Born what way?

This post is a part of a series of posts based on the book Female-to-Male Transsexuals in Society by Holly/Aaron Devor. My introductory post on the series can be found here.

This is the second-last post about this book, and it discusses their post-transition life. My final post will summarize what I learned.

One of the interesting things about their post-transition life is they didn’t all see themselves as men. Sure, lots of them did, but below I’m going to quote those who didn’t, because this makes an interesting discussion. Although most of them said they were “born this way,” in regards to being born transsexual, I started wondering, if you’re “born that way,” what way were you born, exactly? Because they weren’t all in agreement about whether they had become men. Some saw themselves as some sort of third sex. I don’t think it can be said they were all born male or transsexual, as I will demonstrate below. They just seem to have been born themselves, as unique individuals. As people are.

Devor says “Ed, Walter, and Peter saw themselves as belonging to an intermediate sex called transsexual (p448).” About her participant Bruce, she said “Bruce appeared to have very mixed feelings about within which gender boundaries he wanted to live. He retained both a strong attachment to his lesbian past and a profound uncertainty about joining the ranks of men. As did Ed and Walter, Bruce would have preferred to have found a niche somewhere between genders and between sexes (p448).”

I’m going to give you this long quote by Bruce because it’s very interesting.

“I’m a lesbian man…I’m very committed to the lesbian movement. I’m very committed to women. And to their struggle in this life. I just happened to be born with tits. And I feel like, and I’ll be real honest with you, I feel like a third gender. I feel like I don’t have to have a penis to get through life. But I can’t have tits…I never used to look in the mirror. Now I shave every other day…I look in the mirror at myself, I’m proud of myself. I have something to do with my face besides put mascara on. So I feel like I’m a third gender. And I think that twenty years from now they will discover the third gender. There will be somebody that says, “Yes, it’s okay to have both sets of genitals, or to function normally in life or to have both identities.” But for right now, I have to be a transsexual man because there is no place for me as a third gender. I would like to be able to be a lesbian without tits. But I can’t. I would like not to be on hormones because they’re harmful to my body. I would like not to have lower surgery. I would like to keep my libido. I would like not to have tits which is what I don’t have. I would like to be able to shave. Although I can’t without the hormones. So it’s like I want the best of all these different worlds (p448–449).”

I know that comment about the mascara is going to make you want to tear all your hair out, but please focus on the fact that this person doesn’t feel male, because that’s the point here.

There is some talk of “living openly as men with female bodies (p450).” This is about them feeling like they only need to transition because society doesn’t accept “men” with female bodies and therefore they have to transition in order to be recognized as men. This is an interesting discussion but I wish people would distinguish between gender and sex when they discuss this. Do they mean living openly as masculine while having female bodies? Because it wouldn’t make any sense the other way, living as male-bodied while having a female body. That’s a direct contradiction. Here’s an example:

“Keith was able to credit that there were socially meaningful differences between men and women, but he argued that the only real differences between men and women were in the attributions made by others. According to his views, the only reason for sex reassignment was that it was the only way for females to live their lives legitimately in those ways which society reserves for people who are deemed to be men (p450).”

So in other words, Keith is disappearing biological differences between men and women and only identifying social differences (i.e. gender roles). He is saying that females have to transition in order to live in the masculine gender role. This is exactly what I’m against. Any female should be allowed to live in the masculine gender role if she wants to without having to change her body or deny her femaleness. The expectation that all females should be feminine is called sexism and feminists aim to eradicate sexism so people can be themselves. Keith says:

“The acceptance of other people of me as a male rather than as a female is the argument in favour which made me go through with it…That’s really the only reason for a sex change because if a person was biologically a female and had not gone through the sex change, and they were able to be completely accepted by society as a male, then there would be no reason for them to go through any physical changes to be accepted as a male (p450).”

Hey look, she does understand biology! So which is it, Keith? Do you want to be recognized as male even though you are female or do you want to be recognized as masculine? Because you cannot possibly be recognized as male when you are female, (that makes no sense), but you can be recognized as masculine any time, without modifying your body. Just go ahead and be masculine.

This is why transgenderists have turned “man” and “woman” into social categories that people belong to by virtue of being seen that way rather than biological categories that we are born into. It’s because they don’t want their biology to stand in the way of expressing the gender role they want to live in, and they cannot or will not see that the gender role is simply a collection of sexist stereotypes that should be abolished.

A couple of participants expressed being forced into a recognizable category and not being able to just live in the middle.

Participant Luther said:

“This gender stuff is just outrageous. Why must it be? Why must it really be? There are some of us, like myself, who are going to have to make that change, but some people are being forced into the change because no one has a place for them. They just can’t be. And so they’re forced either to be transsexual or homosexual or heterosexual. They can’t just be “sexual.” We just have to let folks alone to be what they want to be (p451).”

Participant Ron said:

“So basically, the way I feel about gender is, to me, there are no differences. For me, it’s just an emotional….and physical thing that I have to do. My feelings are, or my politics, are more androgynous. It was part of the change too. There’s just a realization that it doesn’t mean dick whether you’re a woman or a man. You know, it doesn’t mean anything to what’s in here… If society were a different place, we could be both at the same time. Like, just people (p451).”

What I’m seeing in all these quotes is not the idea that they are men, but the idea that they are trying to assert their personalities in a world that wants everyone to be either feminine women or masculine men. They are declaring to the world that they are “not women” but it’s not that they want to be men, it’s that they want to be themselves. There are a few moments in the quotes above when I see some of the gender rebellion that I know and love, but ultimately they all felt the need to conform to a category.

I’ve heard lots of lesbians say they feel like a “third gender.” There is a common feeling lesbians get of being “not women” and I think that feeling can either develop into a rebellion against gender roles or it can push her into an attempt to conform to the opposite gender role by passing as a man. I wish there was strong lesbian community where lesbians could discuss their feelings of being “not women” among other lesbians and decide what that means for us without getting caught in the trans cult. Maybe this is just the way it feels to be a masculine lesbian, and maybe the best cure for the discomfort is being around other lesbians who understand and can validate their personalities without trying to shove them into a box.

People should definitely be allowed to be ambiguous and somewhere in the middle. Since the publication of this book, it’s already become more acceptable to be somewhere in the middle—although I wish people could just be androgynous without having to label themselves as a “gender” other than their sex. You don’t have to redefine yourself and deny your biology just because you’re not looking the way people expect you to. Bruce said that she wanted to be a “lesbian without tits” but felt she couldn’t. She had to completely transition and look like a man. These days it’s becoming more common to be an ambiguous-looking flat-chested lesbian. I personally don’t support getting double mastectomies because removing healthy body parts is harmful and unnecessary, but I do agree that it’s okay to get a double mastectomy and then stop there—you don’t owe the world any other elements of transition just because you did that—you can just remain an ambiguous-looking person, and that’s okay. So in that sense, I support the “lesbians without tits.”

I really loved when Luther said “They just can’t be.” This is such a fantastic statement. People should be allowed to stop thinking about gender altogether and just be. This sounds like meditation to me, because in meditation you learn to let go of all the judgments and just be. Who cares what people think, who cares if they approve or not? People who think that “woman” is a performance that has to be performed a certain way are sexist and can fuck right off.

At the top of this post, I asked the question, “if you’re born that way, what way were you born, exactly?” Because it doesn’t look like these women were born men. It also doesn’t look like they were born transsexual, because they are saying they wouldn’t have to transition at all if they could be recognized for who they are without transition. I think the way they were born is just…they were born with their personalities. I don’t believe there is any such thing as having the wrong personality for your body and I don’t believe that at any point anybody needs to change their body to match their personality.

Even if you feel your degree of masculinity/femininity falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, (which honestly describes lots of people), I don’t believe you need to disappear your biological sex and refer to yourself as being neither male nor female, when you actually are one of those, as evidenced by your body. Further, I don’t think any living thing can be born inherently needing a type of medical intervention that has only existed for a short time period in human history and that is dependent on an exact set of social circumstances for its existence. We cannot be innately dependent on a recently invented social construct—that defies the meaning of the word innate.

All the participants had gender dysphoria, a condition that doesn’t appear to manifest the same way in each person or require the same treatment. But aside from that point in common, the most notable thing about their post-transition life is how unique they are, there is nothing to generalize across the group anymore at this point. They certainly are all biological females with a history of dysphoria and either a history of transition or a desire to transition, but the end result was very unique to each individual.

When they say they are men with female bodies, I always wonder what that means. What is it about the category of manhood that they believe they are? Is it muscles and hair, is it power and strength, is it being taken seriously as an authority figure? A few FtMs have attempted to explain to me what they think a man is, but I’m still not satisfied. They are always vague on purpose because giving a precise definition would leave someone out. But how can the definition of a man or a woman be vague? Surely if you identify as something then you know what it is? The participants in Devor’s study unanimously asserted that you can be a man without being born male. Some of them even talked about having a male spirit or soul. What do they think a man is, then? I remain convinced that the only coherent way to define a man is an adult human male, and therefore when females talk about having an innate maleness they sound silly and nonsensical and leave me frustrated.

I have finished the book now and there is one final post to come where I will summarize my thoughts on this.

13 thoughts on “Born what way?

  1. I’m not inherently against any particular word (and I use all sorts of words when in sexual situations or when with empathetic company), but I couldn’t help but notice that the first woman’s aversion to her “tits,” in context and the way she uses it, sounds an awful lot like the same sexism porny men use when they talk about “tits.” I wonder if her sense of aversion to her body would be as palpable if she thought of herself as a person with “breasts” instead of some sexualized-sounding “tit-haver” that understandably wanted to separate herself from that sort of crude, unflattering image.

    “People who think that ‘woman’ is a performance that has to be performed a certain way are sexist and can fuck right off.”

    Amen. I love your writing, I love the way you straightforwardly identify sexism again and again, and the way you point out that there are no “wrong” personalities for men or for women to have.

    Liked by 8 people

  2. “But how can the definition of a man or a woman be vague?”

    That’s exactly right. It is NOT vague. Either you were born biologically a male or female (unless you had a birth defect) based on your chromosomes. But for argument’s sake, we should be putting together lists of what exactly is “male” or “female” according to modern gender theory, just to show how stupid and ridiculous it is. I.e.,:

    “MALE” – strong, doesn’t like to wear make-up, likes football, hates dresses, takes on typical male jobs like construction worker or firefighter, hates hair barrettes, loves to shave (?!).

    “FEMALE” – weak, LOVES make-up and fashion magazines, exists to buy various colors of nail polish, loves the color pink, wears pretty bows in the hair, spends most of her disposable income on high-end fashion hand-bags, etc.

    Transgenderism is the most sexist, disgusting form of bigotry against women ever imaginable. And yet modern “progressive” women eat it up.

    Just today read about a young female who is legally a “male” according to the UK, who got an anonymous sperm donor so she could get pregnant. Media is touting this as a pregnant male. No, it is a female with mental health problems who has been given testosterone, but even the T could not stop her body from doing what it was made to do – bear children.

    She won’t be breastfeeding because she also hates her own breasts.

    And the poor child is going to grow up with a sick mother who denies her own biological reality and no biological dad. This infuriates me.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. “I’ve heard lots of lesbians say they feel like a “third gender.” There is a common feeling lesbians get of being “not women…””

    Maybe it’s a generational thing because I’ve never heard this. I’ve heard many say that we are not a certain type of woman.

    “I think that feeling can either develop into a rebellion against gender roles or it can push her into an attempt to conform to the opposite gender role by passing as a man”

    I actually recognize that feeling. It’s that of a profound discomfort with the performance of femininity. There’s a rapport that exists between the women who perform it on that basis alone. It leaves you feeling different and very alienated and attempting it is degrading. So you have to pick between your self-respect or others’ acceptance of you. On a more personal level femininity isn’t a costume so much as a deep self-betrayal.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That quote from Bruce there – all that this and that and I’d like this but not that and so forth – it’s so single-mindedly focused on the personal relationship with the body. More than once – especially when I was just coming out of it myself – I heard of dysphoria and the trans identity being linked to narcissism. This struck me deeply, because I never thought of myself as a narcissistic person – not in the standard way we think of a narcissist being someone who is arrogant and completely self-centered. But in the way that I was completely obsessed with my own feelings about my identity and my body, yes, it was narcissistic, it was an obsession with myself.

    I guess that just leads into the “just be” statement – mentally wrapped up in dysphoria, “just being” is impossible. I think this is why transition does work for some people, as it allows them the time and the immense challenge of change and adaptation in order to stop thinking obsessively about the self and begin to live outside their own self-obsession again. Likewise, though, perhaps that time and change and adaptation could be presented in a different manner, with a different kind of support, leading to being able to just be without physical/gender role changes.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Well to be fair to Bruce, she was asked the question directly by the researcher, so she answered it. But yeah, I find that people who identify as a “gender” put a lot of their energy into thinking about how they look, and it strikes me as a waste of time. I was taught that it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t think transition stops the narcissism but just shifts it into a new direction. And there’s a temporary high at “winning” the acceptance of others in such a tangible fashion. But in the long run, post-transition transgenders are still miserable and hyper-focused on the self. Thus the anger over pronouns.

      Look at Bruce Jenner. He was recently in the news because he was very depressed about his show being canceled, and he is considering more plastic surgery because he hates his aging face. He’s probably going to commit suicide at some point if he doesn’t get some *real* help.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Here you seem to accept personality, but in the “Manifesto” (with no coment allowed) you write “prescription of drugs which delay puberty and cause sterility”
    1. Do they? (Have never read a study that they do, but for some country sterilization is a demand for the transition surgery bzw the legal change).
    2. And more important: WHY should that be a bad thing?
    We are talking NOT about Iranian enforced transitioning for gays, we are talking health systems with informed consent!
    I admit that I am old now, but I have 4TIMES tried to get a sterilization – and be denied it BECAUSE I WAS RAISED IN AN ABUSE FAMILY and never wanted children – and have still BIG problems to fight off demands about having to do with children.


  6. Hello Agender, I am sorry about your upbringing. Having kids is not for everyone and a grown adult woman absolutely has the ability and right to make that decision for herself.

    With that said, I disagree that a person below the legal age of consent (and often way below the age of consent, such as age 8 or 10), does have the capacity to make the decision to sterilize him/herself. I also do not think a child’s parents are entitled to make this decision for the child. I guess we would have to agree to disagree, if you believe otherwise.

    This is how it works when a person has not gone through puberty: the “accepted protocol” nowadays for “trans children” or “trans teens” is, first, to delay normal puberty through the administration of powerful drugs, such as Lupron, that are typically used to treat advanced cancers in adults. This means that a boy or a girl will never go through normal puberty (maturing sexually, and acquiring the secondary sexual characteristics associated with his/her sex). So a boy, for instance, will not mature into the ability to produce sperm. A girl will not ever begin to menstruate or have a monthly cycle.

    Then, under the same “protocol,” a boy or a girl will, at age 15 – 18, begin to receive “cross-sex” hormones. So a boy will receive feminizing hormones and a girl, masculinizing hormones. This will then initiate a life-time spent on hormones, the long-term consequences of which are unclear at this point.

    The supposed benefit of all of this is that a child will never acquire the outward sex characteristics that will “mark” his or her birth sex, which will then have to be modified or reversed. A boy will never develop beard growth, so will never have to undergo hair removal (just as an example). A girl will never develop breasts that will then have to be surgically removed. The fact that a child has never undergone sexual maturation will mean, though, that the child will be sterile. To my knowledge this cannot be reversed.

    Just in case you were wondering, no, in fact NOBODY KNOWS whether any of this is safe for children. Nobody has the slightest idea whether this sort of large-scale, systemic tinkering with a child’s reproductive, endocrine, and other body systems will eventually end well for the child, or whether not going through normal puberty will have long-term effects on things like brain development and even psychological well-being. The scant evidence available at this point seems to indicate that it will not turn out well (e.g., a recent study showing negative impacts on bone density for children on “blockers” and hormone therapy). For sure, at least at this point it looks like “transed” children wind up shorter than the average, due to their delayed growth and puberty.

    Parents, like myself, who object to the idea of their children being experimented on in the name of transgender purity, are mocked and derided as hysterical trans-phobes. I hope you will see from what I’ve written that our concerns are, in fact, well-founded.

    Liked by 2 people

    • “NOBODY KNOWS whether any of this is safe for children.” I guarantee it is not safe. Who needs a study when we can use common sense? Pumping a child full of drugs to stop natural puberty can only lead to problems down the road. It should be completely outlawed. Would we allow kids that age to use steroids just to grow big muscles?

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What you describe would have been EXACTLY what would have made my existence acceptable
    AND I knew at least since I was in my first year of school that i NEVER wanted children, that I hated (and still hate) each of the “feminine” descriptions and myths applied to me.
    Still I do not accept your idea of “never in puberty”.
    That applies to girls with Turner syndrome (chromosomes X0, also only 45.)
    But as for delayed puberty???
    As soon as the minor or 18-year-old stops taking them, puberty sets in – or the organs which feel wrong to this person can be removed surgically.
    And yes, both the Turner-syndrome women I met in person WANTED to be women and gladly took female hormones. If a person will be a trans-woman or -man, s/he will have to take them.
    Those people who do not want to belong to one of the ends of the spectrum will not – and intersexes who are born with both hormoneproducing glands go into the puberty which feels acceptable and NOT into the one some too-early surgery (YES WITH INTERSEXES WESTERN MED HAS A HABIT OF TOO-EARLY SURGERY, and very often the wrong one!!!!) has forced on them. People with Klinefelter syndrome (they have several X and Y-chromosomes) often feel better as women than as fat men – they cannot be slim and muscular. Their metabolism does not allow it, even if they are anorexic.
    Well, Gertrude, your idea of “nature” is a worldview. I do not share it, but you are entitled to it.
    Other people feel different, and my idea of a good school with lots of math and science would enable even a 7year-old with those early-onset puberty that exist nowadays to decide against it
    UNTIL s/he feels fit to go into puberty.
    I have looked up as much as my little computer time allows and have NOT found anything that points to any possibility that delayed puberty would be a decision forever.


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