Tangled Web

Deceptions of a transgender guy

Square peg in round hole

Square pegs and round holes

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“And I would walk five hundred miles
And I would walk five hundred more
Just to be the man who walked a thousand miles
To fall down at your door.”
~The Proclaimers

In my journey to myself, I find myself tangled in acronyms and words as I orbit through the blogosphere and touch down to read about so many other bloggers’ journeys. Some are raging a fierce battle within themselves and with society in their quest for identity and acceptance – square pegs in a Chinese checker-board world.

Chinese checkers

Round marbles in round holes

Been there, done that, even bought the t-shirts with “Butch” and “Trans” on them, as I so boldly proclaim in the subtitle to my blog, “Deceptions of a Transgender Butch.” But words are powerful little breasts, twisting and shaping themselves in the minds and on the tongues of the people who use them, dragging images along with them. Images of conformity and deviance.

When and where I grew up, gender was binary. It was literally the gospel truth, as I grew up in a Christian Protestant rural society in an Apartheid South Africa in the sixties and seventies. Sex was not even spoken off, except in crude jokes. People were either male or female and had sex with the opposite gender. But the underlying subtext was orientation, this vague, undefined “otherness” that was not spoken of in polite conversation, collectively thrown into a hotchpotch labelled, (oh, don’t we humans adore labels!) “queer.” When this “abomination” appeared in Biblical passages read in church, it was seldom if ever discussed. If referred to, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah was used as illustration of the ultimate sin, homosexuality (I still cringe as I write this). At that time, “gay” in South Africa still meant “happy.” The government only started television broadcasting in 1975 and then television and radio broadcasting were still heavily censored, so the public exposure to “milder” slang came later. “Homo,” when used, was almost always preceded by a swear word and intended to be vulgar.

Chromosomes

Hmmm… what about YY?

As my body had XX chromosomes or gonosomes packaged together, but my mind screamed, “XY!” I was lost in the mist of ‘queerness’ (how ironic that XX chromosomes or are labelled ‘homo’-gametic!). I would have chosen ZZ as ‘otherness’ chromosome, if I could (the third gender Sky mentions in his post where he recalls Plato’s Symposium and The Myth of Aristophanes?).

 

I very well knew I did not belong to the flutter who labelled themselves ‘female;’ longing to be one of the pack taking ownership of the ‘male’ label. I felt I belonged to a less defined category, of which the boundaries were blurry. By this time, I had tentatively and openly attired myself  in “Gay,” “Butch” being an even better fit. But my dysphoria became acute, leading to therapy and top surgery. The “Trans” cloak provided the psychological comfort and peace I sought.

It's a boy!

How I longed to choose ‘boy’…

Tin Man

My armour is a lot more sensitive than his

After years of introspection, catching speculative glances from strangers, having scornful and hate-ridden verbal missiles dent my sensitive Tin-man armour,  I time-after-time realize, Judgement is in the eye of the beholder.

It does not matter what I do or how I look, what label I hang around my neck, it will not change other people’s perception of me one iota. They will still use their labels to categorize, classify and judge. And it hurts.

As Ivan E Coyote writes, “…the truth is that every time I am misgendered, a tiny little sliver of me disappears. [..] Just a sliver, razored from the surface of my very thick skin most days, but other times right from my soul, sometimes felt so deep and other days simply shrugged off, but still.”

So there will not be a second coming out. I withdrew into a category in which I fit like a square peg in a square hole. It is a category in my mind labeled, “Me, myself and I.” My thousand miles walk has ended. I have become Kris and for now I am content.

Maybe I have arrived at my destination. But, as Rimonim wrote, ” …human beings seem to have deep longings to express ourselves through gender”. So maybe my journey is not over and I will need to express myself openly and out more through (some sort of) gender in future. Time will tell.

memyselfeye

Me, myself and eye by Anthony Armstrong

 

 

Postscript: I apologize for the number of quotation marks in this post. They were necessitated by the topic (at least, that’s my excuse!). I also did not intend to join any erudite, eloquent and philosophical gender debate. Neither am I offering any opinion about gender, it is purely a post about my own personal journey, as was this blog’s intention.

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Author: Kris

Hi! I'm Kris. I live in South Africa with my life partner of 27+ years, whom I call B or Madam in my posts. We have a Pug dog child, Remi, also known as Pooch, who has graced and enriched our lives for the past 12 years.

12 thoughts on “Square pegs and round holes

  1. The problem with being gender non-conforming is that you are miserable if you try to comply with gender expectations but you have to put up with a lot if you express yourself authentically (me/myself/I) and it is an ongoing struggle to hold onto that true sense of self given the constant judgement of others (and by ourselves).
    We have to be careful not to be worn down by the struggle, to give a hand to others who are trying to find their way, and be willing to ask for help when we need it..

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    • I am constantly walking that tightrope of holding on to my true sense of self, weighing the “might have been’s” against the “could be’s.” Were I in my twenties or thirties, I might have transitioned openly and fully. Had we not lived in Africa or another country where gay people are still literally stoned to death sometimes, I might have done the same even later in life. But it has taken my partner 25 years to be able to live openly with a person who is out as gay, while she herself has never identified as gay. Top surgery does not leave her with a sense of loss, whereas a partner who celebrates breasts on her beloved might experience, but given her fragile emotional state, I cannot consider coming out a second time for now. I am also painfully shy, even at 56, and while I speak up in meetings with top management and do presentations to groups of people, having the limelight on me for personal reasons, would throw me completely. I also do not have a support group of variant-gendered friends (as in zilch) and my extended family even refuses to acknowledge the notion of me being gay. I am also part of another minority group, being hearing disabled, and I am constantly advocating our rights and fighting the battle with ignorance and lack of sensitivity towards disabled people. That wears me out, sometimes to the point of asking myself, “Why the hell do you still try?” But I keep fighting the war. So currently I am ecstatic not having breasts any more and my dysphoria and feeling miserable, if I may borrow your word, have disappeared with them. I try to lend a hand online to others who are at the start of their transition journey by blogging about my emotions and experiences, trying not to present stumbling blocks, but also to say it as it is. The online help I have received from you guys since I have started blogging, has been overwhelmingly supportive and I am grateful for and humbled by it. Btw, B has been discharged and is home, feeling much better.

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  2. Yes, Khai, lets hope the core will endure and those little razor slices will not cause us to bleed to death slowly and painfully eventually. Take care and cultivate a thick skin.

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  3. You’re right. No matter how you present or who you are, the judgment will happen– and I love the quote about the little razor slices, not because I actually like it, but because someone actually put into words what it feels like.

    So I guess the only real upside here is that you DO have an overwhelmingly large soul, and no matter how many little razor slices happen, the core of that soul will remain.

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  4. Bring on those shoelaces, my sneakers need new ones!

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  5. And if you must punish someone, the Talmud and rabbinical tradition says to do it with a shoelace.

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    • Well, thank heavens or the gods for those hoops! Stoning is a cruel and painful way to die.

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      • Most Jews I have ever met have said the Law is meant only for them, not Christians. They will reference that all we have to follow are the Seven Laws of Noah (no blasphemy, idolatry, theft, murder, animal blood, immorality, or violation of judicial law), but there exists no commandment that, should a gentile violate any of these, he must be prosecuted and, if found guilty, gets stoned. Their Law demands innocence till proven guilty, not unlike us, but again it’s only for them. And there is a preference for life, rather than death, anyways.

        The funny thing is some of the stuff people can get stoned or killed for. We mock how in Muslim societies their concept of honor killings. The Bible allows for the same exact thing. 😦

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        • Yeah, but then Jesus revoked those laws with the two commandments to love God above all things and our neighbours as ourselves. And then man started looking at other men and though, “my muscles are better defined than yours, you can’t be a real man,’ and so we, instead of offering support, started worrying about how we ate perceived by society. And then all hell broke loose. I doubt we will be able to get all the monkeys back into the cages again. I feel like standing back, declaring, Not my circus, not my monkeys.” But I cannot, I feel a deep kinship with trans people. We are a tribe.

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  6. Still not sure why “sodomy” came to meant homosexuality. (I’ve read all the Torah [Pentateuch] given I grew up in an area with many Jews and attended church’s where they still upheld the Law for the most part.) Because, as I may use from Ezekiel 16:49, that the crimes of Sodom wasn’t sexual list, but pride, greed, gluttony, laziness, and lack of compassion for the poor and down-and-out…

    And there is more to biology than XX and XY, there is also XØ (born with only one X chromosome), XXY(Klinefelter syndrome), XYY syndrome (two Ys), and other karyotypes with more than 2 Xs. Then there are also hormonal issues, like androgen insensitivity syndrome, where people with a Y chromosome do not react to the testosterone in their bodies.

    And you have Japanese brain studies showing many trans are male brains in female bodies, and vice versa, for lack of a better way to say it. (I would LOVE to see my karyotype and get a brain scan to see if these may explain my male gender identity. I already suffer from PCOS, where the hormone imbalance often causes those affected to look a little more butch than usual.) 😀

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    • Hmmm, Leviticus 19 seems to be the basis of “sodomy” to the preachers from my youth. But they were looking for stones to cast. Thanks for the insight into genetic variance – I need some more studying! I guess a lot of us would like to see our karyotypes to help us understand our “deviance.” (Nothing to do with karaoke, hey? 🙂 Just teasing! Take care.

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      • In Leviticus, The original Hebrew uses a word that meant something akin to temple prostitute (at least from what I read). Men were not to own men like they did women, nor pay to have sex with them, like the Egyptians did. But, back then, marriage and sex were about men caring for women as they were livestock or other property, not having intimate loving relationships. And often that part of the Law is part of the “purity laws”, often considered really only applicable to the priesthood. With how David stated his love for Jonathan as more than that he would ever have for any woman…hmmm. And then we have evidence to suggest some saints, like Sergio and Baccus, who we knew were life partners. And even in Leviticus, you could only be condemned if there at least two witnesses, there was still the Temple, and this a Sanhedrin, in order to even convict people of “deviant” behavior. Every rabbi (I prefer rabbinical over Christian interpretation of the Law, sorry!) I have ever met from here to Timbuktu says such punishments can’t be carried out till the Temple is rebuilt, and we can’t have the Sanhedrin, neither, till that happens. So even if being gay or trans wasn’t exactly okay, there are lots of hoops accusers must jump through before one can get “stoned”.

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