After years of denial, finally hitting the point of self-acceptance earlier this year that I’m transgender was a major milestone for me. It allowed me to set down the heavy burdens of repression and hiding a part of my self from those closest to me.
As I tiptoe into transition seeking a comfortable spot on the gender spectrum for myself, I’m finding I have some deeper questions I’ve been asking myself this time around that didn’t really come up before. The biggest one that I’ve been wrestling with lately is this: now that I’ve accepted myself as transgender, will I come to see myself as female/woman, especially after I’ve been on hormones for a while and shift my gender presentation from masculine towards feminine?
This is a tricky one to answer, fraught with all sorts of cultural, family, and self-inflicted baggage. It’s also confusing as hell.
The easy answer is that I get to define (or not define) myself as I see fit.
The harder answer is that I don’t know. At times, I feel female, but I can’t shake the possibility of having that feeling come from measuring myself against external reference points versus something inherent that comes from within.
Having been born male, is this feeling manifested from the spot of being transgender and a rejection of my masculinity and an embrace of my femininity, or does it derive from the spot of being female and rejecting my maleness? The origin is hidden, and given that my experience is mine alone, I can only roughly map my inner experiences against the external measures of cultural and biological expectations, and vice versa, and calibrate accordingly.
As I delve into these thought experiments, my model of gender has shifted quite a bit lately, and I’m more confused than I was before. I think this is a positive development, as it forces me to really evaluate my motivations for transition and what I seek from it.
When I did my research over a decade ago about gender, the culturally manifested model of gender seemed to make the most sense, but part of it felt incomplete to me. This time around, I’m more attuned to the biological expression of gender, expressed as physical sexual dimorphism, and eye Bornstein and Money with more skepticism all-up.
I’m coming to believe that the internal, social, and physical manifestations of gender, sexual dimorphism, and sex role are deeply intertwined, and combine and play off of each other to create an internal state of gender that expresses itself externally and that this is what culture interacts with, and that this state can shift over time.
Before I go any further, I want to be clear that this analysis is for myself, and I do not presume to place or judge others against it. It may fit you or it may not. That’s up to you to decide, not me, and if you reject this analysis, I won’t take it personally. Many times I’ve seen in person and online how one person’s view of how they personally interpret gender held up as some sort of standard that others should be measured against. I think that’s bullshit, and maybe I’ll do a post someday about why I think it is, but this is not that post.
OK, with disclaimers out of the way, here’s my self-analysis. I’m going to contrast current state, with desired state in the internal, social, and physical areas.
My current internal identity is as a semi-masculine female. My desired state is as a feminine female.
My current social role is as a male. My desired state is as a female.
My current physical presentation:head is bearded, short-haired male. My desired state is as a non-bearded, long-haired female.
My current physical presentation:upper body is male musculature. My desired state is female with breasts.
My current physical presentation:lower body:front is male genitalia. My desired state is ambivalent; some days I want a vagina, and I’m actually OK with my penis and feel no compulsion to have it disappear.
My current physical presentation:lower body:rear/side is male, no curves. My desired state is female, curvy.
My current sex role is male heterosexual. My desired state is female homosexual to female bisexual.
The current and desired states have shifted over the years. Notably, I’m much more receptive now to physical presentation changes than I was previously, and interestingly to me, I shifted from really wanting a vagina to being ambivalent about it and being much more open to being female bisexual.
As I dig into these shifts, three things pop out for me. I want to change my body 1) for myself so that I can properly fit and wear the clothes that I’ve longed for all my life, 2) for social attention and acknowledgement in the social gender role I’d rather be in, and 3) to feel more sexually attractive to members of the same and opposite sex. In sum, I think these things will bring me the congruence I’ve been seeking.
What I’m having a hard time reconciling is that for all the angst, all the tears, all the emotional pain over the years about my gender, it seems to boil down to clothes, acknowledgement, and sex, and that these motivators may yet shift again.
My first take is that these motivations seem kind of shallow. I’m having to take a close look at these and either accept them at face value or divine if they are proxies for deeper stuff.
Having read the personal stories of dozens, maybe hundreds, of people who have gone through a transition of one sort or another, among all the different motivations, challenges, and triumphs of each, one pattern that emerges is that of the individuation of the new self.
Individuation is a process, not a state, and to tie it back to earlier points, my previous state of gender was much more male-identified and that it has shifted to be more female-identified.
Does that make me female? I have no idea yet, but my individuation as trans continues. While I may never have a clear answer to the question, at least I better understand what’s behind the question as it applies to me.