Penny's Story

A cute little drummer living her dream.

Archive for January 24, 2010


I’ve seen so many folks labeled under the Trans umbrella talk about duality, as in they feel the duality of both sexes inside. That’s not the kind of duality I want to write about today, for I don’t feel that duality. I feel 100% woman (whatever the hell any of these words mean – what I mean is, now that my soul and my brain and my body all “match,” there is no feeling in me that ever makes me question my womanhood). I am not a third gender. I am a woman who was born with the wrong body. Honestly at this point I feel fairly unremarkable (besides the drumming, I’m awesome for the drumming).

The duality I want to write about is my ability to see merit in both sides of almost every argument or disagreement (as a side note, The Darling Boyfriend is really great at this too, and I think it’s one of the things that makes us so compatible). I’ve joked that I’m nothing but gray. It’s funny, because lots of my closest friends are ~very~ black-and-white. I just can’t dismiss anyone’s point of view. I am trusting and naive, and I believe that what people say is what they really think. I give people the benefit of the doubt. I think that people are all basically good and just want to live happy lives. Those last few things actually get me in trouble sometimes, as the world tries to show me sometimes that they’re not true, but I still firmly cling to my beliefs about the goodness of all people, even when we disagree.

I’ve always been a peace-maker. I simply do not understand why people are horrible to each other, and I never have. This is a tiny world, and we’ve got to share it. I’ve always thought the best way for that to happen was for us all to get along (yes, I channel Rodney King, sorry).

And so the manifestation of this duality I want to write about today is a rift that exists between some folks who were also born with similar issues to my own [it’s hard to say “the same,” because there are so many variations that both the physical and neurological inter- or trans- birth anomalies can take that it seems nearly everyone has their own physical and historical experience and perspective and I don’t intend to minimize anyone’s individual story]. Duality might not even be the right word, as it seems there are several different points of view. I know lots of folks, and I read several blogs, and I read other resources on-line. I’d like to be specific, as it would make some of my points easier to follow in some ways, but I don’t want to single anyone out so I’ll keep this a bit general.

There are those who want to put their medical history behind them and live quiet lives. I sympathize with them. I read their blogs and I agree with so much of what they say. This group of folks isn’t too happy with any label or modifier being attached to their womanhood, and I really understand that (like ~really~). I didn’t do anything special to have a label. I was born with a birth defect. I had surgery when I was three, and another one when I was 38 to correct this birth defect. It’s not really an identity, it’s just a medical issue. My medical history is not what makes me special; the way I have lived my life makes me special. I didn’t sign up to be anyone’s poster-child just by being born and living my life. These folks talk about maintaining and protecting their privacy, and I completely respect that.

And then there are those who are out and proud about their history. I know many folks who proudly proclaim themselves as transgender. I confess that I do understand these people as well. Just as there was nothing I could do about having been born with the wrong body (and I certainly had no say in that genital surgery when I was three), short of having that wrong body surgically corrected, so too I have nothing to be ashamed about. I remember how completely alone and misunderstood I felt when I was six, and twelve, and seventeen, and twenty-three. I wish I had seen other people like me out in the world willing to talk about their stories. I have a lot of respect for people who are willing to be open and vocal about their histories.

And then there are people whom I don’t claim to understand, who feel more comfortable expressing some form of androgyny. I find these folks fascinating (and often they’re the strongest people I’ve ever seen), but I confess to not fully understanding their experience. Which is perhaps why I hang around with them and feel drawn to them, because I hope to understand their unique stories.

Let me stop and say that I recognize “transgender” as a flawed term. It is both a specific and a general. It specifically means folks who cross-dress and live full time as the opposite gender without hormonal or surgical intervention (usually), but it has also been gradually taken to mean anyone who has any sort of gender or sex-diversity. It’s sort of what it would be like if tomorrow we decided that we’d use the label “Chinese” not only to mean people from China, but also all Asian people. That wouldn’t work – neither, really, does “transgender.” It’s a flawed word, and it creates a flawed way that people who are lumped under the “transgender umbrella” are viewed. It annoys people to be labeled as something they are not (call a Vietnamese person Chinese, and see if they don’t correct you), and the word transgender forces that. I hate the word transgender. I’m not trans anything. I was always a woman. I was born with ambiguous genitalia and I had surgery to have it corrected. And don’t even get me started about all the misconceptions people have about the word transgender. I hate all the baggage and hate and misunderstanding that is attached to the word. And yet, at least for the time being, transgender is the word I have. I didn’t vote for it; I didn’t pick it; I don’t endorse it, but someone, somewhere, decided that this was the word that made sense, so until something better comes along, this is the word I’ll use. So, whatever, I hate the word, but I use it because even as flawed as it is, it is useful at this point to convey things in a general sense.

So, there are folks who eschew the word transgender, or any label that would add a qualifier to their womanhood (or manhood), and there are those who proudly embrace the term transgender and its derivatives such as “trans woman” and “trans man.” And I understand where all of them are coming from. But they all seem to think each other is wrong, and irredeemably so. They fight and troll and yell and call names. And it makes me very sad. I’ve met hateful people of every stripe, and I’ve met beautiful and sweet and lovely people of every stripe. I wish people could just judge each other on their individual merits and only take as interesting details what group someone is a part of. I like to mention the fact that I’m Swedish as a comparison to my medical history. There could be a time and place when being Swedish might be seen as a negative (Sweden occupied Finland for quite a while, and were fairly unkind to the Fins, and the Fins rightly felt pretty negative about Swedes), but I would hope that people would still see me as the person I am, with any modifiers attached to me as mere details. My merit as a human being wouldn’t change just because peoples perceptions of Swedes could change.

I sort of walk this middle-ground between the two sides, and I hope that I still can. I’m very supportive of people living quiet lives of privacy where their medical history fades into the background. I recognize their desire to just live a normal life (and I have a similar desire). And I’m also very supportive of people who are out and proud, and I recognize their hopes for the world. I’ve seen people act with grace and dignity whether they’re living quietly or openly, and I’ve seen people act poorly, whether they’re living quietly or openly. It seems like the way they choose to deal with the greater aspects of their lives aren’t necessarily pertinent in how they choose to act when interacting with others. I just try to tell my own story, and live my own life, and only once in a great while will I even talk about general stuff like this anymore. It’s much more fun blogging about drumming or the Darling Boyfriend or sci-fi conventions.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this whole examination process on my part has been the recognition that I admire so much people who so vehemently disagree with each other.

I think it might be relevant that I see myself as a straight ally to GLB folks. I’m also a monogamous ally to Polyamorous folks. I’m a fan of equality. But that seems like a separate point for another time.

And so I’ll continue to talk about my medical history, and I’ll continue doing it as a seeker. I’ll get frustrated with myself and others. I’ll still see the merit in both sides when others disagree. I’ll still naively hope for reconciliation. I’ll still believe that I can make the world a better place, especially for those born with similar issues to my own (here’s two of my pet issues: leave babies’ genitals alone {no non-emergency genital surgery on anyone before the age of consent} and insurance coverage of sex-affirming surgeries). I’ll still hope to make the world understand.

I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony.

(Yes, I’m aware that I’m unrealistically optimistic, it’s just my nature – as someone said last night: I’m very New Age. But I believe in a perfect world, and I believe we can create it together.)

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