Much of my fiction and nonfiction work seeks to dispense with two of the most unimaginative tropes used to describe transsexuals.
- We are born this way; or
- We are born in the wrong body.
Transsexuals desiring medical changes to our bodies – hormones and various topographical changes to our bodies achieved through surgery – need a medical diagnosis.
Born This Way or Born in the Wrong Body
The “born this way” explanation becomes shorthand for a psychiatric diagnosis, found in various iterations of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
The “wrong body” phrase becomes the path through which we may find psychological relief. Fundamentally, our dis/ease may be relieved by significant corporeal changes rendered through a diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder.
Without this psychiatric diagnosis, we must find doctors, however dingy or suspect they may be as physicians, willing to provide us hormones, and possibly surgeries.
The Problem with Two
These two short phrases have become euphemisms for “gosh, you’re just so beyond human experience, and who would want to change their gender, really, that you just must be born that way!”
As a transsexual I have no other socially-agreed upon metaphors to describe my experiences. We underestimate the importance of of social agreement at our peril.
I can say that I chose my gender; that God called me to become a man; or that aliens abducted me.
If people believe my decisions result not from a desire to manifest a beautiful, human right, but from something beyond my control, then I’m left with several distasteful options.
I can choose silence. Who wants to participate in a conversation in which I must discount why someone thinks I was born this or that way?
I can attempt to shoe-horn my complex transsexual experiences in an anodyne narrative of either “born this way” or “born in the wrong body.”
And the last, and most damning choice, I can believe these metaphors. Now my body becomes a problem that must be fixed, my very blood and marrow an ongoing personal nightmare.
We Must Name Our Experiences for Ourselves
Without reserve I detest these sound-bite explanations. They constrict me.
To have my years of therapy, agonizing moments of fear, surgeries, hormones, joy, sex, love, all of it, squelched by a well-meaning but clueless fool under a lifeless response of “oh, I just think you’ve always been that way,” makes me want to claw my face off, but not before I order said person to go to the bathroom, stand in front of the mirror and punch themselves in the face.
Any transsexual may feel free to use these metaphors.
I simply want more expansive metaphors we create for ourselves. Why should we let a bunch of people who know very little about us dictate how we describe ourselves?
Much personal power derives from naming our experiences for ourselves.
This fact drives my work. I, and we, deserve so much more than these metaphors. All of us can count past two.