Thursday, October 16, 2008

Clueless, Part 2

Actually, it would be incorrect to say I had no clue about being transgendered. If a clue is something you try not to think about, something that occasionally wanders into the front of your mind, where you look at it for a moment in fascination before shoving it back in the closet, then I had a clue.

I cultivated androgyny (but without thinking of it as my gender.) Before that I cultivated feminism. And since feminism so strongly influenced my notions of gender, I'd like to talk about that. It's well known that feminism questions gender roles. And once you start questioning them, they vanish, like smoke. Are there any qualities which are unique to one sex or the other? Aside from a few biological facts, no, not really. Is it rational to suppose that the state of one's intellect, or one's heart, is completely determined by the state of one's genitals? Of course not.

Feminism taught me to believe that gender does not exist. At least, that was the lesson I took from it, perhaps because I was unsure to start with about the notion of gender. And when I began to think that I actually did have a gender, that the concept of masculinity was real to me in a way that could not in fact be explained by the state of my genitals . . . well. I tried not to believe it. It was my last attempt to fight back. Soon I gave up. Gender is real to me, somehow. It's irrational (I still believe that) but it's true.

Feminism is extremely valuable to anyone who inhabits, or wants to inhabit, a female body. But although it questions gender, it has no notion of transgender. In a sense, it remains binary. It assumes that male and female are the only two options, and although I've read a lot of feminist books, I haven't come across any serious discussion of the idea that one can cross over from one gender to the other. (I'm sure someone has written about it. But it hasn't made its way into the core of feminist thought.) In practical terms, I think I understand why feminism ignores transgender: because it's not a solution to gender problems for the majority of people. Most people don't want to transition . . . and if a few do, what does that say about gender?

So. I can't explain to you why I am. I only know that it has become real for me. (I also know that it has been real for others. But that's a subject for another time.)

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