A couple of things have set me thinking in the blogosphere of late. Melissa posted a self-described rant about her personal statement of gender identity the other day and I had a "frank exchange of views" with Anne on the same subject in a comment stream over on Halle's blog.
I can legitimately describe myself here in the virtual world as female because my brain has an unfortunate habit of asserting a female gender identity. But looking in the mirror on an average day, I'm a bloke. Let's get that straight right at the start. Beard stubble? Check. Bits? Check. Brow ridges? Check. Not ecstatic about it and never really have been, but that's the way the cookie crumbles for the gender dysphoric.
I could fix that if I had the right conversations with the right doctors and embarked on the rocky road of transition, then I could describe myself as a woman. But even with all the chemistry and anatomy fixed I'm going to go out on a limb here and say I'd never be quite the same as a female at birth woman. No, this isn't about chromosomes, prostates and ovaries, it's about upbringing. The one thing that unites all of us who are or have been blokes with brains from the girl parts bin is this: no matter how long ago we transitioned if we have, how well we pass, whether we choose to sleep with blokes, women, both or nobody, we all of us never had the chance to grow up as girls or young women. We're graduates of bloke school while they have degrees from girl academy. If you've ever met a girl who's XY androgen insensitive you'll understand what I'm trying to say, she's got similar internal anatomy and girl brain, same chromosomes as an MtF TS, but because she had the girl upbringing she doesn't have any of the baggage. From the very few I've met (completely outside this sphere), the chances are she's someone I can look in the eye too. Sigh.
Bloke school teaches you that you can be an arsehole if you want to. It's quite socially acceptable to be a violent aggressive rude philandering misogynist bastard if you want to when you're a bloke. If you do it with aplomb, you're even respected for it, admired as some kind of Jack-the-lad. I'll never know at first hand what girl academy teaches you but its bloke equivalent is the school of which I am a summa cum laude graduate. I hope I've not committed any of my list of socially acceptable bloke sins that it equipped me for, but six years at an all-boys school means I sure am going equipped. I hated that school!
We can't lose that bloke upbringing, however hard we might like to. It shapes who we are, and it's why so many of us get it slightly wrong so easily when we first stray into attempted womanhood. And in our character we've all got that bastard training sitting there too. Some of us never use it, some of us let it slip out occasionally and others never put it away. Tell me you've never met a trans woman in the real world with just that little too much of the bloke in her character, I know I have.
I've often wondered whether trans men have the opposite problem, whether as they assume the male role they have problems learning to be the arsehole that blokes are sometimes expected to be. Their support networks rarely seem to intersect with ours so I've met so few trans blokes face-to-face I've never had the chance to ask. I know with a brain like mine I'm hardly placed to be an arbiter of masculinity, but from where I'm sitting if they don't manage to master that facet then they'll be all the better blokes for it.
What am I trying to say? Really assuming a gender is not as simple as proclaiming yourself as such. I sure as hell wouldn't deny anyone the right to do so but anyone who does so has to be able to back it up with more than just the assertion, whether they've seen the doctor or not.