While I’m certainly on the transsexual, female-identifying, binary-switched end of the transgender spectrum, the truth is I don’t understand gender in the slightest. People ask me what I think the relationship between masculinity/femininity and male/female is, and I try to come up with answers, but the truth is I haven’t the slightest clue. I don’t understand how these boxes work. I don’t know what makes a person one or the other. I don’t know why it matters.
Let me be clear: ideologically I take a pretty moderate stance about gender. I don’t want to tear down the entire male-female dichotomy or create a gender-liberated world of androgyny.
It’s just that when I’m honest with myself, I really have no clue what I’d be tearing down or defending if I were to take a more militant stance on it.
And as far as being Catholic is concerned, I always try to see the good thing that the Church is trying to defend in its teachings, even if I struggle to understand the peculiarities of specific teachings. So while I really struggle to see how its teachings on same-sex relationships are internally coherent with the rest of its philosophy, I can quite clearly see how it is fighting for good things – marriage, fidelity, openness to life – and I can join it in that fight. Similarly with gender, even while I haven’t the slightest clue why most Catholics hate transgender people, I can still see the good thing the Church is afraid of losing: that mysterious romance, that vague yin-yang which we call gender.
That being said, I really don’t have the tiniest clue about any of it. Sure, intellectually I can build up a castle of reason to take everyone else’s assumptions and try to make sense of them. But it’s hard to make those assumptions mine. My own experience of life simply doesn’t gel with these mountainous presuppositions that everyone has about gender and sexuality. I just don’t get it. My mind draws a blank; I blow a fuse when I try to really see things from other peoples’ perspectives.
Again, this is coming from someone solidly in the “MtF transsexual” part of the transgender spectrum. I don’t feel particularly androgynous or bi-gendered or two-spirit or third-gender.
At the same time I do. It’s hard to explain. Maybe it’s because while I feel a whole lot more like girls I’ve met than guys I’ve met, and even my relationship with my body seems, for lack of a better term, something akin to “a girl in a dude’s body,” I’m still trapped in this world in between worlds. I’m still always transgender. I’m still an enemy to a system that utterly bewilders me. I’m outside the gender dichotomy whether I like it or not.
I guess the crux of the issue is that at the end of the day I’m just me. My relationship with myself isn’t particularly complicated. My feelings aren’t particularly complicated. This whole transgender thing, this reality of feeling like what people call a girl and having a body that other people identify as male, is certainly difficult at times. I mean, I experience body dysmorphia like other transsexuals, including pain regarding those damnable nether regions. But on the whole, I just am what I am. It’s really that simple. I don’t need to ‘understand’ myself when it’s just a matter of my existence. Existing is a fairly simple affair: you either exist or you don’t.
But then I find that my existence requires an expression. That expression itself is fairly simple. I mean, Anna does as Anna is, and Anna is as Anna does. There is a natural flow that can happen. I can wake up in the morning and just live, without examining every gesture I make or over-thinking simple things like whether to paint my nails or not.
But then I find that this expression requires relationship. We don’t live in a void. In fact, as a Christian I believe the whole point of life is right (loving) relationships with others. This is where it becomes complicated. All of a sudden expression becomes the most complicated and painful thing in the world. All of a sudden there are all these demands about how I behave and assumptions about who I am that make no sense. And I desperately try to make sense of these demands – I fake it ’til I make it – but all the while feeling utterly mystified about what is really being demanded of me and why.
So there are days like today that I despise gender. As central as it has been to my life, I want no part in it. Sometimes I really wish there was no such thing as ‘man’ and ‘woman.’ It’s not because I want to recreate the world in my own image. It’s not because androgyny would be better. It’s just that I don’t understand why these walls are erected. And the ironic thing is that I think if there was no idea of gender, people would be more genuinely gendered. A man with a genuinely strong masculine identity would be more genuinely manly if he acted masculine because it’s his personality and not because it’s how people with xy chromosomes are supposed to be.
Please, can I just conscientiously object to the gender war? Can I just lay down my arms and live life? Do I have to make sense of this bizarre and intricate system of categories? It makes no sense…