I am transgendered. I have an identity and self perception that is at odds with the genitalia I was born with. My birth certificate is marked with the letter “M,” but my heart and soul is marked with the letter “F.”
What is it like from the inside of a transgendered person? I could tell you of the years of confusion, of the mixed signals my brain and body had to contend with, of the difficulty puberty brought with it, of the years of wondering if I was just weird or insane. Of the years I spent avoiding photographs of myself and mirrors as the image I saw clashed with the image I felt I should have. Somehow I coped – at times not very well, at times quite well. I could put on a good show of being a family man, a reliable and sensible gentlemen.
The Roman poet Horace said “Who can travel to a foreign land and escape himself?” In the end, there is a reckoning with the price you have to pay for living in denial. Three years ago, I broke the silence and had the coming out experience that all of us in the LGBT community must go through. I have had the great blessing of an understanding family and supportive friends. Most trans people don’t get that. In a very real sense, we are pariahs.
In a way, I envy gender stable people, gay and straight. Their orientation or status can remain as stealthy or as open as they wish. Trans people are generally quite visible, and while things are improving, we cause unease wherever we are.
I suppose it’s a problem of classifying those of us with gender identities that conflict with the “factory installed” equipment. Are we gay? Straight? Then too, we get lumped in with folks that while they may look similar, they are not us. As a MTF (male to female) transwoman, I am not a drag queen, cross dresser, transvestite. And I am no shemale. Those folks are members of our broader community and I have nothing against them. It’s just that I am a woman born with a birth defect – the Y-chromosome and all that it brought with it.
Trans people often remain caught in a perpetual limbo. A “neither” in a binary world that insists on classifying a person as “male” or “female.” Some opt to argue for a third gender, or an alternative orientation – “gender queer” it’s sometimes called. After all, no matter who we are intimate with, we are simultaneously being straight and gay on some level. But while this is the niche you often have to accept as a transperson, what we really want is the world to join in recognizing us in our native gender and not the marker assigned to us at birth. Of all the needs we have, that is the most critical and it is the most elusive.
Finally, the greatest price we pay is the difficulty in finding love. It takes a special person to fall in love, or remain with, a transgendered partner. There is a special loneliness known to the transgendered. It comes from holding back, from uncertainty in the most basic concept of self identity. Those of us who have begun the transition process later in life have built private places into which we withdraw from the world – protective but lonely places. Those private places can vex those who would share our lives.
Those who choose to fall in love with us, or remain in a relationship when we begin to transition, usually say the same thing – no matter what gender they are, that they are in love with the person, not the package. What can you say of a woman that always thought of herself as straight who, in choosing to remain with her transitioning partner must now face the world viewing her as a lesbian, or stark raving mad, or both? Or of the lesbian whose partner’s voice is deepening and must now shave? I think the process is probably more difficult for them than for us. After all, we get to begin to live the life we always wanted and they must face a life they never dreamt of.
Such is life through the transgendered looking glass, now where did the Queen of Hearts get to?