Why am I transgender? Why am I different? While I feel the first question may be appropriate, I do not feel the second question is relevant. I am not different. I am unique. I am unique in the same way that every other person in the world is uniquely who they are. However because I am transgender, because I am born male and yet identify as a woman, many tend to see me as different. Not myself personally so much as anyone and everyone who is transgender. We are different in the sense that President Trump feels we may be ‘too much trouble’ to be allowed to serve and defend out country. We are different in the sense that state legislatures and municpal government often feel the need to pass laws and ordinances that — to use a very polite concept — manages our behaviors and limits our choices. At the same time, as a transgender individual, I am non-comforming. I am not adopting the prevalent social norm that as a male I must live my life as a man.
In a previous blog post — The Tyranny of the Gender Binary — I expressed some of my thoughts on why in my opinion a binary gender system is an outdated model. However, it still has a lock on how males and females are raised differently in our society and as such that I am transgender suggests something happened to send me down a different path. I want to stress that this is my path and I am not suggesting that other transgender individual did not have their own unique and sutbstantially different path. Also there little of what I share here is proveable fact. As I suggest in the title, it is merely an hypothesis. While much of what I will postulate may be unverifiable, I feel most of it offers a consistent explanation of how I came to be transgender.
There is a real disdain in the transgender community for the word ‘transgendered.’ The term implied by making transgender a verb that we become transgender. Many in the transgender community are more comfortable with the idea that we were ‘Born That Way.’ While I do not doubt that there are genetic reasons I am who I am as an individual, I see gender identity — our behaviors and image of ourselves as distinct from being male or female — is a learned identity. Males are assigned the identiy of boy and females are assigned the identity of girl. I do not like the term transgendered because we do not use the term cisgendered or girled or boyed. In other words my gender identity is something I learned. I do not feel that this invalidates the ‘Born That Way’ insight into gender but merely suggest that all of us whether we are cisgender or transgender were ‘Born That Way.’ By this I am suggesting that being born in not just about childbirth but also also about the multi-year process of becoming who we are.
Katic Couric recently did an special for National Geographic entitled The Gender Revolution. The special opened up with a discussion of intersex individual and offer an explanation that pivots around hormanal difference in their mother as opposed to that found in most pregnant women. Without questions, hormones have a tremendous impact on a person’s body and personality. There is also considerable evidence to suggest that one can influence their own hormones simply through how the mind thinks and what it wants. It seems possible to me that since Mom and Dad really, really wanted me to be a girl that Mom might have sent messages to her brain to please let it be a girl. As I already had the chromosones of a male, that was not possible. But it may have affect my persoanlity in such a way at to shape how I saw boy things and girl things as I grew older. Remember this is just a hypotthesis.
I do not know when I first heard The Story. However it seems very likely — hypothecially likely — that even as Mom held her newborn son in her arms she was telling friends and family that it had been her preference that I had been a girl. I based this likelihood around one thing I knew for sure. Even ten years later, after her and Dad had finally gotten a daughter, she was still telling family and friends how much her and Dad wanted me to be a girl. I heard the story often enough when I was old enough to have a memory of The Story that it simply does not seem pausible that it was not told often when I was younger.
It is generally agreed that around the age of two-and-a-half to three most children developed the abiltiy to label genders. They know there is a difference between boys and girls and have the ability to label other children as boys or girls. And of course themselves. They may be able to tell the difference between boys and girls but that is not to say they know why there is a difference. They have not yet reach the point of gender stability — the awarenes that being a boy or being a girl is a stable experience. Not have they reached the point of gender constancy, which may not full develop until age six or seven, that gender is permanent and unchangeable. In other words, at the time I first became able to discern the difference between boys and girls and understand myself to be a boy, I had not yet come to understand that gender was stable nor that it was permanent. And while I knew myself to be a boy, I also knew my parents wanted me to be a girl from The Story.
Everyone knows that children are by their nature very inquisitive. When there is something they do not understand they ask Why or they pose other questions to get the answers they need to better understand the world and their place in the world. It does not seem unlikely that I might have asked my parents “Will I be a girl someday?” “Why am I a boy?” Why can’t I be a girl?” I do not know if I asked these questions or questions similar in nature. However, based on unfolding events in my life, it has to be a given that I started to wonder how life might be as a girl. I will even go one step further and suggest that I must have come to some conclusion that life would be better as a girl. Why do I say this? My gender identity was largely shaped by the age of five or six. I am a transgender woman now so I must have been a transgender child then.
To continue my hypotheical questioning of my parents, and assuming that like most children I kept asking Why until I got an answer I understood and made sense to me, that my parents often found the need to stress to me that I was a boy and would always be a boy. Whereas most cisgender children do not question their gender or accept easy answers when they do, if I did pose these questions and was persistent in my efforts to get answers, I most likely became aware of the stability and permenance of gender at an age younger than most children. It is also likely that while most children saw the constancy of their gender as reassuring as a transgender child for me it would have been limiting and unwanted.
To this point in my hypothesis, my gender idenity is largely being shaped by questions I have about why am i a boy and not a girl. I am wondering what mistake was made. Why did my parents get a boy if they wanted a girl? Did I do something wrong? Was it my fault? Had God make a mistake? Had the stork made a mistake? Just who was too blame? As a child who like all children was on occasion punished I knew that someone was alway to blame. And then we moved into my grandmother’s house.
At a time when I was confronting all the questions I had as a child about my gender — or about being a boy and not a girl — the primary role model in my life was my grandmother. My Dad was attending school and rarely around as best as I can recall. And my grandmother was not simply grandmotherly. She was a professional woman at a time when professional women were rare. While I did not understand how rare her position was, I did recognize her as a strong woman with a full command of the household. In her home there was no downside to being a woman. In fact, she was the unquestioned head of the household and as such worthy of admiration, respect and imitation. Watching my grandmother do her makeup and get dressed for work became one of my favorite pleasures. I wanted to be her. I wanted to someday being a woman. If only I was a girl that would be my fate.
However as everyone around me had told me so often and in so many different way, I was a boy. That would never change. That was my fate to live my life first as a boy and then as a man.