "Sexual Orientation" going from Straight to Gay, and the left edge labeled "Masculine/Feminine Mix" going from Femme to Macho. And it's tastefully shaded from pink to baby blue {;-o

So, basically, if you’re with me now, then what we’ve agreed to is that there is this “chart”, if you will, that looks like this: There are people scattered all over the square. Aaaaalllllll ooooovvvveeeerrrrr the place. And that’s what makes the world go round. Okay? Still with me? Good.

(Note: I am not making value judgements here, nor should you expect me too. I realize that there are some readers who may think that homosexuality and transgenderism is a bad thing – you should know by now that I do not agree with you. If you continue to read, you may get upset. I am not intending to upset anyone, but I do realize that the views expressed here will not be accepted by all. )

Now, what many of us (transgendered, the doctors involved in this, and our families and friends) have come to realize, is that there’s actually a third axis to this graph, so we get not a square, but a cube. And the third axis is labeled: How comfortable are you with your own body? It is recognized less frequently because, in my opinion, it’s much more rare for folks to be uncomfortable with their birth gender than to be gay or straight, or femme or macho.

What I think I’ve seen talked about on TV most are the birth males who try to be good little boys, even becoming football players or soldiers, and later realize they need to live out the rest of their lives as women to be happy – a Male-to-Female (MTF) transsexual. Many of us got married, sometimes multiple times, had kids, and went till age 30, 40, 50 or later before going thru transition. Some end up dating guys afterwards, others are attracted to women before and after. Basically, the same thing happens to the Female-to-Males – orientation sometimes stays the same through transition, sometimes not. (Please feel free to start dialogues on any of this, if there’s any other TSs out there).

But this isn’t something well regarded by society. We’re still adapting to civil rights for minority races and equal rights for women, for goodness sake. Equal rights for gays is way behind the learning curve. And equal rights for transgenders is behind even that.

Some will say that understanding and communications is part of the problem, and they may be right. So, here you find a long rambling monologue on the subject, out there for anyone to read. However, I sometimes suspect that transgenders will have a hard time longer, for the following evolutionary reason.

Way back when we were cavepeople, we had no social norms, no marriage, and only rudimentary, violent power hierarchies. The old Alpha Male, Alpha Female stuff. Dog packs have it, chimp and other primate groups have it still. And in that environment, if you’re not Alpha something, then it becomes immensely important to your literal survival to know immediately who is coming out of the bushes at you – male or female? Potential competitor or potential sex partner? I think somewhere in the deep recesses of our brains, way lower than the primitive primate brain, maybe way down in the basic reptilian brain stem, we have pattern recognition that takes in the subtle cues and pops back an answer to the higher brain as fast as greased lightning “it’s a guy” or “it’s a girl”. The rest of the brain reacts as appropriate.

But if the signals are confused, and that core brain flashes out “I can’t tell!!!”, then panic hits the higher brain. And too many transgendered folks, specially the MtFs, trigger that confusion. The FtMs that I’ve known seem to have an easier job of it in many ways – it seems easier for them to pass as guys without setting off alarms than it is for a 6 foot, 250 lb former linebacker in a dress with long hair. C’est la guerre.

Anyway, I’ve type 7000 characters and not answered the question, why do I want to be a woman?

I could regale you with stories of how I liked to dress up in dresses and jewelry at the age of 3. And on and on and on. Symptoms out the wazoo (“oh my god, call 911, she’s got symptoms coming out her wazoo…”) But, I’ve realized, that wouldn’t tell you why.

I like my hair long. I want the feel of dangly earrings against my neck. I want the feeling of breasts on my chest, day and nite, clothed and naked, at work or out on a bike ride. I want the different genitals. I want the freedom to wear skirts and all the other variety that women have. I want I want I want (damn, needy whiny little bitch, isn’t she?) I’d want the physical changes even if somebody said I could only have them if I continued to dress like a guy (unsatisfactory, but if that’s the best I could get, I’d take it). When I was a kid, and still believed in the Catholic Church and their version of God, I even offered to become a nun if I would wake up changed the next morning (He never took me up on that deal.) so it’s not just the desire for sex as a woman.

So, in the end, why do I want to be a woman? I don’t know. But I do want it. And I have since I was maybe 3 or 4 years old, although I didn’t consciously realize it till age 10 or so. And it’s been in my mind and heart ever since. Basically every day, with few exceptions.

The question has always been, how happy can I be without doing this? And that is the core of the issue --- it’s a lot of work, and has significant impacts on your loved ones. So, is it worth it? Is the grass really that much greener on the other side? And how high will the costs be? One never knows for sure. One never knows.

Enough for tonite.


  1. The Clive Barker story you mention is "The Madonna." It's in volume five of The Books of Blood (published in the US under the title In the Flesh).

    Thought you might like to know.

    If you want a writer whose work is littered with sex changes, take a look at the short stories of John Varley--especially the ones from the 1970s--and his novel, Steel Beach. Characters in these stories change sexes like they change hairstyles. There are a goodly number of SF and Fantasy writers who are themselves TG, including Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Rachel Pollack, and Caitlin Kiernan.

    I think the question you've posed, "Why do I want to be a woman?" is one of those imponderable questions that Kant categorized as noumena. A thing unto itself, which cannot be known. But that might just be me.

    Take care.

  2. yeah, that's it!! I think I lost that book when I left the b**** (ex wife). I may look up that author, thanks. Jack Chalker had a whole lot of sec changing going on too.