Neither Man Nor Woman: Coming to Terms With my Transsexualism

By Georg(ia) Penfold

I have moments in my life when everything kaleidoscopes together, whereby my entire sense of the world is shattered and rebuilt with both new and old pieces, and in so doing, it reveals aspects of myself that were previously unknown, neglected or repressed until then. Today was one of those days, for the first time in my life I had come to understand and accept my own transsexualism.

I had been reading Julia Serano’s Whipping Girl the night before and found myself physically unable to put it down. I’d reach the end of the chapter and begin closing it, but then catch a glimpse of the first few lines on the next page and feel compelled to go on. I read through it ravishingly until I reached the fourth chapter, “A frank discussion about hormones and gender differences”, in which I found a near identical account of the emotions and rationale I had been knowingly going through since I was sixteen. 

Up to this point I had been ignorant about the distinction between transsexual: feeling that the sex of your body does not match your subconscious sex — and transgender: feeling that your gender does not match the one you were assigned at birth. I had conflated these issues, thinking of them as equivalences, and in so doing, I was ignoring the finer psychological issues at play. For although I had experienced many moments in my life where I wished I had been born female, where every ounce of my being would internally scream at itself that the way it was wasn’t how it was meant to be, resulting in both physical and verbal self-harm, I had always reduced these feelings to wanting to be able to have the experiences that women typically have but with little importance as to actually being female or appearing so. This formed my world view which I had been living with up to now; I had discarded gender and removed the idea of sexed differences (other than those most physically apparent) and thought that I could create a new way of being that broke free from gender norms with which I could experience those things which I had so longed to feel. I became androgynous in my style, clashing masculine and feminine aspects together in a way that highlighted that which I wanted to express most about myself, finding comfort in being able to express myself in a way that I had not been able to before. But it still never felt quite right, I still never felt comfortable in my own skin.

I tried hard to rationalise my feelings, to make sense of transsexualism in a way that showed it as misguided and inherently oppressed by a binary gendered society. I saw trans people as failing to realise the potential they had to create wholly new ways of being; I saw the use of hormones and surgery as no more than superficial cosmetic practices, no different to a face-lift. I realise now how my insecurities about my own feelings had led me to this trans-phobic way of thinking: by denying who I was, I had to give reasons for why those who deep down I identified with most, were wrong and lesser than me. I now realise how much more complex trans identities really are, for although I still don’t identify as either a woman or a man, I now realise that I do feel the  need to be female-bodied, that my physical and mental form do not align with one another and that this is ultimately the cause of so much self-inflicted harm in my life.

Again, the complexity of the situation goes even deeper, for when I say ‘female-bodied’, I do not mean that I solely desire to have breasts, a vagina and an overall more feminine form, instead what I mean by this is that I feel a need to be Estrogen dominant, not for physical form but for psychological harmony. In essence I believe that the potential effects of female hormones (increased emotional response, reduced sex drive, etc.) would be beneficial to me, as they would allow me to experience my life with reduced dissonance. The question of how far my transition will go, will rest upon my feelings once I have taken these first few steps, once I have been given the chance to psychologically be the person I know myself to be, removing the persona I have been building my entire life to pass.
Although my being trans means that I desire to be female-bodied — and in a way then identify as female — this is not how I want people to relate to me. My reasoning for this is that if they relate to me on their level, as opposed to appealing to my own, then I know that they would perceive me as a person based upon my appearance, behaviour and an understanding of my own personal feelings. I do not seek to choose pronouns that I will correct people on. Rather, I’m far more interested in seeing which pronouns people would feel comfortable using. Furthermore, this allows for both my actual identity and my perceived identity to flow, as I begin to relate to myself differently as well. For I cannot truly say where I am heading, all I know is that I need to take this path even with the uncertainty of where it goes, so although I currently identify as trans-female, non-binary, indifferent to pronouns and comfortable with the name “George” (Georg(ia) being little more than pen-name), I cannot say how I will feel down the line.  

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