De facto, defect or, defector?

  • Posted on April 15, 2012 at 12:11 pm

It’s not right.

Is it?

Men are men and women are women and I am . . . well, I thought I was, and now you’re saying . . . what?

Look, maybe it isn’t any harder to handle than a software upgrade. You know, when the drop-down menus, the toolbar choices, the sheer logic of saving files (what type is that? Compatible?) is just a bit unfamiliar, and ‘but surely – I must still be able to to do that!’

This is the week that I am meeting rather a lot of friends and colleagues for the first time not dressed as a man. For me it is perfectly normal, since I’ve been living this way increasingly for over a year, but I do recognise that it will be difficult for some.

‘Do I go and talk to him (woops! her!), or will he/she (I’m getting stuck already!) feel awkward if I do? What do I say?’

‘Actually I think it’s just the person I used to know, dressed up and I don’t understand why, and I feel stupid talking to him like that!’

It is true that I have felt much safer and more embraced through this change by women than by men. Women have immediately offered tips and help, men have praised my courage. And I think I know why. I’m becoming a feminist.

So this post is not for those who have already shown their support (thank you, all) but for those who find the whole thing a bit uncomfortable.

De facto

Because of the way I live, the way my mind, my personality, my heart and soul work, because I have changed my title and my name with legal force, I am a woman. Anything else would be a pretence, and I am, de facto, not a man. I have a deed poll certificate that has allowed me to become ‘Ms’ in almost every aspect of life. It doesn’t entitle me to legally declare my gender as corrected, but as a matter of fact, I am Ms, and that is how, in law, I must be addressed. In fact I am no longer allowed to present myself under my old title or name.

So what can I say? This is how I am; get over it.

Defect, or …

Some people will not easily get over it. Some women will think I am a bit presumptuous aligning myself with them, especially since I still have some significant interventions even to begin. Some men will feel obliged to regard me as a faulty example, a man where something went wrong. In both cases, I understand the challenge: how can it be so easy to suddenly say you are not something that seems to have been blindingly obvious for so long? To have lived in a male body all these years … there must be a serious defect here! Maybe it is a mental disorder that should be put right. Some people think they are Napoleon – or an orange! Or curtains: just pull yourself together!

I am not mentally unwell, my body is healthy, but something has never quite been right. It all makes sense to me at last, and the reason it looks like a defect is that we were all taught, all our lives, that men are men and women are women, and you can tell. Well, can’t you?

Not so. It simply is not as easy or straightforward as that. In the same way that a space probe to Mercury can’t be placed accurately using Newton’s laws of motion, and those GPS satellites we depend on require laws of relativity to speak the truth back at us. Newton was OK for the ordinary stuff, but was too simplistic a view of how things really are. So it is with matters of sex and gender. The only way to know someone’s gender is to ask them.

This is not a defect, it’s just a difference.


And then there are the gender politics. Am I an intruder, as far as women are concerned? To some I certainly am. Why are you in the ladies’ loo?! Well, it’s because I am not a man, and I am not disabled. And I am not a spy either. I am who I am, and I know where I fit easily and best. I do not think about you like a man does.

More to the point, for some men I am a threat. I am a defector from a place of privilege and power, who is undermining the solidarity of the male realm. Goodness! What would happen to male authority if too many people like me started to climb down and join the other side? If that is you, and you need reassurance, I was never on your side, never a part of your tribe, even though I made a decent presentation of it most of the time. I don’t hate men, I just never did man stuff very well and I never liked the idea of male privilege. Some people were most persuaded by my ‘male skills’ – that I was taught in school just because it was a boys’ school.

I am not defecting; I was just never legitimately in the right team. And I’m not taking sides now either. I am just being myself.

Summary for the newly puzzled

I understand that I have changed you without your permission. You are now the person who knows a transsexual, or a transgender person (please just don’t say tranny), and the closer you are the more difficult that may feel. I got over it, so can you.

De facto: this is how I am, so get used to it.

There is no defect or illness about me, and I am happier to be as I am now, than ever before in my life.

I am not a defector from a place I never belonged, so please don’t be afraid that I am an intruder either.


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1 Comment on De facto, defect or, defector?

  1. cyrsti says:

    Andie, Your “defector” portion of this post is dead on the problems we face!

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