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Transmissions – Control Your Own Identity
October 28, 2006
by Jamie Tyroler

First, I’d like to welcome everyone attending this year’s Creating Change conference in Kansas City. Second, I’d like to remind everyone that this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance will take place at Spirit of Hope Metropolitan Community Church at 3801 Wyandotte at 4:00 PM on Sunday, November 19th.

Normally my November column has listed the victims of hate crime murders due to gender identity issues. I’m glad to say that, at least at the time of this writing, the number of murders has decreased, though unfortunately a larger percentage of them has happened in the United States. This may well be due to poorer reporting of violence in other nations, not an actual decrease in bias-based murders.

With all the things that are going on of late, transgender and queer people are often forced to explain and defend their gender identities to others, including members of the LGB portion of our “community.” How can someone identify as a lesbian if they have a penis? How can this person claim to be a gay man without one? How can you label yourself a man or woman if you didn’t grow up as a boy or girl?

Although this may sound painfully obvious to most people, we are not our genitals—even though we often call others by slang terms for genitalia. However, for many transgender people, especially male-to-female transsexuals, genital congruity is a major focus. Unfortunately, for many of our female-to-male brethren, this is not an option due to expense, poor results, and some personal issues with the surgery possibilities. The lack or presence of a penis or a vagina should have little impact on how you view yourself, but alas it often has a huge effect.

Whether it has been from my experiences, readings, thoughts, having too much free time on my hand, or the combination of medications that I’m taking for pain, I have come to the conclusion that my identity is not just my gender identity or sexual orientation and it is mine and mine alone. I have to have control over how I identify myself. Otherwise, I’m potentially heading for a major life disaster.

No matter how strongly I identify as female, there are going to be people out there who will deny my claims because I was not born with the proper private parts (sorry, I couldn’t pass on a chance of alliteration) or did not have female experiences growing up—whatever those may be. The acceptable range of behavior for a girl in our society ranges from the über girly-girl to the tomboy. Traditionally, the acceptable behavior range for boys has been a bit more limited. Overly masculine behavior in boys is often not only accepted but often praised. Less masculine behaviors are usually accepted only to the point that they might be considered “sissy” or effeminate. Fortunately, there have been changes over the past few years. Parents are starting to accept the behavior of their children as long as they are not harming others.

A major realization I have had over the past few years is that it is highly important to be comfortable and accepting of myself, whether my body is masculine or feminine. For me, that choice has been at least for the present—though I do retain the right to change my mind, to live somewhere in between male and female.

It’s true I wasn’t born with a vagina and wasn’t brought up as a girl to be a woman someday, so I don’t have those experiences. But it is not the views of my critics that should affect how I identify myself. I also shouldn’t capitulate to one-time friends who wish I hadn’t made any changes in my life and stayed the way I was (or at least the way they thought I was).

All my experiences, physical, spiritual, emotional, etc., are what has brought me to this point of self-acceptance. It’s not a matter of how much estrogen vs. testosterone is in my system or whether or not I have breasts. My identity—like everyone else’s—should be based on how I view myself. Are we willing to live outside some of society’s norms? Do we feel compelled to abide by heterosexist standards, as many people want us to do? These are decisions that only one can make for oneself. Every person in your life, and many you’ll never even meet, are applying forces to each of us to conform in some way. But always remember: no one can force you to be something you are not without your consent.

People often ask me what I think is the purpose of transitioning. To me, it is not a manner of having a body that matches what you may feel it should look like. It’s a matter of being the person you feel that you are and living your life as seems best for you (as long as you don’t harm others). At the end of the day, you should ask yourself questions like, “Am I the person I want to be?” “Am I happy with my life?” When people do that, it’s often amazing at how are not satisfied and wish that they had the strength to change their lives for the better.

This is something that we who identify as transgender or queer not only have the opportunity to do but often have to do. If you are going to make such a huge change in your life, make sure that you are making the right choices. You have the opportunity to be an authentic person, something most people never actually have the chance to experience. Make the correct choices for you—that’s the person you have to live with the longest.
The Tenth Voice

The Tenth Voice

The Tenth Voice

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