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