Last night I watched a TV public affairs program about three people who were transgender. It was intriguing to say the least but did not really explore so many of the issues I think about on this issue. A 10-year-old “girl”, born a boy with a penis, wrote she has ‘a girl’s brain in a boy’s body.’ Is that what it’s all about? What is it all about – the way we want to dress, the toys we want to play with, the interests we have or is it just simply a question to do with our anatomy? From the program, I didn’t really understand any of it except what is superficial to me; a two year old boy starts dressing as a girl; fairy wings and gossamer flouncy frocks, growing his hair long and playing with dolls. According to the chief justice of the Family Law Court in Australia, that inclination- to want to be a girl indeed, feeling like a girl, is indeed ‘ innate’. There was no mention of anything sexual except how her penis made wearing a swimsuit difficult ( she had to buy bathers with a skirt to cover it) and that at 18, she hoped to have surgery where they can turn the penis inside out and make a vagina, as she explained. Maybe it’s just beyond our comprehension; like being gay is for me, too, and it just made me think yet again about what really defines us as human beings. I wrote a few weeks ago about being considered transgender; not that I ever felt ‘trapped’ in the wrong body sexually or anatomically, but my interests as I penned, were so male as I was growing up, or perceived to be by the prevailing cultural and social norms of that era. And that has made my life at times unfulfilling and unsatisfying professionally, denied opportunities for simply being female as I understand it in retrospect. Not just female, but the type of female I was moreover; how I dressed, what I looked like, the fact I didn’t have a boyfriend for umpteen years as such, that I swore a lot, was loud and somewhat rough around the edges and didn’t conform to the supposed female feminine stereotypes of the day, albeit as they morphed and changed through the decades. It is interesting that in the 70s in the UK where I was working and the ‘myth’ of the shoulder padded Superwoman was created, some women, albeit mostly middle class, well-educated and professional, started wearing masculine and manly suits; they weren’t gay, they were just adopting a guise to supposedly look like men????? And why???? Even today, a woman in a suit is so often the politically correct garb of women in business; or at least a tailored jacket and slimline pants; personally, most of that garb I find hellishly boring but what are we as women trying to be? Why can’t we wear what we want or what really flatters us in the boardroom? And moreover, what does our garb reflect about us as women? True, some lesbian women do dress very manly; but that’s not transgender… as people define it socially. It all just seems so crazy that we are too easily judged, be it as a two year old boy or a 30-year-old woman striding the corridors of power in the corporate world, by what we wear! And the toys? Yes, I played with dolls as I’ve written, but I also played with trains, trucks, and legos… I don’t remember why except that playing with all sorts of toys was different and fun; I certainly didn’t have any conscious awareness of a gender specific toy except I did know boys didn’t play with dolls.
The other two people on the TV program included a woman in her 30s who became a man – but the program didn’t really explore his sexual issues either and the other person – another pre-pubescent young boy who was living as a girl was not asked anything about ‘her’ sexuality. But she hoped to have all the necessary hormone treatment as she got older, too. Certainly, I never felt as if I was in the ‘wrong’ body as such, just that I did feel people didn’t ‘see’ me for who I really was, indeed, am! I have changed my appearance over the decades as I’ve written, only to be perceived so differently at those different times in my life. It only makes me wonder yet again what being transgender is really all about? Maybe it’s just that I had a brain with male interests at a time when these interests were not perceived as the ‘norm’ for women. Moreover, my behaviour at times was also more male; I fucked around quite a lot, I drank, I swore, I was loud and at times aggressive in my argumentative way only to ‘frighten’ some people and when I was younger, recoil and withdraw into myself because no one was really interested in the ‘real’ me. At nearly 65, it is all so clear to me; but I am left wondering as to yet again how people DO ‘see’ us, regard us, judge us as male and females. And ultimately how we see, regard and judge ourselves as a consequence of others’ perceptions, attitudes and misunderstandings about who we are. Surely, we should be free to be human; unique, individual; instead, there are still so many assumptions about being male and female that can trap us in a way that can take years to unravel and understand. There is so much pressure to conform (as I’ve written) to stereotypes because people can more easily, albeit glibly, fit us into a frame of reference, and when we dare to defy those stereotypic norms, what are we? Who are we? Nobody knows and that makes it all the more confusing; for them, and for us, especially when we’re young and grappling with our sense of self. It seems easier for so many people to just ASSUME about us, albeit unconsciously as it makes the hard work of getting to know us as individuals just too difficult. The truth is to know yourself; and if others have a misconceived notion about who we are that’s their problem; their assumptions, their misperceptions and ultimately, we don’t have to know them. It’s our choice to be human. Nobody else’s. Let my ‘male’ brain continue to reside in my female body. I’m happy with that. And that’s what counts for me; if no one else these days.