Variation

Much trans discourse arises from oppression. When I first came across other trans women in the 1990s, all pre-transition, I heard of The Script, what we had to tell the psychiatrists. “I knew there was a problem when I was three, and I knew what it was when I was five. Puberty was disorientating and distressing for me. At school, I could not understand why the girls were affirmed for certain behaviours, but I was condemned.” Actually that last bit is a quote from someone who, I think, meant it in all simplicity, but it would have been a fib for me. We told them that so we would get what we wanted.

Finding it unbearable to present male, even in a bigoted environment where I had to move house because local kids scratched and dented my car and abused me in the street, I retreated to the box marked “transsexual” and the understanding my culture has of it. I sought more to convince myself than others that I was not mad to do this, that it was not a perverted fantasy, that I could really do what I Wanted, just because I Wanted it. I did this in part with arguments about the BSTc which may not even apply to me. When I realised I did not really fit that box marked “transsexual”, that was a reason for me not doing what I wanted- I must be deluded.

The Gender Recognition Act, under which I have an extract birth certificate giving my sex as female, was a wonderful liberation for me. I felt accepted and supported by the law of my country in doing what I had done. Accepting my own transition, presenting female, liberated me to go further. The first symptom of this was resenting the classification. Under the previous law, I was called a “man” (Corbett v Corbett, orse. Ashley) and now I was labelled “woman”. Those were the choices. I am really something in between. Given what I had wanted, I could now rebel against that too.

A further liberation comes from the concept of “Variation”, for which I am endebted to L’Organisation Internationale des IntersexuĂ©-e-s in Australia via Angela Erde’s comment. It liberates me from the need to justify to my inner policeman how I behave. An Episcopalian priest discerned in me the desire to “shock”, but really I wanted to shock myself- the Variant part of me wanted to shock the timid, conventional part of me.

I care about how others react to me. There are some who are simply hostile, because of their own hang-ups, to anyone who is not “normal”. Others, though, may take their lead from me- if I can gentle away my own fears, and accept my variation and my spontaneity, they will too. They will be as comfortable with me as I am. This is the working theory, anyway. Alternatively, they are always comfortable with me, and it is only my projection of my own discomfort. Right now I do not know which.

The word “Variation” also helps to free me from being hurt by hate-filled Radfem nonsense about how trans women oppress real women, etc. They may express opinions about what I do, but they have no right to judge who I am.

There are still boxes and classifications which I might find useful: neutrois, for example, or trans*. However, these are now opportunities rather than traps: I see what is possible, and expand my awareness of the range of choices, rather than beat myself up because I do not fit. I have done enough of that. After struggling for so long to be something else, I now struggle to release my bonds of fear, so that I may be only me.

Neutrois, naturally

I am grateful to Maddox for introducing me to the concept of neutrois, and for showing themself on the web. (“Themself”- the pronoun they wants, to the chagrin of my grammar checker, is they, their or them for he/she/him/her/his/hers. Others use the pronouns ze and hir as pronouns for people without specifying gender.)

Maddox has a gender. It is the neutral gender, I think neither male nor female (I hope they will correct me if I have expressed it badly). They has a lot more to say on this on their fascinating blog. I am grateful, because this idea shows me a new way of understanding, new possibilities of how to be human. Meeting transsexual people gave me a new possibility of how to be, fifteen years ago. I had experienced and then internalised strong negative reactions to expressing myself female, but had seen that I was allowed to be a normal man (I tried very hard at that). Now, meeting these people, I saw that I was allowed to want to transition and be more or less a normal woman (lots of people who have transitioned will tell you they are women, not transwomen). Some people find that hard enough to understand.

For me, I would say I am both male and female, rather than neither. I realised very quickly I did not fit the standard definition of “a transsexual person”, even if it was so close to me that expressing myself female for the last nine years has been completely right for me. Responding with strong empathy for female characters in films and TV was a giveaway for me. Once I permitted myself to express that part of myself, that was it, I knew I wanted to transition.

Now, I am far more comfortable with the range of natural responses within me, and so less in need of examples of either how it is permissible to be, or how it is possible to be. I can just be. Mostly. And, still, seeing other possibilities in other people may still make me more alive to possibilities in myself. So I am grateful.