This Trans Voice: “An androgynous genderf*cked queer trans*-butch lesbian pansexual genderqueer male wonder-boi with significant female experiences”
I’m excited to bring you the latest installment in the “This Trans Voice” segment of my blog! This is a guest blogger opportunity for persons who are transgender who I’ve invited to share their story and insights with you.
I’d like to introduce you to Kory S. I’ve known Kory for several years now, back to the days when I had first opened my mental health counseling private practice. Kory posted the following on his Facebook page earlier this week and I knew immediately that this was something that needed to be read by as many folks as possible.
The gender queer perspective is one that everyone could use more understanding of, and Kory has done a phenomenal job of it by simply sharing his story with us.
Enjoy, learn, and pass on!
For her 7th birthday lat week, our daughter was given a door sign by a family member. It was well-meaning, but the sign read a familiar phrase: “Girls only! No boys allowed!”
The phrase was instantly hurtful to me, and I could see that it was to my partner as well. As a family, we’re not supportive of segregation based on sex, gender, or any such type of identity, largely because of our cumulative experiences. The phrase was hurtful not only on a personal level, but also quickly related back to our three young sons, who, thankfully, are too young to understand such a phrase in the first place, and who don’t even yet understand that there is a biological difference between males and females. Our sons understand that they have different parts than their sisters, but it just doesn’t go any further in their minds than that. We like it that way. It hurt to imagine one of our sons understanding the real meaning behind not being allowed to participate just because biology gave him particular parts. Maybe we’re just sheltering them from reality for as long as possible, but as far as I’m concerned, that reality just sucks.
Sometimes, when I have to live in “the real world” for a little while – at the grocery store or mall or any number of other places – I can’t believe the reality we give to our children. How can we saddle them with so many ridiculous ideas? How can we tell little boys that this one really bright, fun, happy color is totally off limits to them? How do we feel ok with giving them the idea that being the main caretaker of their future children is not a job we’ll support them in? How can we tell our daughters that being “princesses” and finding a “prince” are the most important things they should focus on in their young lives, and failing to actively support freethinking or innovation? These ideas make me incredibly sad. They are ideas I’d like to keep my children as far away from as humanly possible – though I can’t say they don’t find there way in once in a while.
These are the kinds of ideas that have made my experiences particularly trying. Coming out as transgender was hard in and of itself, though many of the people in my life that initially didn’t handle it well have become accustomed to it, and in some cases, even quite supportive of it. Nonetheless, I’ve been boxed in by labels and faulty ideas by even the most supportive and well-meaning of people – even those that fall under the LGBTIQ umbrella themselves. Apparently, I have transitioned from totally female to totally male because I needed to be 100% boy – fuck my experience, or hell, even my actual identity…you know…the one I claim for myself, by myself, that is made out of my experiences and sums up who I essentially am.
This became most apparent over the past year, during my pregnancy, and the time thereafter with our youngest son. Being pregnant and retaining my identity as male was hard, inside and outwardly, most of the time. Looking back now and putting all the pieces of that experience together, I can obviously relate much of it back to those same gendered ideas we have as a society. I was, and still am, occupying a place of my own, because there is no room for my experience within any group of people. While I’d like to say these groups of like-minded people aren’t necessary to carry on happily – we’re human – they are. It hurts not to fit in absolutely anywhere. It hurts even more to have to create space for yourself, by yourself, because there is no accommodation to be found with other people in a particular experience.
Pregnancy was hard – even close to unbearable many times – and I often felt detached from it. That, however, does not mean I hated it as a whole, and does not mean that I was actually somehow separate from it. Pregnancy was also an intensely personal, beautiful experience. I wanted my baby to be healthy. I ate as naturally as possible and avoided substances. I shopped for my baby, and put my all into pulling together a better living situation. When it came close to the end of the pregnancy, I started feeling a sense of loss, that my baby would no longer be under my care alone, that I would have to give him up to other people at times, and even that I wouldn’t feel his rolling and kicking any longer (which I still miss). I heavily researched and planned a natural, at-home birth process and was prepared to go drug-free, all of which I was reluctant and sad to give up when it became apparent that, for my health and the baby’s, it would be impossible. Still, we had a wonderful hospital birth experience, with an amazing doctor and nursing staff who were respectful and followed our wishes the whole way. I watched in a mirror as my partner delivered our son and placed him on my chest, and stared in amazement as he made his first tiny cries and blinked his eyes. I kissed his little head – slime, blood, and all. My partner sat next to me, crying tears of joy – it was the first time she had seen a vaginal birth. She nursed him right away and he latched on with ease. It was perfect.
We were entranced by our son and the entire experience, both having had very equal participation in bringing our baby into the world – something not very many couples get to have. After the birth, I nodded in response to the nurse’s instructions, but later realized I hadn’t heard a single word of it – I was too in love with my new little one to be even the slightest bit aware of what was going on around me. Our son slept that night in my partner’s arms, next to me, in the hospital bed. It was an incredibly surreal time. Over the next few weeks I experienced only a little postpartum depression, which largely consisted of crying because our beautiful, perfect little baby was going to grow up. I couldn’t help but want him to stay so tiny and innocent and untouched by the world. Our baby is now 6 months old, and despite my initial thoughts, I take so much joy in seeing him grow and learn. He still sleeps next to us every night – a practice we don’t plan to stop until he is ready. I still make homemade formula for him every few days. If he cries just a little too long, I’m liable to start crying, too, simply because he’s sad. I remain close to him in a way that I doubt many people of typical male identity have ever experienced, either from choice, societal pressure, or any number of other reasons.
This experience, for me, remains closer to that of the women I’ve spoken with – most of whom would not actually like to converse with me about such things, as I’m supposed to simply identify as male, and these are certainly not “male” things. From what I can gather, most are willing to acknowledge my son. Many are even excited about the fact that my partner and I have a child together as a unique, LGBT couple. But few are willing to acknowledge my experience with our son, either being entirely too uncomfortable, or assuming that it must have been an affliction to get past rather than an experience I actually chose to associate with. More often than not, the feeling creeps in that I should probably stay silent about it if I don’t want to make anyone feel quite uneasy. The truth is, I spent my entire pregnancy actually talking about the pregnancy at any length to only 3 people: my partner, my mother from time to time, and my doctor. That’s it. No one else cared to know. It was very lonely. I find that many others don’t readily want pregnancy advice that comes from me, and would not like me involved in their pregnancy-related-anything, as though I were…a guy. See what I mean? It’s a horribly lonely feeling.
While this is the most blatant example I can relate of “female” experience within a “male” identity, it is not the only one I have – in fact, it’s far from it. I pride myself in my queer trans*-male identity. But this is not my only identity. My identity is an accumulation of my experiences, regardless of how those experiences were “gendered.”
Prior to my breakup with my most recent ex, the majority of my friends were cisgender, straight-identified males. They were a good group of guys: I was open with them, and they accepted me without question. We spent long nights in college drinking, walking for miles, and contemplating the universe and our own futures. Before we ultimately parted ways, I was proud to hear that their typical “guy-talk,” which often consisted of which girls they were particularly interested in, had come to readily include those who they knew to be trans-women, genuinely, without batting an eye, and never having been prompted by me. Being “one of the guys” was brand new to me, and was constantly a riveting, spirited experience. They allowed me to become part of their “male-only” space, and in return, I taught them open dialogue. This is a part of my identity.
Though I’ve identified as transgender for many years, with the exception of my most recent ex, all of my previous dating partners are lesbian-identified. Before I came out as transgender, I lived for quite some time identifying only as a butch lesbian. I could choose to give in to the exhausting confusion of others and try to erase this label, but I don’t want to. “Lesbian” and “butch” are terms I will always identify strongly with, even though they are not ones that I choose to verbalize quite so often. These two are not just labels I keep in my inner-dialogue for old-time-sake – they are important, active parts of my identity.
Alternatively, several of my sexual partners have been either cisgender or transgender male-identified. I don’t identify as a gay man, but I am not ashamed of these people – quite the opposite. These were ultimately very positive, affirming experiences that allowed me to be male, occupying “male-only” space in a way different to me than my cisgender male friends could have provided. These experiences are also part of my identity, and I don’t choose to discount them, which is, in part, why I readily identify as “queer.”
I could go on, but the ultimate point here is that if you really want to know, if I didn’t shorten it down some, my identity might read something like: androgynous genderfucked queer trans*-butch lesbian pansexual genderqueer male wonder-boi with some significant female experiences. And a dad. And a birth-giver. And that’s ok. But it’s also a mouthful.
But why is that ok for me, and not ok for my children (or anyone else, for that matter) to have an equally diverse experience and identity for themselves? I’m proud of my identities – all of them. I certainly hope that my experience of having so many different experiences is not limited to people like me, simply due to my transgender status, though, I get the feeling that trans* people have a little more leeway here. I’d be terribly sad for my son if he grew up and wanted to feel as close to his child as I felt toward him, and for societal reasons didn’t feel the freedom to do so. If our youngest daughter feels the same as she does today when she gets a little older, I’ll be sad the day she realizes the world does not really want her to be a girl as well as a “daddy” to her children. And I’d be sad for my twin boys should they ever read a sign on their sister’s doorway excluding specifically them, having beforehand been blissfully unaware that simply owning the parts that they do or identifying as a boy could mean that their sisters – who are so important to them – don’t want them around.
Ultimately, it really sucks to exclude someone from your experiences based on their perceived identities…because unless you’ve really asked, how can you know exactly who they are, or just how many experiences go into the reality that they experience, or exactly how those experiences could relate so well to your own? Gender is not binary. Neither is sex. Neither is orientation. Likewise, a person’s real identity certainly has to be the least binary of all, though who would readily own up to it? That’s sad. Maybe we should all get on the ball with acknowledging and embracing others for everything they are. Scoot over and make some room. Couldn’t hurt. In fact, it would probably only serve to make more open minds, with more diverse experiences, and more spaces for everyone’s experience to fit and be positively acknowledged.
Thanks Kory, and thank you all for reading! If you would like to be considered for the “This Trans Voice” segment, contact Dara Hoffman-Fox here.