I recently saw a question on Reddit which captured my attention. The question was:
What do you say to a specialist when asked “How do you know/what specifically makes you feel you are male/female?”
I’ve been asked that by therapists before, and I struggled with it at those times. The most recent time, I had been considering how to answer the question “how do you define ‘woman’?” That’s a hard question! Women come in all shapes and sizes, with all different interests and abilities. For every quality or trait I could think of, I could immediately come up with an example of a woman who did not fit that trait, and she is a woman regardless.
So when I saw the question this time, I felt a different response. Now that I’ve had a little more time to consider it, I found that I had something to say:
Pre-HRT: I’m not exactly sure – I just feel like I’m supposed to be a woman.
Now: because before I started HRT, I never saw myself when I looked in the mirror. Before HRT, I was miserable and despairing. Now that I’m on HRT, my brain feels clearer, I’m more at peace, and I can finally see something in my reflection which I’m beginning to recognize. Since beginning transition, I’ve come to realize that I had bought into the lie I was force-fed from birth, even when I had experiences and evidence from the start that it was a lie. Because now that I’ve stopped believing that lie and allowing myself to just *be*, my tendencies align more closely with those of other women more than those of men. Because when someone calls me by my real name or uses she/her pronouns with me, a feeling of rightness washes over me. Because when someone perceives and treats me like a man, it feels so wrong that I physically ache from the incongruity.
How do I know I’m a woman? Because every fiber of my being fought against me being a man and I beat it back only to make other people feel comfortable about me. Because when my estrogen levels begin to get low, I feel anger and aggression seeping into me, and that feels horrible. Because when I consider the possibility of getting GCS, I get butterflies in my stomach because I feel like it would correct a birth defect that I’ve lived with for decades. Because since I began living as a woman, I’ve blossomed.
Because if I were forced to return to feeling the way I used to feel, I’d probably be dead within a week. Because the thought of hell in the afterlife doesn’t scare me anywhere near as much as the hell of living the wrong life.
I am a woman because I *am*.
To me, the critical difference in my approaches (then and now) is that before, I was searching for some kind of proof – I wanted to be able to pull something out and show it to the questioner and say “see, I meet the criteria!”. Now, I’m looking at the question and using my experiences to answer. I still don’t have proof, but I don’t need it. I have found that my world makes much more sense when I move within it as a woman than it ever did as a man. My brain functions better when fueled by estrogen, and I feel more at peace when I feel like I’m relating to my body and to the world as a woman.
I still can’t define “woman” much better than I could before, but that doesn’t matter. For me, “woman” has stopped being something to quantify, or to qualify for. I’ve become secure in my knowledge of myself, and “woman” is one of the things I know myself to be.
So how about you? How do you know that you are the gender you say you are? I’m interested in your answers – especially if they don’t use physical characteristics (DNA, body parts, etc) as part of their justification.
Until next time,