Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Sunday, January 11, 2009

To Be a Man...

Jose is not commenting here, but he did me the courtesy of a reply on Opine. Here it is:

Ah Seda, I never said it would be easy. It's just that there is no other way to be what you are made to be, a whole fully integrated person. I don't look at you with contempt. I see you only as a suffering and confused human being for whom I have nothing but compassion. I do see you as a person obsessed with the desire to be a woman, which is not unlike any number of other obsessions that people have to obtain something impossible. They obtain some relief from the obsession when they convince themselves that they have arrived at some similacrum of what they desired.

From what you say your efforts to be a man have been quite confused. You don't have to try to be a man because you are a man. You apparently were chasing stereotypes of masculinity. That's all nonsense about macho images of "a powerful brand of masculinity that is clean and real" on the Wyoming ranch. It's pure stereotyping and then to pursue this macho fantasy you join the Marine Corps, probably the worst thing you could have done. And you go on in this Quixotic quest for manhood by getting into logging and commercial fishing. Tough super macho stereotypes. The very quests you undertook to obtain manhood demonstrate that you were indeed labeling yourself a woman or being womanish and you were lying to yourself because you were trying to become some image of man. You coveted the deeds and exploits of certain men. There are women that can do those things also and some confuse themselves into imagining they are men or manlike.

It's like the story of that poor soul who goes all over the world seeking God or enlightenment and when he finally encounters an honest and knowing person he is told that he could have had both right in his own back yard. That actually, all the time he was "searching" or "striving" he was really fleeing from God, from himself and from his responsibilities.

Seda, you are a man. Accept it. There is no need for you to continually refer to yourself as a woman. Drop it. Men can be ballet dancers and chefs and artists and poets. They can be highly refined and sensitive. They can be in touch with their feelings and they can cry. They can have a great many of the social contructs generally associated with femininity by the ignorant. They can be married or single, sexually active or celibate. Don't try to be a man and don't call yourself a woman. If you don't try to be a man then you cannot fail at being a man. You simply are because you cannot be anything else.

Peace.

Jose,
I appreciate your concern, and your compassion. Actually, that compassion is welcome. Thank you.

From the description I gave you of my efforts to “be a man,” I can understand why you drew the conclusions you did. You are absolutely right that my efforts to be a man have “been quite confused.” One thing fishing did for me, though, was free me from any need to link my behavior to my gender. I stopped “chasing stereotypes of masculinity” almost twenty years ago. I can cut down a tree or change the oil in the car or build a treehouse or play chess or fix the kitchen sink perfectly comfortably as a woman, but doing them as a man is – well, uncomfortable. My connection to gender is relational and psychological.

For instance, from the first time I entered men’s space, way back in grade school, I’ve been uncomfortable there. Through high school locker rooms, Marine Corps squadbays, and fishing boat cabins, I felt like an interloper, at best vaguely uneasy, always with a sense that I did not belong. Yet, from the first moment I was allowed into women’s space, I felt completely comfortable and at home. I belonged. Any time the sexes separate into their own space, I want to be where the women are – not because the conversation is more interesting (it often isn’t), but because I belong.

From the first time I remember trying it – I was 6 or 7 years old – I have always been more comfortable in women’s clothes than in men’s clothes.

Living as a man, I was unable to relate to people in a way that established a fully integrated and honest connection. That was true in my most stereotypically masculine moments, but also it is true whenever I relate to others as male, whether I fully embrace my femininity in the moment or not. That social isolation is an incredibly corrosive thing, and it gets worse with time. The way that men and women interact with each other is different, and when I interact as a man, it is unnatural and I cannot relate honestly and openly. The result is a social isolation that is, perhaps, almost like solitary confinement. It is not me interacting, then, it is a stage presence, an act, a lie. And the people who interact with me do not interact with me, they interact with that lie.

Also, living as a man, I lacked any sense of personal integrity. That wasn’t just in my “masculine” pursuits. Prior to accepting that I’m a woman, I had no honor, no integrity. Oh, I tried. I knew intellectually what was right and wrong. Yet I had no real conscience, and cheated and lied and stole almost without regret. Yet, almost immediately upon committing to my transition, I found integrity became incredibly important. Those opportunities that arise where dishonest material gain without consequences offer, became not only easily refuted, they were no longer even tempting. Now, I absolutely treasure my integrity. It is one of the best things I’ve gained from my transition.

Then there is my subconscious. Dreams, including recurring nightmares of intense violence. I blogged about it here: http://silknvoice.blogspot.com/2008/08/dreams.html. And perhaps more profound, my instinctive reactions to the act of sex, which I will not discuss in detail here. The little jolt of surprise that always flashes by when I look in a mirror. You speak of me being a “fully integrated person,” yet it is far easier to integrate my female gender with my male body than it is to integrate any sense of myself – my gender – as male.

You say I “don’t have to try to be a man because [I am] a man.” Yet, when I still my inner voice, when I just exist, as I am, I perceive myself as female.

Had it been possible, it would have been so much easier and more comfortable to embrace this sort of feminine manhood you describe, rather than transition. It was simply not possible to do. I’m not even that feminine of a woman.

You do, I assume, acknowledge the existence of genetic and morphological irregularities, like Klinefelder’s Syndrome (XXY chromosomes), XYY chromosomes, Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS), and intersexed (those with ambiguous genetalia). While I have yet to see any Opiner refer to any of these conditions as anything except an “exception” for which “concessions” can be made, even that is acknowledgement of a sort. Why is it so difficult for you to even entertain the possibility that some genetic or hormonal or congenital condition may create a female brain morphology in an otherwise male body?

You speak with great confidence, even authority. Yet your recommendations and assumptions conflict with the life experience of thousands if not millions of transsexuals – and their therapists. I’d really like to hear what the source of your confidence and authority is.

Be well.

***

Jose is right with his analogy about the man who went searching everywhere else for God. I did that for years. And finally, I discovered that what I was seeking - myself - was right here all the time. I just couldn't see her, because her body didn't look right.

2 comments:

Fannie said...

Thank you for this greater insight into your experience. It is definitely helping me better understand what it's like to be transgender.

Seda said...

Thanks, Fannie. It's definitely a very interesting trip...

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our
Beloved's.
~Hafiz