Exploring My Gender

[Originally posted on Twitter, 15 June 2018 – slightly edited]

Clearly, my comments over the last few days, on the subject of radical feminists and trans people, have deeply hurt several people I know personally, who identify as trans, and who I regard as friends.

That’s the reality, and I have to face it.

I owe it to my friends to listen, and try to understand what they are saying to me.

I don’t have to agree with them, but I should do all I can to see things from their perspective.

This is an important principle of friendship.

The hurt I have caused seems, at root, to derive from a difference of opinion about the definition of the word ‘woman’.

I have been encouraged to adopt the following definition: ‘a woman is a person who says they are a woman’.

I have rejected that definition repeatedly.

In view of the hurt I have caused, I am seriously reconsidering this position.

This has nothing to do with any arguments that have been put forward. But when your friends reject you, it’s a clear sign that something has gone wrong.

Up till now, I have always considered myself a male human, and have, as a matter of convention, accepted the label ‘man’. For the most part, I have done this unthinkingly.

This is problematic.

I must try to see things from a different perspective.

I have decided, therefore, to accept this definition of the word ‘woman’: 

‘a woman is a person who says they are a woman’

This, I have decided, is the correct definition.

Accepting this definition opens up a world of new possibilities for me.

It’s liberating. But it’s also scary.

I find myself looking at my past experiences with a different eye now.

I had accepted the label ‘man’ without ever really thinking about what it means.

I realise now, that what made me a ‘man’, the only thing, is the very fact of my accepting this label.

I was a man, because I said I was a man. There was no real reason for it, other than that.

This much is now clear to me.

But, I wonder, am I truly a man? And why have I always accepted that label so unquestioningly? 

I thought being a man had something to do with being male, but I now realise that my so-called ‘maleness’ is without substance.

Could it be that I am not a man after all?

The fact of the matter is, I don’t know whether or not I am a man. I can’t know. I’ve never even thought about it. Not really. Not on a deep level.

I don’t know – that’s the fact. And I owe it to myself to explore my feelings on this matter with an open mind.

I recognise that this will be difficult.  If I do this, I realise I will be opening myself up to ridicule, social ostracism, and possibly violence.

Am I prepared to take these risks?

But I owe it to myself. I must be brave. I must not let the haters bring me down.

Now that I reflect upon my life, when I consider all my experiences and feelings, I’m confronted with an unassailable fact:

I have a great deal in common with trans people.

I was bullied extensively as a child.

I was bullied for being fat.

I was bullied for being a paki.

I was bullied for liking books.

I was bullied for doing well at school.

I was bullied for being gay, and for while I thought maybe I was gay.

I have always preferred the company of women.

I was even accepted, or felt accepted, into a circle of friends in which, when we got together, I was the only man. In a sense, I was an honorary woman. 

This was a situation with which I was very comfortable.

I have never felt comfortable in my own skin. To this day, I am uncomfortable around cameras, and I prefer not to look in mirrors.

When I do catch myself in a mirror, I often wonder – is that really me? I find it hard to believe that it is. 

I really don’t like what I see.

People are always surprised when I tell them this. They start complimenting the way I look.

But it never makes any difference. I simply don’t believe what people say. 

I don’t think they’re lying, exactly. Just wrong.

The more I stare in the mirror, the less I recognise the person looking back at me. The more I examine my genitals, the more they disgust me. 

I suffer from depression, social anxiety, isolation. Though I have friends, I often feel lonely.

Could this be gender dysphoria?

Of course, I am not a medical professional, but thanks to the internet it is easy to come to a tentative diagnosis: Yes, I do have gender dysphoria.

It is therefore possible that I am not a man. I might not be a woman though. It’s hard to say. 

But genderqueer? Absolutely.

It is hard for me to accept that I am genderqueer. I can feel my mind trying to resist the truth about who I am.

I must break free from these shackles of the mind, and embrace my true identity.

But the fact is, I’m scared.

I have never discussed this with my family or friends. How could I? I have only just found out what I am.

I dread to think how my girlfriend will react. My girlfriend is a terf. She will not understand.

I’m afraid people will say I am a pervert. But I am not a pervert – I am completely harmless.

I am genderqueer, and there’s nothing wrong with that. 

It’s not me that has a problem, it’s society.

The greatest horror of all this is also the greatest irony: I am well aware that some people will think this is all a big joke. That I am just laughing at gender non-conforming people. That this whole thread is mean-spirited, or even cruel.

But it’s not a joke. I don’t see how anyone could regard this situation as even slightly comical. To be frank, I find the very idea deeply insulting.

This is what we face, every day.

The ridicule. 

The taunts. 

The hate. 

The denial of our very existence. The complete lack of human compassion.

The disregard and erasure of our own lived experience.

I can see now why terf rhetoric is so very very dangerous.

Well, there’s a surprise. My girlfriend has just seen this thread and tried to start a ‘conversation’. 

But I’m not ready for that. I’m still sorting out my thoughts. I told her to go away, and thank fuck she did. 

I am literally shaking right now.

I will deal with my girlfriend later. So far, we have always had a ‘good relationship’. I would like that to continue.

But honestly? I don’t know.

Right now, I have to think about myself. It’s okay to put yourself first sometimes. 

It really is.

It’s okay.

I need a fucking ice-cream.

Is that okay?

Yes.

Yes it is.

I have obtained ice-cream.

Win!

Genderqueer. 

But that’s a cop-out, isn’t it? Genderqueer is an umbrella term for any gender non-conforming person. That’s pretty vague.

Genderqueer. It says very little about who I am. It’s barely an identity at all.

Let’s see if I can be more specific.

We can start with the easy stuff:

I am (almost???) exclusively attracted to women. This includes some trans women. I like them ‘feminine’, but I tend to adhere to a somewhat non-stereotypical view of femininity – it’s very nuanced for me.

But I’m not gay or anything.

So I’m not gay. 

I’d always assumed I was heterosexual, or at worst only slightly bi. But all that assumes I’m a man. Since it’s possible I’m not a man, I might not be heterosexual.

I might be a woman. A lesbian, in fact. That makes sense, too; I’ve always liked lesbians.

Okay. I am now open to the possibility that I might be a woman.

But am I a woman? How can I tell?

Well, what about my personality? Jordan Peterson says men and women have different personalities. So let’s look at Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_differences_in_psychology#Personality_traits

Wikipedia says ‘women consistently report higher Neuroticism, agreeableness, warmth (an extraversion facet) and openness to feelings, and men often report higher assertiveness (a facet of extraversion) and openness to ideas’.

So those are the facts.

My female traits: Definitely neurotic – I’ve been told this by women, in fact, and they should know. I’m usually agreeable, so that’s a slight plus. I can be warm, but I’m a total introvert and I have to be honest so I’ll call that neutral. I’m very open to feelings though.

My male traits: Assertiveness? No way! I was bullied at school and I’m generally a very quiet and softly spoken person and I’m always in danger of getting pushed around. Also it’s extraversion, so a definite no. But I’ll admit I’m totally open to ideas. To a fault, even.

So…

Yeah, that’s interesting. I definitely have more female traits than male ones. 

Plus I’ve always thought of myself as a feminist. Radical, even!

So obviously on the gender spectrum I must be closer to a woman than a man.

So that’s personality covered. 

But there’s more to a woman than that. Isn’t there?

I mean, not clothes or hair, or makeup, cos it’s sexist to say those things are what make a women. Why *should* women be forced to make themselves pretty for men? 

As a feminist, I reject that.

And obviously it has nothing to do with vaginas or whatever, because that’s cis-sexist and anti-science. I admit I used to think that way myself, but then I did some education and got woke.

Scientists reckon it has something to do with patterns of activity in the brain. I mean, it’s not the *actual brain* that matters – that would be sexist. 

It’s more about what the brain *does*; how it processes information. Men and women are very different that way.

But obviously I don’t have access to an MRI, so I can’t check my brain activity to find out if I’m a woman or not, or (I suppose) to what *extent* I’m a woman.

So that doesn’t help me at all.

What else is there?

What I hear from a lot of trans women is they say they ‘feel like a woman’. So that’s obviously an important part of it.

So do I feel like a woman?

Honestly, it’s hard to be sure. But I will say that when I really think about it, when I search my soul… in all honesty I can’t say I feel like a man. And I’d go further – if I’m *really* honest, I have no idea what it feels like to be a man. When I ask myself, nothing comes.

I mean, literally.

I’ve got *nothing*.

The truth is, I don’t feel like a man at all. I don’t even know what one is, really. If I’m honest, I mean.

But maybe that’s *exactly* what it’s like to feel like a woman? Not feeling like a man, I mean.

No, it can’t be just that. There must be something it is like to be a woman. It must be a thing. 

But how can I tell if I’m really feeling that thing? Or not?

I’ve read lots of books written by women, and I even enjoyed them. I thought they were good. I easily related to the main character even if they were female, which obviously is what women writers usually do. Or sometimes it’s a cat. Or a womble, sometimes.

In fact, when I was a kid, my favourite writer (one of them!) was Astrid Lindgren, who wrote the Pippi Longstocking books.

Pippi was a tomboy, I guess. She was super strong and went on adventures. I really related to Pippi, and wanted to be like her.

I mean, I really loved those Pippi books. I read them over and over again. 

My elder brother, who I’d say is just a straight cis-man, actually bullied me about this!

Typical.

But I have no problem with women authors. Sure, there are some books I didn’t get on with – Jane Eyre, for example, which I threw across the room when she capitulated to that awful sexist bloke! 

I just couldn’t take it anymore.

Was that supposed to be romantic? Ugh.

I mean, seriously.

So I have no problem relating to female characters at all.

Plus I’m a feminist, obviously.

I definitely relate to women really well – like, I understand them. No problem there!

But I can’t say the same about men. Frankly, they do my fucking head in. Men are more sexist than you can possibly imagine.

I mean not *all* men. But most.

See, men aren’t just sexist on the surface. It runs deep through the fibre of their beings; it’s the air they breathe, the water they swim in. 

They absorb sexism from our culture like little misogynist sponges. They suck that shit in till it fills them to the very brim.

I mean, not all men – everyone understands that. Even feminists!

Like, I’ve never been sexist at all. I’m sure someone would’ve told me if I was. I can’t remember a single incident.

But then, on the gender spectrum, I’m much closer to a woman than a man. 

So that makes sense.

Overall then, I think it’s fair to say I’m more likely a woman than a man. Or at least, I’m somewhere on that side of the spectrum.

I probably am a woman. Trans, obviously. But a woman.

I’m still attracted to women. 

So I’m a trans lesbian! How exciting!

So what should I do about pronouns now? This is a tough question, if I’m honest. 

I guess he/him/his is okay for now. I feel a bit strange about going directly to she/her/hers.

After all, I don’t want to make this difficult for anyone.

It’s something to think about. But I’ve always had a soft spot for per/per/pers, like in Woman At the Edge of Time?

But I haven’t seen that used very much so maybe it’s not cool – more research needed!

Okay, enough.

That was so exhausting for me!

Woo.

I think my girlfriend has been cooking, which is great because I’m getting hungry. I don’t know what it is, but it smells great!

I suppose she’ll want to have that ‘conversation’ now…

So, am I a woman? What was the definition again? Oh, yes:

‘a woman is a person who says they are a woman’

That’s pretty clear – I have to actually *say* it. 

Am I ready for that?

I mean, I sort of implied already that I’m a woman – but that’s not the same thing.

The rule is, you have to say it *out loud*. 

You have to actually say it.

But if I have to be honest… the truth is I’m not ready to say it. I’m not ready to be a woman.

And I haven’t said it.

Not yet.

So I’m still not a woman.

I mean, for fuck’s sake, people.

Get a grip.