Sunday, April 14, 2002

Never Enough Gender Rants Department

It annoys me in profound ways when well-meaning women come up to me and say, "Oh, I just love a man in drag!" Most of the time I feel like saying, "That's sweet; I hope you find one some day." Instead, I often find myself explaining the issues behind being a transsexual, in particular:

  1. I'm not a man except by technicality, and even THAT is going to change as soon as I raise the $10,000 to do it;
  2. I'm not "in drag" and have only a tiny bit of common ground with the drag queens they are surely thinking about.

One of the complications here is that the transgendered have their own "community" of sorts, with their own language and concepts. For one, we recognize our own gender dysphoria--a deep dissatisfaction and rebellion of the identity versus a socially constructed gender assignment. We transsexuals, crossdressers, and other transgendered certainly didn't ask to be this way, but there's an inward voice that speaks, for some in whispers and others in screams, saying: "That letter on your birth certificate isn't you. And you've got to do something about it." We're thus driven to not just dress in clothes of the so-called opposite sex, but to take on the role of said gender to whatever extent is necessary that the inward voice speaks in more peaceful tones. Someone with experience only with gender norms and maybe a few viewings of Rocky Horror therefore has no concept that, for most of us, "transvestite" and "drag" are slurs. The former is a medical term that has connotations of fetishism which hardly applies; the latter lumps us all with gay men who like to play up the glamorous life now and then as an homage or a parody, but without identifying with the female. Either way, the language does us a disservice.

Speaking of gay men, another major point of contention involves deep confusion between the concepts of sex, gender, and sexual orientation. Sex is what the doctor sees between your legs at birth. (And doctors have been wrong.) Gender is what society tries to saddle us with after sex is determined. And sexual orientation is who you wind up sleeping with, anyway. Granted, there is interplay between the concepts of sex, gender, and sexual orientation, but it would be a grave disservice to confuse the three. Based on my physical characteristics, I am technically male but quickly changing into more and more of a female form; society tried to socialize me as a boy and as a man, but that didn't stick and I am now resocializing as a girl and as a woman; and frankly, women turn me on in ways men simply cannot.

I raise this point because it still amazes me how often my transsexuality gets discounted because I prefer women. Worse, even now I still hear comments like, "If you like guys so much, why not just be gay?" Apparently, some cannot fathom why I would change my sex if I didn't want to sleep with men; I could simply remain male and have sex with women, right? Conversely, if I want to change my sex, I must want to sleep with men, and I could simply remain male and live as a gay man. It's a lose/lose situation; either way, the notion of changing sex gets rubbed out on grounds of sexual orientation. Talking about missing the point.

No matter how one cuts it, I regard myself as female so strongly that I give myself expensive hormone shots and pills to alter my body as well as my emotions, and plan on having my genitals remoulded surgically to match. This isn't a weekend fling; I have changed my name and started living every moment as female as I can, and will do so for the rest of my life. I am going through a profound experience beyond the scope of being "in drag," beyond heterosexuality and homosexuality, beyond static notions of what it is to be a man or to be a woman. My mere existence smashes barriers and thumbs a nose towards those who wish to enforce society's norms. And I don't feel like this is a choice either; the alternative is to have that screaming inner voice drive me to the grave prematurely, and that is simply not an option. No, I have no choice but to be myself, no matter what confusion or discomfort others may have to face. Anything less would be irresponsible to the world, which has labored for centuries under the yoke of Western Society's delusions. I march for freedom, and that, friends, is no drag.

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