So do I consider myself a ‘woman’ or a ‘man’? And what does religion say about gender identity?
When I am dressed as a woman, I see myself as a woman. Obviously I don’t view myself as a woman all the time, but my desire to function socially and be accepted as a woman most of the time is getting stronger, and I recognise that. I haven’t indicated whether or not I see myself ever living as a woman full time. Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. (I can tell you that even if I had SRS, I would probably occasionally dress as a boy just to be contrary – because I’m like that!)
I guess I want the best of both worlds, and I actually can’t see why that is impossible. Perhaps that’s naive, but there you go. Too much Monty Python in my youth, probably.
I don’t like being designated as a ‘CD/TV’ any more as that’s not how I see myself, and I think those expressions are very limiting.
I am also suspicious of the whole way that transgendered people are ‘diagnosed’ by the medico-psychological professions who believe themselves to be the experts on transgenderism. I think our understanding of TGism is about at the stage that the barber-surgeons of the 18th century were at as regards conventional medicine, if I can make that analogy.
In other words, the so-called experts may well be wrong; their ‘treatments’ as regards SRS etc. may also be wrong, at least for some people. Certainly that great early pioneer of how to ‘treat’ transgendered people medically, Dr. Harry Benjamin, has been proved to have been misguided in some instances. The famous case of the male twins who were circumcised is an example of this – something went wrong, and one twin had his penis accidentally cut off by the rabbi – Dr. Benjamin then decided he should be raised as a girl, with disastrous consequences for the individual concerned, who as an adult chose to revert to the male gender.
SRS may not be the inevitable end point for all transgendered people – be they transsexuals or not – and I am not sure even whether the term ‘transsexual’ is any more helpful than ‘transvestite’ or ‘crossdresser’.
Transsexuals are cross-dressers or transvestites, at least while they are pre-operative, as the terms ‘cross-dresser’ and ‘transvestite’ are properly merely nouns denoting a neutral description of behaviour. The term ‘transgendered’ on the other hand recognises the distinction between gender, a social and psychological construct, and biological sex, which is a physiological reality.
I don’t see gender identity as an ‘either/or’ – I think ‘man’ and ‘woman’ and ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ are simplistic psycho-social constructs over emphasized by the three great monotheistic or Abrahamic religions, as a means of reinforcing prejudice and justifying the control of one biological sex over the other. As an agnostic humanist, I don’t care for any of the fundamentalist manifestations of Islam, Christianity or Judaism.
Some societies and cultures have never fully subscribed to the bi-polar notion of sex and gender, and have room for a ‘third sex’ – North American Indians recognise the ‘squaw man’ as a valued member of their community; in Thai culture there are the Kathoi or ‘Ladyboys’; and more recently in our western society being a ‘she-male’ seems to be growing in acceptability and popularity as a social gender role option.
On the subject of Ladyboys, we saw a wonderful cabaret of ‘The Ladyboys of Bankok’ which fortuitously visited my home town of Chesterfield (Derbyshire, UK) last week, so we were privileged to enjoy the performances of some of the most beautiful ‘transvestites’ in the world.
The brochure we bought before the show about the Ladyboy cabaret described them as ‘tranvestites’ and referred to them as ‘Mr – ‘ but I would guess this was for the benefit of the general public, who may not have come across Ladyboys before. The female pronouns ‘she’ and ‘her’ would inevitably be used within the troupe (I would guess) to denote the Ladyboy members, as there were also four distinctly male members of the group.
The Ladyboys had well-formed breasts, wide hips, narrow waists, very slim builds and very beautiful feminine faces. They looked much more like women than many self-identifying ‘transsexuals’ I have met.
To me and probably the rest of the audience they looked like lovely women – but yes, I understand they still also had their male parts down below. Some would probably see the Ladyboys as ‘transvestites’, but I saw them as very feminine and beautiful women.
What, exactly, is a ‘woman’? Now there’s a question! (See Simone de Beauvoir’s ‘Second Sex’ and the Feminist writings of the 1960’s and 70’s.)
If we have to use limiting gender designations, Ladyboys could best be described as ‘TG girls’ or ‘transgendered women’ – I can’t see them as ‘transvestites’ – they are much more than that in their full social gender identity as women.
What makes a ‘woman’ or a ‘man’? I think it has very little to do with what you have between your legs, but everything to do with how you feel inside, how you express your personal psychological ‘gender’ attributes socially, and perhaps more important than anything – how others view you.
So in my book it is perfectly possible to be a ‘woman’ with a penis, or a ‘man’ with a vagina – and there are plenty of examples.
I appreciate that I am probably challenging some entrenched views among the TG community as well as ‘straight’ society – but there you go – if we don’t challenge these stereotypes and definitions, we are never going to progress as a species beyond them.
To be governed in one’s behaviour by conventional male/female/masculine/feminine stereotypes is very limiting and it is a shame that so many so-called ‘normal’ or ‘straight’ people are so controlled in how they are able to express themselves gender-wise.
I see no point in giving up one straight-jacketing stereotype (as a conventional ‘man’) simply to don another, as a conventional ‘woman’.)
I am transgendered – yes, but I refuse the designation ‘transvestite’ or ‘cross-dresser’, and I am not ready to take on and adopt the term ‘transsexual’ to describe myself.
I rejoice in my transgenderism, I regard it as a gift, and I wouldn’t be any other way, unless it was to have been born a biological (genetic XX chromosome) female. I guess that would have been my first choice – but being a TG girl isn’t too bad as a second choice. I would hate to be a ‘straight’ male – it must be ghastly.
To sum up, I would suggest there is much more to gender identity than that which is believed by conventional society – and the transgender community is itself a work in progress and shouldn’t be circumscribed by these conventional definitions.
As we find out more about ourselves as trangendered people, we can educate society as a whole – and ourselves – but it would be a pity if we were constrained by the traditional views of what constitutes a ‘woman’ or a ‘man’ .
The current prevailing orthodoxy, originating, as I have suggested above, from the bigoted, repressive, misogynistic and patriarchal views promulgated by the Abrahamic religions, does not have to be the last word on the subject.
So there you go. I can’t seem to leave this subject alone. Oh dear!