Letters Volume Thirty-Three
This is Volume Thirty-Three of the collected letters.
Wherein can be found the anonymous texts of actual letters written to me,and my answers in return. They are included because it has been suggested that the discussions are of value. The letters are presented as a rather loose, ongoing continuous dialogue between a hypothetical questioner, and myself.
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These are the Thirty-Third set of letters
Reference Topic Index
Relative ONLY to this volume:
For the complete list see main letters page.
guy trapped in the body of a man?
A lesbian with a girlfriend who has a penis...what IS the proper label?
Hopeful Possibilities for the Genders Inbetween!
Heres my problem: I dont feel like I have a womans mind. I certainly believe that many MtF transexuals do. But if I had to guess, I would say that if my mind was dissected, they would find male-wiring. I wish it were otherwise, I would feel more validated in one of my lifes largest conflicts, but I dont think there is any physical gender-confusion in my brain. However, I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I need to be a girl. I always have wanted it, and in the last few months, especially these past couple weeks, the way people treat me (as a man), the direction my family wants my life to go, my hatred for my wide shoulders, muscular arms, and masculine body, the hopelessness I feel from not being genetically female has been staggeringly heavy on my heart...pushing suicide away from my mind is harder and harder...and those vivid images of how to do it have been harder to suppress. I doubt I could actually kill myself. But genuinely having no desire to live while not being brave enough to kill myself is hardly living. I want to live, but not like this. Live as a boy is not living for me. I say this not for sympathy, but to stress the fact that even if Im cisgendered, I think the need for me to transition is as pressing as any primary transexual.
In other words: I need to be female. But I have never felt like a woman in a mans body. I am a guy trapped in a guys body, who desperately wants to be a girl freed in a girls body.
On the other hand, I never feel I am a man. I dont seem to have some innate knowledge about my gender that most transexuals and probably most cisgenders claim...
But if I go through transition like that, will it be a lie?...if I dont have female brain wiring, if the only truth to my female-ness is my femininity, artificially-induced hormonal changes, and allowing the larger half of my wardrobe out of the closet, is that valid? Is that...proper, for lack of a better word?? I solidly know I will always wish I was born a girl, I will be happier, but I do not solidly know if happily pretending to be is better than sorrowfully living in accordance with my body and minds wirings physical sex. Maybe theres more to consider in life than being happy? Is there any problem with being a guy in a girls body, if that guy wants to be a woman? Is a true TS different practically, effectually, or fundamentally from the effeminate male whose entire being desires to be female? If an effeminate gay man were born in a girls body, would he even realize it? If a tomboy lesbian who wanted to be male was born in a mans body, would anything be out of place?
While I cannot validate whether or not you are a transsexual (no one but you, yourself, can do that!) the problem here is not that you lack female brain wiring, per se. The problem is that you have a limited understanding of the diversity of female experience. As for the matter of genetics, I have dealt with this before, but in short, chromosomes do not a full definition of sex make. Many women and men (it is estimated that it could be as high as 20%) have chromosomal anomalies that would label them as not being the sex they believe themselves to be...and this is why the Olympics no longer performs chromosomal sex tests on athletes any more. (Well, to be more precise, a lawsuit demanding that men, and not JUST women be tested caused this change; when it was clear that ordinary males would have to risk being tested too, and that a fifth or more of them would be disqualified and sent home with the public label of not being completely male, or even of being actually female -by genetic definition, anyway- it is just amazing how quickly genetic testing was dropped. Just astonishing, really. Bottom line: the matter of being XX or XY is not the ultimate definition that folks in the 1950's felt it was. Sex and gender are more complicated than such a simple thing. Just drop any issue4 with chromosomes. The whole matter is out of date, and really kind of silly now.)
To be transsexual, by definition, is to have a female brain. To loath one's male construction, and be desperate for female anatomy is a function of brain wiring. It is a demonstration of the power of the internal body map with which the brain is able to identify and make sense of the entirety of the body. A person is aware that their arm is there not only because of the sensory feedback from the arm, but because of the internal map which identifies the existence of that part to the brain. Should the arm go missing, say in a violent misadventure of some sort, the brain will still insist on the existence of the arm, because the internal map describes it, and this is one part of what causes phantom limb sensations. All of this is true of every part of the body, including the sex organs. To feel the plight of a transsexual requires a brain which is wired opposite to the sex of the body.
Which means that if you are driven to change your body to female, to live for the rest of your life as a female, you are...to put it bluntly, female. Period.
If you imagine that you would still have a male mind inside that body, after such a permanent and incredible journey (one, it should be said, no true male would ever, ever take), it is only because you have a limited and artificial, which is to say erroneous, concept of what being mentally male or female can be.
Masculinity and femininity are not digital. They are like poles around which people cluster in a great cloud, with some halfway in between, some close, some far, and some at any given distance. It is likely that no two people on earth have exactly the same gender configuration.
There are hard-as-nails women and soft-as-pie males. There are diesel dykes and lipstick lesbians. There are rugged, hard-ass gay men and delicate sissy boys. There is everything in between. And it's all good, and it's all natural, but a lot of what you see is performance, learned and emulated. A lot of gender is just an act, defined by what culture defines it should be. Of course, those definitions come from natural behavior, but they are very exaggerated. The bottom line, though, is that what makes a person male or female of mind is all about body and identity, and not about any set of behaviors, or even ways of thinking or approaching problems.
You cannot, in my view, be a man trapped in a man's body who needs to have a woman's body. If you need to live in the body of a woman, you have just defined your gender as female, and thus you are a woman. Can it be that simple? Yes. It can. If you didn't have female circuitry, you would be happy with the body you have. Only stands to reason. The rest is just getting used to it, and allowing your own natural, and unique, expression of that circuitry to come out.
Are you some ideal of a woman? No. The best you can ever be is your own kind of woman, which is to say, your own kind of person, which is what would have occurred even if you had been born female from the start. So, your issue is...a non issue.
The real concern is being very certain of what you want; transition is one way only. But beyond that, just accept your own validity.
I'm <young, nontranssexual> and lesbian. I met this amazing girl a few weeks ago and like her a lot. She told me the other night that she is transexual....but I'm wondering if that's what you really call it. She looks like a girl, she is <some given height> inches tall, thin....I love the way she looks. But she has a Penis. But she wants to be a girl, what do you call that? I'm very confused and I really don't know what to do because I really do like her...and what she told me didn't change my feelings for her. But I've never been with a man before, so I guess I'm hoping you could give me some information about the correct term for what she has.
I can easily answer you...but then I will have to contradict myself afterwards....
Well, the correct term really depends on what your friends plans are. If she intends to live and work as a woman for the rest of her life, but keep her penis because she likes it, then she could be considered a 'She-Male' (or 'Dick-Girl' in Japan, as a side note). If she intends to keep her penis because she is concerned about the loss of all sexual function, or because of fears of dying during surgery, then she could still be counted as a transsexual -she just has some strong fears about being mangled, which are not entirely unreasonable - most surgical reassignment is successful, but it is serious surgery and that fact cannot be denied. If she just happens to have a penis currently, because she is saving up for surgery, and intends to correct the problem as soon as she can afford it, then she would simply be a pre-op transsexual. Which means that she is an ordinary transsexual (if any transsexual can be considered ordinary, but I digress..) who is just in mid-process.
Changing one's physical sex takes time...not only is it a - literal - second puberty (the hormones take years to fully alter the soft tissues of the body, just like standard puberty), but then there is the matter of surgery to reconstruct her organs into a proper and functioning vagina, labia, clitoris, and in some versions, even a cervix. That can cost between 8,000 and 25,000 dollars, so...it can take a while to save up for. It's like saving up for a brand new car, really. Insurance generally will not cover such things...indeed virtually all policies deliberately exclude SRS (sex reassignment surgery)...despite it being listed as a legitimate medical concern by the AMA. It's a tough situation to be in.
So, if she is just trying to get to where she can finish her full transition, then she is a transsexual woman. She just happens to be stuck in the middle for a while, kind of like a person on the waiting list for a new kidney. If she actually wants to keep her penis, and is ok with that, then she would best be defined as a 'she-male' or as the true definition of 'transgendered'.
It all comes down to intent, really. Intent and self-definition. That is, if one is applying external labels.
Now that this is said, I want to contradict myself a bit, if you will permit me. What I have written above is true enough as far as generally accepted definitions go...but there is another side to this which kind of goes beyond 'official' labels as such. A subjective side.
If you feel, inside your own heart, inside your own emotion, that your friend is female...because they 'feel' female, because no other word than 'woman' or 'girl' or 'she' applies to this personality in front of you, if the identity you perceive in your friend is rings true to the feeling of being female...then what else really matters? There are all kinds of deformities in the world...people born without hands, or people born with extra fingers or legs or eyes or whatever...and yet they are still people, still men and women and human. I submit that the presence or lack of a given body part...even a penis...is not in and of itself all that important in defining a person. A person is more, if you will, than the sum of their parts.
So, to contradict myself, I would say that...if your friend is, to you, a girl, then...she is...a girl. The fact of being a transsexual, the fact of having a penis instead of a vagina (currently at least, this can be corrected) is just...a medical condition that your girl...friend has. In that case, the correct term would be that she is simply a woman. Her other issues are just...eventually solvable - or even potentially acceptable- eccentricities.
Now, to be fair, a transsexual, of whatever direction of change, has some difference of experience. This cannot be helped...they lack a childhood as themselves, they have had to fight for their identity, both things which set them apart from normal people. Then again, a person who has grown up in a war zone also has experiences that make them different from a normal person...the average person does not grow up in the middle of a war. Experiences make a person who they are, and in this respect, all transsexuals have a life history different from the ordinary man or woman. They have a lot to learn...and a lot to try to forget; which is why I brought up the analogy of growing up in a war zone at all.
So, I guess what I am saying is this: what your definition is depends on the way you approach this particular, unique person in your life. If you are tossing up labels, then she is a she-male or a pre-op transsexual. If you are defining the person in front of you, then...there are only two definitions that matter in all the world.
What she defines herself to be, and what you define her to be to yourself.
Anything else is just...pretty much a fairly clinical and cold (if sometimes useful) artificial label. Or so I reason.
I've been reading the letters that you have posted on your site, and you give a lot of good, useful, honest and practical answers.
I would like, if I may, to share with you (and also others with questions) some of the experiences that I have had, and in so doing, be of help to others in similar situations.
One thing that I've noticed (at least the letters that I read through) is the focus on phyiscal transition, or focus on the behaviors and characteristics. That crossdressers get off on the thrills, that true transsexuals get enormous relief. (Such as in presenting oneself, etc.) What I find interesting is the obsession with the perceptions. Now I understand the importance of this for the transsexual.
Over time, I've come to understand that I fall into the world of androgyny. At least to a great degree psychologically. Maybe the term 'gender hippie' is appropriate. (Perhaps QUITE appropriate in the <A Liberal Metropolitan City> area... *Grin*)
As you mentioned, there are people of 'both' sexes who just do not 'quite' fit into the social and cultural norms. I tend to be one of them. Society is not particularly 'comfortable' with emotionally sensitive males -- guys who just DON'T think with their penises... Who are also NOT gay. I have, however, been somewhat fortunate that I have yet to encounter any real problems in public settings - I have been told that when I am simply being myself, and am confortable with that, people pick up on that and most often do not perceive a threating or confusing situation. Even when I've been in a guy's shirt, skirt, earrings and light cosmetics. I think the key thing is as Shakespeare penned it, "to thine own self be true".
But it can be hard. Especially when faced with a highly rigid, 'gender bipolar' society.
For me, what I often run into with myself is frustration -- having been born male, there are lots and LOTS of times where I just don't quite 'get it' as a male. But likewise, I also don't quite 'get it' from the female perspective either. It's as though I have enough to 'be with the guys', yet also have enough to at least partially 'be with the girls' too.
Here's the real frustrating part. I tried crossdressing. At least the full-on, typical, full-regalia type of crossdressing. You know, it WAS fun, it WAS a thrill. It was also a major pain in the behind. What I found happening was that when classically crossdressed, I felt as though I were in costume, that I was attempting to fullfill not MY self-image, rather that which society 'expected'. (Which, I understand, is quite typical for the crossdresser. It's the IMAGE that is the focal point, not really self-expression.) Paradoxically though, I never really felt comfortable doing the full-on 'dressing as a guy' thing too -- it too felt very much like 'wearing a costume'.
Another very interesting paradox is that when I attempt to be highly 'male', I tend to come across as more 'female', and when I've attempted to be highly 'female', my maleness stands out. (Sheesh!) There have been times where I've gotten ma'amed in t-shirts and jeans, and without attempt to cover up the facial chin 'shadow'.
And yes, I've explored the hormone route. Now what is really odd about this is that male 'drive' has declined. And that has lead to certain frustrations and periods of 'what the hell am I doing'... Again, the other side DOES feel comfortable with the feminized effect -- I am not at odds with having breasts, smoother features, and a more 'androgynous' physiology. Caution is certainly the watchword here. But not to the point of being a 'she-male' either. I am finding that what is happening is that I am attempting to find my own balance point along the gender spectrum. There are certainly a good many serious questions to deal with, and self-acceptance to happen. (Such as learning NOT to worry so much about what others think, about cultural and religious stigma, etc.)
So apparently, it CAN be done. (And I've been told that it's actually HARDER to effect androgyny than it is to crossdress!)
The part I am working out now involves effective ways to cope with this and work within the 'real' world. To be sure, it tends to create additional obstacles to such things as working within the traditional corporate structure. (But would I *really* be happy in that environment anyway???)
In closing, I wanted to pass along that there is an 'alternative' for those who are really not transsexual, but also are not classic crossdressers either, a place where you don't need to justify anything with surgery, but also where you don't need to go through 'guilt and purge'.
And for those who fret about physical porportions and all of that, consider that I am a 40+ something male, over 6' in height and 250 lbs.
Thank you for this glimpse of possibility. As you doubtless have noticed, I have received more than a few letters from people who feel constrained by the limits of the social demand to be one clear gender or the other. While I always offer that the easiest and safest choice is to find a gender one can live with and clearly -to the outside world- adhere to it...primarily because it increases survival in an often narrow world....sometimes the safest path is not always one worth taking. Your letter demonstrates that there are ways to be in the world that can work, where a person can more truly be their own unique gender state. I would add that one component of that, like so much of everything, depends on where you live (Location, Location, Location!), and thus what you have access to - and what you are effectively shielded from.
I hope this gives some hope, and some possibilities, to those that see themselves as somewhere inbetween.