I started this blog the month that I began hormone therapy. I did so specifically due to the importance of being visible as a transgender person, and to document my journey mentally, physically, and emotionally.
What is Transgender?
In a nutshell, "transgender” is an umbrella term for many people who defy mainstream expectations and assumptions regarding gender. It can be used to refer to transsexuals as well as people who are gender nonconforming in other ways — for example, feminine men, masculine women, transfeminine, transmasculine, genderqueers (who do not identify exclusively as either women or men), to name a few. There are many different ways to experience and interpret gender as human beings. For those unfamiliar with the semantics I'm using, Dr. Charlotte Tate created a great "Glossary of Gender Related Terms" that may help.
Part of this vast spectrum of diversity include a sub-group of transgender persons who require medical procedures to function optimally, which is my experience.
Prior to starting hormone therapy, I did not have a preference for masculine, feminine, or gender-neutral pronouns. As a visibly gender non-conforming adolescent, narratives around the gender binary did not become a part of my identity. I comfortably identified as "woman" as much as I identified as "man". And ultimately, I identified as genderqueer and still do. So why did I start hormone therapy?
Even though I was comfortable with my gender identity/expression, I concurrently experienced a separate phenomena - what I described at the time as a "disconnect" between my "brain and body". I lacked the ability to articulate this dissonance.
I eventually found the language. A neuroscientist named V.S. Ramachandran, famous for his groundbreaking work in phantom limb syndrome, has provided a great deal of evidence that the brain has innate, hard-wired templates for human anatomy. He reasoned that this hard-wired template may also be responsible for a person’s internal sense of gender and how this relates to one’s sexual anatomy, “both of which develop through different biological mechanisms, probably in utero”. He and others have been building support for the theory that one’s internal sense of gender and sexual anatomical attributes may also be hard-wired in the brain.
In other words all of us, cissexual (non-transgender), transsexual, and intersexual alike, have a "brain-based body image which is detailed down to the fine anatomy, including your genitals." (Ramachandran, 2007)
This resonates with my experience (but not all trans persons). For 26 years, my brain-based body image did not connect with the trajectory my anatomy was on. It was a crippling experience that adversely impacted me in many ways (e.g. fear of intimacy, sense of inescapable hopelessness, depression). It was an experience that's extremely difficult to describe. Although it was a very difficult decision, I decided to start hormone therapy and obtain surgery. Unlike persons with phantom limb syndrome, I live in a social environment that's obsessed with putting a gender narrative on my experience.
Most importantly - I have never felt so happy, whole, and connected.
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Update: A more concise version of this was published on Dissident Voice titled, " Gender and Sexual Diversity " on June 21, 2014....