copyright 2001, D. Glenn Arthur Jr.
[What's new at this site] Last updated 2003-01-30.

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What I mean when I say I'm transgendered

What does "transgendered" mean?

"Transgendered" is a term that encompasses a range of related phenomena. It includes transvestites, transexuals, drag queens, drag kings, transgenderists, intergendered and polygendered people, "gender outlaws", and others who relate to gender in unconventional ways.

Just about everybody in the transgendered community seems to know, and few outside of it do, that various studies have shown that there is no statistical correlatation between sexual orientation and gender identity. That is, transgendered folks are no more likely (or less likely either) to be gay than non-transgendered folks. By the same token, homosexuals are no more (or less) likely to be transvestites or transexuals than heterosexuals are. (They may, on the other hand, be more likely to be open about it if they're both.) Sexual orientation and gender identity are distinct, separate phenomena. (More confusing gender identities make it more obvious that sexual orientation has more dimensions than most people usually think of, but that's a topic for another page.)

So what kind of transgendered person am I?

If I were sure I fit neatly into a more specific catagory, I'd give myself a more specific label. I'm still trying to figure out whether I'm a transexual or a transvestite -- that is, am I a transexual who's too chicken to face that and make the big changes in my life that'll make me happier once I work up the nerve, or am I a transvestite who's gotten carried away and convinced myself I'm transexual? But perhaps I'm neither ... or halfway between, or both.

Kate Bornstein coined the term "gender outlaw" (and wrote a book with that title). For a while before I read her book I'd been thinking about how I feel, gender-wise, and wondering whether instead of being a male-to-female transwhatever, maybe I'm a male-to-both. Reading Ms. Bornstein's writing on that very idea felt very liberating. Knowing that someone else had thought of things in a way similar to mine made me feel my idea wasn't quite so far out there. Since then, I've been seeing the terms "bi-gendered", "intergendered" and "polygendered" more and more often, and it's quite likely that one or more of those applies to me.

While I'm not sure exactly where I'm going, I do know that I'd like to make my body a bit more feminine whether I ever transition or not. Someday I hope to have enough spare money to see a pshrink who can approve me for hormones and help me figure out what I want to do.

Where I am now is this: I am still quite visibly male -- I have body hair, I have a pretty intense beard (not quite six inches), and my hair is pretty thin on top -- so I don't even come close to "passing", but I do wear skirts or dresses, and usually heels, nearly all the time. It's what feels right to me. And besides, I like to feel pretty.

I wear boyclothes when I visit my mother -- at her request -- and when I perform with The Homespun Ceilidh Band (fortunately I now have a kilt, so "boyclothes" doesn't have to mean "pants" when I perform with HCB) and when I attend medieval-reenacment events or the Maryland Renaissance Festival (but medieval or renaissance boyclothes, not modern). I wear more conventional male clothing to weddings if the couple in question so requests, but about half my friends who've gotten married have preferred that I show up dressed as myself. The other half would have liked me to come as myself but asked me to put on pants so as to avoid giving their parents fits.

Other than the times I've just listed, I crossdress. Before I left my last job (to go on disability for fibromyalgia) I wore men's garb when I was in the office during regular hours, but if I went in late in the evening or worked on a weekend, I wore skirts. Nobody seemed to mind, or even be particularly startled.

My friends are usually surprised and/or confused when they see me in masculine clothing. If I show up someplace in a coat and tie, jaws drop. They're unanimous, or close to it, that for me "drag" is when I'm in men's clothing and normal is a skirt.

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