The Unusual Man

November 7, 2010 at 10:25 pm Leave a comment

Intersexed is a label that is considered outdated these days, more usually replaced by the medical term disorder of sex differentiation or DSD. However, it used to refer to those who are born with genitalia that are not immediately discernible as either male or female. For example, an infant may have an enlarged clitoris (or microphallus, depending on your perspective) and labia, or undescended testicles along with a vaginal opening, or some other configuration of non-normative genitalia.

I had none of those things.

When I was born, I had everything a little girl could possibly ask for: a vagina, a clitoris, labia, XX chromosomes. As I grew older, the label ‘girl’ was applied to me and I tried to manoeuver within its confines. I should have been capable of comfortably bearing that label, considering that I was surrounded with women. I had a mother and two sisters, my friends were mostly female during my teens, and I had no inkling that there even was such a thing as people born between genders or, anathema of anathemas, people who changed genders.

And yet, I felt trapped in a destiny that didn’t belong to me. Finally, when I was 24, I started hormone treatments — testosterone injections — to masculinize my female body. At the time, surgery seemed drastic and I hoped that hormones would be sufficient to make me feel comfortable in my skin. But as the hormones kicked in and I saw the dramatic effects on my mood and physique, I realized that the path I had started on was far from over. I began to research my options. In 2007, at age 28, I underwent chest reconstruction surgery. Three years later I underwent a complete hysterectomy. The body that once had been recognizable as female, was now no longer classifiable. My body was rendered intersex through surgery.

But as my surgeries come to an end, and my energies are free to move in new directions, I find myself confronted with a new line of inquiry. While I appear, at least in most social contexts, masculine to the world at large, my body, scarred as it is from surgical intervention, carries with it the memory of where it came from. My journey to masculinity is unusual. So unusual, in fact, that I find myself wondering whether I am male at all.

Have my life experiences removed me so far from the normal growing up realities of regular boys that I can even claim to share a gendered identity with them? Or am I relegated to a kind of third space, a space of ambiguity that excludes me from the more mainstream society I try to inhabit? Can I ever be anything more than a second-class man?

Society is changing, slowly. Where once people of colour had no right to vote, they now inhabit positions of power. Where gay men and women once were listed as mentally ill in the DSM (the diagnostic Bible in North America for mental illnesses) more and more of them are able to live productive, socially accepted lives; they are doctors, lawyers, politicians, and athletes (although many athletes still remain in the closet for fear of financial and social repercussions).

Already over the six years of my transition social attitudes have changed dramatically, mostly for the better, towards transsexuals. I have witnessed a rise in nuanced, scholarly articles about transsexualism. Most provinces in Canada now cover some combination of hormonal and/or surgical intervention for those categorized as gender dysphoric. An increasing number of youth are rising up to claim what is rightfully theirs: a life in the gender they feel most comfortable inhabiting.

My life as a man has consisted of a series of stops and starts. I have learned to inhabit this new label like an athlete who labours to improve on his previous performance. Masculinity is the language I choose to speak and yet, at times, I speak it with an accent, I feel. Gender is so much more than one’s chromosomal makeup, or one’s ability to pee standing up. Even genitalia is not as central to my being as once I thought it would be. A man, after all, is made up of many parts: biology, social expectations, personal history.

I am an unusual man. Masculinity is my journey; it is my destiny. And as I travel along this road less travelled, I’m as yet unsure of where it’s leading me, or whether there is a final resting point.


Entry filed under: Gender, Masculinity, Sexuality, Transgender. Tags: , , .

Trans Sexuality Hello World

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