During the last #transchat (next one is tomorrow, 12/11, 2-4pm EST on Twitter) Nat (@quarridors) got me thinking about trans medical history and the kind of assumptions we make based on appearance. Though I don’t think it’s appropriate to ask a person whether they’re trans*, or a genderqueer person what their “birth” gender was, and I don’t assume that I can tell anything about gender by looking at someone, I do tend to assume that it’d obvious from looking at me what I was raised as, or what’s in my pants.
When I think about that, of course, I realize it’s not true. No one knows that for sure unless I tell them. And I’m thinking about the value of not disclosing that kind of information as a way to destabilize or deemphasize gender in our interpersonal relations. What’s in your pants is about as private as it gets, but we don’t treat it that way. We also make assumptions about bodies and medical histories based on a person’s gender identity. On the other hand, I think there may be value in my writing about my experiences as someone who grew up female-identified, because that background is a huge part of my trans* story.
Anyone have experience with this, or has anyone changed approach over time?
I’m a little bummed that OKCupid doesn’t allow for “queer” or “genderqueer” as options, but the name thing is really what gets to me. For the record, this is what I sent them, and I’ll keep you updated:
I am hoping that you might make an exception to your username policy for gender identity. I’ve always found OKC to be the most liberal dating site in terms of sexuality and gender, and I hope that you’ll live up to that reputation in practice, as many in queer communities use your service. I am genderqueer and the name I created years ago is a female first name that I no longer use in life. I go by my middle name, Avory. “Judith” is inconsistent with my gender identity and it can be upsetting to see it over and over again in print. I am on a limited income and cannot afford to pay a monthly fee indefinitely to have my name changed and maintained. As a longtime user, I would like to be able to keep the benefits I have accrued on your site, rather than be punished for a change in gender identity by having to create a new account. I trust that you will understand that this is not an abuse of the situation. My preferred usernames, in order of preference, are:
Thanks for your help,
For a long time, I’ve wondered if there is any connection between my PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition that produces excess androgen and thus affects my hormonal balance) and my gender identity. I would be really curious to see some research into PCOS and gender identity, but I can’t imagine such a thing ever actually happening, because the idea that something like PCOS might affect someone’s gender is such anathema to many people. When you have a syndrome that affects things like your body hair growth and your period (or lack thereof), doctors are very quick to say “don’t worry! You’re not any less of a woman!” Honestly? I wasn’t worried.
I think it’s a sign of how invested we are in gender that doctors would automatically consider the possibility of hormones affecting gender identity an insult. Maybe it’s just a value neutral thing that might happen to some people. I would like to see some research on it, and understand it a little better, while knowing that in the end the labels that apply to me and how I experience gender are my own personal choice and no one else’s. I’m curious what impact not menstruating, having excess androgen, etc., has on me.
I also find it interesting that when it’s the reverse–hormones going along with the gender everyone assumes you are–those hormones are celebrated and praised. Whoo hoo, all women menstruate, blood is the tie that binds us, we all understand that monthly “curse,” and other variations that I am oh so sick of. When I identified as a woman, I found that refrain extremely isolating. Now, it’s more of a physical confirmation that I’m not female, and I’m okay with it. But it doesn’t really mean anything, nor should it. Same deal with hormones, which are the explanation for pretty much everything under the sun when it comes to women. I don’t think it’s all that simple.