Editors' Note: Today's guest post comes to us from a midwestern transman who asked to stay anonymous. He is not comfortable having his name attached publicly, but felt compelled to write about this topic.
I wrote this post in response to some comments on an article about Kye Allums, the first openly transgender female-to-male person to play NCAA Division I basketball. Most of the comments on the article were positive since it was on a GLBT site; however, a few brought up several points that are typically used to refute the very notion of transgender people, such as the following:
... humans are either male or female. 'Transgender' people are not 'men' born into a woman's body or 'women' born into a man's body. They are simply men or women who are confused as to their gender ....
...those who believe themselves to be 'transgender' need counseling and perhaps medication like any other person with a mental of psychological disorder.
The fact is that there are some things in life that you cannot 'change' like your sex.....
To those of you who believe that there are two distinct sexes - that we are created physically male or female and that is all - you may be surprised to know that it is estimated that every day surgeons perform surgery on 5 newborn infants (without their consent and sometimes even without their parents' consent) in order to change their "ambiguous" genitalia to what some doctor decides is more "conforming."
In other words, there are many children born every day who cannot be immediately labeled as male or female based solely on their outward appearance. These individuals are referred to as intersex. Surgeons are literally performing sex "assignment" surgery on them at birth. So, hey, that kinda refutes your premise, doesn't it?
I'm not even going to go into all of the gender diversity that exists in nature, because we're talking about people here, not fish that spontaneously change sex or turtles whose sex is determined by the temperature at which their egg was incubated (these are both real).
Taking It a Step Further
Let's take it a step further: researchers have identified an area in our brains where our gender identity - our sense of who we are as far as feeling like a man or woman - is located. This can control things like our natural inclinations, our personalities, how we relate to other people, and our chemistry with people to whom we are attracted.
If our external, physical bodies can appear to be ambiguous as far as sex goes (whether due to genetic, hormonal, or other reasons or factors in human development), isn't it also possible for our brains (also a physical structure in our bodies) to be ambiguous as well? Or at least potentially "out of sync" with our exterior bodies?
Surgically or not, we get "assigned" a sex at birth. From that assignment (male or female), society expects that you will have a gender identity (a sense of who you are) that society recognizes as conforming with your assigned sex at birth. Unfortunately this is not always the case. In fact, in many cases it is incorrect to varying degrees.
Some of these people will identify as transgender as a way of indicating that their gender identity/assigned sex combination is not one that is typical. Some will feel so strongly about their gender identity that they will change their outward appearance to be in sync with it. I am one of these people. So is Kye.
Intersex people exist. I know many. Transgender people exist. I know a whole lot of them. Transsexual people exist. I know a whole lot of them too. From what I have read, this condition has been documented in so many different times, cultures, and continents as to be considered a general fact of human existence.
So, are we going to continue to say "people are only born male or female" when clearly that is not true? Are intersex people a mistake? Are transgender people a mistake? Is a person born with a genetic disease or no arms and legs a mistake? That seems to be a judgment call - in other words, an opinion.
God Doesn't Make Mistakes
Personally, I don't think any person is a mistake. I do believe in a force in the universe that I call God. I don't believe God makes mistakes. So, here's my question, people like myself and Kye have done what we needed to do to live our lives in what we know to be our truth. Why does that mean that we are saying "God made a mistake?"
God made us transgender, giving us a particular journey and particular obstacles to overcome. If the person born with the genetic disease seeks out treatment for that disease, is he saying God made a mistake? If the person born with no arms or legs gets prosthetic limbs, is he saying that God made a mistake? I don't think so.
We are all doing what we need to do to survive and overcome the circumstances that were handed to us. Maybe this is what God wanted us to do. Did you ever think of that?
My second question is: Why does it matter to you? What investment do you have in whether I am male or female? I have never understood people's need to define other people and tell them who they are.
You Will Never Truly Understand
Of one thing I am convinced: if you are not transgender, you will never truly understand what it is like. Period. You can imagine, you can empathize, but deep down, you will never really know the level of pain that can be involved. That's why you don't think it exists or you write it off.
It's okay that you will never know. I, for example, will never really know what it's like to be a black person in America. I can be told, I can empathize, but I can never really know that experience, and that's okay. However, I would never go around putting that experience down, saying it isn't real. I would never say to a person with no legs "God gave you no legs and that's the way it's supposed to be, so just live with it. God doesn't make mistakes."
The transgender people I know are, for the most part, very intelligent, high-achieving, upstanding people who have had the courage and the personal insight when the world pointed at them and said "This is who you are" to stick to their guns and respond "No, this is who I am" - sometimes at ages as young as three years old. Why can't we have a little human compassion and understanding? Why can't we be given the benefit of the doubt that maybe this condition is real? Why would we make this up?
Another thing I love is when people say "You can't change your sex." To them I respond "Can - and did." It reminds me of the Chinese saying "Those who say something cannot be done should get out of the way of those who are doing it."
A Final Point to Ponder
Here's a point to ponder: I was born with a female body yet I have lived successfully as a man for 12 years. If I am not transgender, how am I able to do this? I sincerely doubt that any non-transgender person could live successfully as the opposite sex for any extended period of time even if they tried because it is not something you can choose. It's something you are. I believe they would be as miserable in the opposite sex as transgender people are in their assigned sex.
If you are non-transgender, try living as the opposite sex and let me know how that works for you. Maybe then you'll have an idea of what it's like to not be allowed to be your true self.