What defines who you are? Is it your mind, or your body – or some combination of them both? Or is it society – how the people around you perceive you to be? How do you know? Is it inside you, or do you look to an outside authority, like science, or psychology, or the Bible, or your friends and the clerk at the grocery store?
The Bible says, "God created man in his image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." What does that mean? Is god male and female both, like a transperson? Are humans all created as both men and women, some combination so that there is no such thing as "all man" or "all woman," but each human a unique mixture of both? Or that everyone is split into two discrete identities of sex, and the matching gender to go with it?
We've all got at least one X chromosome.
Are you defined by society? Do the people on the street see the real you? What if one person thinks you're beautiful, another thinks you're ugly. What if everyone thinks you're ugly. Does it make you so?
I don't think so. Society sees only the physical presence. It knows nothing of the real person behind the body's mask.
My friend B__ thinks mind and body can't be separated. "Mind and body are one and the same." By that logic, am I not defined as both man and woman? Nobody can see it, but I know with absolute conviction that my mind is female. I am female. My body? It's obvious to everyone that my body is more or less male, and certainly my genetic makeup is male.
But my body is changing. I'm growing breasts, losing body hair, my skin is growing softer, fat is moving from my stomach to my butt and thighs, and, I suppose, the back of my arms. Does who I am change when my body changes? When my testicles are cut off and my penis inverted? When hormones and surgery change my body so irrevocably that even my gynecologist can't tell whether I was born male or female?
How then can I – the core I, my own deepest identity and truth – be both male and female?
Having lived over 40 years fighting a dichotomy of sex and gender, I cannot agree with B__. My self, my soul, my being, resides in something that cannot be seen. It is that part of me that is alive, and so is completely immaterial, ephemeral, and probably immortal. When I die, my body will remain, unchanged except for the lack of action within it. Yet it will not be me; I will be gone.
My body does not define who I am; it plays little or no part in that definition.
It does, however, define a great deal of my experience, and it defines how others see me.
That is the crux of the transperson's dilemma. It is telling, and it is tragic. Because B__ is not alone. People – especially men – see me, and they see male. They do not see me, and so they do not respond to me as they would if they saw my soul. Men want me because I'm male – or they don't want me because I'm male. Those who would rape a woman's body would kill mine. But who wants to take me tenderly for the woman I am?
Because, no matter what my genetic makeup, no matter what my body morphology – I am a woman.