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Simple; too simple

  • Posted on January 25, 2012 at 12:16 pm

It is so simple isn’t it? We know what male and female mean, what a woman and a man are. We know why we need the two, and what we are. Well, most of us are pretty certain about ourselves. Sexual orientation? Now that’s something different. Look, you’re just fine knowing your are a woman, and lesbian (or: man, gay), and that doesn’t alter your certainty about male and female, does it?

Surprisingly, the statistics about intersex incidence (where the sexual classification of a newborn by genital appearance is unclear) are high (maybe four per cent). But we don’t see this, not least because decisions are made to increase the certainty: an identity is settled on as much for parental peace of mind as anything, there is surgical intervention and social determination. But it happens.

But where exactly is gender found? Between the thighs or between the ears? Physiology apart, the brain and the mind, the personal sense of identity, is not always at peace with the body. For very good reasons, the brain can develop physically in one gender profile, while the body does something else. A very few genes on a very few chromosomes can cause this identity conflict from birth, at puberty, or really at any stage of life’s journey. It is genuine, and it can happen for anyone. Some people just know from their earliest years, others, not knowing what the problem is or what to call it, just feel discomfort. The more they don’t fit with what they are ‘supposed’ to be, they more they hide it, suppress it, and suffer for it. Some cope with that tension, others cannot cope at all. For many, there is a point of inevitability where ‘coming out’ almost happens to them rather than being a conscious decision. And all hell can break loose. I will share some of my experience and understanding here, so that if you are unfamiliar and just think a person ‘dressed in the wrong clothes’ is weird or mentally disturbed, you might learn just how many people simply don’t fit the idea of male or female. Call it ‘heteronormativity’ and it sounds authoritative, but there is nothing ‘right’ about dividing people up into precisely male and female according to their (you’re guessing anyway) genitals.

A journey

  • Posted on January 11, 2012 at 6:03 pm

There’s nothing new in seeing life as a journey, but there is a lot more to it than regarding cradle and grave as the beginning and the end, the only two stops. Between the helpless bawling and the helpless dribbling from which we all prefer to dissociate, there are the familiar way-markers and rites of passage. Not that we are very good in these times of seeing them as such. Rites like growing up are smudged and fudged. There is no coming of age any more, and key events like leaving home can be a bit of a delayed coming and going. Weddings can very easily become an event rather than a transition, a product rather than a commitment (which is separate, not necessarily absent). But over all, we still hold a view of what a ‘successful’ life looks like. Yes: we call it ‘normal’.

Normal lives, in their great variety, are full of the very ordinary &#8211 of triumphs, elation, sadness, love, loss and grief. But they also have this background notion of the roller-coaster – that for all the ups and downs, there are rails, and the wheels don’t come off. Only in a fantasy children’s story do the cars lift away into the blue and take on a freedom of their own. For the rest of us, leaving the rails means a disastrous crash, an end of journey, a not-belonging.

Some of my friends and family might regard me as having come off the rails, but if so, I’m finding the ride a lot smoother. One doesn’t become transgender, one is transgender. It just takes some of us a long time to work it out, because we lacked the markers that younger people know now.

As far as my journey is concerned, and the periodic comments I leave here, this is normal. Unusual to you maybe, but normal. And with much thanks to all the friends, associates and colleagues who thus far have embraced the now visible female me, I continue, happier, daunted a little, but daring to enjoy the scenery.