Gender Bender

When I was young (and not so young, come to that) I had no idea that gender and sex were not one and the same. Now I know better and my gender definitely does not match my sex. But just how do I label my gender?

There are many folk born male and assigned to the male gender at birth who know full well that they are female and transition to living as female full time (with or without full sex reassignment surgery. There are others assigned similarly who identify as bi-gender, gender queer, gender fluid and a whole host of other variations that don’t fit simply into a gender binary.

I think I am one of them. The idea of living the rest of my life as a man is awful. Cross-dressing would maybe make life only marginally more bearable. And yet I am not really comfortable with defining myself solely as a woman, though I identify as more a woman than a man. Previously I have written on feeling 70/30 female (recognising that maybe sometimes the ratio is nearer 80/20 and occasionally (rarely) 60/40.

I wondered if there was a better ‘label’ for the way I feel. After all, I don’t really subscribe to ‘being in the wrong body’. It’s simply that my mind/identity didn’t develop ‘male’, it developed much more female. In truth my body isn’t that ‘male’; I am 161lb (11 st 7lb), 5 foot 11 with a chest measuring 36/37 inches (so take a size UK 12 /14 Eur 40/42) and not muscular in the way that many males are. For that I am grateful. Hormones are making my body and to a lesser extent my face, less male and for that I am grateful. I have just enjoyed my 68th birthday though I believe I don’t look my age and for that I am grateful (though I get jealous as hell at the beautiful women who transitioned at a young age!)

I digress. If I am not fully comfortable with saying ” I am a woman”, then what would I be more comfortable with.

Wikipedia helpfully defines Gender Identity as  one’s personal experience of one’s own gender and then goes into a long discussion of how a sense of gender may arise.

Am I Gender Queer? Wikipedia defines this as”Genderqueer (GQ), also termed non-binary or gender-expansive, is a catch-all category for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine‍—‌identities which are thus outside of the gender binary and cisnormativity. Genderqueer people may identify as one or more of the following:

having an overlap of, or indefinite lines between, gender identity;
having two or more genders (being bigender, trigender, or pangender);
having no gender (being agender, nongendered, genderless, genderfree or neutrois);
moving between genders or having a fluctuating gender identity (genderfluid); or
being third gender or other-gendered, a category which includes those who do not place a name to their gender

Third Gender? Third gender or third sex is a concept in which individuals are categorised, either by themselves or by society, as neither man nor woman. It also describes a social category present in those societies that recognise three or more genders. The link will take you to a quite informative article.

I am quite drawn to the ideas of ‘two spirit’ that I am both man and woman, though I am not sure to what extent I switch between/express the two. Maybe my issue is more to do with the concept I have of what constitutes being a woman/issues of femininity. In truth natal females express womanhood/femininity is a myriad of ways and in a huge range of body shapes/sizes. So, if I come back to Wikipedia’s definition of Gender Identity as being one’s own personal experience of gender then I am on firm ground in saying that my experience is more correctly labelled as ‘woman’ than ‘man’.

So why does my gender identity matter? Why do I feel I need a label?  Well, at some time, hopefully in the next 6 months I am due an appointment with the Gender Identity Clinic in London. I want them to approve an ongoing prescription for hormones and for my GP to continue to conduct the routine blood work to ensure a safe physical transition and for all this of course to be funded by the NHS. I get a very clear impression that they are looking for clear evidence of being of a gender other than that assigned to me at birth and that being other than firmly ‘woman’ is too complex (that they don’t handle folk who are bi very well). I know I can over-analyse things and ‘split hairs’ and this has served me badly in the past. Put very simply, given a choice of living permanently as man or permanently as woman would not take a moments thought. I am woman and always have been.

Postscript: The lovely Hannah McKnight  posted a link to a great Buzzfeed piece which discusses the transformation of attitudes  (and knowledge about) treating transgender kids. It is great to note how things are getting better.

The term ‘two spirit’ belongs to native Americans. See this article for a fuller understanding.

 

13 thoughts on “Gender Bender

  1. Interesting blog. You have set me thinking of what I am and knowing how I easily move from Bob to Michelle and back though with some reluctance on the return to Bob, I may well fall into the gender fluid camp though I would say all levels come under the trans* umbrella. I too have long liked the native American discription of ‘two spirts’. It is I feel a beautiful term without baggage. I suppose I am content in both camps but if given a choice, well Michelle would win over Bob.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, I certainly agree that “all levels come under the trans* umbrella”. And I also recognise that we have to ‘live in the real world’ and that sometimes we can’t live entirely as we would wish. Life deals us a hand and its up to us to play it as well as we can. Thank you for your comment, really appreciated.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. This is a complicated question to answer and reconcile within the culture we live in. I feel very similarly to the way you do about my gender. I find it hard to claim that I am a man (I’m FTM), yet I know I’m not really a woman. But I also don’t really feel fluid or bi in my gender either, so the only female parts of me are my physical body and my socialization in society. If I had been socialized as male my whole life I don’t think I’d have any confusion at all. At some point we have to live in society and deal with the binary system that is in place. Society now sees me as male and I feel like my documents need to reflect that. In my heart, my gender is trans male and I am a trans man. I find putting trans before the word man/male feels the most accurate to me because I do not have the biology of a cis-male nor the socialization, but I definitely have always felt male inside my whole life. Good luck on your quest for clarity and transformation.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful contribution. We can never replace the socialisation we missed growing up as the ‘wrong gender’, and I suspect that makes it harder to really own our true gender. You know you are a man just as I know I am a woman, but we have missed out on all those moments when we would have learned how to be.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes! I think of it as a brainwashing of sorts that society unwittingly did to us to make us conform to what they thought was right. And now we’ve lived all of these years as these false selves, but in some ways the false self feels safe and real where the real self is scary and new. I am not, and can not, be like a cis male who has lived his entire life in a male body and was socialized as a male. I would like to be, but I just can’t. So, in a way, I do see myself as a different gender (third, fourth, I don’t know) than them, even though I may look like them now. I like the idea of Two Spirit, but I really never felt like a female so It doesn’t feel genuine to me for myself. On the surface I am male to the public, but my true gender is trans male to reflect the life I’ve led and the body I was born with. That’s just how I have reconciled my gender at this point in my life (I’m 54 and didn’t start transitioning until 49). I think if I’d started younger maybe this would be different, but there’s no way to know that for sure.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I thought a lot about this last year in relation to myself, about where I fall on the spectrum. I also came from the point of view of not being able to relate to the mainstream trans narrative of despising my body and seeing it as the “wrong one” etc. But I’ve realised with time that barely anyone does. Trans woman is a term I use for myself and to describe how I feel, but I know how I feel doesn’t gel with how every trans woman feels or maybe even most.

    For a time I used “Genderqueer trans woman” which I felt was a nice way to imply that I do ID as female, but with a kind of slant on it, a something else to it, rather than a 100% binary woman. But in time I’ve started to drift away from feeling the need to use that, instead I’m increasingly comfortable just owning “trans woman” as a term for myself on its own, regardless.

    Anyway, I’m rambling. Great post 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    1. If that’s a ramble, then ramble on. It was good to read your perspective. I don’t feel I am ‘in the wrong body’ it’s simply that my body and my brain/identity developed differently. Now we know how and why that happens (or at least science gives us a pretty reasonable explanation). I certainly don’t hate my body; it is healthy and serves me well, I am lucky in that I don’t have a very ‘male’ body.

      There seems to be such an emphasis at the GIC’s about ‘treating’ dysphoria, but I am not sure how much of that I experience and it worries me that I may be refused hormones. I think some of my equanimity is to do with my age, I am sure I would be more distressed if I was seeking transition in my teens..

      Thanks for you comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I hope that they give you the hormones without making you go into a lot of detail as some things are hard to put into words, it would seem you shouldn’t have to, and should be able so simply get the hormones without much explanation. I wish it were easier. Two spirit has always resonated with me.
    My daughter has a young friend who has said some of what you have, she doesn’t feel she was born in the wrong body and she says she feels more gender neutral depending on the day.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you. Hormones should be available on an ‘informed consent’ basis, but in the UK we still have a system based on treating gender issues as a form of mental illness managed by organisations funded by mental health trusts.

      I am hopeful for the young; we now understand how gender is a product of hormones and socialisation. The young seem open to being flexible with both gender and sexual identity/preference.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had no idea that the UK treated this as a mental illness. That is unfathomable!!! Here in the US at my daughter’s school, she was friends with numerous boys and girls who were outspoken about being gay and her one friend that says she is gender neutral. My good friend was transgender and it was very accepted in our community. She was accepted. Not by her own family, but by everyone else it seemed. I just couldn’t imagine living somewhere where gender differences were considered an illness. N the US there has been lately the ridiculous bathroom issue.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Yes that bathrooom issue has filtered across the pond in small ways. Strictly gender is not seem as a mental health issue by the national health service (e.g. NHS England) but gender clinics are funded by mental health trusts and are slow to give up their desire to identify and ‘treat dysphoria. There are parts of teh NHS that work on an ‘informed consent’ model in prescribing hormones.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Seperating gender from sex is something I don’t really know much about and have little understanding of, but it is also an issue I would love to develop an understanding of and learn more about. Thank you for writing this wonderful piece. You are an inspiration.

    Like

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