Friday, January 26, 2018

Random Musings on Gender

I wanted to write, and to write something meaningful. But that’s just not happening today. The burst of creativity I felt while reading the final book by Oliver Sacks—who helped fashion me into the type of neuroscientist I am today, with my penchant for provocative language, for writing scientific material with as much flair as any novelist—suddenly seemed to vanish as soon as I placed my fingers on the keys. It’s getting more and more difficult to write by hand, as the thoughts seem to flow through my mind ever more quickly, and I am limited by the confines of the human motor system. So, let’s try this.

I’ve recently seen so many posts from trans men undergoing phalloplasty, prompting me to examine my own feelings regarding my genitals, which many people would regard as the basis of my transness. Indeed, that’s all so many people seem to focus upon. While I’m not necessarily thrilled about my overall anatomy, my genitals have always kind of been irrelevant to me. What I have works, and it’s never been particularly important for me to even have the appearance of a penis, except maybe while performing traditional masculinity on stage. I tried packing a few times early during transition, and I could never get comfortable doing so.

To me, the essence of transness is the understanding of your social otherness, which isn’t necessarily rooted in anatomy. As a child, I gravitated towards not just the masculine, but to other boys. I longed to be with those like me, even though I had a keen understanding of my difference from an early age. This gravitation had nothing to do with genitals, secondary sex characteristics, or the desire to change my body. This was a young boy simply trying to be a young boy in a world desperate to manipulate him into becoming a girl. The fragility of hegemonic masculinity may explain so much of the fear surrounding transness. When your entire identity is based around having a penis, encountering a physically and emotionally strong man with a vagina means having to confront the notion that your entire understanding of gender—and of yourself—may be flawed. Rather than facing this reality, most cisgender men never fully examine that fundamental question: What is manhood without your “manhood”?

As I’ve mentioned previously, my masculinity is something I define as limitless. My gender as limitless, encompassing both the masculine and feminine. Even in accepting the feminine components of my gender identity, I see these as irrelevant to my anatomy, firstly because it does not make sense to me to categorize parts of my body using gender terms. That is, having a vagina does not make me any more or less feminine (or masculine) than any other person. It’s simply a part of my body, like an ear or a toe. While I view my chest in the same way, I can never fully feel like it belongs to me. This part of me DOES feel foreign and grotesque most times, and there is not much I can do to change that. No amount of desensitization training will ever make these two lumps of fat feel like they are a part of me. Again, this has nothing to do with masculinity for me. I don’t feel like less of a man because they are there, unless you count feeling irritated that only trans men who have had top surgery seem to be considered valid, even within our own community. I just don’t want them there, although they have no bearing on my identity at this stage. Perhaps this is because it has been almost 9 years since I first came out as trans. My perception has shifted over nearly a decade of living as a trans man who has never been able to afford a name change, let alone surgery. The severity of my dysphoria has largely dissipated, as I have become so much more comfortable with myself, as I have reached the stage where I can simply focus on living my life. On being, rather than on transitioning. 

Make no mistake, I believe that transition never truly ends. I am constantly re-examining my gender in the context of the world around me, and for this I am grateful. Perhaps that is what has allowed me to evolve to this point of separation between body and identity. Yet there is somewhat of an internal conflict here, as my body is by extension masculine, since I am masculine. The choice of words seems arbitrary these days. I could just as easily say that I am feminine. I could look exactly as I do, behave exactly as I always have, and just as easily say that I prefer feminine pronouns. The point here is to use what feels right. It’s such a simple concept, yet we complicate it by trying to tell ourselves that our anatomy defines our gender, or the ways in which we can even express or embody transness. Once you separate identity from anatomy and biological determinism, things suddenly get less complicated.

“What if I wanted to identify as...?”

Barring any ludicrous options designed to pick a fight, the answer is always the same. Don’t make it any more difficult than it has to be. You are allowed to exist. Always.

No comments:

Post a Comment