How to Be an All-Inclusive Gender Thread

There's a question that keeps me awake at night, a question about my fundamental experience of gender and my perception of myself: if I had been assumed female at birth, would I have been a cis gendered woman or a trans gendered man?

Of course, sitting here now, in a male body, unable to transition, I long to have been born differently, for a form at birth that corrected what feels like a fundamental injustice in my life. There is an omnipresent longing not only to be something else to always have been, for that feels like the natural order of things, the true path that this life has deviated from. I should always have had that body.

But I consider that woman, that proper self in some other theoretical time, and I wonder: would she be me? The dysphoric tangle of gender, sexuality, and crawling discomfort in my own body have shaped and defined me for most of my life. The things I have done, the places I have gone, the people I have been and been with; all of that was determined by not being that woman.

If there were such a thing as a soul, an essence divorced from form and shape, would that soul be the accumulation of those experiences---namely, the person I am now---or would it be some other thing that is shackled by how I was born? If I were a bird in a cage, would my person be the bird within or the inextricable combination of the two: bird in cage, cage enclosing bird?

If I am the bird, then I am that other woman, and in some other life I would be flying free. But if I am the bird and the cage---if the cage has made me through its limits and through its longing to escape---then there is no other woman. Myself assumed female at birth would long to be myself as I exist now, assumed male. There isn't another woman but an other man, a man I could not have been despite how I was born because that man was not born as he would have wanted to be.

Which would mean that my fundamental experience of gender, the gender of my soul, is neither male nor female but something different: something dysphoric, unfulfilled and restless, never fitting or matching my body. Always the caged bird. Never free. The free bird is not my self.

So what does it mean to be this thing that I have no words for, only an experience of what words don't apply? I don't know. I may never know. I may by definition be incapable of knowing, of rest, of contentment. It is in my nature to look out the window through my bars and to not truly understand that there is no version of myself where I am out there looking in.

It keeps me awake. I toss and turn and think about unanswerable questions until I fall into a troubled sleep where even my dreams don't know how to shape me.

I've thought similar thoughts at times. The biggest thing was probably a thought experiment about "if I could go back and change things" or "if I had a magic button that changed things."

I (as I am now) don't feel that I could choose to replace the world with one in which I'd been recognized as a girl at birth. It would be a kind of suicide, because I am me, with my experiences, the good and the bad. All of those things add up to who I am, and honestly I'm pretty happy with the kind of person I am today. Similarly, changing when I decided to transition would lead to a very different me. (I'm pretty sure that if I'd tried to transition back when I first knew I was trans, I wouldn't like me very much. Just because the things people had to do back then to get proper transition care were... less than good.)

I also don't feel like I would be okay with "what if I could be back in High School with everything I know now, able to make choices sooner based on that experience". Because, well, it wouldn't be fair, and it also wouldn't be the same. I could experience what it's like for an adult, full of life experience, to be a teenage woman. But that wouldn't be fair to the other teenagers who're dealing with things for the first time. And it wouldn't be the same as having that experience from the get-go.

If I could tell a parallel-world version of me "it's okay, you can transition", though, I would probably do that. Because I would still exist, and I also don't think it's right for anyone to have to suffer. I don't know if the other-me would take that option—but I would be glad for them to really know it was possible, and to not be in that place of believing "other people can do this, but I can't possibly".

On the front of "what gender am I, really?" Well. I'm mostly a woman? I think? But there's definitely a non-binary aspect to me, as well. That has nothing to do with the performance of gender, or the relationship of my life experiences to gender, or my original parts, or anything. It's just... I am not so simple. I'm still working out what being non-binary means to me, and how I'm non-binary, and how I need to express that.

And at the heart of things, I think the most important thing there is that transition for me has been less about getting from point A to point B and more about becoming able to explore myself and make choices consciously. I don't have any real answers, but I'm okay with that, and trust that my stumbling in the dark will lead to being more comfortable in my own skin in whatever way, in whatever time. I imagine my understanding of myself will shift again and again in the remainder of my life, and I'll be glad to take up whatever new knowledge of myself I have and build on it.

The short story is... we are all of us such complicated beings. Full of histories and desires and uncertainties and suspicions and and and... and that's okay. We do the best we can at every moment, to be true to ourselves. Whatever that means.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

But I consider that woman, that proper self in some other theoretical time, and I wonder: would she be me? The dysphoric tangle of gender, sexuality, and crawling discomfort in my own body have shaped and defined me for most of my life. The things I have done, the places I have gone, the people I have been and been with; all of that was determined by not being that woman.

Clock, I can't speak to the trans experience specifically, but thoughts of "what if" are a pretty common thread for everyone. I've done my fair share of them, though as a young man, it was "what if my dad hadn't died when I was a kid".

The inescapable conclusion I came to was that the "me" I am now is unique and germane to the set of experiences that led to now. Had Dad survived the cancer, I would have grown up in different places, gone to different schools with different people, had a very different parented experience, and all of those things are formative.

I would most definitely be a different person, albeit one that would share a lot of commonality with the me I am today, but distinct from.

To zoom the camera in for a concrete example, consider your own personal politics, and how they’ve been shaped by your experiences. No-one springs from the womb with a fully formed set of politics, right? Change the experiences drastically, you likely end up with different politics. And politics is a fine example here, as it tends to inform one’s entire worldview, that is, how you interact with everything and everyone in the world that isn’t you.

Completely aside from that, can I just say that I love the voice you write in?

I explicitly forbid myself from playing the "what if" game. Otherwise I get consumed with thoughts of so many wasted years and missed opportunities, and that road doesn't lead to a good place for me.

I mostly restrict it to future thoughts. "What if... I didn't wear pants today? :O"

I will accept future thoughts as a viable alternative

But i'm expecting a parcel tomorrow so I'd probably better wear trousers, else i'll shock the poor postwoman :O

Which would mean that my fundamental experience of gender, the gender of my soul, is neither male nor female but something different: something dysphoric, unfulfilled and restless, never fitting or matching my body. Always the caged bird. Never free. The free bird is not my self.

So what does it mean to be this thing that I have no words for, only an experience of what words don't apply? I don't know. I may never know. I may by definition be incapable of knowing, of rest, of contentment. It is in my nature to look out the window through my bars and to not truly understand that there is no version of myself where I am out there looking in.

It keeps me awake. I toss and turn and think about unanswerable questions until I fall into a troubled sleep where even my dreams don't know how to shape me.

First, this was beautifully written.

Second, I don't think you're your dysmorphic self. Certainly that's a part of you in this current life, but if we're talking soul then your soul is the restless, every searching, ever questioning part. Assumed male, assumed female, doesn't matter, you would still be questioning everything even if you didn't have to struggle with dysmorphia. Perhaps in a different society you wouldn't have to choose from the binary from the get-go, instead you could've expressed yourself in any ways you chose and then the struggle between sex and gender wouldn't have been as prominent. The "always have been," as you said, would be how you feel. I still think you'd be the "always have been" who questions everything and wonders if they're the bird or the bird in the cage. We're all somewhat both the free bird and the caged bird. Trans individuals just made moreso aware.

I find it curious that you would consider your soul, whatever that means, as something yet separate from your being, instead an integrated part of it. As if one could ever divorce themselves from their soul.

So beautifully written.

ClockworkHouse,

I cannot offer any such perspective that would ring even remotely close to the frequency of your soul. What has formed you is very, very different to what has I. Nevertheless, I feet the urge to say something. Even if it makes me look entirely out of my depth. If there's a chance it could aid you even a little, for just a moment, I have to try.

What do I see in you? Best I can as a distant connection of this community. You are fundamentally good, fundamentally caring, fundamentally honest, and fundamentally lovable. These are traits I believe to be innate to the soul. I stress fundamental because no matter what form you take, I think these remain the same. Had your form been another you would have had very different life experiences. But, your soul may have led you somewhere similar in broad terms. Family. Career. Outlook. Perhaps minus the turmoil of dysmorphia. Perhaps.

The soul could be gendered always as it is. Male. Female. Non-Binary. Trans. The soul could interchange gender during its journey. (Assuming there is more than our present lives. There may not be and this is what we need to make count.) It is possible that your soul is and may always be in contrast with its physical form. And that's okay. It is another class of gender that we as beings took generations to begin to understand. If only the time we reside in would catch up to what is most likely our ultimate destination, all acceptance of all things, equally.

The problem is the reality we presently reside in. Not your somewhat more unique building blocks. This does not remedy reality making it a very real overriding issue for those living it now. It has created an outstanding human being in you, though. Your resolve to make it work, to move past the creeping scourge of intolerance that simply will not crumble swiftly enough, has created a wonderful essence of life in you. You are a beautiful success story of human life amidst adversity. Like others here.

I don't know what can be done to help combat the thoughts you are having. I simply do not know the answer. It is an unfortunate byproduct of our ill society, as it has been coined lately. Say what you want to say. Do what you want to do. Feel confident in your choices. Where you can. (No one can do it everywhere without some form of repercussion.)

Hopefully I have not completely missed the mark. If I have that's me. The soul trying to forever be more sure of something, anything.

Thanks for the responses, all. I really appreciate that this community has always been such a good place to find support and a sympathetic ear.

Ok. Got my appointment for a consultation with the surgeon through, finally. 27th April, down in Glasgow. All goes well, touch wood, fingers crossed and soforth I should have a not too distant surgery date after that, fingers crossed. :O

Congrats, and good luck!

thanks

Can we talk haircuts? And other stuff...

I actually could use some very serious and real feedback and insight here.
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If you see my avatar, that would be my daughter, back at age 2.
She is now eleven years old. We live in Greece, which is still really traditional on many levels, got the patriarchy thing going on, and really, really traditional gender roles (supported by...most people).

There are no girls in sixth grade with short hair. From my quick peak around school (I teach at the private school she attends for free), there are no seventh grade girls with short hair. Shoulder-length is "short" here.

About two months ago, my daughter came out to us as bi, and let me know that she's known this for two years. This went really well, and she and I talk about stuff very openly (and watch videos like itgetsbetter.org together).

I'm not just an LGBTQ+ rights advocate in my professional and personal life, I am a freaking cheerleader. I subversively wear "Love is Love" t-shirts under a more formal shirt, while teaching high school, in a way that my students absolutely know that I'm wearing it (and many have thanked me privately).

But I don't want my girl to be bullied. And there a fair number of sh*thead kids at the school that would.

She now wants a very, very short haircut. I showed her a google search on "pixie haircuts" and the very, very short has lengthened a tad.

There is this instinctive parental part of me that is screaming "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD CONFORM AND SAVE YOURSELF." but I have seen very clearly, that she needs to know we love and accept her, even if she wants to shave off all of her hair and tattoo "I am bi" on her forehead. Any talks about, "we have to be a teeny bit cautious about bullies" is heard by her as "so we're not accepting/loving all of you."

I do not entirely understand why she wants to push the whole system at age 11. You'd think I'd be proud (I am) but...jesusgod I am terrified for what middle-school bullying will bring.

So at this point, the plan is she gets her pixie cut at the end of the school year, works on how to use mouse and gel and such, and gets the hang of it, the way she likes it. Goes to her summer camp thing for 10 days (she went last year), which will feature some good and some sh*thead kids from her school (so like 15 of the 300 kids at the camp). Along with us going camping at our normal family camping place, where she always makes many friends. And she can see how worth it all the crap is, or whether it just goes well (she tells me boys are routinely bullied in sixth grade by being called "gay"...not sure about the girls).

And she can decide on her hair and fight the fight, and see how it goes.

Woof. This year was Total Drama Sixth Grade (Netflix reference), mostly based on her friends constantly comparing themselves with each other, and who was spending how much time and attention on who. Maybe she actually is ready for all of this, and needs this. To put it bluntly, I am not really ready for Total Drama Seventh Grade: Are You A Girl, Are You a Lesbian?

That's awesome that she's comfortable enough to come out to you, and that you support her all the way! high-fives all round!

As to the worry about bullies. FWIW I personally feel that bullies are considerably less of a threat so long as you are confident in yourself and how you present to the world. I spent far, FAR, too many years terrified of what people would say and think about me and making myself miserable, but since I got past all that (like...literally from day one) and was true to myself, I have felt significantly better mentally prepared for dealing with the world's sh*t.

(disclaimer: obviously I'm in one of the relatively friendlier country towards QUILTBAG folks so...there's that. I can't speak for the situation in Greece. And I especially have no idea what the school experience is for an 11 year old these days).

beyond all that though...pixie cuts are stylish AF and most people probably wont even blink an eye these days, afaik. She might just start a trend

Undercuts now...that's where it's at!

My personal take is: She's of an age where if she's asking to make decisions like this herself, you need to support her the best way you can. And it sounds like you're doing that—that you've talked about the issues involved (as you have with us), and suggested a plan that gives her room to test the waters with a bit smaller audience, and that she's made largely her own decision and is on board with all of that.

So I'd say: this sounds good. You are supportive, and you respect her agency, and I imagine you're willing to go to bat for her if the other adults in her life give her sh*t about her hair. All of that means a lot.

Worrying is hard, but it's also okay, and it sounds like you've found a good place where you're not going to force decisions down her throat despite your concerns. I hope that if this does go poorly, you'll still hold to all of that, and let her continue to learn her own lessons and make her own decisions and keep backing her up.

Thanks very much, both of you.

pyxi...I have to hold on to what you said like a mantra, because i KNOW you are right...that she will not just feel more confident, but may not give bullies any power over her at all if SHE likes what she sees in the mirror.

Hypatia...you just described what I think of as the Finding Nemo suck-i-tude of parenting. And like I said, in theory, I'm all behind the "getting her ready for the world in an honest way" parenting, and not "ohmygod keep the world away from her" parenting. This does not make it easy.

p.s. my daughter and I took a hike to the waterfalls near my house, and had a great talk. And will do so again tomorrow (we are off for two weeks for Greek Easter because...Greece). She just went to two birthday parties where the wealthy parents invited the entire sixth grade to a rented out club for dancing. Much bullying of some boys went on. One groping of one of my daughter's friends went on. She has decide she will not be going to any of these anymore. Pre-teen stuff is a tad terrifying for me, much less her, but we are talking...

As far as "going to bat" for her, I think teachers at the school where I teach are, at least, fully aware of the juggernaut that is me if one of my kids gets mistreated by an adult...

Update:

Realizing our daughter is getting depressed (again, age 11) not looking like herself, like she wants, we asked her if she just wants to get it cut now. It's happening tomorrow morning.

I asked her on a scale of -10 to 10, with 10 being super happy, and -10 being super sh*tty (we're into swear words for her feelings now. It's working wonders.), how does she feel?

"-4..."

How would you feel if we got your hair cut tomorrow?

"100!!!!!"

Was not exactly a tough decision at that point.

Again, thanks for the response. I think the actual mantra going through my head now is pyxistyx's, "pixie cuts are stylish AF"

cool! good luck

I posted in the self-indulgent parent thread, but I thought ya'll should see this smile directly:

IMAGE(https://scontent.fath4-2.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/30127792_10211422497460397_228411308603604992_n.jpg?_nc_cat=0&oh=d0d0b212b839e074fd8fbf5cf06bffb8&oe=5B6D5087)

Really cute!!

looks great!

That smile is priceless

SillyRabbit wrote:

Really cute!!

Cute AF even!

Awesome!

That's really great!

She’s looks great and she’s happy, that’s what matters, Roo. (not necessarily in that order too)

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 Gosh. :>

She looks SO happy, Roo. That's awesome.

My friend just called to tell me he is transitioning. I asked if he had a new name (shortlisted) and was switching pronouns (not yet). I let him know how happy i was for him and how honoured i was to be told - i was next on the list after his family and his bff! - and to let me know if/when he wants to be referred to differently. Is there anything else i can do to support him apart from just kinda be there and...support him? He lives in the US and me and his bff (we are all ffs) live in Ireland, so there isn't much day to day stuff we can do.

Anyhow, he sounded super happy so woo:)