Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Gender Identity: Part 2

I'm going to try and clarify a few things from yesterday's "Lost in Transition" post. In keeping with my trend of incorrectly associating gender with sexuality, I'm calling this post "Gender Identity: Part 2" although it's almost entirely focused on sexuality.

Like many people, I sometimes like to assign easy labels to things. It's a lazy way of avoiding analysis. I'm a gay man. I'm attracted to men. Easy enough. Lesbians are attracted to women and bisexuals are attracted to both sexes. My point, in exploring transsexuality, is to break down a barrier of my own erection. (OK, have fun with that one.)

My goal with these posts is to achieve a more thoughtful understanding of my "T" brothers and sisters. If I seem to be obsessed with sexuality vs. gender it's because I find the sexuality aspect to be the one I've never much pondered as well as being more challenging for me to grasp.

As far as gender is concerned, I do not believe anyone on the planet is either 100% male or female. Some of us are born with male tools, some with female, and occasionally some are "to be determined." Regardless of physical appearance, gender identity is what you feel you are and I respect that.

I am physically attracted to guys who have some feminine characteristics and I've also found myself physically attracted to women who have some masculine characteristics. But when it comes to sex, I want it with the guys.

Living in Austin, we of course see a lot of diversity. One of our favorite restaurants has a large LGBT clientele. I have this really infantile game I play with txrad, (mainly because it annoys him), where I try to guess a person's sex. I love androgyny -- it keeps you on your toes. But my point is, I'd be horribly embarrassed if I ever referred to a woman as a he, or vice versa. (I know I shouldn't but it's societal residue I haven't yet scraped off my shoes.) I don't care about the size of your boobs or what the plumbing is like in the basement. If you tell me you're a woman, then I'll call you a woman. That's all I need to know. This is a lesson I only learned in the past couple of weeks.

Now, gender labels aside, I do also have an interest in understanding the sexuality -- the physical attractions of transgendered people, because the "T" encompasses the LG & B.

If a heterosexual man feels strongly that his gender is female and begins to live his life as a female, I never gave much thought to whether or not, as a female, she'd also be considered a lesbian if she was in a relationship with a woman. It's possible I've thought a heterosexual man who begins to live as a woman would then be attracted to a man if he was heterosexual. I'm not sure because, as I said, I never really started chewing on all these scenarios until recently.

Am I being silly for asking? Is it relevant to anything or am I just being a label whore? In order to understand someone I believe you have to put yourself in their skin and in their mind as much as possible. I try to imagine myself dressing as a woman. It doesn't feel right at all for me. So I have to imagine if I felt so strongly about being a woman that I'd not only feel compelled to wear women's clothing, but I might want to have my penis replaced with a vagina. The idea makes me quiver. But I'm a lucky one who hasn't had to struggle with gender identity.

Would that transformation have an impact on my sexual proclivities? I'm not sure. In the grand scheme of things it doesn't really matter. Whatever it is it is. But it's fascinating nonetheless.

How much does a person's birth-sex interfere with or impact the sexual attractions down the road for the transgendered? If I were single and I met a man I was physically attracted to, and he was attracted to me, what would my reaction be when I was told he was born female and had undergone a gender-reassignment process? If there was no penis, or a non-functioning one, that might be a deal-breaker for me. Does that make me biased against the transgendered? Not in my mind. I could just as easily have an unsatisfying sexual relationship with someone which might cause the relationship to not work out on the physical level while maintaining a close friendship on the emotional level.

The answer to the question is damned hard for me to answer, because I will concede, it's possible it wouldn't matter to me. It all depends on the circumstances. What's important to me is that I can ask myself the question and explore it.

I don't really like my response because it seems so shallow to elevate an ejaculating cock above a physical and emotional bond. But I will recognize that it's MY problem and not the problem of the other person. It illustrates for me why I feel gender identity is a tough nut and a very bold step for those who decide to make corrections, whether it's as simple as wearing the clothing you are comfortable in, or taking it to a surgical level. The process can take years, is expensive, can disrupt families, and can create relationship challenges. And then there's the discrimination potential.

Anyone who would follow-through on this is obviously driven on a biological level and that's what's important to understand and accept.

If I did have a physical relationship with a female-to-male trans, would it somehow skew my "gayness?"

In yesterday's post, "Generic FtM" left a long and interesting comment which included this line:

I am technically bisexual but prefer men for romance and sex, which makes me, a female-to-male transsexual, gay...just like you.

That does seem to answer one question. I am sexually attracted to men. If I was physically attracted to a man who had been born as female but was now living as a man, yes I can see where I'd still be considered gay because of my attraction to a man -- regardless of that man's past history. To those on the outside, we'd be a gay couple. But it does blur some boundaries on my internal level between the term "gay" and the broader term "queer," which is precisely why I wanted to immerse myself in this subject -- to illustrate how much more complex this is than just merely knowing that you are gay, lesbian or bisexual which all wear their labels rather neatly.

What would I be if I fell in love with a male-to-female who maintained her male plumbing in full working order? A heterosexual? Somehow I don't think so. Labels can be a bitch sometimes. Occasionally they seem to just get in the way of everything.

By the way, I detest the idea of "women's" clothing vs. "men's" clothing in much the same way as I abhor assigning the color pink to little girls and blue to little boys, but as Alton Brown would say, "That's another episode." Our macho society has attached such a stigma to girly things like women's clothing. I remarked recently that it's so much easier for a woman to wear men's clothing although there was a stigma attached to that in recent history. Breaking the other barrier is tough.

My father enjoyed photography as a hobby. He often took photos of me as a child and would hang them on a wall. One photo was of me trying on my mother's bra and panties when I was about 3 or 4. Obviously I've been trying to figure some shit out for a long time!

I appreciate the thought-provoking comments that were left on yesterday's post. If anyone hasn't read them, please do. I encourage more here.
I'm not sure if this post accomplished anything other than allowing me to hash out various "what if" scenarios and exposing my obsession with sexuality. But that's OK.

All else aside, our transgendered friends have traveled a long and winding road that few of us can fully comprehend and many haven't even attempted to understand. The coming-out process for gays, lesbians and bisexuals is a breeze compared to what the transgendered community must face.

There are lots of resources on the web for more information. Here's one for the National Center for Transgender Equality:
Transsexual pioneers Bambi, Coccinelle, and April Ashley
SRS patients in 1958-1960
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

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