I’ve had two interesting conversations in the last couple of days that have made me wonder what it is that makes people relate to a gender other than the one they were assigned at birth. Of course, some people are so unhappy in their own skin that they feel a sex change is the only answer. My first boyfriend from school is now a woman, and I remember her once telling me she felt like “a lesbian trapped inside a man’s body.” The sad thing is, I can imagine how hard it must be to be a trans person in our society. My ex and I experienced negative attitudes from a few people, and stupid behaviour from kids in one place we lived, because we were two women living together as a couple, but what we had to deal with is really tame compared to the challenges faced by someone who is transsexual.
Then there are other gender identities, agender, genderfluid and genderqueer being just a few examples. I had never really questioned my own feelings about gender until I joined OKCupid and discovered the variety of different gender options that are available. I casually selected ‘woman’ because I am a woman – I have a female body, and anyone looking at me can see I’m a woman – but then the questions started and I began to wonder if it really is that simple. As I’ve become more involved in the asexual community, where we question everything because our experiences of life kind of force us to, I’ve found myself recalling some seemingly innocent thoughts throughout my life.
Yesterday, I went to see my doctor to get my 3-monthly (well 10-weekly now) contraceptive injection. I obviously don’t need it for contraception because I’m not having sex with anyone, and I don’t intend to – ever. I often make a pretence of just needing it to level out my hormones, because the mood swings are so bad, and because the monthly stomach cramps and headaches are so debilitating, and I suppose I can argue that I do need it for those reasons. It’s made my life so much easier in that respect. But the real reason I want it so much, and the stress if I couldn’t have it for some reason would be almost unbearable, is because it stops my monthly cycle altogether. My body doesn’t do the ‘getting ready to produce a baby’ thing.
I was talking to my doctor about a few (very minor) problems I’ve been having – the reason it’s been brought forward from every 12 weeks to every 10, actually – and saying I hope I start the menopause soon, so all this is behind me. He mentioned that having my ovaries removed would start the menopause right away, and I just smiled and said I thought surgery would be a rather drastic step for me. But if someone had said that to me when I was in my twenties … In my early twenties, the thing I wanted most was a full hysterectomy. I told him that, and said I’d never mentioned it because I was sure no doctor would agree to it at that age, and I think maybe he read more into that comment than I did at the time. But it got me thinking …
And this morning, I went on FaceBook to find someone asking if any other women in the big asexuality group got annoyed with their boobs. I said no because mine are tiny – 34AAA, which translates as barely noticeable. (In fact, I once scared myself by thinking I’d found a lump in one of mine, then discovered a perfect matching lump on the other side and realised they were my ribs!) I like having a really tiny bust. I like not having to wear a bra unless I wear a really thin top. I like being able to go for a run (without a bra) and not feeling afraid I’m going to knock myself out! Actually, if I was told I needed a double mastectomy, apart from having cancer, which would obviously be very traumatic, I wouldn’t be bothered. Yeah, get rid of them, and I’ll get a nice tattoo to cover the scars.
I was never a girly girl growing up. I preferred toy cars to dolls, I preferred riding my bike to playing ‘house’ with my friends, I liked building dens and getting dirty. (Although most of my interests were pretty gender neutral, like reading, so I wasn’t really a tomboy either.) As I grew older, I noticed I was better at traditionally male dominated things. I’m a good driver (and loved driving until I decided to make a career of it), I have brilliant spatial awareness, I’m good at maths and science, and all those other non-girly things. Clothes, hair and makeup bore me … and I mean really bore me. And as for my reaction when people share their problems with me …
Don’t come to me for sympathy. Come to me for a solution because that’s what you’ll get. And if I give you a solution, and you act like you still want sympathy, trust me, I won’t understand. I’ve just given you a solution, so you don’t have a problem any more. Why do you still want sympathy?
The thing is, for most of my life, I’ve only known about two options, rather like I only knew about two options for sexual orientation – straight or gay. You either accepted the sex you were born with, or you had a sex change, with all the stress, trauma – and surgery – that entailed. I guess I’ve led a sheltered life. I knew I didn’t want a sex change. In a lot of ways, my attitudes and behaviours are more male than female (at least in a stereotypical sense), but I don’t identify with the male body. I don’t want male genitals – the idea makes me cringe inside – although I’m not that thrilled about having female genitals either. And although I realise I’m probably the stereotypical alpha male (just living in a female body), I don’t really think of myself that way either. I’ve started wondering if what I feel is agender – neither male nor female, and somewhat indifferent to the concepts of gender as they relate to me.
I’ve never really accepted the femaleness of my own body, but it doesn’t bother me that other people look at me and see a woman. I don’t particularly care what other people see when they look at me. I don’t ask for their opinions or approval. But I’m starting to wonder if other people see themselves differently. I think I need to do some research into what it means to feel female, and try to figure out where I fit in.