Saturday, January 5, 2008

A bit about me being transsexual and how I experience this...

I'm a transsexual guy--and before anyone starts on about upholding gender binaries or butch lesbians or whatnot--I am somewhere on the feminine side of androgynous or geeky.
I am, in fact, definitely more of a flaming faggot than I am, or ever was, a butch dyke.
Sometimes I like to call myself a geeky, flaming fag.
When I tell my friends some folks' theories about how trans*guys are really butch lesbians...well lets just say that I have learned to make sure this is in a place and time where excess laughter is not going to cause us any trouble (for instance, never again will I tell a friend this while she is driving; never again).

I'm not transsexual because I think it's cool or because I want attention.
Being transsexual has caused, and is still causing, a lot of pain for me and I am still trying to be able to consistently take pride in being transsexual.
And while, like most people, I do rather like attention--this is definitely not the way I go about gaining it.
I also don't think that I am delusional or crazy. because I'm trans*, nor that I am trans* because I'm crazy (and I resent the ableist crap that calling people crazy represents).
But anyways, here is a post I wrote a few weeks prior regarding how I experience transsexuality; what being transsexual means to me.

The other day Emily posted on what being trans* means for her.
And I can see some similarities between our meanings, like I experience the body dissociation as well and, just like with her, the intensity rises and falls. Given that everyone experiences things differently and I think there are different types of trans*ism, there are differences between our accounts as well (though reading her post, I see nothing there that is 'wrong' for me, only a few experiences that I haven't had and/or are more specific to trans*women).

For me, being transsexual is that there is a constant wrongness to everything and that it generally becomes worse when I am am made aware of my body and voice. There is a constant slice of despair in my life that has been present for as long as I can remember and it has never gone completely away. I can ignore it for awhile and it isn't always completely noticeable, but it's my ever-present companion.
This isn't to say that I have always despaired or that I hate being transsexual. No, I can often ignore the wrongness (especially if I'm around people who see me as a guy and if I'm not made aware of certain parts of my body) and I think I have experienced and seen valuable things in ways I never would have if I was cissexual. And what I mean by “made aware of” is that while I am always aware of my body and how it's shaped I'm not always aware of it; I know it's there but I don't really pay attention to both my body and my gender dissonance.
I'm currently reading Whipping Girl and her description of body dissonance fits me well. “This gender dissonance can manifest itself itself in a number of ways. Sometimes it felt like stress or anxiousness, which led to marathon battles with insomnia. Other times, it surfaced as jealousy or anger at other people who seemed to enjoy taking their gender for granted. But mostly of all, it felt like sadness to me—a sort of gender sadness—a chronic and persistent grief over the fact that I felt so wrong in my body.” (85)
I feel the same way, even the insomnia (the other night I didn't even bother going to bed as I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep).

And that's just the physical aspect.

The social dissonance—the dissonance of not being viewed as what/who you see yourself—is rather like a mixture of confusion (how can they not see that I am a man?), annoyance (gah, stop bothering me about this and just respect my truth!), and shame/guilt (what am I doing/not doing to make them see me as something I'm not?).
I see myself one way and yet society treats me as though I were another way.
ETA: I've been thinking about this some more and another thing that happens when someone misgenders me is that I am suddenly thrust back into awareness of how wrong my body is. I'll be fine and then, suddenly, BAM! "Missy" and with that comes the shame and the anger and the confusion and I am reminded that my body doesn't fit.

It's like this story I heard once where, to give the kids a lesson about seeing things from others' points of view, a teacher put an item on a desk and one side was black and the other was white. The two kids who volunteered to debate the color of the item each saw a completely different color and they had to switch places before they could agree.

I see myself as male and, while I know that I have a vagina and other assigned-female parts, I have a hard time seeing how those somehow make me a female/woman. The people who insist that I am a woman see only that I have female-assigned parts and that I have been raised by people who saw me as a girl and they can't see how I can argue with this. The people who read me as female-assigned get confused because they see someone who has mostly female-assigned secondary sex characteristics (and they assume primary as well); since most people are taught that primary+secondary sex characteristics=sex and gender they therefore think I am a girl/woman. Based off of their logic and their point of view, I realize that they aren't wrong. But based off of my logic and my point of view, I know that I am right as well.
And since we are talking about me, I think that my truth is more important than an external truth.

I guess some of this comes down to whether you believe in absolute truth or not. While I don't believe there is an absolute truth of everything, I am not sure if there are no absolute truths; just as I am not sure if I believe in free will or if I'm a Determinist or some form of mix or something else entirely. Truth be told, I don't usually care as the answer will not directly affect me or my actions (though I do ponder Big Questions like these, I simply don't see the answer itself as all that important).

Before I get too off topic, more on my experience as a transsexual...
I don't really identify as trans* or transsexual—at least, my gender identity and my subconscious sex are male/man. I identify as transsexual/trans* because that is how others see and classify me. It is an identity forged through a life lived with a certain medical condition and how I have been mistaken for and had to pretend to be something and someone I was not.
And yet...I'm not planning on going stealth; I out myself fairly often and I have little problem doing so. I suppose this might change when I eventually medically and legally transition and begin to pass more as a cissexual guy, but I pass fairly well among the geeks I often hang out with. It isn't unheard of, or in some circles all that uncommon, for geeks, nerds, and other social outcasts to fail at being the stereotypical man. Despite my feminine facial features, lack of stature, and high voice, I often pass among those of the Gamers club and any guest brought to it's meetings or events.
Yet even though I pass well I still out myself with little hesitation.

In my utopia, people could choose to treat their trans*ism the same way I treat mine, but without ever having to worry because someone chooses to disrespect their truth. They could casually mention how they lived in an all-female-assigned dormitory, how much they hate going to the gynecologist, or how itchy bras are and it would be like someone with bad knees mentioning that they have to remember to bring their cane with them because the weather is getting icky (and that tends to trigger some people's, such as my boyfriend's, joint problems). They'll get a couple questions (why were you in the girls' dorm?) and then people will move on because it really isn't that exciting; the hacked copy of Guitar Hero 3 that got out before the game was released is a much more interesting topic to the group.

I keep focusing more on how transsexuality affects me externally and not what it feels like and means internally.
I think it's because I've never felt like my body and my mind weren't constantly disagreeing with what should and shouldn't be there. How can I describe something if I can't tell where it begins, where it ends, and where other things are?

I have felt a “phantom penis” before, both before and after I stopped denying that I'm a guy. I remember, sometime before I was four (as I know it was before my sister was born and she was born just after my fourth birthday), that while I was in the bath I'd pretend I had a penis. I remember all those times being confused when I reach to scratch or adjust something that isn't there. I also get confused sometimes when I am reminded that my chest isn't flat. I'll be doing something, like carrying a box, and I'll wonder why, just for an instant before I remember, the box doesn't sit against my chest like it should.

I'm getting better at coping with the dissonance though... “I am a guy, my body is me/mine, and therefore my body is that of a guy” helps me a lot. Other people, like my friends and my boyfriend, seeing me as a guy and yet knowing about and even seeing or touching the parts of me that are pretty much universally assigned-female also helps a great deal.

I do not feel as though I am ”trapped in a woman's body” or “born in the wrong body” though. This is my body. everything but sex-specific differences (I mean things like genitals and voice; not generalities like height or gender expression) feels alright. I do feel a connection to my body and I doubt I'm a walk-in or any other form of “this body doesn't belong to me”. I feel as though my body simply did not develop into the right shape.
Like I'm a rhombus that's been molded to almost be a square and so I no longer fit through either the square or rhombus holes of life. ...And that is an horridamusing analogy I hope no one ever remembers that I made it.

There I went again, talking about other people and how that shapes my meanings and truths; and after-all, shouldn't I learn to love myself without basing my worth or that love on what other people think of me? Yet most of our experiences are shaped and formed by our interactions with others.
Moreover, when you are told constantly that you are crazy, you are a girl because you have xyz parts, that you will never be seen as a guy it most definitely helps to have the voices of others to counteract those lies that you may have started to believe about yourself.

I think the core of my transsexuality/trans*ism, though it doesn't sound as philosophical or as Emily's meaning for trans*ism, is that of a medical condition that sets me against what many people say about myself and my truths. Because of this I've developed an identity around it, but for me being transsexual is that my body and my mind don't match up.
I feel though that this was a lot of words and a lot of rambling tangents to say something so simple...I almost want to come up with something different, something for profound or political, yet I know that my being transsexual is simply this.


Lilith said...

I'm glad I found this through Feministe. I don't really understand what it's like to be trans but I'm interested. I have one stupid question though - what is the asterisk for?

Drakyn said...

It's not really a stupid question as it isn't that common, but I use the asterisk o make trans*-related words as inclusive as I can; for instance, trans*woman can stand for trans woman, transwoman, transfeminine woman, woman with a transsexual past, etc.

queen emily said...

And also, some people don't like to be described as transgender, whilst others don't like to be described as transsexual.

RhianWren said...

*hearts you*

srsly dude, I am so glad that I was linked to your blog.

Drakyn said...

Thank you Rhianwren ^.^

CopperFoxx said...

I'm Kristopher's annoying little sister. And to avoid confusion I will be calling myself CopperFoxx in this post. (Also to prevent any stalker mishaps)
Kris and I were never "close" considering Kris was off at school for 6 years and left me home alone with our parents. We fought rather extensively. Always about stupid things. He liked cats, I liked dogs. Sibling stuff. We never fought over clothing or any other 'feminine' type things. I've had no problem viewing Kris as a guy.
As such, I've viewed Kris as my sibling, and just changed the pronouns. Not a hard thing to do when your used to calling all your female friends generally male names. I've willed myself to accept anyone for the gender, ect. that they call themselves.
I always knew Kris was different and vowed to accept him. As such, I've grown to accept any number of people. Which causes problems for me in school. I really don't care if I get hit or sent to the principals office for screaming at someone for insulting someone whose different.
When it boils down to it. I will always love Kris for Kris. The big brother who used to point out good books for me and help me beat Pokemon.
I am not an expert on anything... I'm just the 16 year old sister to Kris.

Drakyn said...

Hey! I still point out good books to you! ^.^

Drakyn said...

I just wanted to add that I realize this post is very focused on subconscious sex and not gender identity (which I'm starting to see as two separate, though often linked, concepts). I'm not sure how to explain/conceptualize my gender identity at all; and atm, its overshadowed by the body disphoria.

Lynn said...

Thanks for writing this. It was hard to read about the body dissonance stuff but good for me to remember that I'm not alone in it.

I hear you about body issues overshadowing gender. The times when I feel good about my body I have no problem correcting people about my gender and being a butch who passes as a guy a lot. And the most painful thing about people reading my gender wrong is when it triggers body hatred.