Gender Paradox: A Life is the title of my memoir. Below is the first part of a four part excerpt. I look forward to your feedback in the comments, and thank you! (Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3 | Read Part 4)
I suspect I devoted a portion of my brain to my dream about one hundred percent of the time. These dreams kept me alive. Without them, and equally as important, without the medical technologies now available to make my dream a reality, I’m sure the despair would have won.
Fate dictated that my birth occur in the mid-20th century, after scientists discovered and synthesized artificial testosterone and Christine Jorgensen headlined world newspapers. I devoured the book Emergence: A Transsexual Autobiography. Seeing someone like myself between the pages of a book, I knew then that my dream could become a reality.
America Online hosted online chat boards for female-to-male (FtM) transsexuals. Through my telephone line and my 33mHz processor, I trolled these boards researching how testosterone would change my body. I also sought support from people making similar choices to mine.
Forum members posted information about testosterone effects on the body. We chatted about dating and coming out to family and friends and difficult relatives, relatives that refused to acknowledge our gender changes. We shared strategies for navigating work, particularly finding and keeping a job when one’s driver’s license and social security card still contained female names and gender monikers. A few brave souls described how to change in a gym locker room or how to use a men’s room without drawing attention to oneself.
But I cannot recall any prolonged discussions about how women, once hormones worked their magic and we became male full-time, acted around us. One or two board members posted that women read them like sexist jerks but I attributed that salvo to poor behavior on the part of the chat board member. I felt no worries about the potential for such a remark coming my way, since I knew I would never act in a sexist manner.
Living as a butch woman for several years, I thought, prepared me to live in the world as a man. When I entered my late twenties, I dispensed with skirts and dresses and makeup. They did not make me feel confident. I felt like a man in drag. But that voice of mine ensured women and men saw me as a woman, and treated me as such.
Jackets and ties brought some relief from male attention. They also relieved this discordance I felt between how I perceived my gender and how others perceived my gender. Dressing like a butch lesbian suited me both physically and sexually. But donning a tie created subtle shifts in how women related to me. No longer as seemingly open as they had been, now women were curious, confused and sometimes downright hateful.
“Excuse me,” they said. “This is the women’s room!”
“I know,” I answered, in a voice that revealed my history.