Am I Transgender By This Definition?

Posted on April 27, 2012


Let’s be clear.  I am straight, long married to a person of the opposite sex, and if you ask me, I will tell you that I am female.  I don’t “feel” male, or trapped in the wrong body, and I am not attracted to women.  But check out Diane Ehrensaft’s definition of transgendered identity  from this article in The Washington Post:

Gender non-conformity refers to any individual, adult or child, who does not abide by our culture’s socially defined binary gender boxes… A parent will recognize it just by paying attention — it is the child who in one way or another says a transgressive “no, I don’t want to” or “no, I won’t” or “no, I can’t” to social expectations about gender, and it is the child who in one way or another says, “But here’s the way I’m going to put gender together creatively for myself, based on my own needs and desires.”   …the child who consistently, persistently or even insistently crosses gender lines in either presentation, activities or declaration of what their gender is….  will fit the category of gender-nonconforming children.

That describes… me.  I was the little girl who hated dresses; I can remember hating them even when I was just three or four years old.  I liked cap guns and my brother’s Army toys.  GI Joe was much cooler than Barbie, whose feet were weird (the better to accommodate high heels).  I thought baby dolls were creepy.  It wasn’t a phase.  I grew up and joined the Army, had a blast with the weapons training, never did care for high heels, and never wanted anything to do with babies.

Does this make me transgender?  I never thought so.  Still don’t.  I just wanted an identity in my own right, not to be an appendage of my husband and children.  Mrs. John Doe.  Johnny Doe Jr.’s mom.   Sadly, in the mid-1960s and early 1970s, there really weren’t a lot of great female characters in the popular media, or even in books.  They were weak, fainting, constantly being rescued by men.  Even if they had some backbone, they were the homebodies while the men went forth and did the great deeds.  They were somebody’s mom, somebody’s wife, somebody’s virginal daughter who needed protecting.  But they weren’t somebody themselves.

Is it any surprise, then, that I identified with male role models?  That I played Little John to my brother’s Robin Hood, or Mr. Spock to my brother’s Captain Kirk?  (Actually, Lt. Uhura was the very first female role that  I respected, because – surprise! – she did things that mattered.  Unlike Nurse Chapel, constantly mooning over her unrequited love for Mr. Spock, or that bizarre Yeoman, who seemed fit only to hold clipboards and pour coffee.)  Young as I was, I had picked up on the social expectation for my gender, found it wanting, and rejected it.  That doesn’t make me transgender.  It just makes me unwilling to be relegated to a mere supporting role in the movie of my husband’s life.

You would think things might have changed by now, but apparently not.   Why should gender identity be based on other people’s expectations?  Look at young Shiloh Jolie-Pitt.  The press scrutinizes her haircut and clothes and ponders whether allowing her to dress “like a boy” is “harming” her.  Puh-leeze.  Oh, the battles I used to fight with my mother as I was forced into those hated little smock dresses.  And in the end, it made not a whit of difference.  Today, there is not one dress in my closet.  It would have been so much easier to just let me wear pants from the start.  But no, that was not what society wanted.  Pfft.  Screw society.

This definition of a possibly transgendered child is way too broad.  A mere preference for cap guns over dollies ain’t it; it goes far deeper than that.  I’d like to hear from some transgendered folks out there – do you agree?  What is your experience like?

Originally published at The Color of Lila.