“I Didn’t Know You Were Transsexual !”
Did you meet me at a party? Hollywood event? Through a cool friend? At the local coffee shop? And then you Googled me, and here you are at Calpernia.com. Maybe you’re even Googling me on your phone right now, here at the party. Look up, I see you. Hi!
SHORT VERSION: I am a post-op transsexual woman. Bupbupbup… Shhhh, save it. You can look all that up on the net.
TL;DR VERSION: (See Below)
If you are coming to this page without any knowledge of me beforehand, it may come as a surprise to you that I am a woman who transitioned medically and legally in the past on my way to becoming the person you now know. One would most accurately say, “I didn’t know you had transitioned,” since I’m all done now. =) It’s not something I necessarily share with everyone the moment I meet them, just as you probably prefer to choose when you share easily misunderstood parts of your own past with new acquaintances. Have questions? Sure, everyone does. And lucky you, I’ve already answered them all in this YouTube video!
I once heard the physical body described as a set of clothes worn by the soul. My soul has always felt female to me, I am only just now wearing the right set of clothes for it.
The most basic description of me where transition is concerned might include the following: When I was born, there were external characteristics that led a doctor working in 1970′s Nashville, Tennessee, to identify me as a male child. My parents accepted this designation and raised me as male. From an early age, I experienced feelings that led me to believe I was female. Not just “liking boys” or other feelings relating to sexuality, but also feelings relating to gender — the feeling that I was a girl.
“What do you mean, you felt like you were female?“
Like every child, internally I simply felt what I felt and wanted what I wanted. As children, we look around us to figure out where and how our traits place us into society at large. From the earliest ages, when I looked around myself at other people, I tended to see my feelings, inclinations, needs and interests reflected by girls and women, rather than men. The things I naturally felt, and the ways in which I felt them — I saw girls feeling similar things, and feeling them in the same ways. The things I naturally and innately wanted to do, I saw girls wanting to do. I wanted to look like the girls, live in the world as they lived in it and express my own unique self as they were expressing theirs.
“Doesn’t that just mean you were gay?”
Gay describes who you’re attracted to, in relation to your own gender. The people to whom I was attracted were male. The person who I wanted to be was female. Gay boys are generally glad to be male, although they may enjoy feminine behavior, or even envy women’s freedom to express femininity and date men. In terms of interests, many, but not all, gay boys do find great resonance with girls. Many want the sparkly, nurturing toys. The pretty long hair. The eye catching clothes. Perhaps a feminine gay boy might see a frilly pink doll and feel like their heart is going to explode if they don’t have it, and then they look around and see that most of the other people who feel the same way are girls. BUT, gay boys and gay men want to experience life in male bodies, with a boyfriend or a husband. They feel comfortable in their male gender, even if there is some friction from hetero society when they indulge their non-traditional interests. (Secret revelation: I didn’t care much about pink frills and only found Barbies mildly interesting. Like many cool girls, I liked reading, electronics and playing music.)
Upon reaching adulthood, after every effort to fake male behavior in an effort to fit in and deny my true feelings, I corrected my hormal imbalances and had surgery to correct my body so that it aligned more perfectly with my soul. Now, obviously, I am a whole person whose body matches her emotional, mental and spiritual self. This has been a difficult journey, medically and socially, but it has been the right choice for me and I have no regrets. This journey has freed me to be my true self, but it does not define who I am today. I am who I have always been, from earliest memory: a loving, creative, funny and intelligent female with hopes and dreams for happiness.
But it isn’t natural!
Transitioning isn’t common, but discounting on the basis of a more “common” person’s idea of natural is silly. Medically speaking, none of the following things are natural but I’ll bet you or your family use some of them: braces, asthma inahlers, hair dye, workout supplements, eye glasses, contacts, antibiotics, anaesthesia, repair of “club foot“, cleft palate or spina bifida in infants, removal of aesthetic “defects” such as “port wine stain” or moles, management of diabetes with synthetic insulin, and the little pink synthetic estrogen pills your mom will take or your grandmother already takes to artificially stave off menopause. I could go on. Most people who argue against transition based on it being “unnatural” or even “against God’s plan” are happy to use unnatural and un-Godly things such as those mentioned above when it benefits them personally. The truth is, they don’t have a problem with “unnatural” things. They have a problem with things that make them uncomfortable. In the face of this hypocrisy, so damaging to my life and my people, I am unmoved, and frankly disgusted at those who use this argument.
You should have told me you were “really a man”
You should have told me you were “really a person with bad teeth”, even though you fixed them with braces and now fool people into thinking you have good teeth genetics. You should have told me you were really a breathless weakling, even though you huff asthma inhalers to clear up your lungs. You should have told me you really have inferior eyes, even though you wear deceptively invisible corrective contact lenses to fool everyone into thinking you’re not genetically inferior. You should have told me you’re really a fattie, even though you lost the weight with unnaturally low levels of caloric intake and artificially high levels of exercise. You should have told me you were really a cripple, even though you had your club foot or spine corrected surgically as a young child. Etc etc etc. I am no more “really a man” than you are “really” a blind, fat, buck-toothed, club-footed beast.
My Definition of “Transsexual”
The following is an opinion, and as such it will probably be refined with time and further insight. Everything said here should be read as coming from my own personal experience, not as an ex nihilo talk point meant to assert my beliefs as the one true gospel. Go through this yourself and make your own observations, if you need to. Obviously, I am not a scientist, psychologist or biologist, but I am a very intelligent, experienced and well-read student of life who has experienced transition first hand. During my experience, I watched everything with an artist’s eye, looking to understand the what and why as well as the how. I am very aware of the social and legal issues, arguments and opinions that swirl around transsexualism and transgenderism, both from within and outside of our ranks. From my own life experience, I can say that if you are like the vast majority of people I’ve encountered from every possible background, you probably have the wrong idea about transsexuals. To be very honest, I don’t really know a single non-transsexual person who “gets it” completely, although I am fortunate enough to know many friends, supporters and professionals who try hard enough that they come close enough. There are many transsexual and ts-identified people who “don’t get it” either, in the way that I understand “it”, just as there are many American citizens who can’t name our current Vice President or locate Iraq on a globe.
What is a transsexual woman?
To me, a transgendered woman is someone who feels that she is fundamentally female (gendered), despite having been labeled as male since birth and raised as such by her parents. A transsexual woman is a transgendered woman who takes every step possible to align her physical form (her physical sex) with her soul, which includes medical, social and legal actions in most cases. Why do some people feel this way? I don’t know. There are studies going on right now that suggest certain brain structures may be congenitally “female” in a transsexual woman’s brain, or that a transsexual woman’s brain may become feminized by certain hormonal conditions in the womb. These explanations seem likely to me, and seem to fit with my own lifelong natural tendency toward and identification with female identity. Some have asked, “How do you know what it is to be a woman?” and I can only reply with the question, “How does any woman know what it is to be a woman for anyone but herself?” We can never enter the mind, soul or body of any other person and know the world from inside their experience of life. In the most factual sense, even the closest twin sisters in the world can only guess from what they see and communicate to each other, and from what the world communicates to them through speech and action, that their emotional, mental, physical experience of being a woman is the same for both sisters. They cannot see the world from inside the other’s eyes, or feel the world from inside the other’s skin. In that same way, I’ll never see the world from inside anyone’s eyes but my own, but deducing from what I’ve seen in the past and what I see now of other women and they way they move through the world, and by comparing the feelings I’ve heard women express to my own feelings, I have confidence that I am a woman.
Though some were better at suppressing its expression than others in early life, with most transsexual women I have known, their gender was always a part of their soul and other people who were perceptive recognized it. And once they decided to transition socially, medically and legally, people recognized their womanhood on an instinctual level. Whether they were a plain, frumpy old lady with white hair, extra weight and no fashion sense or a hot, sexy young club chick. Whether people could tell immediately that their body had spent a long time under the influence of male hormones, or they were the softest, most delicate gazelle of a girl. They were obviously giving 110% in an effort to join the community of women, and people who met them for the first time knew at a gut level that they should be addressed as “Ma’am”, “Miss”, “she” and “her”.
But what about…
You may encounter people from time to time who claim to be transsexual women, but just don’t seem anything like women to you. I always think that the best rule of thumb is to trust your instincts. Being transsexual is not an easy thing to be, and I don’t completely understand why anyone would claim to be such when they aren’t, but all the same, it happens. This isn’t a beauty contest: even the greatest beauty fades and the person is still the same gender after. This isn’t a “passability” contest: every transsexual woman I know gets “read” as being transsexual at one time or another, no matter what they look like. I think a person’s gender is in their soul, that indefinable nexus of personality, temperament and emotion that brings inner light to the actions of their life. If someone seems like a woman to you, then they probably are. If someone seems like a transsexual to you (and you know what a transsexual is) then that shouldn’t invalidate their womanhood, although it may challenge you and your ability to respect a person’s soul over their physicality. If someone seems like a man to you, a man’s soul in whatever body, then listen to your instinct and decide what you believe. You may or may not be right, but what else have you got to go on?
You will also encounter people who use the term “transgendered” in the broadest sense, meaning “someone who crosses gender lines in some or any way”. In that sense, a woman with very short hair is crossing our current society’s gender lines, so she would be “transgendered” under a ridiculously stringent definition. A man who feels like crying during a romantic movie is crossing gender lines, and so would be “transgendered” under that broad definition. A little less literally, a drag queen (a gay man who dresses as a female for entertainment value) is transgendered, because he is crossing gender lines. A butch dyke, an effiminate gay guy, etc etc etc. These examples spotlight how many aspects of gender are simply made up social constructs any way… who says a woman has to have long hair? Who says men can’t cry? But even aside from those questions, this super broad use of the term transgendered is valid but not useful to me in this particular discussion, so for purposes of this discussion I am using the term as I described it above: someone who feels that she is fundamentally female (gendered), despite having been labeled as male since birth and raised as such by her parents.
Haters Gonna Hate
What most non-TS people think about transsexuals
To put it simply, the average person in America falls into one of two categories:
Gross! I think transsexuals are:
“I’m really cool” and I think transsexuals are:
A small percentage think we’re cool club friends, but they wouldn’t really introduce us to their conservative brother or pals at the office. There’s no way they’d set up one of their friends with us, unless he was a perv or… OMG that would be the ultimate prank! LOL! Wait till I tell him his date’s actually a man… No, wait, that’s not cool…
An even smaller percentage think of us as women, although if pressed they will say that we came to it differently than most women. And yes, I did come to my current place in society differently than most women. But I’m not eager to adopt the sometimes-mentioned “asterisk” next to my womanhood (She’s a woman* (*transsexual)), and prefer transition to be a piece of my history that is not favored above more relevant and current achievements. What if women who could no longer reproduce were asterisked, and referred to as “nonsexuals”? It would technically be accurate in some ways, and would apply to tons of post-menopausal women like your mom and grandmother, or those who suffered from various illnesses or congentical conditions. But it’s just not done, because it would be rude and cruel, and I’d like the same consideration. I’ll never deny that I took the long way around to womanhood, but it’s obvious to me that I am undeniably here now.
“Facts are Facts, Bitch. You a man.”
Many people attempt to dismantle or invalidate our identities with medical or history based attacks like these:
- Your DNA is male, so you are male - This always makes me laugh, because the majority of people who say it do not know what DNA is. They would do well to even tell me what the letters DNA stand for. Fewer still could name the parts of a DNA molecule, or what they theoretically do. Science is only now beginning to map the human genome, and we are ages away from understanding the complexities of what each little pair of GAT and C mean for the human that is made from this blueprint. And in any case, these people have assuredly not had a DNA analysis done on my DNA, so they really have no idea what my DNA says, even if they knew how to understand that information. I don’t even know myself… I’ve never had an analysis done. There are several diagnosable genetic circumstances which can cause sex variations, and probably many others that we simply do not know how to diagnose yet.
- You were born a man, so you will always be a man – No one is born a “man” or a “woman”. They are examined and assigned a gender based on visible external characteristics. The people who say this were assuredly not present at my birth, and I often wonder about the sophistication of OB/GYNs working in Nashville, TN in the 1970′s anyway. Who knows what may have happened to me in the womb, what may have been diagnosable at birth, what things these doctors may have missed. Certainly the person attacking my identity does not know the answer to those questions.
The very same people who leap to call a transsexual woman a “man” would scoff at an effeminate gay guy’s claims to manhood. “That ain’t no man, that’s a sissy!” They might want to “make a man out of him”, or tell him to “man it up”, but really it’s all just a confusing mishmash where the word becomes their own personal football to play keepaway from, or throw at the head of, whoever they don’t like.
Why am I writing this?
There is an enormous amount of information out there purporting to be about “transsexuals”, but most of it is porn, parody, exploitation or co-opted identity. I just want to make it clear that my gender identity is not driven by erotic goals, about being entertaining to anyone or doing your hair and makeup. And if someone is presenting their identity as a transsexual through porn, self-eroticization to a paraphilic degree, fetish scripts and other ridiculous scenarios, I am encouraging you to follow your instincts when you decide whether this person is someone who is overcoming a gender identity mismatch or whether this person is adrift in a psycho-erotic sea of delusion. I think I am a decently cool, nice and funny woman with things to offer the world, and I hope to be able to give those things freely to people who see me clearly. I suppose that, on a fundamental level the same thing drives me that drives many artists and entertainers. I just want to be known truthfully, and that can be a difficult thing in the world we live in today.
To avoid feeding the trolls, this writing may not be excerpted, quoted, paraphrased or summarized without permission.