Last Wednesday, June 23rd, I heard back from my therapist that he had faxed two letters to the Judge appointed to my case. One saying that yes, I'm trans and yes, I should have my gender legally changed. The other being a copy of the original letter that he wrote for my doctor in support of starting hormone therapy.
My friend, Andrew, joined me at the court house with the following mission: hunt down the clerk assigned to my case to find out about my gender change.
The hunt was simple. Her presumed locale was easy to find but - she wasn't in. Instead, there was a note at the front counter that directed my attention to a phone on the wall next to a list of clerks and extensions to reach them.
So I dialed her extension and she answered. I gave her my info and she replied, "Oh, yes. Everything has been granted.", wha? Seriously? Even the fee waiver!? To clarify I asked, "Everything? The name change, the gender change, and the fee waiver?",
"Yes. It looks like everything was granted. I have copies of your Order Changing Name and the Certified Order of Gender and to Amend Birth Certificate. Stay there. I will come up in a moment to bring these to you."
today, as of June 28, 2010, I am legally male. I'm legally Dexter.
I'm going to dedicate an entire day this week to running amok getting a new birth certificate, a new license, updating my bank info, school info, so on and so forth!
I called my school earlier today with a question about financial aid and, while I was at it, also threw in asking about who I should talk to about updating my legal name. When I told her that my gender has also changed, she was a bit confused, "We have you in our system as Male. That's changing?" I definitely marked my paperwork as "Female", which means that someone, somewhere, typed in "Male" without even thinking, or to my knowledge. Hmm!
Last week I went back and forth quite a bit on making this ultimate, final decision to - in addition to name change - also have my gender legally changed. As I've elaborated on in previous posts, I identify gender-wise as genderqueer, and sex-wise as transgender male (in contrast to cisgender male). Right off, I know that throwing out labels and language like that is an instant, confusing turn-off of gender babble for many. It was to me once upon a time, for sure. I worry that using it makes me sound gender-pompous and pretentious when, in truth, I'm really just desperately grasping for whatever language is available to me to communicate my experiences as best as I can. Especially in our present culture where we're just beginning to understand the plethora of possibilities while developing a language to communicate about it.
Of course, I've found it easiest to just use a term like FTM (female-to-male) because it's so popular, but it's confined to the gender binary and uncomfortable for me. But I also don't mind it if it helps to facilitate communication and an understanding of some sort.
The thing is, growing up being an androgynous little kid in addition to having a physiological disconnect forced me early on to ponder a great deal about gender identity and sex in between trailer park turf wars and 80s horror with my mom.
I'm very confident that a lot happens to wire the brain in-utero, in terms of sex. And further, people have a wide variety of gender identities. And the idea that gender is strictly binary is definitely a social construct that changes throughout time and culture. These are expectations imposed on us by other people, and frequently even ourselves.
In terms of sex, as I mentioned, I am very inclined to believe that there are many of us who are hard-wired to be male or female or neither or other possibilities. Dr.Money's failed guinea pig experiment with David Reimer is a great illustration of this.
Lucky me, while bouncing about in my teenage skull about all of this, I had access to a great deal of information on the Internet. I got to benefit from the political and social gains made by previous generations of transgender activists. I was far less likely than transgender people who grew up in the 1960s to mid 1990s to feel that I was completed isolated in my experience. As a result, I got to acknowledge and embrace my trans identity much more quickly while depending on other trans people, rather than the medical profession, for support, information and validation.
I learned that there were others who felt they did not need to go with hormone therapy or surgery entirely or at all in order to be "real". That one's anatomy is not the defining aspect of one's gender. That we can take hormones, but not have any surgeries. That one could have breast augmentation or reduction procedure, but not genital surgeries - or may reject medical intervention altogether. And I also learned to own who I was, and that there was a semblance of language for everything "other": genderqueer. I felt that as more and more people came out as genderqueer, the less society will be able to foster and enforce a male/female gender dichotomy.
I have experienced a lifetime of women screaming when I'd use the womens restroom and call security. Girls covering up and walking out of locker rooms when I entered. Trucks full of men assuming that I was a gay male and aggressively following me screaming "fag" - or, if I dressed more feminine - drag queens desperately trying to show me how to "pass". I learned to own and accept the fact that I didn't "fit" within the narrowly-defined binary (but, how many of us really do?).
Instead of assuming that I was unattractive or lesser-than, I knew that I was just a bit different from the story I'd been told about sex and gender. I even learned that there are a great deal of people in the world who not only accept gender variance, but are all about it.
Meanwhile, I was also experiencing something else - a physiological disconnect between my brain-map and my anatomy. I had never translated it once as "I am meant to be male." What I did know is that no matter how I tried to rationalize it away or how fine I felt with my body as it was, that disconnect expecting male-typical development gnawed and chewed in the shadows of my psyche, pounding louder with every passing day.
And as I've mentioned a number of times throughout this blog, as I exhausted all other mechanisms of emoting and coping, I ultimately realized that hormone therapy is necessary for my self-esteem and ability to even function. Still, I have no desire to be seen as cisgender or "male". I just want to feel connected. Yet, I live in a society that only recognizes two legal possibilities. Which means it was becoming increasingly difficult on levels I've never experienced before to just function logistically. To use my debit card, to open a bank account, to enter a club, and so on. And so, as a push, I concluded that, alright, I am trans and the legal language conflating sex and gender was, at this point, probably convenient.
But then came the guilt. I've been wearing my visible stigmatized identity (queer, gender non-conforming) on my sleeve for as long as I can remember. I'd learned that while society experiences the visibly gender-nonconforming person at first as shocking, then as a person, people end up realizing that their sense of threat is unfounded. And it is that process that alleviates the terror and shame experienced by those who follow.
Losing that has been socially unsettling for me; but, I realize, there are many other ways to still be out, open, and to help facilitate understanding and compassion; just not as visibly!
Look what I stumbled across! Mr. Transman Grid and Rocco (Katastrophe) in Allison Michael Orenstein’s Mr. Transman gallery .
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