So, the trannie thing

The post that broke the silence

February 24th, 2007

"The trannie thing" -- that's how I tend to euphemize the tedious, confusing mass of issues that make my life unduly complicated. I've mentioned it in passing but not gone into any detail, not because I'm shy but because I'm lazy. However, this morning I was chatting over AIM with a guy that I had an unsatisfying fling with a couple semesters back and he said "You're such a hot chick, why would you want to be a guy?"


The snarky, knee-jerk response is to ask, Well why don't YOU want to be a hot chick? Seriously, one has nothing to do with the other. But it's not even the first time that I've been asked that question or a variant thereof, and what it usually signals is that they're not taking me seriously. I futilely tried to explain, then made my excuses and logged off before I got angry.

In his defense, for anyone who's not a transsexual the idea can be rather baffling. It baffled me for a long time too, especially in my case, since I'd be transitioning from a mostly-straight female into a mostly-gay male. Who would do such a thing? Essentially I was cutting myself off from the 97% of the male population that is heterosexual, and even within that remaining 3-4% the subculture is phallocentric enough to ensure that a lot of guys won't be able to accept a boyfriend without a cock. So why the hell would I do that to myself? What's wrong with staying a hot chick and keeping my options open?

The answer is, it's not about them, it's about me. By this point I've settled into an uneasy truce with my transsexual tendencies, putting progress on the back burner until after I get back from Japan and dressing/acting however I feel like on any given day, but for well over a year I was driving myself to insomnia angsting over it. Lots of soul-searching, lots of vascillating back and forth--between "omg I give up I'm never going to be a boy" and "omg I want to go out and get testosterone TOMORROW"--and lots of vodka. And one thing that kept coming to me over and over again was the realization that even if transitioning meant never getting that One True Love that western thought holds so much stock with, that was a sacrifice I was willing to make.

I was willing to be alone for the rest of my life if that meant I could be male.

Which I still am, although fortunately I don't think it will come to that. Projecting the effects of testosterone, I expect that I'll be about as pretty a boy as I am a girl now. (I'd tone that down for the sake of modesty, but I'm trying to be honest about my thought process.) Not all gay guys are ALL ABOUT the cock. I set the following situation to my gay ex-roommate to get his opinion: "Say you're hanging out and you meet a friend of a friend. You think he's cute, you chat and find that you get along really well, shared interests and all that. Then you find out that he's a transsexual--would that be a deal-killer?" The answer of "No, not really" was heartening and I told him so--as long as there are gay boys like you, there's hope for trannies like me.

So let's talk about my revelation process. August 20th, 2005--I was lying in bed to sleep, thinking about various things, when I thought, I really would rather be a boy. It floated through my head with such calm, simple clarity that it didn't even feel like an epiphany. See, the phrase "I wish I were a guy" had passed over my lips countless times in my life before and I'd really stopped giving it any thought. What happened that night was that I realized I meant it. It wasn't sarcasm, wasn't a joke, wasn't that I was curious about seeing things from the other side, I wanted to be a man. And suddenly so many things fell into place.

I have a memory of being out walking with my mother somewhere, no idea how long ago, and I remarked that I wished I were a guy--not even that I understood it then, but in that sort of hinting way that was hoping she'd take it more seriously than I'd said it. My mother misunderstood, and taking the defining aspect of masculinity as liking girls, said, "But that would make you a lesbian!" To which I thought, No, that would make me a gay man. When I didn't answer she asked, "Are you??" Not because she's anti-gay, but it would have been very unexpected. To which I sputtered "NO~!" and succeeded in setting back my coming-out process for years.

Ever since I was in high school, before I left for TAMS even, I had a question I would put to all my boyfriends: "Would you still love me if I were a guy?" That question was really important to me, because if they couldn't say yes, then it meant that whatever they were calling 'love' was much, much too dependent on my physical appearance. In retrospect I realize it's not a fair question to ask of adolescent boys who are still figuring out their own sexuality, but I was always bitterly disappointed with the answer. (Although it was usually a prevaricated "But you wouldn't be YOU if you were a guy!") Only one guy was ever able to give it some thought and then decide yes--we dated for two years and he remains the most important romantic relationship I've ever had. Looking back, it's kind of easy to see why that question meant so much to me, eh?

My sexuality also comes into play, a lot, and is perhaps the strongest evidence that this conviction wasn't planted in my head from reading too much yaoi. (A theory that I believe my mother espouses) At the risk of TMI, I will attempt to explain. After I broke up with Matt, the aforementioned Very Important boyfriend, I didn't see anyone at all for about a year. I was in school, I was busy, I had become fast friends with Shelley. It didn't really seem necessary, and besides, the last few rough months before the breakup had served to put me off sex quite effectively. When I started dating again it was a very pretty boy named Drew, who had been nuturing a crush on me since I arrived at the university. And that's actually important, not just bragging--because by harboring romantic feelings without actually getting to know me, he had put me on a pedestal, built me up in his mind as this sweet, idealized geek girl. When I finally, inexplicably began to return those feelings, it was disastrous.

I was experienced; he was not. Prompted along by me, things moved really fast and burned themselves up within months, as I grew increasingly frustrated with his persistant fantasy of what I was not, and he grew sad when I did things to break that perfect image. I've always been difficult to please in bed, and sex quickly became mechanical and goal-oriented instead of romantic or even much fun. And that baffled me! Because Drew, thin and pretty, is my sexual ideal! I couldn't get him in bed fast enough, but once we were there it was nothing but tedium. What was wrong with this picture?

Bluntly put, I don't like being reminded of my girly-bits in bed. Having my breasts groped makes me roll my eyes because they're about as sexy as excess flab on my chest. I would pass someone attractive on the street and go "HOT DAMN, I WANT! I want to pull you into a dark corner and... and..." And there the fantasy ran out of steam, because nothing I could conceive of doing with these hot passerby appealed to me at all. Kissing, groping, sounds like fun, but beyond that? Call me heteronormative, but I like femme guys and my sense of aesthetics wants to put them in the female role, *cough cough*. Though things also get kind of fuzzy and contradictory here, because I do find it arousing to be anally penetrated. TMI territory, but there you have it.

After my August 20th revelation, it's not that I didn't believe in my own conviction, but there were two things that helped to legitimize it--neither one of which are particularly legitimate sources, when you think about it, and both occurred before the revelation. The first was a novel I read by Murakami Haruki, Kafka on the Shore, and a secondary character therein, a librarian named Oshima. As Oshima interacted with the protagonist I was like, Is he gay? Because he's kind of coming off as gay, though admittedly my gaydar tends to turn up false positives. Then Oshima drops the bombshell that he's biologically female, which was initially a disappointment because I thought, "Oh, so that's the explanation for why he's a little feminine." No--he's still gay, and I thought it was delightful.

The other thing was a letter to the snarky, wonderful sex-advice columnist Dan Savage. A woman had written in to say that she thought she wanted to be a man, a gay man, but transitioning into homosexuality is such a foreign concept that she wasn't sure she could be right. Essentially she wanted him to confirm her feelings as legitimate, and he did. He pointed out, with marvelous clarity, "The experience of being a gay man is nothing like the experience of being a heterosexual woman." People talking about transsexuality pay lip service all the time to sexual identity and sexual orientation being independent concepts, but no one else has put it so succinctly. It's not about the sex of your partner, it's about experiencing that life.

A comparison that I find useful is that of gay people having straight sex. Does that mean they were FAKING IT? Does that mean that my entire heterosexual sex life to this point has been a sham? Of course not. There were people I felt strongly for and wanted to reaffirm that affection with sex, there were times when I was horny and sex was fun, but like gay people and straight sex, there were a lot of times that I was not turned on at all, felt really meh about the whole deal and my mind would wander off to other things I could be doing, like playing Warcraft or translating gay smut. Gays aren't necessarily faking it when they have straight sex, but there's just something that falls short--namely, their partner is the wrong sex. It's very similar for me, except it's not my partner that's the wrong sex, it's me.

The Guide :: The Story of Me :: Articles & Essays :: Talk to Me