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.