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.

A Man Has Died in Texas

A couple of years ago I received calls from two of my half-brothers telling me that this man had died. I have wondered often how I would feel about that moment when it came. The moment has passed and I’m still wondering about what to feel. You see, I’m not sure if I’m actually allowed to feel anything about this man’s passing.

I’m sad to hear about anyone’s passing, and at the same time, I’m always a little envious. Sad because of the hole that is left in that person’s loved ones, and envious because of the great adventure that the release from this mortal coil launches. This man was my biological father, but I wasn’t one of his loved ones.

He and my mother was very young when they became parents. Too young to know better. Mom told me that she wanted a baby because all her older friends were having babies. Arlie, that was the dead man’s name, told me that they were just two stupid kids. That, my friends, was how I came to be; the product of a fit of stupid envy.

The only name I could use for this man was Arlie. It was made very clear to me that I had a father and it wasn’t Arlie. The man who I called my Dad was the man who took me in and raised me. That man will always be my father.

For whatever reason, Arlie choose to stay away from me and my brother. He and my mother separated when I was two years old and they both moved on to new spouses and lives.  Mom had two more children and Arlie had three. I guess he really didn’t want me as part of his life, and it wasn’t until I was fourteen that I made the effort to find this mystery man.

Found him I did, and this began long series of attempts to impose myself onto him and his new family’s lives. I know that I made it very difficult for all involved including Mom, Dad and everyone else around me. I was determined to find answers that either they wouldn’t or couldn’t give.

Over time we would drift in and out of contact, but it was always my efforts that would re-establish the links. Arlie divorced his second wife and after a while remarried. I don’t know about Mom’s and Arlie’s marriage, but I do know that both of the women he married after my mother were wonderfully loving people who I learned a lot from.

The last really long interaction I had with Arlie was when he allowed me to move in with him and his third wife while I returned to college. I lived with them for almost a year and a half, and they were very generous and open. After that time, we lost contact again, and over the remaining twenty years of his life I only saw them a handful of times. I was the one who reached out each time.

I do believe that in his own way he loved me, and he truly believed that staying out of my life was the best thing for me.  I don’t how much of that is true, but I do know that I’m sorry that I’ll never see him again. So, I guess I do know now how I feel about his passing. I’ll miss you, Arlie.

Goodbye, Arlie.  Godspeed.