This past week I was having a conversation with my friend Spaced about bottom surgery. She couldn’t understand why I wanted to have bottom surgery so we had a little discussion about it. I said things about not wanting to have this thing between my legs bothering me, and how I always felt uncomfortable penetrating people during sex (I’ve only really felt comfortable in a submissive position). Basically I just felt bothered and outed by my penis. I always worried about it being seen, noticed or felt by people. Having a penis made me feel uncomfortable and not like a woman.
Her response was first acknowledging how that must feel uncomfortable, but then saying that society has shaped my image of what it is to be a woman. Society has made me feel uncomfortable about my genitals. Society has made me want to surgically alter my body to have different parts that match the gender I am so I can prove that I am a woman. I continued trying to explain my reasoning but was caught by hers. All I could say was I was uncomfortable, I didn’t like tucking, it got in the way. She said society made me feel that way, it made me feel like I shouldn’t and don’t exist. The next day I told her I changed my mind.
She felt tickled that I had listened to her. I felt tickled that she had succeeded and that she seriously thought about this as a cis-woman. She asked me to explain why I changed my mind and this led me to think about my history of struggling with society regarding thoughts on hormones and bottom surgery. I’ll quickly sum that up. When I first announced myself as a transwoman I said I wasn’t going to do hormones, instead I had been taking supplements and using various devices to extenuate my breasts (It wasn’t until several months later that I decided to take hormones). I was also adamant about not getting bottom surgery and frankly terrified of even considering it. It wasn’t until Andreja Pejic came out and announced that she had received bottom surgery that I changed my view. Her and Laura Jane Grace were my heroes and having one of my heroes announce that changed my view.
Spaced and I’s conversation that followed began to ask the larger question that I had forgotten about, what if our society weren’t so heavily gendered? Would I want long hair? Would I be wearing a skirt right now? Would anyone want to use chemical hormones to transition? I agreed with Spaced on the first two decisions and said definitely no. The third one caught me and my gut response was yes, trans people are real and chemical hormones aren’t something bad they are taking. Then I realized I was wrong. If gender were free of sex then penises would be free of men and boobs free of women. It wouldn’t just erase gender it would erase sex (since the two are so reliant on one another or basically synonymous), finally trans and intersex people would once again have a society they could live in. This world is impossible for me to grasp. A world where feminine and masculine have no bearing on gender, sex or sexuality. Everyone could be who they actually are. I could not grasp this world, so it was hard to respond to the theoretical questions about it.
I kept thinking about it and realized my gut response felt ignorant and was coming from a place of fear. I have felt pressure to take and not to take hormones. And I felt a lot of guilt at first after deciding I’d start taking them. So I validated my decision saying I needed chemical hormones, that I would even need them if I weren’t in this fucked up society. This isn’t true. Our society and the way it interacts with gender is the problem. You have to fight with our society to find a place you are comfortable and you feel like you have your identity. Some people are comfortable without medical intervention some need full medical intervention. There is nothing wrong with this, this is coping. I am coping with living in this society by taking chemical hormones others cope by getting bottom surgery or top surgery. None of these people deserve any shame. What deserves shame is society for making this people have to do this just to be themselves. People should feel the right to be comfortable with who they are, but they shouldn’t be coerced into receiving medical intervention, surgical or chemical.
Calling chemical hormones and surgery for trans people coping is an accurate description of it’s effect. It’s what it’s intended to do. Doctors, therapists and allies cannot change the world we are in, but they can help people cope with it. They help them cope but helping people “pass” more (I’m using the loaded term “pass” because that is exactly what’s being attempted, people are helping trans people “pass” for what is “male” or “female” as though there is a checklist to be a “normal” male/female) We as a society aren’t doing what is necessary to address this problem we are putting all of the problem on the individual. This is wrong, but what else can someone do in a individualist society like ours? It is only the responsibility of the transperson because society has rejected it’s on responsibility and impact on this. What needs to happen is for the gender binary to be destroyed all together. The binary system we have doesn’t make any sense and helping trans people navigate from one end to the other is avoiding the problem which is the gender binary.
Take whatever hormones you need, have whatever surgeries you please, be happy in your own skin and don’t let anyone shame you for needing surgery to cope with this fucked up society we live in. But do make sure to love yourself. We can’t change society but we can change ourselves and that will affect the people around us. Slowly but surely the future may hold a society where gender is once again a spectrum and trans people can be who they are from the start, not after they’ve had surgery and years of chemical hormones. A society where you needn’t transition because you are always allowed to be who you really are.