First off, they do. Some of them. Like me, for instance.
But this isn’t something I ever knew through my first 50 years of life. When I was little I was taught, unequivocally, that boys had penises and would grow up to be men, and girls had vaginas and would grow up to be female. It’s very black and white, and continues to be so today in mainstream society.
But I was born with a penis and I am female.
Most people wouldn’t understand or accept that and neither did I. I bought the binary simplicity. I knew there was something ‘different’ about me, but the physical evidence stamped me with my future. There was no way, that I knew at least, of getting around that. Not then.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. I’m ready to seriously start my journey toward Sex Reassignment Surgery, and frankly, it’s a journey I’d rather not have to make. It will be a big challenge, not only to me, but my partner and family. It’s a major operation, with a good probability of complications, pain, risk, and stress. Why would I willingly introduce that into my life?
It comes down to this: I have to. I know I do. As long as I am the way I am today I will continue to feel wrong, like my body isn’t mine.
And yet I find myself wondering, what if our society had taught me that some girls ARE born with penises? What if people were used to the idea so it was no big thing? Would I still feel compelled to have the operation, or would I be ok to be one of the special girls?
If this were true, if I would be okay if everyone else was okay with it, then it means I’m doing the operation for the wrong reasons – to appease others and their ideas of gender. I lived my whole life afraid of what others thought, ashamed to show myself, and I have vowed never to do that again. So why would I care if most people don’t understand still that girls can have penises instead of vaginas?
The thing is, I am thoroughly brainwashed, it seems. Try as I might, I cannot shake the binary concepts of gender that I hold. As much as anyone else, I like the simplicity of male and female, even though I understand it never is that simple. But I was taught this and 50 years of existing in a binary gender culture has coloured me.
It’s me, as much as anyone, who looks down and sees something wrong. Even though I understand that my genitals do not, in fact, make my gender identity, I cannot shake all that learning that in fact they do. I know, and have known since I was a child, that what I should look like down there is different. All my life I have ‘tucked it back’, closed my legs and smiled when I saw that smooth “Y”. It always looked right and felt right to me.
So, this, this primal thing, is what drives me to surgery. I want to feel right, and as much as I have transformed my body I still have this region of “wrongness.” The fact it is the region that our society still uses as the primary gender identifier, makes it a roadblock that needs to be cleared. In Canada, I cannot get the gender marker on my passport and birth certificate changed unless I have the operation.
But I do wonder, as I steer carefully down this path, if things were different, if we understood that gender wasn’t as rigid as we make it out to be and society understood that girls do have penises sometimes and are still girls, would I still feel compelled to have SRS? The fact is, it IS okay for me to stay the same. It doesn’t diminish who I am, and I haven’t seen that it changes the way people see me.
This is more personal, between me and my body, but sometimes I wonder if I am really seeing with my own eyes or with society’s?