Roots: Gender

An exploration into the determination of Gender, Sexuality, and Identity in the eternal quest to know thyself.

“Who knows where a woman begins and ends? Listen mistress, I have roots, I have roots deeper than this island. Deeper than the sea, older than the raising of the lands. I go back into the dark… I go back into the dark! Before the moon I am, what a woman is, a woman of power, a woman’s power, deeper than the roots of trees, deeper than the roots of islands, older than the Making, older than the moon. Who dares ask questions of the dark? Who’ll ask the dark its name?”
– Ursula K. Le Guin, Earthsea

What is Gender anyway?

Isn’t that just another word for Sex?

If you have XY chromosomes, male organs, and produce sperm, you are a man!

If you have XX chromosomes, female organs, and produce ova, you are a woman!

But what gender is God? Or what of His son, Jesus?

The Bible insists the use of these pronouns is so vital in reference to both that it demands we capitalize them.

In my life, I have studied a great deal of Christian theology.

I have never studied the Father nor the Son’s chromosomes.

I have never seen their organs.

Certainly no one has known their sperm.

I know them to be men because it has been expressed to me.

This is Gender.

It can be best understood in three parts:

  1. Gender Identity – The internalization of personal biological and physiological experience and memory of bodily experience of the world.
  2. Gender Expression – The externalization of Gender Identity as it is expressed in one’s intent, actions, and movement through world.
  3. Gender Experience – The third-party experience of Gender Expression and culturally-defined knowledge and expectations of gendered behavior and expression.

Gender exists, as described above, both within and beyond oneself. It is internalized as a part of one’s identity, externalized through expression, and experienced, understood, and interpreted by others.

As in the case of the Christian Father and Son, the genders of a great many people are known to us without any knowledge of anything which makes them up biologically.

In fact, we may well only know the biologies of those whom we are intimate with.

Biology does not dictate gender.

Biology dictates two things:

  1. Reproductive capability.
  2. Disease compatibility.

As any rational human being would agree, men and women are a great deal more than those two reductions. All of the rest of what defines us as men and women, by identity, experience, and expression belongs to the realm of gender.

Gender is certainly not innate to biology, though it is most commonly associated with it, as part of gender identity is the internalization of biological and physiological experience as well as bodily experience of the world.

Like sexuality, gender exists as more of a gradient between two binaries than as the two ends of the binary. More often than not, we are not perfectly heterosexual nor perfectly homosexual, but somewhere in between and it is also common for us to fluidly move through the gradient as we change with the tides of our lives.

We are never perfectly masculine nor perfectly feminine, but a mixture of the two. Each of us carries within us a biological nature consisting of this mixture as well as the ability to nurture either to full potential. Women are as capable of nurturing masculinity as men are capable of nurturing femininity while still living as women and men themselves.

What makes the dysphoric experience unique is not an over-nurturing of or obsession with femininity or masculinity as some transphobes like to believe but as a discomfort and disassociation with one’s own presence which leads to losses in translation to any attempt at expressing either masculinity or femininity in one’s self.

The same discomfort and disassociation experienced by us is experienced by those we interact with and as such, we are unable to impact the world or be interpreted meaningfully by it, leading us to ghost-like existences. The only way for us to become complete human beings is to erase the incongruence in our being via transition or through finding some other way to overcome the incongruence.

Speaking as a trans woman from a traditional Christian/Conservative family who tried everything imaginable to deny herself Hormone Replacement Therapy for fear of rejection by her family, let me tell you, transition is the best option available for those who suffer from gender dysphoria.

I tried everything else.

Of course, not everyone who transitions experiences gender dysphoria. Some who might choose this do not live in the persistent state of incongruence I lived in, but may develop it later in life or realize that they have been living with it without understanding what it was and then choose to transition. The experience is different for everyone, but the end goal is the same, to conform to expression of our self-determined gender identity, allowing us to maintain comfort and strong association with ourselves and our world.

In my opinion, human beings have the right to self-determination and as such, all forms of gender and sexual expression should be celebrated and supported by our communities, so long as they allow for social stability and the safety and consideration of others.

Judith Butler said in a 2014 interview, “No matter whether one feels one’s gendered and sexed reality to be firmly fixed or less so, every person should have the right to determine the legal and linguistic terms of their embodied lives. So whether one wants to be free to live out a “hard-wired” sense of sex or a more fluid sense of gender, is less important than the right to be free to live it out, without discrimination, harassment, injury, pathologization or criminalization – and with full institutional and community support. That is most important in my view.”

I couldn’t agree more.

The truth is that both fixed and fluid senses of self are equally valid and it is pointless for anyone to wrestle with another human being over their right to self-determination. It becomes nothing but a pointless exercise in bigotry over two equally valid experiences of oneself.

This diversity of opinion over the nature of sex and gender would have great potential for societal and cultural growth if we could only allow one another to flourish rather than bringing decay to the quality of one another’s lives over petty disagreements with methods of self-determination.

There are also sexualities and genders which exist outside the constraints of their respective binaries also and I don’t mean for such people to be an afterthought in my thinking on gender, but it’s just not something I can speak to as I am very comfortable in my positioning within both binaries and I have never experienced the world outside of it.

I would encourage anyone with thoughts related to non-binary gender experience or the experience of gender determination which may differ from my views to express those thoughts to me in the comments below. Thank you!

Leaves: The Splits

I want to write it

I know what wonders it can do

To paint with words

That flow fresh into rainless rifts

Becoming resplendent rivers

Like before…

Before

the splits

the splits

the splits

If I could I would fill them with water

I know what wonders it can do

But erasure is a measure

For not just one but two

Water can only fill the rifts,

Beneath, they will remain

Eroded by worded beauty

Only deepening the pain

What’s left on the surface

Is prettier, it’s true

But what true beauty can be left

When the splits have become you?

 

[Originally written, 2011]

Roots: Dysphoria

A description of dysphoria itself and clarifications on the nature of Gender Dysphoria.

Before this series continues, I should slow down to bring meaning to terms some might not be familiar with.

Dysphoria is human incongruence.

It is a divide between all of the elements which come together to make one human.

Mind

Spirit

Body

I find it best that an understanding be established that dysphoria can be understood by it’s opposite, euphoria, which many are more familiar with, and would understand to be represented as the three elements shown above in congruence.

Mind

Spirit

Body

To experience euphoria is to be right with yourself and comfortable with your own presence in the world. Mind, body, and spirit unite and you are able to focus these into your presence, which gives meaningful impact to your movements and actions in the world. In this state of congruence, you feel the most like yourself.

To experience dysphoria is to be wrong with yourself and uncomfortable with your own presence in the world. Mind, body, and spirit disjoin and you are unable to focus your presence into any sort of meaningful impact to your movements or actions in the world. In this state of incongruence, you feel the least like yourself.

In states of euphoria, you are a complete human being.

In states of dysphoria, you are a ghost.

Everyone experiences moments of dysphoria and euphoria, but typically these moments are brief.

Gender Dysphoria, as my condition is known in psychology is the persistent state of incongruence brought on by a separation between the body and the mind. A great many studies in other fields have also confirmed, as most any of us would tell you ourselves, that this incongruence exists in us biologically and is experienced by us physiologically, socially, and psychologically.

This is just who we are.

Of course, science doesn’t really consider seriously the element of spirit, but I believe it is worth including as it is something nearly everyone believes exists in some form or another.

Call it what you will:

Soul. Heart. Essence, Core. Spirit. Nature. Psyche.

Or anything else you might fill with its meaning.

It drives us. It exists within us and moves beyond us through our many forms of expression and the impacts our lives leave upon the world.

It will exist long after our physical bits have turned to dust, even if it is only within the memories of those whose lives we’ve touched.

Normally, spirit would act as the glue which bonds the mind and body together in congruence, but in dysphoric states, it cannot attach to either and instead drifts between the two.

It is this part of ourselves that suffers the most from dysphoria.

This little light of mine,

I’m gonna let it shine.

No you aren’t, dysphoria is going to snuff it out.

I wish someone had told me this when they taught me that song.

The incongruence brought on by Gender Dysphoria can be dealt with via treatment to either the brain or the body. Neither is wrong, they simply are the way they are. Unfortunately for us, being as they are leads to a great deal of distress if untreated.

Strategies for coping with the distress are not very effective, nor are any other approaches which focus entirely on the mind/brain. Conversion therapy does not work. Nor do any medications which target the brain and/or chemical balance.

Trust me on this.

I’m from Mike Pence’s hometown.

It and all of my family/friends/co-workers were every bit as traditional/Christian/Conservative as you might expect. Fear of rejection by so many people who were important to me kept me from pursuing body-based treatment for far too long. If I could go back in time, I would tell myself not to worry and to follow through with it as soon as possible.

I would give anything to have those lost years of my life back, but what’s done is done.

The fact of the matter is that hormone replacement therapy is the best method of ending the incongruence of gender dysphoria.

Dysphoria can be brought on in a number of ways, gender-based dysphoria being only one of a diverse bag of possibilities. Most transgender people also experience “Biological Dysphoria” (though as far as I know, this distinction is not made in psychology) which extends beyond the experience of gender and into our biologies, driving many of us to seek out sex reassignment/confirmation surgeries, though in most of our cases, this type of dysphoria never dissipates because wrapped up in this type of dysphoria is our reproductive systems, which no currently available technology can repair.

Though my own lack of reproductive system does bring me dysphoric distress, it is not burdensome. At least not any more burdensome than it is to any other woman who might wish to bring children into the world, but lacks the ability to do so. It does not leave me locked in a state of distress, but rather brings me situational distress, typically only in sexual situations.

In spite of the biological dysphoria which will always be with me, I no longer suffer or am burdened by dysphoria otherwise. My incongruence has ended and I now live a normal life with a mix of euphoric and dysphoric states, though more commonly I know the former than the latter.

Leaves: Playground

A poem exploring the genderization of an old man at a playground.

The Old Man sits and

ponders all

The little girls play with

little dolls

 

The boys play of

guns and war

The Old Man watches

chapter and verse

 

“Bang, bang,” a boy falls

to the ground

The girls roll their eyes and

begin playing House

 

The Old Man rises

and purses his lips

Children come running

and cling to his hip

 

[Originally written, 2009]

Liebster Award – Thank You

I was kindly nominated for my first Liebster award by The Stories In Between. Please check out this kind stranger’s blog for poetry, short stories, and the living narratives like Thursdays in the Valley.

What’s the Liebster Award?:

It’s an award in which bloggers nominate other bloggers for showing respect to their works and their dedication. It’s an appreciation and recognition for all the fellow bloggers out there in the blogosphere.

Rules For Accepting It:

  • Write about it on your blog and thank the person who nominated you , write about their blog too.
  • Display the award on your blog.
  • Nominate 5 to 10 blogs which you feel deserve it.
  • Let the nominees know that you nominated them.

Don’t forget to create 10 questions for them to answer. Notify your nominees and provide a link to your post so that they’ll know what to do. Once you’re done, come back here and comment with the link to your post so I can check out your answers.”

Questions from The Stories In Between:

1. What hobby would you get in to if time and money weren’t an issue?

In addition to reading and writing, I’ve always been interested in streaming or video-based content. I would love to start some sort of twitch stream or youtube channel.

2. What is the most annoying question that people ask you?

No questions at all. People tend to operate on pre-conceived bias when they interact with me. The most annoying thing they do is not ask me questions and instead assume they already know all they need to know about me.

3. What’s something you’ve been meaning to try but just haven’t gotten around to it?

Every book I’ve never read.

4. Do you have a dream job? What would it be?

In my non-blogging career, I’m a tech analyst for a data and support center. It’s practically my dream job already. It offers me so many opportunities for growth. My only complaint is that I don’t get to work hands on with people often enough.

5. If you could make one rule that everyone had to follow, what rule would you make?

Do no harm to yourself or other lifeforms. Otherwise, anything goes.

6. If you could make a 20 second phone call to yourself at any point in your life present or future, when would you call and what would you say?

I would call my 13 year old self and tell her that she can transition back then without fear of losing her family. I’d tell her to have courage and do it then and there. I’d tell her she’s going to waste her life being afraid of losing people who are going to accept her when she finally tells them.

7. What do you do to deal with stress?

Internet trolling :^)

8. Do you have any pets? What are their names?

Two cats! Matilda and Malora:

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9. What is something that is really popular/cool right now that really annoys you?

Having an opinion on everything and never being willing to say, “I don’t have a well-informed opinion on this topic.”

10. Do you have a favorite book/story from your childhood?

Many! If I must give the title to a single book/story, I would give it to Charlotte’s Web.

 

My nominees are:

https://rad-femme.com

https://litlangislife.wordpress.com/

https://theporchstories.blog/

https://iamaman2015.wordpress.com/

https://loveandeverydayaffairs.wordpress.com/

https://inkstainedfeelings.wordpress.com

https://bethanew.com

https://transponderings.blog

https://genderexpressive.wordpress.com/

https://emptyspaces2017.wordpress.com

 

My questions for you are:

  1. What is your favorite color and what does it mean to you?
  2. What prompted you to start blogging and/or writing?
  3. What was the most significant journey you’ve been through?
  4. Who or what is your greatest adversary?
  5. If you could conceptualize yourself as anything other than a human being, what would you be?
  6. How would you describe your safe space? If you don’t have one, what do you imagine it might be like?
  7. What is your favorite website?
  8. What type of media resonates most with you?
  9. Do you have any background/education/experience you feel benefits your blog?
  10. On a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest) how would you rate your ability to empathize?

Leaves: The Whole Elephant

It gets better…

It’s not necessarily true

It doesn’t always get better

But it’s a lie worth telling

Lies can spark fires

Lighting

the way

Through the tunnel to

the garden of life

I’m sure it wasn’t my own

that guided me there

To the colossal proboscidea

majestic but imperceptible

Longing to get better

waiting to become whole

To know the truth

every good liar knows

New Series: Branches

New series “Branches” will explore what it means to come to terms with gender dysphoria and transgender people from external perspectives.

All,

I had an idea that I hope some of you might be interested in:

Dave Chappelle said of transgender people’s perception in the public consciousness, “They have the longest mental gap to cross.”

I believe this is a true statement.

So, as I continue my work in building my own bridges with my “Roots” series, I would absolutely love if I could get some of you to write some pieces for a companion series I intend to call “Branches” which would (preferably) be narratives written from your perspectives in your own journeys crossing the mental gap Chappelle describes above.

These could be stories about me or just about generally getting to know, and/or coming to terms with transgender people being a part of culture.

If anyone would be willing to contribute any effort to this, I would greatly appreciate it! And if you are a blogger yourself or otherwise artistically motivated, I will ensure your work is properly attributed and celebrated in this series.

Thank you in advance to anyone who may be interested!