Editors' note: Suzanne Clayton lives outside of Washington D.C. and is active in the local transgender community. Since 2007, she blogs about her experience transitioning from male to female.
Transgender: not a disease, but a normal variation on the human condition that most certainly exists.
What is transgender? It's more than just drag performers and transsexuals. It includes a wide range of people, including gender queer and crossdressers. Then again, maybe there's really no such thing as gender at all? Don't believe me? Well, follow this argument for a moment, and let's see where we come out:
What does it mean to be a man or a woman? It's certainly not just about genitalia, is it? If a man loses his penis in a motorcycle accident, is he not still a man? So then it must be about personality. But there is no such thing as male or female personality. We can state as much categorically, and put it in boldface to make it even more convincing, as if we've thought it through and there's no more room for discussion: Personality is not a function of gender. Okay, so if it can only be about genitalia or personality and it's not about genitalia or personality, then there is just no such thing as men or women. Q.E.D.
Did you agree with this logic? Then you agree with Ronald Gold's argument and then of course there is no such thing as transgender (you cannot be "trans" something that does not exist in the first place). We can go on to just assume that these people are confused to think that their bodies and minds are out of sync, gender-wise.
Or we could take a tiny step back and realize that maybe we made a mistake somewhere in our logic. Gender most certainly exists. We don't have to fully understand what it means to be a man or a woman to know that most of us strongly identify internally as one gender or the other. Some boys may like to do "girl things" and some girls may like to do "boy things." There are fuzzy lines between male and female. Gender identity, sexual preference, and male/female appearance are not on a binary scale. Still, I think most people have no trouble reconciling this with the notion that they identify internally as "male" or "female" and that that feeling goes beyond their physical form and what they like and do not like to do (and whom they like to do it with).
It is a nice feeling to know that your external presentation matches up with your internal gender identity. I know this, because I have worked very hard to make mine line up, having been born with a male physiology while having strong feelings since at least age 4 or 5 that I wanted to be a girl. I never felt "trapped" in the "wrong body". I have my body. It's the one I was born with, and I'm no more trapped in it than anyone else is in theirs. Maybe it developed differently than I'd have liked, to the point where I always felt like something was wrong with me, but I felt reasonably at ease blending in with male society. And society accepted me readily and completely as a male for 37 years.
Still, no matter how easy it was for me to pass myself off as a man (and I was very convincing), my desires to be female never went away. At some point, I realized they never would, and at a much later point, I realized that I would never be satisfied living out my life as a man. So even though I knew it would be extraordinarily difficult, I worked to change my external self to live as the woman I had to be. And it wasn't about kissing men or having men hold doors open for me. And it wasn't about having a vagina instead of a penis. And maybe I don't really understand everything about what made me feel the way I did, but I'm quite sure I'm a lot happier living the way I am now.
Some people might think I'm deluded. Some people might disagree with my choices to have my body surgically altered to be more in line with what is generally accepted as "female". Some people probably don't consider me to be female at all (but only if they know I'm transsexual, which they generally don't unless I tell them). Maybe they have a point, but I don't really care, because I'm living the way I want to be, and this works for me.
I am a transgender woman. Believe me, I exist.