I am not gender. Gender is a part of me. Gender is but one aspect of my personality!

It may be the one part that is most important here - but it certainly is not the most important part of my life!.

 

While I experience my being a woman as just plain normal, I know that this is by far the one aspect of my life that appears to be of greatest interest to many people. Consequentially I have been asked about it many, many times. Eventually I grew tired of answering the same questions over and over again, so I wrote a book about it - now I can give everybody who asks a copy of the printed version of my life instead of an often lengthy (and to myself very repetitive) explanation. For the very same reason I have put a few thoughts about transsexuality on the internet - even though there is a lot on this topic there already.

 

 Gender is also an expression, I present myself as a female. Gender is also an identification, I feel and identify female. But gender is also biological, biochemical, it is social, there is a legal gender - and this is just to get the list started!
The gender a person feels and the gender a person expresses do not necessarily have to be the same, and this inconsistency does not necessarily have to feel bad. Self-perception and self-expression, the availability of the means to do so and the acceptance thereof are all different aspects of a person and his/her social setting. Whichever combination works for any given person is individual. One combination - when one's physical gender and one's emotional gender does not match - is called 'transsexuality'. Unfortunately other combinations are also called 'transsexuality', in particular a mismatch between a person's emotional gender and her social gender-expression but only if her (preferred) social gender differs from her biological gender. A mismatch between spiritual gender and biological gender is also sometimes referred to as transsexuality. This variety makes it impossible to describe transsexuality unless one were to take these different 'transsexuality' apart - something professionals have steadfastly refused to do! (They insist in sorting us along the lines of our sexual preferences or orientations, something I find completely absurd as a person's sexual orientation has little or nothing whatsoever to do with her gender, the existence of both heterosexuality as well as homosexuality should be proof enough for this!) 

 

In order to describe my own experience of it I therefore need to apply my own definition of transsexuality,  it is straightforward and simple: I was a transsexual because I did not agree with the biological reproductive capacity I was born with and wanted this changed. Given this definition I am no longer a transsexual after corrective surgery because my emotional, spiritual, physical and social identifications now are now all the same.
I understand that other people define transsexuality very differently. In particular people who socially live the opposite gender-role (look, behave and identify the opposite gender) but do not wish any (surgical) interventions to their primary reproductive organs will define transsexuality as a social self-expression rather than as something biological/physical.
Given the enormous divergence between only these two definitions (there are others, in particular transsexuality can also be interpreted as a spiritual experience) it is obvious (to me anyway) that transsexuality can not be seen as a single issue with only one avenue of treatment. Unfortunately the professionals on whose approval for treatment we have to rely on appear to think differently...

 

It is true, I did have that surgery. Some people call it a "sex-change" (this term yields well over a million hits on google, hit-count as of march-2010 ) or "gender-reassignment" (~150,000 hits) or "genital reassignment surgery" (~30.000 hits). Only while the latter is at least a mechanically correct description none of the above captures in any way what this surgery does, why some people need it and how I personally experienced it.
Interpreted from my own point of view I went into this surgery as I had been my whole life: A female who biologically functioned and looked male. What I wanted and needed was not "to change my sex/gender", because I already had one: The one I was born with, the one I have always felt and known to be - FEMALE! I never needed or wanted a gender unassigned and then another assigned, in my opinion simply assigning a gender to a person is impossible anyway. What I needed was to feel complete and one. I didn't want anything changed, I wanted my physical gender ALIGNED with my emotional and spiritual gender and with my physical experience of myself. I therefore call the process GENDER ALIGNMENT, the surgery genital gender alignment (surgery). This term yields approx. 7,000 hits on google, so it isn't entirely unknown, however it's use is marginal when compared to all the others. Nevertheless I personally prefer it because for once it is actually possible for me to truly express what I feel!

 

But why would I want this? How is it possible that I need this? Well, thousands of people have tried to express this feeling of "not being whole" or of "something missing" so others could understand, nobody has succeeded and maybe it simply isn't possible. However I would like to add a quote from my book (A Matter Of Life - when gender doesn't work) here. This doesn't explain how transsexuality feels, but it does give an equivalent that anybody should be able to understand:

 
There is no physical self-experience of sexual orientation because there is no biological representation of sexual orientation anywhere on our bodies! But there is a biological representation of our gender and therefore there is also a physical experience of gender! The need for surgical genital alignment doesn’t come from either gender-motivation or gender-expression, it comes from self-experience of biological sex being different from self-experience of emotional gender (or gender-identity)! Or very simplistically put: Being transsexual means that I experience my physical self female even though it is male. Well, female in a disfigured way... This is not a ‘preference’ like sexual activity. A homosexual can choose to have heterosexual sex. He can control his experience of having sex, at its simplest by not having sex at all! This may not feel good, but it is possible! As a transsexual I cannot ‘choose’ how I emotionally experience my physical sexuality because how I experience my body is not a choice! I can’t choose if, when and how I experience my physical self, it is simply always there!

Maybe a more tangible example would help? Imagine you would experience your left arm right and your right arm left. To solve the problem you could ask a surgeon to swap your arms? Well, if you were to ask for this I would say that this seemed absurd, crazy, and very unlikely to solve the problem anyway as your experience of your arms hardly would swap sides this way. However if we lived in a world where everybody was born with only one arm, half the population with theirs on the left side, the other half on the right and you would experience yourself "left-armed" but just happen to be born "physically right-armed"? Imagine as a kid you would be incapable to catch a ball because you always "do it the wrong way", you could not ride a bicycle, play a musical instrument? You’d have great difficulty to write as your hand-eye co-ordination just works "left sided"? Eventually you’d manage to learn these things because all humans can adapt, but each time you had to react quickly you would revert to your inborn reaction, get it wrong, drop that ball, fall of the bike or write in mirror-image? Now consider there were a surgery to move your right arm to the left side in a way as to make you function and look indistinguishably from every other left-armed person, would you now want this? Would this now be crazy?
 

So what in the end did this surgery do to me when I went there? Again, I would like to use another quote from "A Matter Of Life":

 
People ask me from time to time about genital surgery. That must have been quite a change they generally suspect… Ok, it’s major surgery. It’s a month of pain, sometimes at unbelievable levels. After all the parts are some of the most sensitive our human anatomy has to offer. But of course one gets liberal amounts of pain-killers. Then there are a few months of recovery. It’s surgery, that’s normal. Recovery in the sense of physical healing, but also in the sense of hormonal re-adjustment. Hormone levels are fundamentally different afterwards, the biochemical process this sets off take a while to stabilize, a few months maybe. One has to find new levels of estrogen, testosterone suppression if indicated, possibly discontinue or adjust other medications if needed to feel comfortable. This all has to do with personal well-being, this all had a major impact on my level of physical and social activity.

Emotionally? That’s simple enough to describe: Surgical gender-alignment was the most overblown non-event of my life! True, I’m not bothered by having the wrong genitals anymore, but that was the point, wasn’t it? True, my natural testosterone-level is much lower now, but that was the point, wasn’t it? Correction instead of suppression, that was the idea from the start, wasn’t it? Physical as well as biochemical. True, I need a lot less medication now, but that isn’t a bad thing either, is it? True, I don’t feel ‘wrong’ anymore, I now feel, well, actually I don’t think about that anymore! But that was the idea, wasn’t it? This was the self-diagnosis I made some 40 years ago; this was, some 28 years ago, the treatment I thought would fit the problem when I learned that it existed; this was what I said when I came into the physicians office 18 months prior to waking-up in that hospital bed, wasn’t it?

So what has changed? Nothing? Yes, nothing has changed, after all I’m still just the same woman I have always been. Everything? Yes, everything has changed, because I am now capable and allowed to be the woman I have always been! Because now who I am is right, understandable and acceptable. To me. It is even ‘normal’ to society - unless they rummage in their archives that is…

What I suppose is so difficult to understand for so many people is that genital gender-alignment does not change something from one to the other. I don’t believe that making a woman from a man is actually possible. But neither does this surgery correct “something that was wrong by making it right”. This I presume would also not be possible. Though closer as an idea it still would never work at the level this correction would have to be at.

I don’t feel healed. What I feel instead is that there is not and has never been anything wrong! I don’t experience myself [right or] ‘gender-aligned’, instead I am now incapable to feel [wrong or] ‘gender-mismatch’. What surgical genital gender alignment does is to remove something wrong in a way that afterwards it never was wrong!  

But this is not the emotional context I live this in. This is, once again, the view “from the outside”. My intellectual reflection and explanation of it when asked. What this treatment really gives to us is the ability “to emotionally open up to the world”! And while this surgery may be the end of a long road for the physical aspect of this opening, it is merely another step on the road to emotional self-fulfilling!
The journey doesn’t start here. It also doesn’t end here. But it does make us capable to relate to the world in a meaningful and fulfilling way in many more ways than simply sexually!

This surgery was also the most absurdly absolute cut on life I have ever experienced. I am, as I am writing this, no longer emotionally capable to understand why I possibly ever wanted genital alignment. How could anybody ever want this changed? This would be absurd, even crazy, wouldn’t it? Of course what I still understand is that for me this was the only possible meaningful way out!

I am a woman. Why would I ever want to change this? These days life is that simple for me, just as it is for the great majority of people everywhere!