July 2018
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transgender and transsexual identities as I relate to them (am I trans?)

I've been thinking a lot about gender and how it relates to me (I know, what else is new) -- specifically, whether or not I identify as transgender and/or transsexual. ((trans friends, please forgive and gently correct me if I say something erroneous/ignorant about trans issues, I've just begun educating myself))

The dictionary defines transgender and transsexual as the same thing -- someone who has transitioned or deeply desires to transition physically to the 'opposite' sex. The American Psychological Association and wikipedia define transgender as an umbrella term used to describe people whose gender identity/expression differs from that usually associated with their birth sex. That makes more sense to me, so in my LJ: transsexual = wanting/making physical changes to sex, and transgender = not identifying with the 'gender' of one's birth sex and identifying as trans.

Until recently I knew next to nothing about trans identities (still don't know much, but am learning!). I had always thought that transsexual people believed in gender as something immutable and inborn, since the reason I always heard for people transitioning was, "I feel [female/male] inside." Then I met someone who does not have that reason (I don't want to paraphrase zir reasons because I would surely do a clumsy job), and realized hey, people can want to change their bodies for other reasons, and there are trans people who actually feel the same way I do about gender (that it is just a set of stereotypes). I'd always thought that trans people would hate me because many cisgender people (those who identify with the gender associated with their birth sex) get angry enough at me for questioning/disdaining gender, and trans people go through so much more to create their gender, so I thought they'd be that much angrier at me. That idea was recently dismantled for me through a conversation with another transgender person I favorited on okcupid, who didn't get upset with me at all but just asked thought-provoking questions (ze had thought that ze embodied an idea I was against). Here's how I responded to that (edited slightly):
even though I don't believe in gender, I really respect people who change their sex (or apparent sex) because it's such a brave move and it shows the range of human flexibility -- I know that sorta clashes with the idea that one is simply expressing one's true gender, but it's the way I see it... It's like, ultimately I would like if everyone could express themselves without using categories, but the next best thing (in my view) is expressing oneself by exploring outside the lines of what is imposed by society -- disregarding the expectations of one's birth sex. I mean, if half of the world were transgender, then people would be forced to acknowledge that one's sex does not imply anything about their personality or behavior. People wouldn't be able to look at me and think "ze has boobs, must have been born female and therefore be nurturing, illogical, and submissive." You know? so it's sorta another way of achieving the same goal of destroying stereotypes (or at least making it more difficult to stereotype people based on appearance). But I suppose it would depend on the person -- if a transsexual person was like, "now that I have a female body, I must conform to all female stereotypes," then I would consider that probably more harmful than helpful.

So I've realized that I technically fall under the umbrella of transgender, and even though I know there are those who would consider me anti-trans, I'm feeling more and more of a sense of community with transgender people. I am not yet comfortable referring to myself as transgender because I don't know what the broader trans community would think of me, and I don't want to put myself where I'm not wanted. But realizing that some trans people might welcome me makes me kinda excited. I've never felt that I fit in any queer community because I'm not gay or lesbian and bisexuals just don't have a community. But I share a common goal with trans people (changing the current system of gender), and it's thrilling to feel so strongly about something and discover a group who ALSO feels strongly about it, and is making tangible progress.

Whether or not I consider myself transsexual is even more confusing. I don't think I'd ever refer to myself as such because it would simply not communicate what I meant -- people'd assume I want to change my body to male, which is not the case. I am perfectly happy with my female body. I like everything about it. BUT. If a body genie appeared to me and told me I could design my own body, I would choose intersex -- vulva, vagina, penis, breasts, and facial hair only on my chin (more than my 13 hairs, heh). I don't think I would want to use surgery to create that body because 1) they can't do it the way I'd want it, 2) I'm only willing to undergo surgery for a life-threatening condition, 3) I would feel like I was rejecting my current body (which would hurt my feelings), and 4) it's expensive. But if I had that shape I'd love my body even more because I'd be sure to never have sexist lovers, haha! And I'd fuck with everybody's mindsets just by being myself. And I'd get to experience the feeling of being inside someone else in that way.

Identifying as trans also becomes more complex/questionable when I look cisgender to everyone I meet. I find it really upsetting that even though it is just plain ME to wear skirts (they're comfortable and fit my shape), long dangly earrings (they're small works of art), low-cut tops (they're cool and let me breathe), colorful things (I love color), etc., people assume that I'm attempting to look "feminine" when I am simply being my human self and dressing according to my love for comfort, color, and art (I would wear the same things if I had a male body). I also find it upsetting that if I open the door for someone or offer to carry something or take the lead, they assume I am playing 'masculine' when really, I'm just expressing my human desire to show kindness and/or get stuff done. I want people to see my actions as simply me, not as performing a gender. I hate being seen and treated in gendered ways. I hate it that people assume that I'm all down with stereotypes just because I fit theirs! There are ways in which I don't fit stereotypes -- keeping my body hair, wearing sensible and comfortable shoes (only the one pair), not wearing makeup often, not covering pimples when I have them, not flattening or hiding or sucking in my belly -- but I think most people interpret these things as me being lazy or sloppy, not as deliberately transgressing gender. They see me as failing at 'femininity' rather than saying fuck you to gendered ideas of beauty. It's SO frustrating to me, because it is most me to dress the way I do, but people would interpret me more accurately if I wore pants and a collared shirt and bound my breasts and cut my hair short. Then they'd realize, at least, that I'm not playing the game by the USUAL rules (even though they'd probably think I'm switching one set for another). But what good is it to be untrue to myself in order to be interpreted more accurately? None. So I keep on with what's true to me even though I don't like what others 'read' from it; but then, will I be perceived as a pretender because I have no intention of transitioning or gender-transgressing in visible ways? I'm still contemplating (and learning).

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acid_burns ══╣╠══

"I have no truth but the truth inside you." - Patti Smith

belenen ══╣connate╠══

outside of society, that's where I want to be
acid_burns ══╣╠══
[icon love - need to watch the film again soon]
camilleyun ══╣╠══
I have a friend I have known since 1996 who has had and prefers sexual experiences with both men and women. Keley has a penis but feels female inside, love sports, is in the military, is married, has 2 children, and is not interested in surgery. Keley has dressed in skirts and dresses and gone out in public but the rest of the time it's very gender-neutral clothing because if anything personal were revealed the very well-paying job in military special intelligence would be threatened because of THEIR beliefs.

I think the spectrum is just way too wide.

Josh's daughter likes to play with toy cars. Josh's son plays with dolls. Luckily, his ex-wife has said nothing about this since I am pretty sure she sees their playing together as a good thing since they do this together but they otherwise very typically gender specific...his daughter is all mommied out with her baby dolls and his son wants to be a football player [I think this is more of what the family wants since the poor kid freaks out at the sight of blood from the smallest cut and Josh is the same way if it is his own blood].

My neighbors joke with me that I must really be a gay male. Charlie once said "Oh honey when did you get it sewn on?" [meaning when did I become female].

I just think there is way too much overlap with people and that most of them fight it because of societal/cultural pressures.

I've derailed myself from my own point.

Speaking of shoes, if it doesn't squick you out to wear someone else's shoes, I have these awesome violet sneakers that I love but kill my big toes every time I wear them. They are size 8 I think and might fit you if you are interested in having them.
divinemiss_em ══╣╠══
This was a really interesting post! Thank you for sharing it :)

I have a few comments, and I hope you don´t mind me sharing them.
I believe wholeheartedly that gender (just like sexuality) is a continuum and being that, there is endless, infinite diversity in our feelings, the way we present, our bodies etc. One of my criticisms (more of an observation, I suppose as I don´t want to place a value judgment on it) is that from my experience the prevailing paradigm of transexuality (M-F being the most common) doesn´t always reflect this and can actually perpetuate the idea of two distinct genders. Most of the transgendered individuals who I have met and known in my life present themselves as "more female than cisgendered females". I know that it can be seen as a way of fucking with peoples preconceived ideas of gender, but I just wish we could get beyond this to something even more radical and ultimately much more satisfying. I think though this has a lot to do with the medicalization of transexuality that I see that happens.

You talked about it in a previous post, but I personally feel most comfortable with the idea of genderqueer. I find a freedom and unrestrictiveness in that label that I don´t feel in any other terminology. I´m a cisgendered female who happens to be in a marriage with a cisgendered male, but I am absolutely queer in many, many ways. It´s funny, a LOT of the negativity that I have gotten over the years about my bisexuality, my visible body hair, loving my fat body, my radfem politics, etc. has come from people who you would think would be the most accepting of them, i.e. individuals in the GLBT community. But that´s MY experience.

ok, i´ve written an essay now in your comments box! sorry!! ;)
fyrebard ══╣╠══
I think, in a large part brought on because you have been there speaking on it and made it an issue for me to think on, that the issue of transgendered has been something I'm thinking on a lot more recently. I have always had "masculine" qualities - wanting to open doors for people, to protect those who are weaker than me, to help with carrying things, and if you've ever seen me when I'm in puzzle mode (well, that's what I call it) I am very good at solving things in a logical manner. All my life, too, I have had difficulty expressing stereo-typical feminine values, such as nurturing (only have so much patience for that), expressing emotion (beside anger...), submitting (to anyone, without feeling like a weak-pated ninny), and being docile (heh). It's not (I *believe*) that I think I am a freak so much anymore, but I have actually wondered why I didn't fit the way I was supposed to...

And even now, it's not like I'm thinking about this head on persay so much as sidling around the back of it with my subconscious while my conscious brain amuses itself staring at butterflies or something shiney.

But, erm, I suppose I wanted to let you know I relate about not fitting, and I think the issues you've raised about transgenderism bear thinking on.

Additionally, I believe that if a term 'fits', why should you change it to please a group of people? If those who are open-minded give you an opportunity to discuss the Why's of you feeling that term is appropriate, then that's enough, see? But there are close-minded people even in groups that really have no room to be close-minded, if they are hoping to make any kind of difference in their world. And just like close-minded people in 'accepted' groups, they really don't bear much listening to.

hope_persists ══╣tranarchy╠══
have you heard the term genderqueer? from the outside, it seems like maybe a term that would resonate more than trans (and be more descriptive to others in the world of gender nonconformists). but i can't speak for how it feels on the inside.

xenopsi ══╣╠══
I love love love love love love this post. So much.
samwhise ══╣╠══
I think you might be misunderstanding what transition is about for some trans folk. For me (and I identify specifically as transsexual), my physical transition has absolutely nothing to do with my gender*. My physical transition is about my physical sex - i.e., the shape of my body, and the steps I need to take to feel comfortable with it and live in it. Any investment I have in gendered pronouns/etc. is related to the amount of shit I’ve gotten for wanting to transition, how hard I have to fight to get my family/some old friends to acknowledge my maleness (not masculinity) and use them, and how easy it is for someone to profoundly and publically disrespect me with just a little one-syllable, three-letter word. (Not, by contrast, a statement of my love of gender as it is currently institutionalized.)

I’ll be honest, there are a lot of trans folk who would be less than welcoming if you started publically calling yourself trans. I definitely get where you’re coming from with gender, but “transgender” and (especially) “transsexual” means something that to me – and probably to other trans folk as well, though of course I only speak for myself – sounds pretty different from what you’re describing. “Genderqueer” might fit better, though of course I don’t know your mind.

Relatedly, there’s a post well worth reading over at Questioning Transphobia that sort of touches on some of the stuff you’re talking about, and articulates better/more thoroughly than I just did the (potential) complexities of trans[sexual] identities.

*when I say “gender”, I’m referring to the set of characteristics and traits I have that relate to my speech, clothing, hobbies, etc – things society deems ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’. I do/say/think/wear things that people would deem masculine and feminine, and I don’t really set much stock in differentiating between the two. I just express myself as I feel most comfortable.
samwhise ══╣╠══
The post I referred to is here, sorry.
belenen ══╣╠══
samwhise ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
samwhise ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
samwhise ══╣╠══
xochitl ══╣╠══
I like these posts, they are interesting. I identify as female, and I love being female. But, I also love that I have the option to dress really girly one day (dress, heels, make-up, bra, purse, etc.) and the next look boyish (baggy pants, t-shirt, no make-up, no bra, no purse, boots, etc.) depending on my mood. I don't consider myself any less female though. It's funny because straight men are usually the most confused. It bothers me that they expect straight women to always dress and look (and act) a certain way.
melstrick ══╣╠══
"I've never felt that I fit in any queer community because I'm not gay or lesbian and bisexuals just don't have a community."

Now that we are surfing the 3rd wave (of feminism that is), queer is a bit of an evolving term. For LGB folk that use "queer" may be referring to sexuality, while in the "Queer" community (includes genders in the multitudes and anti/absence gendered folk as well), "queer" is a term that describes gender absent of sexuality. In the latter "queer" is a term that is intended to destroy categories of gender and sexuality, and many other socialized institutions. You may actually find folk/couples/groups that 'appear' straight on the surface but their politics and lives are lived 'queerly.' In turn, you may find many gays and lesbians whose lives are a bit more 'assimilation-ist' and not lived so 'queerly.' Eh, I hope I am doing it justice, took me a while to begin to understand it myself.

You may find out that you fit in the "Queer" community (in the second sense) more than you think. However, guessing from former posts on power exchanges, bdsm, pornography, etc., you may run into these things more than you would like, as they are often embraced in this community.

aliyna ══╣╠══
I'm going to think about this and then come back and talk more, but first I wanted to mention my reaction to your shoes statement. I've seen the sneakers in many photos of you and I always think, goddamn, it's so hot and humid in Georgia, how can she possibly find those comfortable? (in the hot months, that is) because I'm SUCH a flip-flops or bare-feet person and you seem like a flip-flop spirit. =D So I chuckled to see that to you those sneaks really are the most comfortable to you, because I'd hate hate hate their sweaty asses. =D
shadowborn ══╣╠══
queerbychoice ══╣╠══
I went through a similar discovery of the trans community more than ten years ago. Initially I was very excited about it and embraced the trans community as my own. However, I found that the rejection of one's existing body is of such central importance to such a large portion of the transgender community that it really became emotionally toxic to me to be too involved with many people in that community. I felt my own comfort with my own body being seriously damaged, much more severely than I had ever imagined that it could be under any cicumstances whatsoever, from excessive exposure to people who did, in fact, achieve a greater degree of freedom from gender than I did, precisely because they did permanently alter their bodies. Altering their bodies made them happy and they kept emphasizing to me the advantages of this approach - but for me there were disadvantages of this approach that made a bigger difference to me, that outweighed the advantages, and most of the trans people I met didn't feel those things or seem to understand why I would. I started feeling like I shouldn't feel those things either, and I started losing part of my sense of self. I only regained a sense of full emotional health again by severely limiting my exposure to people talking about wanting to change their bodies (whether for trans reasons or for any other reasons).

You're older than I was at that time, and it's certainly possible that your sense of self would be more able to stand up to immersion in a community that has similar issues with gender to yours and mine but often a very different idea of the best solution to those issues than yours and mine. But be aware of the possibility of being too much influenced by the thinking of a group that outnumbers you. I have never been a person whose sense of self was at all easily shaken, but the appeal of finally finding a group of people who shared my dissatisfaction with gender made me unexpectedly and extraordinarily vulnerable to being converted to their strategies of coping with that dissatisfaction, against my better judgment about what was right for me.
emotionalspazz ══╣╠══
bisexuals just don't have a community

We should make one together... >:

Also, I think the reason that so many stereotypes exist in general is because American society (if you live in America, anyway) was built by Puritans, then warped into the tons of double-standards that exist right now. What makes it worse is media, because people identify with stereotypes, and when people identify with your media, you get ratings. Since America -- and really, the world -- is so reliant on media, then that's what happens.

It looks irrelevant to your post, but its kinda background for what I wanted to say about the last thing:

There are ways in which I don't fit stereotypes -- keeping my body hair, wearing sensible and comfortable shoes (only the one pair), not wearing makeup often, not covering pimples when I have them, not flattening or hiding or sucking in my belly -- but I think most people interpret these things as me being lazy or sloppy, not as deliberately transgressing gender. They see me as failing at 'femininity' rather than saying fuck you to gendered ideas of beauty.

I've only seen one picture of you, but it didn't even cross my mind that you don't do any of these things, and really, I'm not sure why. You're right about the stereotype thing -- categorizing and stereotypes are deeply ingrained into people, as well as the concept of sexualizing things and people (and I admit that I'm a person who kind of has a problem with this).

In America, at least, a country that affects almost the entire world, gender roles are incredibly apparent no matter what people say, as well as gendered ideas of attractiveness -- men are supposed to be strong, hairy, and protective, and women are supposed to be nurturing and -- because porn exists -- soft, lithe, smooth tools of pleasure, and this is why people constantly expect to see women dieting and shaved even though many people simply don't want to do that.

You're beautiful as long as you carry yourself that way. That's probably why I never noticed any "flaws" of you in that one picture I saw of you.

On an almost unrelated note, I hate make-up!

I really want to post more but I'm getting bothered now. Guh. I had so much more to say, too...
fyrebard ══╣╠══
I tend to hate make-up too! A great deal of that, though, is that a great majority of people believe that in order to be beautiful you must wear make-up. Well, I'm either beautiful or I'm not, dammit, and if I'm not, I'm not going to hide behind layers of powder and color! and sometimes it sucks to feel this strongly about the issue, because I love the aspect of painting my face - so many colors to choose from! - and feel hampered by "having" to choose the colors that "best accentuate my features". You know how many colors accentuate blue eyes? Brown. And gray. Exxxxciting! (or not...)

And yea, we should totally start our own bi-sexual community. :D
emotionalspazz ══╣╠══
(Anonymous) ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣disassociative╠══
Well, I'm happy with my female body because I choose to be, because I don't see myself as having the option for a body that would be more 'me'. I can see where I do not have the same fundamental feeling about my physical self that many transsexual people have, and therefore don't have the same experience. To me it feels similar. But this was just a reflecting on my feelings, not a statement of identity. Some people feel that they have a male body by accident of birth but their truest self has a female body -- I feel that I have a female body by accident of birth but my truest self has an intersex body. Surely there are others who are dissatisfied with the current abilities of medicine and choose not to transition.

After seeing the responses, I probably won't be calling myself trans, but on the inside I still feel trans. And if anyone calls me cisgender I'll probably rip their throat out.
(Anonymous) ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
girlslovegirls7 ══╣╠══
i dont understand. i thought you believed that the sterio types that they put out there for us to fit into are just that, sterio types.ok i understand the whole trans thing but i wouldnt indentify with it. not because im judging them or im uncomfortable, but because i dont think that there really is such thing as male and female. characteristics of a person is just too complex to put into a word. yea there is the fiscle apearance, and i understand that somtimes what we want is to be seen for who we are on the inside. but im a whole lot of things. id like to believe everyone else is too.
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on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.