Archive for February, 2011

Is transsexualism unnatural?

The short answer is I don’t know. But how useful is that question anyhow? I mean, is it natural to have a caesarean section, wear clothes or drive cars? And yet we do them. The question is only meaningful if we clarify what we mean by “natural”. And it is only a criticism if we interpret that which is unnatural, as negative. The dictionary is as good a place as any to begin our search for answers. Here a few definitions for “natural”:

  • functioning or occurring in a normal way; lacking abnormalities or deficiencies; “it’s the natural thing to happen”; “natural immunity”; “a grandparent’s natural affection for a grandchild”

If by “normal” we mean that which is true for most, then yes, transsexualism is abnormal. We are a small minority – by today’s statistics less than 1% of the general population. How we function covers a spectrum. Some are able to live out happy, satisfactory lives, find satisfying employment and build families just like their so-called normal neighbours. Others live on the verge of poverty and face crushing rejection from families, friends, employers and partners. Our lives are at the mercy of the acceptance of those around us. If we are granted the space to exist, we do so happily. But we can just as easily be pushed into isolation. Whether or not our condition is a deficiency is debatable. It is, perhaps, no more a deficiency than being homosexual is. However, homosexuals do not normally require hormone replacement therapy and surgery to feel comfortable in their own skin. That is where transsexuals diverge from their queer cousins. The medical component of the transsexual journey places us more on a par with those who suffer physical disabilities. Of course, one might argue than anyone with a physical disability could also be classified as “unnatural”, as they do not function in a normal way. And yet few people would go around claiming that a paraplegic lacks the right to exist because she or he is unnatural?

Let’s try another “natural” definition:

  • being talented through inherited qualities; “a natural leader”; “a born musician”; “an innate talent”

And this, of course, is the crux of the matter. Is transsexualism a condition we are born with, or is it a learned behaviour, a lifestyle choice, the symptom of bad family upbringing? Does its secret lie in the body or the brain — are we programmed to be different? The nature versus nurture debate puzzles me. After all, can we really separate environment from biology? Our biology, our innate traits, may shape our personalities — but there is also evidence to suggest that our environment can trigger biological, yes even genetic, changes (See Why Your DNA Isn’t Your Destiny [Time Magazine, Jan 06, 2010]). Arguing about the primacy of biology or environment is a little like arguing about which came first: the chicken or the egg. I have yet to encounter a satisfactory answer. Whether transsexualism is genetically or environmentally driven does not, in my opinion, render it more natural or less so.

Then there is this:

  • lifelike: free from artificiality; “a lifelike pose”; “a natural reaction”

Some who believe in the unnaturalness of the trans experience claim that you are what you were born as. To change one’s gender is to become an artificial man or woman; and that is never, in the eyes of those who hold this view, the same as the real thing. To them, I can only ever be a sad imitation of a real man. While it is true that my body does not produce sperm, and that I did not go through puberty with my male peers, instead having to endure female puberty and then male puberty in my early twenties when I began hormone therapy, I do not believe my experience invalidates me as a man. If anything it gives me a unique perspective on the world, on how we gender our children and on the way we are terrified of that which we do not understand.

And that is what it boils down to for me. I don’t understand, not really, why transsexuals exist. But I am no longer terrified of my difference, and do not feel the need to hide myself from the world. Do I sometimes feel inadequate as a man, as a human being? Absolutely – but so do many so-called normal men. Do I sometimes envy those whose born sex matches their gender? Definitely. Do I feel that I am deficient, disfigured, or artificial? Absolutely not. I believe that I am here for a reason. Unnatural or not.

hy Your DNA Isn’t Your Destiny

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February 26, 2011 at 11:15 pm Leave a comment

This I believe

Truth is, I don’t know what I believe anymore.

Being trans makes you question everything about what you thought you knew about yourself and the world around you. For starters, it makes you question your own sanity. I know I certainly did. For most of my teen years I questioned whether there was something wrong with me, and I felt ashamed because I suspected the answer was yes. I looked around me and saw a world that made very little sense. My family moved around a lot and that only contributed to my confusion. The rules seemed to be constantly shifting, as did the language we spoke. I learned to fit in as best I could, and the fit was awkward at best. I carried with me the feeling that I didn’t belong — I thought I would never belong anywhere. I sank into a depression that cost me more than ten years of my life. I lost faith in myself. When belonging seems out of reach, we search for it in death. I know that’s where my mind turned.

Regaining trust in others, in myself, has been a slow process, and one I credit my friends and mentors for helping me with. We need others to support us, otherwise we shrivel like a plant, and die. I was lucky that I somehow managed to find instructors, healers, peers and friends who have stood by me while I fumbled my way through the darkness. Without that support, I believe I would not be alive today. Regain trust we must, if we are ever to reach that point in our life where we can begin to give back to those around us, to actually make a contribution to the world we belong to. And we all belong to the world. Every single one of us.

I don’t know whether transsexuality is a disease of the mind or body or both, whether it is caused by abuse or neglect, or whether it is an inherent flaw, a fault of nature, a symptom of a sick society. I suppose any of these is possible. Transitioning certainly didn’t feel like a choice to me. It felt like a necessity.

Whatever its origins may be, transsexuality as a phenomenon exists, and it applies to me. Here I am. A transsexual. Now what? How do I take this particular experience and transform it into something useful that can benefit others, and not just those who are trans? That is where I find myself now. At 31 I have reached a point in my life where I no longer care to justify my existence to those unwilling or unable to accept my presence in this world. Fact is I am here, broken / flawed / disfigured or whatever you may want to call me. I am here and I choose to be alive, to be true to my truth, the only truth I know. I believe I have something to contribute to this world just like everyone else.

My journey has involved a considerable amount of pain (both physical and emotional), I won’t deny that, but I am not bitter — not anymore. By telling my story I hope that if there are others out there who have been made to feel that they are less than human, or unworthy of love, life, and dignity, that they will see that healing is possible. I’m no expert on love or happiness but I’m learning as I go and the payoff is worth it. This I believe.

It seems I do believe in something after all.

February 24, 2011 at 6:48 am Leave a comment

Well, I made it onto CBC radio. I called in My Big Decision to the Definitely Not The Opera hotline and they aired it online. Take a listen! My segment starts at the 6:25 point.

Your DNTO (The Big Decision – Jan 18 2011)

February 5, 2011 at 4:05 am Leave a comment


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