Sunday, November 21, 2010

Q & A about gender

Inspired by how well the AIDS question and answer went, I invited my community to ask any question they might have about gender.

Of course I first must put in the obligatory statement of “This is only my perspective and no one else’s” (though I did get Cyndi’s opinion on a few of these.) I can only speak with confidence for my family…no one else. Quite possible that no one in the world outside of us feels this way, or would answer these questions this way.

Please also know…that the transgender/transsexual brain is INHERENTLY different than standard male/female brain. It just IS. MANY trans people would likely not agree with me on that….and that’s fine. They are entitled to their opinions as well as me. There are so many things that are…seemingly little…or trivial, or not worth mentioning as we go through our day. There’s so much that causes great emotional PAIN in being trans…that those things often aren’t mentioned. Not even in a diary.

Sometimes…I actually hide behind my extreme honesty. If I fill my blog with lots and lots of seemingly intimate things…well, you feel like you know me pretty well…right? Makes it easy to leave out some of the REAL and DEEP pains of life. Don’t we all do that somewhat?

Onto your questions. Which…by the way, I’ve ordered how I want. I really appreciate your questions and the thought you put into them.

~Just what is an androgyn?

An androgyn is a rather loose catch all term for anyone who doesn’t fit into the male/female binary. There are MANY words for this…. Genderqueer, third gender, bi-gender….there’s more and more and more. All people have their preferred term for self.

~Now that I’ve really thought about it and you said ANY question.. well, it just seems that when Cyndi started her desire to become a woman it just kinda seemed like overnight that you wanted to change your sex as well, like you almost felt you had to or something. You always made and wore pretty skirts and you wanted a baby so badly at THE moment Cyndi made her choice. your writing doesn't seem different, I mean you sound like the same person inside... I don't know, I guess what I’m trying to ask is how it all came about, and so quickly.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to answer this shortly…and I can’t. *sigh* Well…ok. Um…we could take it back as far as childhood but I don’t see the need in that. Just know that I COULD pull from childhood…and am choosing not to. Cyndi and I have know the other was trans for as long as we’ve been together. We named my male side “Kyle” but it quickly became painful. The more I opened up…the more I needed. The further down the rabbit hole I went…the longer I saw it got. It came to a head a few months into my relationship with Cyndi and it was too much. I saw exactly who I wanted to be. I saw exactly who I was. Androgyn. Only…I didn’t have that word yet.

When I’d ask myself “Are you a guy? I mean…are you? Really?” and the answer really was…no. I’m not. As far as I knew…that makes me a girl! It was so so so confusing. I applied the word “freak” to myself quite a bit. I became obsessed with thoughts of surgery so I could have a penis. I was sure and convinced that no doctor would do such a thing, and even if they would…how on earth would I afford it!!! So I closed the door. I shut it aside and did my best to throw myself as FAR into femininity as I could. I wore skirts and refused to wear pants EVER. I became obsessed with pregnancy…just sure that becoming pregnant and having those hormones would clear up any “wayward” thoughts of gender.

When I was seeking support as a spouse of a transperson I stumbled into the word androgyn. It was….the most…momentous…and extremely scary thing I think I’ve felt in recent recollection. The door to the vault I’d stuffed all gender related thoughts into…flung open and DEMANDED I deal with it. RIGHT. THEN. I knew what I was. I was an androgyn. And I wasn’t alone.

I know the timing looked….concerning from a distance. Our therapist even admitted as much. But…if you are a cigarette smoker…and you’ve quit. Can you live with a smoker and NOT smoke? If you’re an trying to avoid something…anything…(perhaps an addiction is a poor analogy but I can’t think of anything else particularly relatable. Forgive me please..) So if you’re trying to avoid something with all of your being…while simultaneously NEEDING that thing…and someone you live with is DOING that thing…there’s just no more running from it. There’s just not. You can’t hide…it’s IN YOUR HOME. I had to face it. There was no waiting.

~Do you believe there are inherently "male" or "female" characteristics? Or, are "male" and "female" merely socially constructed?

Easy answer would be…yes. I think that there are many male/female characteristics that are inherent. There are also equal that are socially constructed. The idea of the “Stoic male” for example…I believe has its roots in truth and nature…but it’s been taken to a place that’s…constructed.

Most of my experience and what’s been really really eye opening for me is the inner working of the male mind. (as I perceive it…obviously.) I really really really honestly thought that men were just…the exact same as women. That we all were *the same* and that men just DIDN’T act like women simply because of society.

That’s SO unfair!!! We are NOT the same. We’re not. Omg. Men and women aren’t at all the same. There are some things that are just…human, rather than gender based… but I think it’s a really huge injustice done by the feminist movement.

I’m not sure I could really express the differences…except for when they come up so…keep reading my journal I suppose ;)

~Could you share your opinions and/or factual differences between some commonly used terms. For example, that cross-dressing compared to being transgender. Or there's another, do you use transgender & transsexual interchangeably- why or why not?

Well…cross dressers are men (or women…though commonly men) who are not trans of any form. They simply like the clothes of the other sex. Which to me…just speaks to a need to break out of “gendered clothes”. I think anyone of any gender should be able to wear whatever color, and whatever fit they want. I do not understand why we have “women’s clothes” and “men’s clothes” aside from fit and shape.

The word Transgender is the huge umbrella that encompasses MtF, FtM, Androgyns and all else. People who choose to take steps and transition and those who don’t. Pre-ops, post-ops, non-ops and everyone else. Transsexuals are people who are actively taking steps to change from one sex to the other.

Which…brings me to a point that I don’t have any better spot for. (lol) Cyndi is often upset when the topic of transgender comes up with non trans people…and conversation immediately goes to genitals. That bothers her because it’s not about bits for us. I’ve had to remind her frequently that…if you’re not trans…your genitals basically ARE your gender. It just doesn’t go beyond that really. Why would it? Where as transgender people talk about their “gender” which differs from their “sex”. Your sex is about what’s between your legs. Your gender is what’s between your ears. What’s in your brain and your heart…who are you *truly*? So when we say transsexual we are talking about someone who is actively changing their sex. Cyndi and I…by definition are transsexuals. The word has “sex” in it…which leads people to think it’s a sexual orientation which is forever frustrating. It’s nothing to do with sexual orientation…that’s about how you use your body and who your attracted to. Being part of the GLBT movement isn’t really doing us any favors in that vain…but I digress.

~I also have a personal question of etiquette. What is the correct way to refer to a trans person when referring back to a time when he or she wasn't out. Not sure if that made sense, so for an example- let's say I was at your wedding & now I was telling someone about it. Should I say "At Sara & Pete's wedding..." or should I say "At Sevan & Cyndi's wedding..."

That one’s deeply personal to the individual and the situation. If you’re talking to someone who knew me as Sara before…well then it makes sense to refer to me as Sara which would denote a time. “Ya know, the wedding they had…long ago, before transition.”

If you’re talking to someone who’s never known me as Sara, never knew there was any such person and didn’t know I’d transitioned or am transgender…well…that’d out me and be considered rude.

The simple answer would be to backdate the name. Most transgender people…if they’ve changed their name they feel they’ve always been “new name”.

I find that I still refer to “Pete” from time to time. Particularly if I’m speaking about when we first got together. As a couple, we’re ok with this. Most aren’t.

~Do you and Cyndi have a better understanding and empathy for each other now that you've both experienced both ends of the 'hormonal' spectrum?

Oh good god yes. Lol. We also have a lot of empathy for the confusion that this transition lends. So many things that as a woman I took for granted and just…knew…because I’d been raised to be a woman…that Cyndi has to actively learn. I will also admit that there were many things in her early months of transitioning that drove me a bit batty. Then I started T and felt quite sheepish because…oh. Yea…no real control over some things. Taking new hormones comes with mood swings. It just does.

~I like [the last questioner’s] question. Plus it (and something you said in the last entry) suggests a follow on, which is having moved around on the gender spectrum, what parts of your personalities have turned out to be gender based (and therefore changing as you've changed) and what parts are fundamental?

For me personally…I found that my depression was gender based (or gender dysphoria based..) I cried REALLY easily, I hated exercise, I multi tasked really well, and I could take or leave sex. All of those things have changed.

My love of crafting and sewing are integral part of myself. I do feel far more rounded. I feel gifted in what I now know about gender and some of the things that motivate us. Cyndi really wants us to write an advice book for couples based on what we know about men and women.
Hormones effect everything..from what smells we like to how food tastes.

I really think everyone should have the chance to cross hormones..just for a month or something. Though that likely wouldn't work so well. Men who have been put on estrogen often get depressed and such. I've only had the experience I've had with T comes from it being *right* for me. Same goes for Cyndi. We would know right away if it were wrong. It would have felt wrong. It is a shame that more people can't experience this though.

I don't know how to fully describe's just been so all encompassing. As painful as it can be to be's a gift.

~Are there traits that you consider feminine or masculine that you are attracted to in Cyndi?

This is something that I've been just...stuck on. I can't really pick and parse what I'm attracted to about Cyndi and then apply gender! So since these three attraction questions were asked together I'm just going to jump to the last bit...

~Are there other things you are attracted to that transcend gender? How has your attraction to Cyndi shaped and changed as you have both gone through transitions?

Our love has deepened significantly. Our respect and trust of one another has just...bloomed. We thought we were unstoppable before but now...we're unbreakable. When I first started looking into androgyny she was actively skeptical and didn't care for it. She didn't think anyone could live out of the binary. We've grown, we've fought and we've come to a deep place of understanding. I couldn't begin to tell you what I love specifically. There's very little she does that even annoys me. Some things...of course...but they're so small in comparison to our love and commitment.

It was pointed out to me by someone who read this that I use the word "Transgendered" quite a bit when I'm writing. That's true. I do. (though I've corrected that in this entry.) Never really put much thought into it really. At her suggestion I did a bit of reading. There are many things I am aware of when it comes to advocacy. Cyndi spends her whole day reading blogs, articles, studies ect ect ect...and looking at trans forums. I personally....don't. However, gender based conversations are frequent in our home. This happens to be something that's never come up. We've had discussions on how people want to get rid of the word "transsexual" and create some new better discriptor. That seems to come up every few months in our circles. People don't like the word because it has "sex" in it, and thus people who are unfamiliar equate transssexuals with a sexual identity. I digress. I pulled this from an article I found:

"The word transgender never needs the extraneous "ed" at the end of the word. In fact, such a construction is grammatically incorrect. Only verbs can be transformed into participles by adding "-ed" to the end of the word, and transgender is an adjective, not a verb."

I'm not trying to excuse myself from using an inaprpriate word...but anyone who's known me for more than a min knows grammar isn't my strong point. I put this here because many of the questions contained the word "transgendered". (again, I altered this entry..) So clearly, I'm not the only one unaware. Since the point of this entry was education...I figured I'd add this correction as well.


Hylie Random said...


How hard was it to get testosterone?
Have you had problems becoming more male than you wanted to?
Is your hair thinning?
How bad are the moodswings? Have you lost your periods?

Sorry to ask all these nosy questions...but, umm, there's a part of me that wonders if I actually want to use hormones to masculinize just a bit...and the general consensus is it's all-or-nothing!
I was going to try herbs said to masculinize ( makal root plus an herbal estrogen blocker or two) instead, since it's a more subtle effect.