Subject: the truth about sex
Date: Thu 24 Jun 1999 - 11:54:12 BST
I have been thinking about Stephen's note about truth, that the truth is that
he was born female, but he is also many other things, and they are all him,
even if they appear contradictory to other people.
I have always been obsessed by "truth" in exploring transgender. How could I
portray myself as a woman, with the implication that I was female, in a
One of the most common allegations around transgender is that trannies try to
fool people, lie to people. This is both bad and good to many people -- look
at how straight people love the idea of having people fooled into thinking a
tranny is normatively sexed, then humiliate the target by revelation.
The other allegation is more inside, that trannies try to fool themselves,
with dissociation and denial, into believing they are something they want.
Some of this, of course, is rooted in justifying our own choices in a world
that wants to erase any sense that gender lines aren't crisp and clean.
Some of this, though, is rooted in the fact that the truths we hold inside,
the truths we want to express in the world are denied as false. I have
written on the choice trannies have: hide the gender/sex conflicts and feel
like a liar, or show them and be called a liar.
My focus on language and specifics is my attempt to be as clear as possible
in the world. I don't want someone to say "How can they claim to be female,
when its clear they are not, and they have a long history as a man?" That's
why the claim to be "femaled" seems to be a better position, encapsulating an
The problem, of course, is that to find language which speaks the truth of
this sex/gender conflict, the challenge of having a male body and a feminine
sprit which longs to be a woman and even be female, is to expose and express
this conflict in the world. If we express this conflict, we can never simply
appear normative, which is the dream many of us have.
If we speak of these "conflicting" truths which are all true for us (even if
they are true in sequence and not simultaneously, though we may change so
fast they appear simultaneous), then we expose the transgender nature of our
lives. We don't get to claim to be normative or cured.
My quest has been to find language to speak of my life, language which is
effective because it can be heard and understood by others. In that quest,
the challenge of figuring out how not to be seen as a liar has been crucial
to me, and that's why I choose not to lie about the configuration of my body
or my history.
It may well be true that in the future as we know more about the body, we may
find genes or brain structures or micro endocrine changes or something else
which explain this cross mind/body sex thing. I worry a bit about that day,
because the tradition of medical science is to, when they find a cause to
then find a cure. These are the same issues around the "gay gene." I
watched "Beyond Stonewall" on PBS last night and noted that one of the first
things they felt they needed to do was change the psychiatric diagnosis that
homosexuality was a disease, and they did, but for transsexuals who find
benefit in being diagnosed have a different perspective.
For me, having a definition of birth sex which matches the expectations of
the culture is an important part about telling the truth of transgender. The
truth is that we, unlike the intersexed, have a clearly obvious sex and still
have ambiguity, conflict, a unique way of seeing ourselves. To acknowledge
the truth of my biology and history and still claim the truth of my spirit,
of my deep and abiding beliefs seems to be an important part of expressing
who I am.
Do I dream of a day when some medical test can look and tell "true
transsexuals" who are "really female in the brain" from crossdressers or
fetishists or drag queens or psychotics or whatever? I have to admit that
the thought of such a day fills me with trepidation for the people who will
then be excluded, for what medicos will want to do. I don't think it will
come simply either, because it will probably be a mix of structures which
determine, and as the article the other day noted, because the brain is
malleable, environmental factors will also play.
It's important for me to tell the truth about my sex, to try not to "fool"
people or be seen as trying to "fool" people, be that sex male or female,
maled or femaled. That seems to me to be a basis of honesty which allows
building open relationships where we can both talk with others about our
biology and history and face our own internal contradictions, which are, as
being queer teaches me, all true.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2a23 : Wed 21 Jul 1999 - 18:23:18 BST