I spoke to the wife of an old friend a couple of weeks ago, for the first time since I outed myself to her husband as transitioning (so it’s been 18 months since she and I last spoke). She was trying hard to say the right things, in spite of her being from a more “traditional” central European culture (although as an artist, she is more free-flowing than many of her compatriots, she’s still got some of her cultural habits running at full tilt). What really jolted me, though, was when she said “I bet you can’t wait to get out there and enjoy your new equipment!” I was too taken aback to respond to this, so I just left it hanging.
I and a number of my trans friends and acquaintances, and trans people written about in the press, are way too often on the receiving end of the assumption that our purpose in transitioning anatomically – whether through hormones or surgery – in some way has sex or sexuality as its primary motivation.
It’s hardly surprising, given how sex-obsessed the western world is. It sometimes seems as though pretty much anything at all that anyone does will be presumed by at least someone to be for “sexual gain”.
Sexuality and gender identity are discrete entities, which are intertwined with each other only in the same way that everything about each of us is intertwined with everything else about each of us.
I’m not putting myself through a 7-hour operation later this year in order to have penetrative sex… or any kind of sex at all. I acknowledge that though currently seeing myself as asexual, I have no idea what shape my sexuality will take, post-anatomical-transition, and I may well find myself interested in being sexual in company again one day. But none of my reasons for wanting to change my sexual anatomy are to do with sex. I felt completely at a loss to know how to convey that to my friend, over the phone like that.
I simply know what body I’m supposed to be in. I’m not in that body, and never will be, in this lifetime. But, like someone who’s lost a limb and wears a prosthesis, I want to look and function as much like I’m meant to as I can, because I want to be as much myself as I can, and I’ll take what I can get. That’s why I’ve gone through these 2 years of hovering in the void between anatomical genders – so that I can eventually arrive properly in my body, at last.
I suppose that even the language employed around gender and transition, that of primary and secondary sexual characteristics (meaning genitalia and breasts/chest, when discussing anatomical characteristics in typically binary terms), and that stupid word transsexual really don’t help with all this. And we’re stuck with that stupid word because someone earlier along the line assumed that gender dysphoria was a sexual aberration of some kind, which is how we ended up in the Psychiatric Disorders pigeonhole for so long.
And I feel nothing but encouragement for trans folk who are excitedly looking forward to going out there and trying out their new equipment in the sexual arena. Enjoy yourselves! I just wish I lived in a world where sex wasn’t assumed to be the bedrock of everything.
[written at 3 am, feeling insomaniacal and ranty…]