“Why I’m Not Transgender”
by Max Wolf Valerio
“”Transgender” gives me a slightly nauseous feeling — I sense a touchy-feely malevolence lurking. It’s a nice, safe word that desexes and defangs the term, “transsexual” just as that other hideous PC euphemism, “significant other” desexes the hot, sticky and passionate reality of being somebody’s lover. I would never want to go to bed with a person called a significant other. It sounds like an AA or therapy word, more of the psychobabble and pop therapy that waters down our passions and homogenizes our intentions.
I have never felt that the word “transgender” describes the very real and vital biological sex change process at the core of transsexuality. Now, this literally desexed word (taking the “sex” out of transsexual) has become the umbrella term for all people who transgress or transverse gender boundaries. It is spawning a pantheon of hyphenated identities, a hyperventilation of male and female combinations. The term was originated by Virginia Prince to describe male-to-female cross-dressers who lived as female most of the time, but didn’t have sex change surgery or take hormones. Virginia Prince, a dedicated cross-dresser, was apparently not too jazzed about transsexuals, and openly referred to us as “losers.” Transgender is now used to describe everyone: Female-to-male transsexuals, guys who occasionally enjoy wearing a tight fitting pair of panties, lesbians who paste on bushy mustaches for a wild weekend and even biologically female lesbian femmes with attitude. It has even been suggested that the entire lesbian and gay movement should just call itself the transgender movement and forget the terms gay and lesbian. After all, the reason that gays and lesbians are oppressed, this line of reasoning contends, is because they transgress the gender boundaries that prevent people of the same sex from getting sexually, erotically or romantically entangled.
I am a transsexual man, and I will grudgingly accept the umbrella identification of transgender in order to better communicate or work with others. After all, I’m already in the larger tent of sexual orientation and gender freaks: Queers. Ultimately, it is to our greater benefit if we try and work towards common goals, like equal rights and the benefits of a just and equitable society.
However, I did not change my core gender identity, I changed my biological sex. True, I cannot entirely alter it, but I decisively shifted the rudder of my biology from female to male, most importantly through the use of testosterone, but also through surgery and the unequivocal daily living in the world as a man. I dislike the use of the word transgender because it increasingly lumps me in with any number of other people who might be transgressing gender boundaries, people who might actually have very little in common with me. While I’m not against these people expressing their gender, I do have a real fear: The word transgender has the potential to entirely erase who I am.
Transgender makes my identity a little more palatable to some. Transgender doesn’t remind people of the cutting and sewing of flesh during sex change surgery. It doesn’t conjure up images of the regular injection of potent hormones that have lowered my voice, altered my distribution of body fat, made my bones more massive and enabled me to grow an Adam’s apple. The same testosterone that has sprouted thousands of coarse hairs on my legs, abdomen and face has also created flashing thoughts of women in various sexual positions in my mind at odd hours of the day. Transgender doesn’t conjure my top surgery, or the fact that I intend to have a set of large, bull-like balls surgically constructed to fill out my basket. Finally, transgender doesn’t connect me decisively to my spiritual ancestors, the other transsexuals of the latter half of the twentieth century, who have endured ostracism, loneliness and intensive struggle to transform their bodies and lives. Transgender ignores the medical aspects of my transition that have enabled me to create my life. I have made use of the medical tools available to me, against all the odds and the voices that told me I couldn’t do it — and that I shouldn’t want to.”