Honest Question, Honest Response

The other day, on a Facebook thread I was asked a great honest question:

Do you/did you want to change your SEX? Or do you/did you want to change your “gender”?

This question wasn’t directed at me, but I felt that is something I’d like to address.  The quick answer is that I changed sex.  I didn’t change gender. What does all that really mean?

Before I can get into what all this means to me, let me state a few things very clearly.  I am not a doctor, a psychologist or even a sociologist.   I’m an engineer (a mediocre one at best), so I read books and manuals.  Many of these books were about psychology, gender, biology and history.  I don’t claim to understand or predict the human condition, but I can talk about my life and how I tried to understand what I needed to do to be at peace with myself.

I believe that gender is a real thing.  Not in the same way that many of the transgenderist, Radical Feminist or even the fundamental Christians define the term.  I tend to agree with the Merriam-Webster definition:


  1. Grammatical

    1. a subclass within a grammatical class (as noun, pronoun, adjective, or verb) of a language that is partly arbitrary but also partly based on distinguishable characteristics (as shape, social rank, manner of existence, or sex) and that determines agreement with and selection of other words or grammatical forms
    2. membership of a word or a grammatical form in such a subclass
  • an inflectional form showing membership in such a subclass
  1. Sex

    1. Sex (i.e. the female or male gender)
    2. the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex

As you can see the first and more common definition of gender is a grammatical thing, not behavioral.  While many English speaking people don’t use gendered words, they tend to go straight to the second meaning of the word.  I also would like to point out that Merriam-Webster states in the second definition that these traits are only typically associated with one sex, not absolute.

I believe that sex and gender (the second definition) are two different things.  When I was born I was assigned a sex.  I don’t remember anyone asking me what I should be assigned.  They just did it.  My parents, the doctors and nurses all conferred and based on their experience and education, assigned me to the male sex.  As many theorists and bloggers will tell us, my gender education in my assigned sex began.  Right there and then in the delivery room.

The problem with this education is that it didn’t work.  I never accepted the behavioral, cultural and psychological traits that were associated with my assigned sex.  For the next 12 years they (doctors, pastors and parents) would do their best to beat this education into me, the gender education for a male never stuck.  Eventually, we agreed on a mutual peace and never discussed it.  I was sent to the psychologist to deal with it, but even those experts couldn’t teach me male gender.

At the same time, my body would not cooperate with their plans.  I was hormonally challenged growing up.  Not enough testosterone to fully develop male secondary traits, and just enough estrogen to develop female secondary traits.  Once my breasts started to bud they were ripped out by the family doctor.  Let me state very clearly, I am NOT intersex.  My body tried to feminize, but the family had other plans.

How does all this relate to me and my transition?  I know that I have typical traits of gender and they are of the female sex.  No one educated me on those traits (unless you count 60′s and 70′s television programs).  They are built into my being.  Even while hanging off of telephones poles at work, I was abused and taunted for my perceived gendered behavior.  I tried my best to accept the sex I was given, but it would never fit who I was.

I changed sex.  I allowed the hormonal imbalance to continue and supplemented it with pills.  The meaty tissue around my breasts did grow a little.  Enough to fill an A-cup and my hips expanded to create a small waist.  By the time, I presented to the gatekeeper my desire to change (at the age of 19), they had no problem with my request.

My “gender” (yes, scary quotes) never changed.  Myself, my family and the professionals tried our best to change my “gender” to fit my assigned sex, but it was something that could never be changed.  That is how I know that for me gender is a real thing.

I don’t know where in the brain gender is located, but then we don’t know where in the brain our mind is located either.   More than likely it is located as part of the whole brain, not in any one place.  This leaves me in an interesting place.  If there is no biological thing for gender (the second definition from above) then how do I understand my behaviors and traits.  As I said no one actively taught them to me.  There wasn’t a class at school for it.

The lessons I was given at the back of my father’s hand only taught me to keep my mouth shut and walk straight.  How I saw myself and the way I preferred to behave was something that never left.  What do you call that?

I don’t know.  I really don’t care anymore.  Call it gender, call it behavior or call it personality, it doesn’t really matter.  I am what I am, and I’m at peace.

Anyway to end this and answer a question that wasn’t asked of me.  I changed sex.  I allowed my body to be altered to achieve peace of mind. I did not change “gender”.  My  behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits are those typically associated with the female sex.

Internet Activism’s Tower of Babel

You all remember the old story from the Bible. The people of the earth so loved their God that they tried to build a tall tower to get closer to Him. They built and built and the tower grew taller and taller. Until one day, God noticed that they just might succeed in their goal.

Etching of the Tower of Babel

Tower of Babel by Kircher, Athanasius (1602-1680)

He just couldn’t allow that. I mean mere mortals being on the same level as Him. They would redefine the meaning of God. No, no, God decided that He’d need to stop that somehow.

He pondered about what to do. He couldn’t smite the earthlings. Who would be left to worship Him? He couldn’t destroy the tower because those darn humans would just build another. He knew they loved him that much.

Then the hit idea Him, I must make it seem like it is their idea to stop building the tower. How to do that? He could remove the whole idea from their minds, but then that would inviolate His whole free will thing. He could cause a disaster somewhere far away from the tower, but He knew once that was dealt with they’d be back.

He then had the most brilliant of plans. I’ll make it so they can’t communicate with each other. I’ll make it so that they speak so many different languages that they could never understand the other. God loved this idea. The earthlings would then abandon the tower because they couldn’t cooperate on their common goal.

Each person or group wouldn’t be able to hear what the other was saying. They would speak over each other, fight amongst themselves and invalidate the others understandings. They would then have to abandon the tower because of the infighting.

God decided that this was His plan. The people did abandon the tower and went off to fight wars to prove their understandings and dogma. The Tower of Babel fell to ruin and dust.

This story is to me what today’s Internet activism has become. Many, many well meaning groups who once worked together for the common goal have dropped that goal to yell and fight with other groups to support their own dogma.

The fight for the liberation of women has become the crumbling Tower of Babel. We talk over and around each other to place our own stake in the ground and proclaim, “None shall pass!” Each of us acting as gatekeepers to decide who can or can’t. This includes the Transfeminist, the Transgender Borg and the Liberal and Radical Feminist.

I admit that I’ve been caught up in this myself. It is very easy to get drawn into an us against them conflict. I would like to think we can release these attitudes, but I don’t think anyone of this generation is ready. I have hope for the next.


Human Beings are constantly growing, evolving, changing and redefining who we are and how we act.  The expression of gender is one of those changing characteristics.  When we are very young no one has to train us on how to express our gender.  We just do, and we are very good at it.   If you step outside of the publicly accepted gender expression for the sex you were born, then there are consequences to pay.

That is when the harsh training begins.  These lessons can be physically brutal and painfully humiliating.  The little tomboy girls are cute, but only up to a point.  Then we must “grow up” and act right and proper.  The little sissy boys are never cute.  We are always creepy and mostly beaten to “shape up” and “fly right.”

The reason for the rigid rules of expression comes mainly from our current definitions about what it means to be a woman or a man.  Each of these come with different costumes, mannerism, language and hygiene.  Very rarely do these acceptably overlap, and when they do it is the result of brave souls and long suffering.

Women Lead, Men Follow

An early photo of a Wigan Pit Brow girl who wore trousers under their skirts to work the coal mines

Wigan Pit Brow Woman

Women have always taken the lead on these redefinitions.  From the Wigan Pit Brow girls who wore trousers under their skirts to work the coal mines outside of Manchester England to the women working the farms on the western expansion in the US;  these women worked hard, never lost their womanhood and provided the models for further redefinitions of their gender expression.

Voting, ownership of property and smoking were once thought to be an exclusive male attribute.  The growing Women’s suffrage movement led to a greater desire for equality in society with men.  Once again, these were seen as further redefining woman.

The women entering the workforce during World War II were building the planes, ships and heavy armor wearing men’s trousers and work shirts.  “Rosie the Riveter” depicted a strong woman with a can do attitude.  This was a source of pride for the home front and never once was she considered mannish or scandalized.

Fast forward to today and many of the gains made by the women of the past are common place.  The whole “what does it mean to be a woman” debate has move away from the narrow dictates of costume, and women are once again fighting against the imposed boundaries.  The Radical Feminist movement has taken up the challenge and are using social media, womyn only spaces and festivals to spread their ideas.

The RadFem’s fight against the notion that the terms sex and gender are interchangeable.  One’s sex is one’s sex, and gender is a social construct that is imposed by society at large.  Womyn should be able to express themselves openly and comfortably without self-policing their gender traits.  “Anatomy is Destiny,” to quote a famous misogynist Siegmund Freud.

A particular RemFem blog called Gender Trender points out what it believes are the problems and false logic of transgender/transsexual folk.  This blogger is an equal opportunity writer who lambast both Male to Female and Female to Male transitioners.  I believe that the owner of this site genuinely seeks to enlighten and help the very people they ridicule.   Whether they succeed or not is up to the readers.

The reason I bring this site up in my post is that a couple of comments to the post FTM’s in their own words: How to Behave Male on the blog Gender Trender points out what these womyn are doing to help redefine woman.

FeistyAmazon Says: November 5, 2011 at 9:40 pm

” … Well, if I came out now instead of in 1981, I would be going down THE SAME ROAD! Cuz I chopped off my hair, wore more androgynous/men’s clothes (well I always have when I could get away with it with my family) did Full Contact karate (the only female in the whole dojo to do so), and had many different ‘masculine’ behaviors because they simply couldn’t domesticate me or femme me up. And they had me in therapy too.

I just didn’t ‘fit in’, not until I came out as a Dyke on campus with womyn PROUD to be Dykes, Lesbians, Butches, Feminists, and most of all FEMALE! THEN I had a place… I’ve ALWAYS crossed my legs in the male manner. I’ve ALWAYS had a strong handshake! Nobody taught me these things..they were innate to my character and to my taking up space! You get on a bus with me, not just my size taking up space, but by my body language I take up space, cuz I dont’ purse my lips together, don’t hold my hands close to my body, and I don’t cross at the ankles! I’ve been doing this stuff FOR YEARS! … “

Kittybarber Says: November 5, 2011 at 11:07 pm

“I Knew from the time I was about 5 that I was different than most of the girls I knew. And when I saw something about Christine Jorgenson,(?) I thought that I would have to get this sex change thing so that I could live the life I wanted. Until saw a copy of the Berkeley Barb, with lesbians on the front page, marching together in power–and I knew I’d found my people. Lesbian feminism saved me from all of that. There is no doubt in my mind.

As a dyke, I worked construction, on a track repair crew for Chicago Northwestern R.R., in auto repair, you name it. I made way more money than most womyn I knew, and I did it well. At 5’4″ and about 120 lbs then, I was all muscle,too; I kept up, did the job, and won the respect of most of the men I worked with. It was hard, but it was good for me. I always lived as an out dyke, even in the 70′s in small-town high school, and paid dearly for it at times, but I could hold my head up and be proud of what I did and who I was. I knew that we could do anything, and set out to prove it.

I do not understand this FTM business, but it makes me sad and a little sick, and I wonder what drives it, and why on earth THAT is somehow better than being a lesbian. I do not get it…and it’s not as if we didn’t do what we could to set a good example, and to make the world an easier place for our younger counterparts. This has got to stop. I am pretty sure that given a few more years, these girls will regret what they have done to their bodies, their brains, and to their lives. Then what?”

These strong womyn in their way worked hard and suffered the consequences for expanding the definition of a woman.  They are proud of their sex and their gender expression.  They do not claim to be men nor do they intend to invade male segregated spaces.

The RadFem’s do not believe that anyone should be allowed to change their physical sexual characteristics.  While I disagree with that notion, I do believe that there are too many sex change procedures being performed.  Though the cost for these procedures are not cheap, the access to them is too easy.  Many lives (not all) are ruined.

The reality is that there are some people who are born with conditions that need to be corrected with surgery.  That should always have serious and difficult criteria for consideration.  This is not a game.  I am one of those people who did go through the necessary hoops and gatekeeper to correct my condition.

Time for Men to step up

A man enjoying a facial

A man enjoying a facial

I will not be the first to point this out, and I hope I’m not the last, but it is time for men to step up and redefine their “what does it mean to be a man.”  Far too long have men fought a losing battle to maintain their closely guarded rules for costumes, mannerism, language and hygiene.  They should learn from the example of the women of the past and present to expand their understanding of themselves and the changing world.

Just like the women who risked their lives to express themselves, men need to do the same.  They need to stop excommunicating anyone from the company of men for trying to live outside the rigid rules of behavior.  There are men who are comfortable wearing dresses, makeup and heels.  There are men who are stay at home dad’s.  There are men who care about community welfare and justice.  There are men who love other men.  These men should never be asked to revoke their manhood.  These men are not women.  They should not be forced to believe that they are women to be comfortable in themselves.

The idea that anything that doesn’t fit into the narrow definition of “man” must be a woman must fall by the wayside.  It is up to the men who feel different to fight for there right to exist.  They should not be afraid to enter into male segregated spaces and fear for their safety.  These men who do step up to the struggle should not be relegated to using the women’s spaces just to make the other men feel comfortable.  Just as woman have worked to redefine themselves, men need to redefine themselves.

On Being Gender Critical

I think everyone should be gender critical. There are so many things wrong with the way that gender is policed and enforced on every single person on the planet. Here’s a simple definition of gender:

Gender (noun): The state of being male or female (typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones).

These social and cultural differences are used to keep people in their assigned place. People are both the oppressor and the oppressed when it comes to how gender is enforced on each other. No one is exempt in their role in continuing the harm of gender.

Picture of a sign in Times Square showing women wearing bras

Sexist Gender Advertising in Times Square NY

We buy our clothes based on how we were taught what looks good and makes us attractive to the object of our desires. There  are many, many fashion designers and clothing distributors that are complicit in making sure that you and I know what is appropriate for our gender and/or sexual expression. They want a guaranty on their profits by making sure that we stay within the narrow confines of the gender expression that our culture has proscribed for us.

Likewise, there are almost countless magazine, television and online advertising campaigns structured to make us feel inadequate until we fall in line and purchase the gender appropriate product they are selling.  The fashion magazine industry is solely created to push concepts of “sexy” and “beauty” that is harmful to all six billion people on the planet. These magazines work to make sure that gender expression is enforced with severe cost for trying to escape them.  Just ask any gender variant or transgender/transsexual person about the pain of those cost. In the end, the people who manage and work in the fashion and advertising industries are people that are also subject to the same oppressor/oppressed dynamic as those they work to reach.  This is how the cycle works.

The reason I needed to write about gender criticism is from what I’ve seen on various tweeter feeds the are using a hashtag #gendercrit.  This twitter hashtag is a great way to comment on the harm that gender causes.  However, the hashtag was created by those who wanted to move away from being known as trans critical.  To me, this means that they are ready to move beyond working against the rights of trans people and broaden their efforts and focus to where the real problem of gender exist.

So, when are we going after the fashion and magazine industries? The real upholders of gender. Six billion people follow the fashion industry and gets told how to express their gender and/or sex. Then how about the magazine publishers of both lad and girlie ones. Sounds like they have a large audience to educate.

Trans people are just as vulnerable to the fashion and magazine messaging as everyone else. Vogue Magazine has a total readership of over 11 million people per month. That is more than there are trans people worldwide. That is just one of dozens of fashion magazines.

Children are working in sweatshops to create gender appropriate fashions.  That is just one horrible example of the production chains that supply us with the clothing we wear. Our desire for cheap gender appropriate clothing makes us the oppressor of these children.

Those are just a few of the reasons that everyone on the planet should be gender critical and there are so many others than I can write at this time. However, those on twitter who use the #gendercrit hashtag are mainly concentrating of the evils of trans people in the women’s spaces.  So, if your sole effort in being gender critical is to work against transgender/transsexual rights then you are a liar and a transphobe.

The Monster in the Closet and the Bathroom Problem

A story,

When I was a small child, I grew to be very afraid of a faceless presence that lived in my closet.  I never knew exactly what this monster was, but I was sure that it existed.  Many a night with the lights out, I could feel it lurking and waiting to come out of the tightly closed door and get me.

Characters from Pixar's "Monster's Inc"

Characters from Pixar’s “Monster’s Inc”

I really had no idea what the monster was going to do once it “got me,” but there was no doubt in my mind that it was in that closet and it was coming.  I would cover my head with my quilts and pillow, but the fear of the monster in the closet didn’t go away.  Every once and a while I would peek from out of the covers to see if it was standing over the bed, but it never was there.  Nevertheless, I just knew in my heart that it was still in the dark closet, waiting for it’s moment.

Eventually, I would call Mom or Dad to come scare the Monster away.  They would come and turn on the lights and open the closet door to show me that there was nothing to fear.  Over time the fear would slip away, but there was a very important element to the easing of this irrational fear; the Monster never came out of the closet.

I tell this story as a comparison to the issue of the general public’s fear of trans women in the women’s restroom.  Specifically, male bodied people in female bodied spaces.  This is a fear of invasion, violation and bodily injury.  These are not minor “oh, just get over it” fears.  These are real and need to be accounted and considered.

There are real reasons for sex segregated facilities.  There are cases after cases where male bodied offenders enter female bodied spaces for the purpose of committing assault, rape and violence.  Start with a Google news search to find actual incidents.  This can not and should not be ignored by the transsexual and transgender communities.  Those of us who are female bodied are at just as much risk as any other woman in that space, and those of us who are male bodied need to understand and respect the need for safety.

Male on female violence is still at a very high rate and like it or not this does spill into the fear of public accommodations.  As long as the fight for Gender Identity rights include all access to the spaces that accommodate the person’s targeted gender this will be a problem.  Some call it the “Bathroom Problem.”  So let’s stop kidding ourselves and start creating real solutions to a very real fear.  We as the transgender and transsexual communities need to continue to fight for the end of irrational discrimination in public housing, employment and public spaces, but as far as sex segregated spaces, the time is not now.  Since we are the ones asking for the general public to change it’s perception, we are the ones who must work with the general public to smooth away any issues.

I will offer three ways to work through this time until the private needs of transgender and transsexual individuals are understood and accepted by the general public.  None of these require “panty police” or “show me your papers” patrols.  These are all up to the person transitioning to do and show respect for the general public.

  1. Either don’t use public sex segregated spaces or only use the ones that match your current configuration

Remember what our parents advised us to do before driving on long trips?  “Go to the bathroom before we leave because we aren’t stopping.”  This is still great advice.

During my pre-op transition in the early eighties, I was told under no circumstance was I ever allowed to use the women’s restroom, showers or even the locker room.  They were very clear and diligent about this rule.  I was very much allowed to use the men’s facilities and believe me the men were laying in wait for me to enter their space.  I learned, as most humans do, how to control my bodily functions so that the occasion would never arise that I would need to breach either space during work hours.  I found other places to take care of my needs that were either friendly or private.  I would wait until I could leave the premises for lunch times or even hold “it” for the entire shift.  It is possible.

I know that there will be some that can present special cases or run on about Buck Angel in the women’s room.  I can only say that if we really care about working this out then the onus is on us to remove any and all reasons to fear our presence.

  1. Use only Single occupancy public facilities

Single occupancy facilities are a great idea for the protection of female and male bodied individuals.  When one is in a room alone, this removes almost all risk of attack from others in the same room.  When a person is transitioning or if a person prefers to remain a non-op, the single occupancy facility removes any chance of the perceived need for a “panty check.”  (Yes, I used the scare quotes because “panty checks” still scare me.)  They also tend to allay any issues that a parent may have in helping their opposite sex child in restroom functions.

It was this type of facility I looked for during my days of transition because of the privacy they allowed.  It is also my understanding that the idea of a common sex segregated area for restrooms is a relatively modern thing.  Single occupancy was the norm until larger and larger buildings were constructed and space became a commodity.  That being said, I don’t think there will ever be a single occupancy shower or locker room space available; so we must make arrangements to take care of those needs in the privacy of our own spaces.

I know that a single occupancy facility is not a guarantee of safety.  There can be no complete guarantee of that.  Ask Chrissy Polis, she was beaten outside of a single occupancy facility for many reasons that escalated into a hate crime because she was trans.

Once again I know that some will present special cases for the homeless and those without access to these.  Again, I can only say that they are available and we must make the effort to find them.  There are plenty out there and there are resources available to help your search… like the Refuge Restrooms website.

  1. Finish your transition

I know that this is hard for some and there are some who do not need to completely transition to a male or female body.  Great, then own your body.  If you wish to maintain a penis, then continue to use the facilities designed for people with penises.  If you chose to maintain a vagina, then continue to use the facilities that are designed for vaginas.  Once you finish your transition, no matter how difficult, arduous, satisfying or unsatisfying the outcome, you are by default a member of that sex, and are less of a risk to your companions in your sex segregated space.

Please notice that at no time do I state that the presence of a penis or a vagina determines your manhood or womanhood.  I state this to be very clear that Gender Confirming Surgery (GCS) does not make one a man or a woman.  The only thing GCS does is to make one male or female bodied, and it is that distinction that must be understood when it comes to relieving the fears of the general public.

Some would say that it is not anyone’s business to know about the state of their genital configuration, and I would agree for the most part, and in a perfect world that would be true.  However, we do not live in a perfect world.  We live here and now.  Here and now, penises are used to rape vaginas.  Here and now, female bodied people have a good reason to fear male bodied people.  We, as transsexual and transgender people, are just as likely to be a victim of abuse and rape as the general public so it is in our interest to work for our protection also.


None of the options that I state involve anyone subjecting themselves to a “panty patrol” or a “paper search.”  The perceived need is removed.  As long as the fight for public accommodations for our communities includes sex segregated spaces, we will be hard pressed to achieve any progress.  Between the scare tactics of the opposition and the very real acts of criminals, the battle is already lost.  Many will claim that there are plenty of current laws on the books that prove me wrong, and to those I say that is a paper tiger.  Laws can and do get rescinded and rewritten, and once a crime is committed under the protection of those laws, then everything is thrown out.

Fighting for public accommodations that do not include sex segregated spaces (yes, I used the term “sex segregated” a lot, because words have meaning) is necessary, needed and should be our priority. The problem that we face is that sometimes the monster does come out of the closet.

Transsexual and transgender people are just as likely to commit criminal acts as any other person on the planet, and when they do they should be tried by a jury; and, if found guilty, sentenced to a punishment that they deserve.  Let’s make sure that there will never be a reason for ANYONE to claim Gender Dsyphoria as a reason to commit or lessen the impact or responsibility for their actions.  One way to do this, and to give the general public confidence that the people they share public sex segregated spaces with belong there, just to do their business.

The best way to make sure that the monster never comes out of the closet is to make sure that there is no monster to begin with.