[image is from here]
(For part one of this discussion, please see *here*.)
I SOOOO feel like I didn't get the memo that there was such a thing as being intergender. Did you get that memo? (And, if so, why didn't you forward it to me??) I'm utterly amazed there was this graphic in the internet, above! And there's something else later on in this post that I found out about just a little while ago.
The whole of this post was written assuming I'd invented the term myself--that's how out of the loop I am!! (And I do like coming up with new terms but usually I DO check, to make sure anything I come up with hasn't already been invented!) I'm feeling kind of silly right now. Like seeing snow for the first time and calling everyone out of their houses and apartments to see it, and all of them saying to me, "Yes. That happens every year." Anyway, here's the post:
My problem with identifying as a "man" is that I just don't feel like one. I barely felt like a boy. Or, mostly I didn't. I didn't see boys as the same group as me. I felt more kinship with girls. But what I felt was something else, not like being a girl and not like being a woman, or a boy or a man, exactly. I didn't want my genitals to show and longed to have genitals that were different, but not explainably different. The best I can do now it to say that I've wanted to have intersex genitals. In my twenties I wanted to have breasts and to not have facial hair. I wanted very much to breastfeed, if I had children with someone. I didn't and still don't want facial hair and if I could magically make it go away, it would have been long gone years and years ago, with me never missing it one bit.
I'd also get rid of most of my body hair--and I'm not an especially hairy-bodied person. It would help if society didn't make women remove so much of theirs, I suppose, because then body hair wouldn't be so associated for me with "being a man". Many women are hairy, including facially hairy, but the codes on what is acceptable are very strict in this regard, and few women I know, including lesbian feminist women, escape the mandate to shave or tweeze some hair somewhere, usually and most often on the face.
In general, I think what testosterone seems to do to males is kind of unattractive, although I don't think it's unattractive if women have higher levels of testosterone. I don't like the effects it has on men but that's partly because of associations I have with other dimensions of being a man--political ones, not physical ones. I notice this as males grow from high school through to their forties and fifties, how much their bodies and psyches change. I'm assuming that's due to testosterone, and also diet and lifestyle of course, as well as increasing years of living with certain privileges and entitlements.
Physically, more or less, across the board, men seem to get more massive with age, and I'm not speaking here of getting fatter, which is a U.S. phenomenon more than anywhere else. I mean "beefy" or "muscular" but it includes how men's skeletons change shape too. Like rib cages seeming to getting larger or broader. I am not attracted to bulky men, and I don't desire to be bulky in those ways, because it is associated for me with being like a man.
Not too long ago, I got myself down to my lowest weight ever, as an adult. I have since gained some weight back, but I am trying to get back to that lower weight. I have eating "issues" which some might call an eating disorder, but as I know people with very serious eating disorders, I don't really feel like my struggles are similar enough to their own. For one thing, I can't die from mine. They can. I am capable of getting into an anorexic-like frame of thinking and behaving, for sure. When my weight drops to a certain point, that thinking moves in. And I have to be careful then, to not let that "anorexic mind" take over.
I know that for many people with class privilege, in the West, where there is plenty of food available to be eaten, some of us limit what we eat in order to take up less room, or to not appear as adult-like. I don't want the body I had when seventeen, or fourteen, or ten. I just want the secondary sex characteristics to go away, permanently, because they don't seem or feel like me. I can barely REALLY look at myself in a mirror, because I'm confronted with this fact: that how I look isn't how I feel and that has primarily to do with secondary male sex characteristics. With matters that having different levels of various hormones would have possibly taken care of. Maybe just less testosterone. If getting "fixed" would help me achieve the body I want, I'd do it. And this isn't about cosmetic changes to suit the public. I don't imagine showing off my body no matter what it looks like.
I just would like a body that fits with my sense of who I am. Right now, and for as long as I can remember, mine isn't it, but it's not so far off that I can't tolerate it. If it were, I might be more motivated to do something about it. But I really am frightened by taking hormones and even more so by surgery. I don't trust the dominant medical establishment, including around matters of gender re-assignment, in part because they really do try and make everyone look "male" or "female" and some of us would be just fine being intersex. And, I say that as someone who didn't grow up intersex and I don't know the struggles and hardships that can come with that journey from childhood into adulthood.
On the matter of degrees of inner distress or dissonance: I object to "being transgender" being determined by non-transgender people. I object to non-transgender people telling me, "You're not like what I understand transgender people to be, and so you're not transgender." I'm willing and eager to discuss my experiences with other transgender or intergender people, to compare notes, to discuss the stresses and the ways of coping.
Some might call me genderqueer, and for a time, for a few years, I called myself that. But now, for me, that term is too class, race, and era-specific. I associate it with a very particular white, middle or upper middle class, academically trained sub-culture, and I'm not actively part of that sub-culture. Maybe if I were, I'd be okay with that term.
I suspect I'm under the umbrella of being "transgender" but am not what dominant society tells me that means. "Transgender", according to dominant media, implies or assumes the desire in someone to move from one point to another along a supposedly linear spectrum of gendered being. This might go from being female-assigned at birth, raised as a girl and then being a woman. Or being male-assigned at birth, raised as a boy, then being a man, to becoming a woman. That's how it is presented, and the more the "finished" person appears to be their new gender, the more successful the process is understood to be, by talk show hosts, for example. Most people I know who are transgender who have had lots of hormone injections and many surgeries, do not really pass, to me. They appear "transgender" and I wish society were okay with people not fitting into what "men" and "women" are supposed to look like. I know some non-transgender people whose gender presentation--physically, not in terms of adornment or attire--is not what dominant society most welcomes and wants of its citizens. And that is a particular struggle that is not mine.
Once, though, a four year old girl looked up a me, as she stood near her mother who was selecting items off a shelf. She stared and then tugged on her mother's clothes and said, "Mommy, is he a boy or a girl?" The woman was embarrassed and seemed to want to apologise, or maybe she did. But it made my day. I felt like that little girl was the only one who has seen me as I want to be seen. Curiously, she used the term "he"--"Is HE a boy or a girl", so I think she registered my maleness on some level. But she also saw something else.
Most transgender-ignorant people assume that being transgender means one goes from being man to being a woman, or from being a woman to being a man. That's not true of most transgender people I know, and I question "transgender" as the term for what they are, but of course they are entitled to name themselves, and I am not entitled to name anyone else's subjective experience of genderedness and selfhood.
One female-bodied person I know, who is not intersex, identifies as transgender and prefers to go by male pronouns. Is it the fact of using male pronouns that makes them transgender? Because, basically, they are genderqueer, and may well be intergender, not transgender. But "intergender" hasn't been an option, and my experience is we make due with the categories that are available to us, that are enforced or generated against the weight of dominant society. This person has not been transitioning at all over the years I've known them. Not at all. Nor do they speak about "transitioning". To me, if there's no "transition", you're not transgender. You're possibly intergender or genderqueer, but I think there is currently a kind of internal peer pressure within some queer communities to identify as either queer or transgender, or both.
I see transgender reality as existing against the force of dominant society. I know some non-trans people believe transgender people are choosing to reinforce gender stereotypes, but I don't think this is the central matter in being transgender. I think the central matter is "feeling like oneself" both subjectively and when looking in the mirror, and possibly also when interacting socially. It's achieving a kind of internal-external, psychic-social harmony in basic being where before there was greater dissonance and dissociation. The degrees to which transgender folks assimilate is both a function of the pressures of dominant society to do so, and the desire to avoid a kind of scrutiny that is especially painful, as one has already invested a lot of energy in trying to pass relatively unnoticed in a world where one feels like one doesn't fit, psychologically and physically, and in other ways. So blaming transgender people for trying to pass is, to me, an expression of transphobia or, a term I prefer, transgender bigotry.
Another transgender person I know who is has lived life up until recently as a girl then a woman, is taking hormones, is experiencing voice changes and looks forward to the time when their voice isn't registered by others as "gender-nonspecific". And they are looking forward passing as a man. We have had some discussion about this: about this matter of wanting to be able to pass as one socially mandated and enforced gender or the other, in the gender hierarchy/binary that exists in the West. This should not be dismissed as insignificant to the decision to transition in ways media stereotypes transgender people transitioning. Without an enforced gender binary, someone might feel "done" transitioning" with less effort or procedures done, or they might not feel the same need to transition in the same ways.
Another myth about being transgender is that it is ONLY a subjective thing. That it is ONLY how one feels inside. Every transgender person I know is negotiating how they will be and be perceived in social spaces. This cannot "not matter" and it is influential as one deals with so many other issues that can accompany being transgender. And there are tons of issues to deal with, so many more than non-transgender people realise, in my experience. So many, in fact, that I've pushed away the whole matter away, on and off, for all of my adult life. I've reconciled being in the body I have, and then I notice that it's not the body I want.
Coming out as gay, for me, was not primarily a matter of figuring out how I felt, as a male-bodied person, about other males. I grew up knowing I was attracted to other male people. But I didn't exactly feel like I was attracted to "the same gender as me". I also didn't feel heterosexual at all. I've never understood heterosexuality. And, on some level, I've never understood anyone--male, female, intersex, or transgender, being attracted to men as a group. To individuals, yes. But not to men generally. Because so many men are so inhumane in fundamental ways. So I don't gets what's all that attractive about men.
I've always been more attracted to "androgynous" men or men who don't have lots of muscles, who are slight or thin, who are not terribly athletic, and who aren't "into" dominant male activities. Acceptable dominant male activities, such as working on cars, working out at the gym, homosocially bonding over putting down women, and being into comic books, sci-fi, or men's team sports, bore me.And, I know women can be into some or all of those things too. I once knew a lesbian-feminist who was into watching football. I didn't get it at all. I know het men who are into it: I don't get it. But I like the Olympics and I do like some sports, like beach volleyball and diving. And I like chess.
Does the degree to which my interests match up with some dominant standard of what men are supposed to enjoy help determine my own sense of myself? Of course. I am intergender because, in part, a lot of my interests, values, behaviors, and attitudes are NOT shared among men I know but they are shared among a whole lot of women I know. I find women infinitely more intelligent than men. The kind of intelligence I see men valuing is one that is dissociated from social reality or any understanding that the personal is political. And the intelligence I see in men, when it is there, is also terribly influenced by the many things Dr. Marimba Ani writes about in Yurugu. Things like "objectivity" and "rationality" and "logic". OMFG: the men that want to argue in those terms!!! I just want to give a copy of Yurugu to them and say, "Let's talk after you understand THIS book." Because if they can't understand that book, they aren't very intelligent. And if they can't understand what feminists are writing about, they aren't very intelligent. And if they are white but don't know what it means to be white, then they aren't very intelligent. That's how I see it.
Social, interpersonal, and emotional intelligence is very valued by me, but not so much by most men I know. So that's part of me feeling intergender. Residing somewhere between what society offers as the two genders is where I live, with a fair amount of male privilege and plenty of male entitlements. But the entitlements and privileges alone do not a gender make. That's something it has taken me a few years to work through, because my non-biological understanding of gender used to go like this: if you were raised with and maintain male privileges, you're a boy or a man. If you weren't, you're a girl or a woman. Or, if you were stigmatised negatively and seen as inferior and socially subordinated due to your gender, you were a girl or a woman. If not, you were a boy or a man.
I was seen and treated by many in my family of origin as an intergender child. I know they didn't have language for it, and it has taken me until last night for ME to have language for what I am that feels truest to my experiences, physical and emotional, internal and social, personal and political.
Wouldn't you know... I just Googled "intergender" to see if anything came up, and most of it had to do with being intersex, or with language issues. But, kind of excitingly, there was this: