Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Pleasant Riff on Being Transgender

Lent Day 2, and already I've had to stop myself twice from typing something snarky. Not here but on Facebook--but I think snark is snark, and sadly I seem to enjoy it.

I went to the library today--finally found my long-overdue books, one under the sofa and the other mysteriously in my daughter's room--perused the new YA shelves as I always do, and was pleased and a bit surprised--though I shouldn't have been, we have such a fabulous YA librarian--to see the book Some Assembly Required. Some of you might know an older (and very good) book by that title, by Anne Lamott, but this is a new book by Arin Andrews, and the subtitle is The Not-So Secret Life of a Transgender Teen.

I'd already read the book, last week, when I decided that I really didn't know much about what it was like to be transgender. I still don't know with my emotions--I've always felt female--but I now know better with my mind.

As I was walking out of the library, I got an email from my alma mater, Smith College, updating me on a survey they're doing regarding gender. Smith is and always has been a women's college that does not admit men to its undergraduate programs. They're now trying to decide what exactly they mean by "women" and "men" in terms of transgender students. I'm glad they're thinking about it because I've realized it's a more complicated question than I thought.

People can be born with XY genes (genetically male) but lacking the ability for their cells to respond to testosterone, either wholly or partially, making them appear to be physically female, or indeterminate.  People can be born with the genotype XXY and with either male or female genitalia. They can be born with the genotype XX, genetically female, and yet have male external genitalia. In all of those cases, the person's core feeling of self might match either their genes or their genitals.

I know, personally, one trans-male person. He used to babysit for my children. He's a really nice guy, and I like all his family too, especially his mom who is a friend of mine. I can't imagine what it was like for her to realize that a child she thought was her daughter was more correctly her son, but I think she's handled--is handling? his transition well. He is foremost her child, and she loves him.

I didn't know nearly as much about range of possibilities for human gender, both anatomically and genetically, two weeks ago. It hasn't taken me long to learn. I hope other people will take the time to learn, too; I hope lots of Bristol teens will read Some Assembly Required. I would like a world where we all get to express who we are, who we were created to be.