“I am not my gender”

Project Description:

I am on the border between being a butch dyke and a transman. I’ve spent the bulk of my life here, often shifting to the different sides for a temporary residence. In the past year I’ve moved more towards the transmasculine side than ever–beyond even my five-year old aspirations to become Robin Hood. It raises questions about whether or not I want to start injecting testosterone into myself and surgically constructing a male chest from the current D cups that I strap down most every day. Beyond this I question what it means to be male, female and in-between. My body. My relationship to a society that feels invested in telling me what to do with my queer body and life. Sexual orientation as identity. Privilege. The overwhelming cost of so many medical appointments. Becoming a permanent medical consumer. The orientation of my partners.

I am highly ambivalent about my gender. And I am not alone. There are a number of people similarly gendered who have situated themselves around this border. In the 1950s we would have been considered stone butches. In the 70s we would have been embarrassingly masculine inside an androgynous lesbian feminism. In the 90s it seems likely we would have claimed butch without the ‘stone’ and watched as those sure of their undivided maleness became a visible transmasculine force. Now, uncomfortable with the physique and ideology around ‘woman’ but unsure how well we fit into ‘man’, it is up to the individual to figure out where they want set up camp. I’m watching my friends pick sides or else struggle to carve a place for themselves directly on the line.

There are physical ramifications as well. The statistics for the transgender community regarding hate crimes, unemployment, discrimination in work, medical and home environments are staggering. The media perpetuating ideas that trans people are either tricking their sexual partners (and everyone else) into believing they’re the opposite sex or else treated as a pathetic failures in gender. Of course, the numbers aren’t terribly better for the visibly gay. The difference is that society is starting to see a place for the stereotypically homosexual–we can be hairdressers, PE teachers, and lawyers. Despite the numerous shortcomings inherent in defining and utilizing people according to their stereotypes, it does afford a level of protection. There is not yet a clear place for the trans community. Perhaps being trans, in and of itself, means a lifetime on the border.

I’ve had things yelled to me out of cars, been chased home by groups of boys, lost jobs, been sexually harassed, gotten jumped and been threatened with worse because of my masculine presentation. There is a chance that testosterone will help me blend into the larger heterosexual community and thus afford a level of invisibility and protection. I’m not sure if I want to pass as a straight white man. I want to be comfortable in my body. It’s the rest of the world’s perception that complicated things.

I am transgender. We’ll see if I become a transsexual.