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What am I? A riddle

  • Posted on August 25, 2012 at 7:57 am

If you were to catch me at night, between clothes, you would see a male body and short grey hair. You wouldn’t see a man’s body, because it isn’t owned by a man. Ironically, you would see a woman’s body that doesn’t look female. But if you could look inside, beneath the skin, you would see me; I would be her. Close your eyes and hold me, and what would you feel? The gentleness of a woman, or the hard reality of the body? What might you kiss, a male mouth or another woman’s kiss in return?

I am like a classic ancient riddle, where a series of intriguing statements can be made, apparently paradoxical, but true. And when you hear the punch line it all makes sense; cue applause at the cleverness of it. I know, riddles were used by jesters to tell awkward truths to monarchs. Am I the Joker, or the Riddle? (And if you’re a Batman fan, stop right there! Batman just gives me the creeps.)

Living with this paradox is no joke though. If I asked people ‘What am I?’ they would be polite, telling me I am a woman, of course. That’s lovely, but since I need the love of a woman, does that make me lesbian? In other words, does it actually change anything about me, or does it just correct that much-needed label? Last blog I wrote of labels being tickets. Where does this one let me in?

Ask another person in the shadow of the wings, offstage for a moment, and they might say ‘He’s a man who wants to be a woman.’ They would be trying to be honest about what they see. They may be kindness itself, but it wouldn’t change their label. Where would this ticket let me in?

My ticket, or label, says neither ‘Stalls’ nor ‘Grand Circle’. I am not a man; no, really. I am not really a woman, because I have a male body, albeit subtly changing. I am not hetero, because I am not a man, I am not gay, because I am not a man, and no, I am not attracted to men. I am not lesbian, because I do not have a female body, and I am not bisexual. But I still yearn for the understanding love of a woman, and to love a woman with understanding. What? Because she is a woman? No; because she is not a man. But could a woman love me because I am not a man?

Catch me at night, between clothes, and tell me: ‘What am I?’ Maybe you find out by touching me. Do I change you? If you hold me, and I am a man, does that alter what you are? If you hold me and you experience a woman’s embrace, does that change you? If I change you, and it is because of what I am, not who I am, does that help you decide: ‘What am I’? What would you say I need, if I am not to change the other person by sharing love?

The answer to what I am, is someone, just a person, in a transition that will never be perfect, that will always be a patch, a substitute, but with which I am immeasurably more comfortable. Maybe I don’t need ‘a woman’s love’ at all. I just need a person’s love, who can see the male/female paradox, but experience me as a woman, without that changing them.

This is all terribly personal, and it is about what I am feeling inside. I know plenty of other trans* people who have no paradox: they are 100 percent the gender they express, and the rest is just a biological disaster from birth. I respect that. Just as I respect those who can live and express alternately their male side and their female side, whatever the stronger preference may be. I know where I need to be; my life now is as a woman, unequivocally, while not denying that I still have male aspects, like everyone else. This is not about being definitive or setting a paradigm, nor about any particular person in relation to me. It is just my personal paradox, which I may never resolve. Unlabelled, unticketed, unaccessed …

What am I?

I am just a person who wants to be loved for who they are. Completely. For being wholly strange, yet strangely whole. I want to be riddled with love again.


  • Posted on February 3, 2012 at 6:23 pm

They are as old as entertainment, perhaps as old as the camp-fire. A riddle is a mental puzzle starting with several usually contradictory statements, ending: ‘what am I?’

And by golly being transgender is confusing to people! What am I?

‘You used to be a …’ is perfectly understandable and so completely wrong! No, I never was! How can I explain that feeling of looking around at other men and thinking: ‘well, I know I’m not one of those!’? It follows that it is just as hard to understand, when what I say is that I am a transgender person. Not a man, not a woman; a transgender person.

‘No, no, no! you have to be one or the other!’

I do know how it is for those who have a strong binary view of gender, and feel they have the wrong body and want the other kind. I can understand that. Reassignment or corrective surgery and hormone treatment changes their physical attributes and takes away the pain of inhabiting a body with the wrong parts. I just know that this is not quite me.

I am transgender. I always shall be. I am most comfortable when dressed as a woman and at peace with myself. It says nothing about my sexual orientation (and that is my business anyway, so it isn’t your right to ask – the answer is confusing too, probably.) You, dear observer, may be uncomfortable with this. Why am I wearing women’s clothes? I am not a transvestite: the layer between my soul and my clothes just happens to look different to how I feel about myself. So please listen carefully to this: my body was shaped by hormones from before I was born; my mind was not, and possibly not the physiology of my brain. So when I put on shirt and trousers, I am transgender – but dressed as a man. So today I am transgender and dressed as a woman.

I am not my clothes, and I am not my body, but I am a person – and I am not the problem either. The real riddle is that we ever managed to believe gender was as simple as male and female. That’s just how babies are made.

How I am challenges you though, doesn’t it? I confuse. I become a riddle for which you don’t have an answer, and when I give it, it still makes no sense. Well, all that means is that we all have a lot to learn. All I ask is that you appreciate that the riddle will only make sense when you understand what I am not.

Ah! yes! I get it now. I am a man, she is a woman and you are transgender.

What do we like about riddles? I think it’s that we feel really bright when we get the answer first, but don’t feel totally stupid when we don’t, because suddenly we realise something new. Discovering life riddles should add to the fun and variety, not be a source of ridicule, fear and hatred. So please, try to appreciate this riddle and accept. I am transgender.