I am a “woman trapped in a man’s body”. Except I am not. Brian Cox refutes concepts of ghosts, souls, minds separate from the brain with CERN, the particle accelerator. CERN shows how baryonic matter- electrons, neutrons, protons- interact. It excludes any spiritual stuff exerting an influence on those protons. If they did, CERN would have observed it.
Do I have a “woman’s brain”? It is unclear, and strongly disputed. Last century, neurologists observed how people with impairments had particular damage to the brain, and deduced that the damaged part had the function impaired; but now we learn of brain plasticity, where experience alters the brain itself. It is hard to distinguish the effects of nature and nurture. Women give birth, and are generally though not universally smaller and weaker than men. I cannot name a single characteristic of women but not of men which I share with women, otherwise than by medical or surgical intervention. Some cis men are more “feminine” than some women.
I would rather think of it as a matter of desire. I desire to express myself in this way. I only know my true nature from how I behave, though I might have potentialities which I have not developed because of circumstances. Given my circumstances, I choose to behave in this way.
We know it is an ancient and wide-spread behaviour. Deuteronomy 22:5 forbids it. People do it spontaneously, and culture forms around it: in Norse mythology it is simply a disguise, to achieve a manly end by deception, not self-expression as an end in itself. It was more important to me than anything else in the world. And before that, resisting the desire felt like a matter of life and death to me.
I remain at war with myself. It seems to me I have a kernel- or colonel, giving orders, which will not be denied- with particular feelings and responses, and overlaid on that responses to the underlying feelings. Desire, and terror or revulsion, which led me in the 1990s to buy clothes then throw them out a score of times, and now-
Now, I freeze and go into avoidance behaviour. Deep Space Nine on TV, again, and as I have forgotten it and did not watch much of the later seasons, and have a lot of time, I watch it. In Profit and Lace, Grand Negus Zek decrees that females can leave their houses and seek profit like males, and Quark has surgery to appear female in order to- achieve something plot-based, but mostly produce laughter and embarrassment as well as a few gender-political points. I found it embarrassing. There is Nog, running, desperately trying to whatever, and I reached for the NYT to take my mind off it. Then I paused it, and considered- I can watch it, stop it, or pay it a little attention while I glance at opinion articles. I do not want to watch it as it embarrasses me. I do not want to stop it, because I do not want to (appear to myself to be) running from it. That would be- cowardly, or something. I picked up the computer, saw this was avoidance activity, take my mind off the original issue, and could not decide to put it down or read it.
I froze. I knew reading the plot summary that it would be embarrassing. Now, I was consciously confronting a choice which I made unconsciously so often- watch, switch off, avoidance behaviour reading while it is on, and all options revolted me so I froze between them unable to do any. Well, either watch or switch off, but do not read while it is on, that is the freezing itself, not paying attention, waiting for the problem to go away. Then, do not switch off- I will confront my embarrassment, because I need to be able to confront. I took an age to decide, hating myself that this which should be nothing would be a problem for me, then watched. It takes courage to see entertainers make jokes about the thing most important to me. I will not run from it, even though no-one sees me running. Courage- or ridiculousness, worrying about nothing, freezing rather than acting. I frame or express this in moral terms, which may increase my confusion- I want to turn it off, but I want to imagine that I am brave, and might imagine that it was cowardly to turn it off.
In that context, the theory gives me permission. I am a woman. I want to behave in such a way, present in such a way, because I am a woman, and because I am a woman I am allowed to behave like that. Then the theory is attacked. Of Course I am not a woman, say the radical feminists, the conservative evangelicals, and even the psychiatrists who call a trans woman attracted to men “homosexual”. And I am bereft, pulled between desire and revulsion, without a compass to guide my actions.
It seems to me that the revulsion will only prevent me from doing things, or will make me conform to behaviour which seems to me to be acceptable to others in a joyless, dead way, the only motivation bare survival. And the desire, to behave like a trans woman, at least gives me a positive motivation. Yet a man who had given up heroin told me that the world merely seemed grey and joyless without it. When I was buying clothes and throwing them away, it seemed like addiction. Nothing makes sense to me. Yet I will seek out that kernel, to use it as my guide, and seek to pass through the fear and revulsion.