Binary

Resu - not female, by Lisa Lees

The binary: tyrant and false hope.

For so-called male-to-female transexual people like me, the pressure to 'pass' as a stereotypical feminine woman is immense. Some of this comes from the medical gate-keepers of the process, but there is also pressure from trans people who have strict requirements for who qualifies as a 'true transexual' and who is worthy of being called a 'real girl' when they are 'done' with their transition. As an out-of-phase tomboy, I don't fit into this picture very well at all.

Back in the 1990's I lived in a small city and worked at a large midwestern university. I mostly rolled my own anarchic gender transition using local services and information from email discussion lists and that new-fangled invention, the world wide web. (It's been a long time since I participated in any online trans communities. Not only was my fire-proof coat lost the last time I sent it to the cleaners, but I have zero tolerance for science by acclamation.)

Back then I accessed a gender program in a nearby city to obtain some surgery. To qualify for that, I had to be evaluated by their psychologist, who congratulated me for not having a visible adam's apple. Yes, I was rather androgynous even at age 43. But wasn't this about how I felt? No, not really. It was about being 'successful,' and I wasn't the one who defined what that meant.

I was the first out 'T' person on my campus, and for a while I tried to be part of the campus GLBT community. I was the person who took the first steps to convince the university to add 'gender identity' to their anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies. However, I found that many GL people are even more hung up on biological determinism than 'straight' people. I quickly became tired of constantly being labeled as 'T' so that everyone knew I wasn't one of them.

I also learned about and supported the intersex community through the now-defunct organization ISNA, and wrote a young adult novel with both an intersex and a transgender or genderqueer main character. But intersex (now Disorders of Sexual Development or DSD to some folks) is very much biology-based, relying on objectively observable evidence of difference. With the current state of biology and medical science, transexual people remain mental cases with only behavioral differences.

Even though I've felt this way about my gender identity from earliest memory and no amount of bullying, harassment, mental anguish or post-transition shit has changed my feelings, some people will not believe in anything that can't be sliced, stained and placed on a microscope slide. Sometimes I feel that the best I can hope for is for people to simply believe I am crazy and not sit next to me on the bus.

Nor can I escape the restrictive world views imposed by government-issued identification and medical record-keeping, both of which force everyone into one of two categories in terms of sex/gender and set the stage for anyone who does not fit neatly into M or F to be treated as a freak. There is absolutely nothing that is true of all or of only people with an 'M' on their ID or their birth certificate; there is absolutely nothing that is true of all or of only people with an 'F' on their ID or birth certificate. So what is the point of using that identifier on all manner of documents?

In this locked-down war-on-terror socially-networked world I no longer have any hope that I will see a time when people are accepted simply as unique individuals. This should be easier with current distributed database technology; keep all the details that actualy matter rather than cramming each person into one of only two categories. Instead computers and the 'net are being used to erase rather than enhance and protect people's individuality and freedom.