I Have a Choice?

I Have a Choice?

A recent story shared by George Takei on Facebook about a 12 year old winning the right to have his birth certificate changed to reflect his correct gender attracted a lot of comments. This is not surprising, nor is the fact that so many were negative or transphobic. Not surprising, but very depressing.

Along with the usual equation of physical characteristics with gender (penis = male; vagina = female) there were many comments saying that 12 was too young to make this kind of choice.

Choice? Are they suggesting that somebody can choose their gender the same way they choose what to wear or eat?

Coming out, informing people around you that your gender is not the one you were assigned at birth, is not a lifestyle choice like being Vegan. It is a recognition of the true essence of one’s self.

If you asked a hundred random people of all ages what their gender is you would almost always get a hundred definite answers. Would you doubt that these people know what gender they really are? Would you insist on testing their chromosomes and genitalia? Would you even dare to ask a random stranger to confirm their gender?

So why is it that the element of doubt raises its head when the “transgender” label is present? Surely a transgender person has just as clear a view of their own gender identity as anybody else.

I didn’t choose to be a woman. I appeared to be male at birth and was raised as such. But from puberty onwards (about age 11) I knew that my body didn’t develop correctly. It didn’t (and still doesn’t) look like my internal self-image. I look in the mirror and if I’m lucky I will catch the occasional glimpse of myself, but more often I only see the out-of-place male characteristics. My brain developed as female, my body as male.

If you are not transgender yourself then imagine this: you are yourself, the same person you have been all your life, but every time you look at yourself you do not see what you expect to see. You see a face and body that is the opposite gender. Now also imagine that everybody else sees that too, and acts towards you as if that is your actual gender. But you know it’s wrong. Every day of your life you know, but you are stuck with it. Yes, it hurts to the point that it can be hard to carry on.

Unless you start to tell people that the way you look is not who you are. Unless you confront their disbelief, prejudice and mockery. Unless you fight to change your body so that it matches what you know inside to be your true self. The alternative is to try to pretend that you are somebody other than yourself, to live a lie. I tried to do that until it almost destroyed me. That is gender dysphoria.

So please try to be understanding when a transgender person comes out. Be accepting. It is hard enough living with the discomfort and distress of your body being of the wrong gender without also having to suffer prejudice and abuse.

Note: I have simplified things here for rhetorical purposes to mention only binary gender identities. These account for the majority of people but there is a significant minority for whom the categories of male/female do not fit. I’m not going to go into details here because there are many excellent articles about non-binary gender and I do not have the personal experience to add to what others have already written.

13 thoughts on “I Have a Choice?

  1. I knew about 5 or 6 that I was “different”, and by 10 or 11 I knew I wasn’t right. By 12–yes: I knew for sure. And then it only took another 40 years to do something about it.


    1. There are so many obstacles in the way of doing something about it: ignorance, fear, risk of harm. And that’s before you start negotiating the obstacle course that is medical treatment.


        1. Good luck! I’m currently in the limbo which follows referral to Charing Cross GIC (WLMHT). Right now I’d vote for anybody who promises to increase resources for gender services.


          1. I’ve been in therapy for two years, and I should be getting my letter for HRT tomorrow, and seeing the doctor on Saturday.


  2. “It is hard enough living with the discomfort and distress of your body being of the wrong gender without also having to suffer prejudice and abuse.” Absolutely! We need to see with the eyes of ‘being-ness’ rather than rigid prejudicial thinking steeped in the fear of the different and unknown.


  3. I like the Note that you have at the end! I was about to add to what you’d written, but you covered it in your Note, haha. I recently went to some workshops about non-binary identities, and I’m processing all that info for some future writing!


  4. Did not read the article, so no idea what was being referred to as a choice. Agree it is not a choice to be one gender or another any more than one chooses one’s natural eye or hair color. But. To alter one’s birth certificate to reflect one’s truth is a choice. To transition is a choice, each transition step is based on a choice. For me at least it was a choice to transition or die or go mad, but it is still a choice. That helps me so much, to know I make these choices, that I am not bound to the usual transition path, that some parts of this nightmare are under my control and no one else’s.


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