Thursday, December 8, 2011

Growing up transsexual

I was brought up as a boy. That's what happens to girls born with transsexualism. Society conspires to lock you into your assigned sex. Once those words "it's a boy" are pronounced, then a boy you shall be. Your parents and others around you will expect you to behave the way they think a boy should behave. You will be segregated, to a greater or lesser extent, from girls. You'll be herded with other boys in school. You might even end up in a school in which there are only boys.

Your body is part of the conspiracy as well. You have a penis and testicles. Anatomically, you resemble your father. You're expected to be at least somewhat like him and to aspire to be more like him.

Puberty is a nightmare, when sex hormones kick in with full force. You're literally flooded with testosterone. Imagine the horror for a girl who hears her voice deepen and watches her body become more and more masculine. By the time the flood abates, the body is altered forever. The pressure to be a boy turns into even more pressure to become a man.

The conspiracy of parents, society, and anatomy to convince you that since you have boy parts you must be a boy somewhat resembles a phenomenon called gaslighting. Gaslighting comes from the film Gaslight in which a man conspires to cause a woman to lose touch with reality. He tells her what reality is, and she comes to doubt her own perceptions. That's what happens to someone born transsexual. It's not just people who treat you like a boy, and later like a man. Your body mocks your sense that you are really a girl. Between the two forces of society and anatomy, it's difficult to retain your own sense of self.

Some girls are born with such a severe case of transsexualism or such a strong sense of self or both that the conspiracy fails. Nothing can overcome their sense of themselves as female, despite what people say, despite how people behave, and despite what their own bodies tell them. They know that people and their body are wrong. They demand early in life, or relatively early, that the situation be rectified.

Others, for any number of reasons, do not have such a strong sense of self. They buy in to what those around them and their own bodies constantly tell them. They doubt their own perceptions. They are quite susceptible to gaslighting. They might even reach the point of believing that their perceptions are wrong or mistaken. The tragedy is that this situation can last much of a lifetime, even through marriage and having children.

Whether early or later, the situation must be rectified. The birth defect must be fixed. There seem to be a rare few who live with their birth defect for their entire lives, using various coping methods. But most are compelled to repair the damage so they can have as much of the life they always should have had as possible.


Anne said...

Both these posts are concise and cogent descriptions of what "trans-sexualism IS, and what it is like to experience it.

It is extreemely unfortunate that transvestites have glomed on to this medically curable malady in an effort to legitimitize their own distinct condition.

flow said...

i'm (10y) post op, and i find myself very uneasy with the transvestite / non-op people. they are nothing like me - they are happy to live with the wrong body, play with superficial changes. i'm supposed to be really understanding, since i've done what i've done, but i HAD to. and i get grouped together with them in society's eyes. and its just wrong. a man in a dress, no matter how fem, is a man. i can just about understand how some girls with male bodies might not want to go through surgery, as its an intense, expensive and risky thing to do, but then i'd expect them to be girls, in attitude and behaviour. maybe i'm being socially 'normative' and failing in some way. but ugh.
in my 'local' TG support group (220km away) i feel sorry for one girl that i met. she was newly coming out, and shy and scared, but definitely a girl, and she was surrounded by scary, very definitely, males, in bad wigs and skirts. they had no intention of transitioning and slept with women, as men.
how does that help her? its like the ultimate nightmare reflection of her own fears as to how she will come across. trial by fire? i wanted to get to know her, but there was a horrible competitive vibe and i was similarly freaked. did i look like that to others? its taken me years to get over that.
sorry for ranting.

Sagebrush said...


Thank you.


No problem with ranting. I had similar experiences, and it was hard to get over the fear that resulted.

I hope that girl found her way.

Sarah Murphy said...

Both Anne and Flow touch upon the really unfortunate aspect of transsexualism, the tendency of society to lump us in with casual crossdressers and like minded people. After being exposed to La Cage Au Faux, Mrs. Doubtfire, Jerry Springer et al, the legitimacy of our medical condition naturally comes into question. Never mind the legitimacy of transsexualism IS recognized my the APA, AMA, and FAA, and a whole other alphabet soup of professional organizations. The fact remains that much of the public is not professional. And since we don't desire to inhabit a transsexual's colony, the public is where we are. As a consequence, it is up to us to be educators when called upon when the moment arrives. Just so we understand our task is as difficult as describing color vision to someone who only sees black and white.

As to the subject of gaslighting, my own experience can shed some light there, no pun intended. Since we are all surrounded by gender normative people, the explanation of "you have a penis so you're a boy" is very believable in the absence of good information explaining otherwise. So time and time again we hear, "Only girls, not boys do that." And since we believe them (parents, teachers, peers) more than our own feelings, and wish to please them, we feel ashamed and put away the feeling. After all, what we're feeling doesn't make sense, does it? However, these feelings will demand an outlet over our lifetime, one way or another. Eventually they do win out once and for all. By then it becomes a life or death situation. The phrase "It's not that I chose to transition, I just chose not to kill myself.", is oft heard in these circles.

As I was becoming conscious of my condition, it was my intention that if I was going to hit a wall, I did so softly. Except that didn't happen that way in reality. Call it what you will, luck or the Grace of God. Whatever it is, I am glad that I am alive to share this.

Last but not least, I have to thank you Sagebrush. By sharing your knowledge and experience, you are a wonderful resource I hope many learn from. Keep up the good work.


Sagebrush said...

@Sarah Murphy

You make a good point about gaslighting. When brain/body congruity is so overwhelmingly normal, and when the physical evidence is obvious to us every time we pee, it's not surprising that it sometimes doesn't take that much of a conspiracy for us to feel that we must be mistaken. The idea of being transsexual is counterintuitive and extremely unlikely -- except when it's true.

Brenda Fernández said...

Hi, Sagebrush! Thanks for writing this. I feel like I totally agree! The gaslighting thing is a very accurate description indeed.