Friday, 9 September 2011

Invisibly transgender

I don't have secrets; I just have facts I don't know how to tell people.

I don't want to be in the closet at work, but I don't know how to come out. I present as male as I can/dare/desire: with my short back and sides, my standard uniform of not-very-tailored shirt and trousers. I sing tenor in the work choir. I don't know how to make it any more obvious (side note: to my chagrin, nobody here wears ties). I've got a binder on its way, but even if I wore it regularly under my baggy shirts I don't expect people would notice.

I've been thinking about testosterone. Well, naturally, I've been thinking about it for a while. The length of time I've been thinking about it is a function of how utterly uncertain I am that I'd want it. I don't suffer from physical gender dysphoria - I don't feel discomfort at having a female body. (Not that I feel any great connection to my body or its femaleness either; the most obvious {symptom? cause?} of this is probably my asexuality.) I wouldn't say no to the physical perks of having male hormones coursing round my system, but the fact that I can live with it as it is implies firstly that I wouldn't be a "worthy" recipient of any state-supplied hormone treatment (here I'm probably falling into the fallacious trap of thinking I'm "not trans enough"), secondly that it wouldn't be worth my while struggling through the torturous hoops of The System for gender reassignment candidates (fault of The System, clearly), but thirdly that I shouldn't take the risks, both superficial and real, inherent in this kind of body modification.

The problem is, I've ignored my genderedness for most of my life, without realising how blindingly obvious it is to the people around me. In my head, my breasts are discreet and insignificant, my voice is unfemininely deep, and now that I've found a decent haircut my face is no longer girlish. But it's only as I become aware of how overwhelming these cues of enlarged mammaries, high-pitched voice and delicate features are in other people's heads that I want to change them. A binder's a start. A broken voice would be good, too, and the potential for sideburns...

In short, I realised, I want to be visibly transgender. Because at the moment, all I can be is verbally transgender - and I just don't know where to start on that. Every few days a window of opportunity comes round ("gosh, the department's so female-dominated!" "I wish more men would come to choir." "Funny that you don't like shoe-shopping - it's most women's dream, isn't it?") - and every time it comes round, I hesitate, unsure how to phrase my by-the-way, and miss it. Then I spend the next hour fuming, at the generalisation and at myself.

The thing to do, I suppose, is change my name (even though I like the one I have). Change my name, or change my body - or spend weeks, months, years politely correcting every person I interact with. I've already started signing myself with a male name in postal correspondence, and getting letters addressed as such in the shared pigeonhole (though there was the one where the author had clearly debated over which title to use, begun with "Mr" and then corrected it with atrociously messy scribblings to "Ms [Male name] [Surname]" - go figure...). At some point, maybe very soon, maybe once my binder arrives, I will work out the most sensible way of petitioning {HR? the IT department? my line manager?} to change my name in all the public online systems, then explaining the significance of the change to my colleagues. Because of course they'll make the assumption of least resistance ("oh, that's how you spell the short form of your name - funny way of spelling it") unless I explain.

I wish I didn't have to worry about those windows of opportunity, those constant little assumptions that renew the crushing burden of needing to explain myself. I don't know how much body modification it would take before that stopped.

1 comment:

  1. Ros, this is really, really interesting. And I'm sorry you feel frustrated. It's all too easy to say trite things like 'be who you want to be', especially when I've not experienced such situations myself, so sorry if I come across as all patronising and zoo-visitor-like: it's most certainly not my intention. But that's kind of what I wanted to say to you. Why not keep Ros if you like it? I personally think your name is pretty damn cool. Especially that olden-days-before-the-r-metathesis thing. But anyway. I will be reading future posts (if you let me :D).