Vegan HRT

” The resulting brew is drinkable, but to me tastes sort of like overcooked spinach.”

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I’ve seen quite a few posts on transgender-related Facebook groups asking about various possible plant sources of estrogens or androgens. This happens to be something I researched in some detail during the years when I was trying to get around the Harry Benjamin standards of care. The most helpful source I found during that time was a U.S. Department of Agriculture website, “Dr. Duke’s Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases” (https://phytochem.nal.usda.gov/phytochem/search ). It’s a comprehensive compilation of research on chemicals found in plants and is searchable by plant species, chemical name, chemical activity and other, more technical terms.

Here’s a brief rundown on some of what I found out there in looking for sources of estrogen:

First, there’s a difference between actual estrogens and other chemicals that are estrogenic, i.e., have effects or activities that are similar to estrogens in some way and/or to some degree. The database lists a total of 81 chemicals as estrogenic (plus one more listed as possibly but not confirmed as estrogenic, rutin (see more below). In contrast, the database lists just five estrogens: estradiol, estradiol-17-beta, estriol, estrone and coumestrol.

Here is each of the estrogens and the plant sources for them, by species name followed by common names (the words in parentheses refer to the actual part of the plant in which they’re found):

Estradiol
Humulus lupulus – Hops (fruit)
Panax ginseng – Ginseng; Oriental Ginseng; Korean Ginseng; Chinese Ginseng (root)
Panax quinquefolius – American Ginseng (plant)
Punica granatum – Pomegranate (seed)

Estradiol-17-beta
Phaseolus vulgaris – Navy Bean; Green Bean; Pop Bean; Field Bean; Haricot Bean; Flageolet Bean; Snap Bean; French Bean; Black Bean; Dwarf Bean; Popping Bean; Kidney Bean; Wax Bean; String Bean; Haricot; Garden Bean; Haricot Vert (seed; i.e., the bean itself, not the pod)

Estriol
Glycyrrhiza glabra – Licorice; Smooth Licorice; Licorice-Root; Common Licorice (root)
Panax ginseng – Ginseng; Oriental Ginseng; Korean Ginseng; Chinese Ginseng (root)
Punica granatum – Pomegranate (seed)
Salix sp. – Willow (flowers)

Estrone
Humulus lupulus – Hops (fruit)
Malus domestica – Apple (seed)
Olea europaea – Olive (seed)
Panax ginseng – Ginseng; Oriental Ginseng; Korean Ginseng; Chinese Ginseng (root)
Panax quinquefolius – American Ginseng (plant)
Perilla frutescens – Perilla (sprout, seedling)
Phaseolus vulgaris – Navy Bean; Green Bean; Pop Bean; Field Bean; Haricot Bean; Flageolet Bean; Snap Bean; French Bean; Black Bean; Dwarf Bean; Popping Bean; Kidney Bean; Wax Bean; String Bean; Haricot; Garden Bean; Haricot Vert (seed)
Phoenix dactylifera – Date palm (pollen, seed)
Prunus armeniaca – Apricot (seed)
Punica granatum – Pomegranate (seed)
Zea mays – Corn, Maize (seed, oil)

Coumestrol
Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera – Brussels Sprout (shoot)
Glycine max – Soybean (shoot, plant, seed, root, leaf)
Medicago sativa – Alfalfa; Lucerne (root, sprout/seedling, leaf, shoot, plant)
Phaseolus lunatus – Lima Bean; Butter Bean (seed)
Phaseolus vulgaris – Navy Bean; Green Bean; Pop Bean; Field Bean; Haricot Bean; Flageolet Bean; Snap Bean; French Bean; Black Bean; Dwarf Bean; Popping Bean; Kidney Bean; Wax Bean; String Bean; Haricot; Garden Bean; Haricot Vert (seed)
Pisum sativum – Pea (fruit)
Psoralea corylifolia – Black Dot; Malaya Tea; Babchi (root)
Trifolium pratense – Red Clover (root, sprout, plant, flower)

One thing to be taken into consideration upfront: Estradiol is by far the strongest (i.e., the most biologically active) of these substances; all the others are far weaker, which means they would have to be consumed in much larger quantities to get the same effect. At the same time, the concentrations of all of the chemicals, including estradiol, are pretty low, so even those plants would have to be consumed in mass quantities to have any effect. It should also be mentioned that some of these plants also show up on a search of the database for chemicals with anti-estrogenic properties, which would suggest that consuming those plants would end up having no net effect.

My impression is that while many of these plants might offer some help to women dealing with the symptoms of menopause, they offer little or no help to transgenders seeking substitutes for prescription HRT. And I speak from experience, having tried some of them.

Based on my research, some years ago I decided that the most promising of these plants was red clover. For one thing, it has a much higher concentration of coumestrol than any other plant (1,322 mg/100g compared with 14.08 mg/100g for the second-place source, dry kala chana, whatever that is; so almost 100 times as strong). In addition, red clover also contains high concentrations of coumarin, a chemical precursor for anti-coagulants such as coumadin (Warfarin).

Which brings us to rutin. The USDA database cites one study (Economic & Medicinal Plant Research, 6: 189) that found estrogenic properties for rutin, a flavonoid found widely in citrus fruit and numerous other plant species. It’s also an anti-coagulant recommended for prevention of HRT-related blood clots. The USDA database lists a total of 263 plants that contain some rutin, but since it’s readily available as a nutritional supplement, I won’t go into detail.

Many of the other plant sources are also available at health food stores, pharmacies, etc. Estriol is also available in pill form outside the U.S., but in this country it’s only available in topical creams. Red clover can be found in capsules, which I personally found fairly indigestible, and also in teabags; the resulting brew is drinkable, but to me tastes sort of like overcooked spinach. (I also tried ginseng capsules for a while, with similarly disappointing results.)

Anyone who’s on HRT should avoid phytoestrogens because they bind to estrogen receptors and block the more active prescription estrogen you’re taking. If for whatever reason you’re unable to obtain prescription estrogen, you could try these phytoestrogens, but my personal experience was that they had no perceptible effect. (Which is not in any way meant to imply that they aren’t effective for treatment of menopausal symptoms; there does appear to be a fair amount of research supporting their efficacy for that purpose.)

As for the non-estrogen “estrogenic” chemicals, some may actually have stronger effects than the actual estrogens. Most are flavonoids or isoflavones, such as genistein and daidzein, which are found in abundance in soybeans. The same caveat about avoiding them while on HRT applies here, too.

Not on any of these lists is that favorite ingredient in nutritional supplements aimed at menopausal women: black cohosh (Actaea racemosa). According to USDA, black cohosh contains no estrogens, but does contain one isoflavone, Formononetin, that (like other isoflavones) has some estrogenic properties.

I apologize to any transmen readers for not including information about androgens and androgenic chemicals, but I would surmise that the same kinds of limitations and caveats apply to the phyto- sources for those types of chemicals: use only if you can’t get the prescription stuff, and don’t expect much effect.

A History of Gender Non-conformity in One Image

The whole “transsexual” thing is an excellent example of how descriptions become prescriptions.

Taking a cue from vox.com in the title. Probably a little overstated, but there it is.

What we’re looking at is a graph from Google’s Ngram service (https://books.google.com/ngrams ), which searches all of Google’s archive of books and other texts and then displays the results in graphic format, showing the percentage of texts that include the searched word or phrase.

What we see here is that there was very little discussion of gender identity in any way except in terms of cross-dressing within the gay entertainment sector (“travesti,” “female impersonator”) through the first half of the 20th century. I ran the search terms back to the 1700s, and they show the same pattern. (What we’re talking about here is almost exclusively MtF; FtM was even slower to appear on the radar, likely because the professionals researching these things have long been mainly cis-male doctors, who aren’t exactly noted for their sensitivity to women’s psycho-medical concerns.)

Activity picks up a little in the late 1920s, but from that point until the 1960s it’s all connected with that entertainment sector. The most active terms are “travesti,” “in drag,” and “female impersonator.”

The developments are a little easier to see if we drill down a little, so here’s the same chart from 1950 to 2007:

 

00multi03

It’s clear that the whole discourse about gender identity / gender expression takes off from the mid-1960s. And it’s possible to pinpoint a couple of reasons why it starts there, the main reason being the publication of Christine Jorgensen’s autobiography in 1967, followed the next year by Gore Vidal’s novel, “Myra Breckinridge.” Those two books brought the whole topic of what was then primarily called “transsexualism” to bookshelves across America, and in the years immediately following it became a subject of discussion on TV talk shows and so on.

The discussion at that point was not very well-informed. The psycho-medical establishment was in the early stages of deciding what to do about non-conforming gender identities, and the whole “transsexual” thing is an excellent example of how descriptions become prescriptions: Dr. X publishes a study that says, “Here’s a case history of someone who exhibits characteristics a, b, c and d, and I’m calling that set of characteristics ‘transsexualism.'” Subsequent researchers and/or practitioners then say, “You have characteristics a, b and c, but you don’t have d, therefore you’re not really a transsexual.”

The way that played out was that the early studies of “transsexuals” led the psycho-medical establishment to define the “condition” in terms of their own biases and stereotypes. How that played out was that they expected the treatments available (hormones, surgery) to result in the conversion of an anatomical male into a “normal” female – so the resulting female would, of course, be “heterosexual,” meaning that she would automatically be sexually attracted to men.

These several decades later, we know that’s not how it works. Gender identity and sexual orientation are two different things. Many if not most people who have undergone hormone therapy and even surgery have not experienced changes in their sexual orientation. But under the “transsexual” model, it was expected that 1. every gender non-conforming person would ultimately want to “change their sex,” i.e., go through hormone therapy and surgery, and 2. would be “heterosexual” in terms of their post-treatment gender.

As actual case histories began to multiply over the next couple of decades, it began to be clear that this model was seriously inaccurate, and the people seeking treatment began to resist the prescriptiveness being forced upon them. A watershed was the publication in 1994 of Kate Bornstein’s book, “Gender Outlaw,” which argued against the imposition of the “transsexual” model on all gender non-conforming people. And as the chart makes clear, it’s from this point in the mid-1990s that the term “transgender” begins to rise in frequency to become the dominant word and concept in the discussion of gender identity.

I included “genderqueer” in the chart, and we see that it’s a very rarely used term, at least up until 2007. I originally also included “gender fluid” (and also “genderfluid” without the space) and found that there were zero hits on it, which leads me to conclude that the term was first used sometime after 2007. Clearly, the whole topic is still in flux, and it might be wise to refrain from getting too attached to any particular terms or concepts. At the same time, it seems as though pretty much any of us, if allowed and encouraged to find our own individual way, could potentially send the whole discussion in a different, and possibly better, direction by finding a new word or phrase or description that opens new avenues for understanding.

Dark Light

All seeing is seeing light. All experience is inner experience.

I have a secret superpower: I can make myself invisible.

I’m not joking, this is serious. It’s not like saying, “Want to be invisible? Just tell all your friends you need to borrow money.” Being unseen isn’t being invisible. This isn’t about being unseen, it’s about being unseeable.

Here’s how it works: All seeing is seeing light. All we ever see, all we can ever see, is light. When you look at, say, a tree, you don’t see the tree itself, you see light that has bounced off the surface of the tree. You don’t see the tree, you see the light reflected by the tree. That light enters your eyes and touches your retinas, where it’s converted into electrochemical impulses (so “science” says). Those impulses travel up the optic nerve to your brain, which then – “somehow” – converts them into what you believe is a tree, but what is really an inner image of a tree. The tree is not “out there,” it is “in here” that you experience it. All seeing, all sense-perception, all experience – happens “in here.” All experience is inner experience.

If all seeing is seeing light, then to make something visible become invisible – not just unseen, but unseeable – means removing it from all light. It isn’t difficult to do that – in fact, people do it all the time. All you have to do is go into an enclosed space where light cannot enter. You will thus be rendered not only unseen – because you’ve gone into a dark box no one can see inside – but unseeable, because even if someone were to get inside your box, there’s no light, so they couldn’t see anything, if there were anything to see.

A closet, for example.

Okay, making myself invisible isn’t really a superpower, anyone can do it. And in fact a lot of people do it – they regularly, and some of them constantly, and one way or another, conceal themselves, or some part of themselves – becoming unseen though perhaps not unseeable.

What’s to conceal? Why would you or I want to make sure that something about ourselves never, as people say, “sees the light of day”? Because we fear that there will be unpleasant consequences if other people see what we’re doing or what we really are in our true “disconcealed” state. People are, we know, widely inclined to pass judgment on others and to inflict punishment on anyone they judge negatively. Those judgments are as often based on ignorance or prejudice as on knowledge and intelligence. To avoid being subjected to them, we are often driven to hide things that we know are harmless or even beneficial, because we know there are other people who insist on seeing them as harmful and wrong and requiring eradication.

Thus is created a twilight world, a shadow world, an underground, where everything lives that society disapproves, everything rejected, neglected or viewed as infected – the “immoral,” the misfit, the unruly and untamed – things good thrown in with things bad, the sweet and lovely next to the foul and ugly, the natural saint keeping company with the thief and cutthroat in the foggy cellars of Shadowland.

Here’s another secret: The universe is full of light, the darkest-seeming expanses of space are filled with light – light we can’t see and will never see unless someone or something enters the darkness and reveals the light hidden there.

sol01

What do we see when we look at the sky on a clear night? Points of light scattered across a field of darkness: stars, planets, the Moon. The stars emit their own light, and we see them because some tiny fraction of their light enters our eyes and becomes an image in our mind. But the Moon and planets are different. Remember, all seeing is seeing light, but the Moon emits no light of its own. Its glow reveals to us that the dark-seeming space surrounding our planet is filled – flooded – with sunlight at all times. In daytime, some of that light streams straight at us or strikes the objects around us, bounces off, and enters our eyes, and so forth. But at night the mass of the Earth blocks the Sun’s direct light and we find ourselves in the Earth’s shadow. So although the Sun never ceases radiating light in all directions, we see only the tiny fraction of that light that enters our eyes. At night, the light streams past us unseen though it fills the space around us – invisible and absolutely dark to us.

But when the Moon rises and passes across the sky, the flood of invisible light washes over it, and some of that light reflects toward us, so that now we can see the light, the light that was pure darkness to us until the Moon revealed it.

Like the secret of invisibility, this secret of dark light is no secret, but just something rarely given any thought. To give thought to what is unknown or ignored is to enter the shadows in search of unseen light, to rise above the dark horizon and become a mirror for the invisible. Fearing and hating the darkness only deepens it. Enter the night with open eyes, look for the light that’s always there, and let it shine on you and in you for all the world to see.

Trans_Day_Visibility

We Are the Mainstream

“There is broad public support for laws protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing.”

Just a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how data from the General Social Survey, going back to the 1970s, showed that Americans have grown out of their fear and loathing of the LGBTIQ+ community and that the remaining residue of hating is coming from a minority made up mostly of Fundamentalist Christians.
Today, the Public Religion Research Institute released a report (http://www.prri.org/research/lgbt-transgender-bathroom-discrimination-religious-liberty/ ) that backs my argument. The headline – “Majority of Americans Oppose Transgender Bathroom Restrictions” – shouldn’t deter anyone from reading the report: it’s about much much more than potty paranoia. Here are some of the real takeaways:

• “There is broad public support for laws protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people against discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing. Seven in ten (70%) Americans favor laws that would provide these protections to LGBT people, compared to roughly one-quarter (26%) who oppose such laws. … Majorities of all major religious groups favor nondiscrimination laws for LGBT people. … Even among white evangelical Protestants — the religious group that most strongly opposes same-sex marriage — a majority (56%) support laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination.”

• “Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Americans agree that the bullying of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender teens is a major problem in our schools.”

• “More than six in ten Americans say gay and lesbian people (61%) and transgender people (64%) face a lot of discrimination in the U.S. today. … White evangelical Protestants stand out as the only [religious] group in which less than a majority (46%) believe gay and lesbian people face a lot of discrimination today.”

• “Nearly two-thirds (64%) of Americans oppose allowing small business owners in their state to refuse to provide products or services to gay or lesbian people if doing so violates their religious beliefs. … White evangelical Protestants (56%) stand out as the only major religious group that favors allowing small business owners to refuse goods or services to gay and lesbian people on religious grounds.”

• “After plateauing in 2015, support for same-sex marriage has accelerated through 2016 and into early 2017. Today, more than six in ten (63%) favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally. As recently as 2013, only slightly more than half (52%) the public backed same-sex marriage nationally. … Same-sex marriage now garners majority support among most religious groups. Roughly two-thirds of white mainline Protestants (66%) and Catholics (68%), and more than eight in ten (84%) religiously unaffiliated Americans and members of non-Christian religious traditions (86%) favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally. In stark contrast, only about one-third (34%) of white evangelical Protestants and roughly half (47%) of black Protestants support same-sex marriage.”

• “A majority (53%) of Americans oppose laws that would require transgender people to use bathrooms that correspond to their sex at birth rather than their current gender identity. Nearly four in ten (39%) favor such laws. Notably, nearly one in ten (8%) Americans report no opinion on this issue.”

There’s much more in the report, but I just wanted to highlight these points concerning the real public attitude toward gender identity and sexual orientation amid so many moves in the opposite direction. Those who want to impose their rigid prejudices on the rest of us cannot claim that they do so to serve the public good.

Regina Noctis

O farewell sunshine bright,
Welcome Queen of the Night.

Memory like the glow
of a day long ago
of a child’s lonely play
on a long summer day
Solitary she sings
of impossible things
as she walks through the meadow
all alone with her shadowsummer01
The dark forest is near
It fills her heart with fear
Is there someone in there,
does she feel their eyes stare,
does she hear whisperings
of invisible things?

The shadows grow longer
The breezes blow stronger
The whispers sound clear now
She feels no more fear now
The twilight advancing
makes a girl feel like dancing
The darkening sky
unveils stars shining high
O farewell sunshine bright,
Welcome Queen of the Night.

luna01From the shadows they rise
Moonlight shines in their eyes
Pretty creatures of night
coming out to delight
in each other’s fair faces
and ecstatic embraces
welcoming all who love
the bright queen up above
Now they dance, how they dance,
falling into a trance
where this night lasts forever
and morning will never
put an end to the joys
of untamed girls and boys.hughes_fairies

But the circling moon
knows the sun will rise soon
and the harsh light of day
will chase love far away
And then memory’s glow
will be all we will know
of the long ago night
we danced in the moonlight.

moonbeams-dipping-into-the-sea-evelyn-de-morgan.jpg

No True Christian

This young woman’s parents (and their church) had been preaching to her that God will send all LGBTIQ people to hell, quoting all the usual Bible verses condemning these things.

Quite a few years ago, a transgender teen spoke up at a support group meeting I attended about her problems at home. She was very upset, understandably so. Her parents were part of that minority of Americans I wrote about last time who believe the Bible is “is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.” (Based on the wording of a question (code BIBLE) in the General Social Survey (GSS), a massive long-term, large-scale survey conducted regularly since 1972. (Data available online at http://sda.berkeley.edu/sdaweb/analysis/?dataset=gss14).

This young woman’s parents (and their church) had been preaching to her that God will send all LGBTIQ people to hell, quoting all the usual Bible verses condemning these things. The one that seemed to damn her most definitively for her gender identity was Deuteronomy 22:5: “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.”

The reason she found it so disturbing, she explained, was that she really wanted to be a good Christian, but she was being told that to be a good Christian, she must believe the Bible is literally true, and if the Bible really is literally true, then God must condemn her for wanting to express her deepest feelings about herself.

I found it all pretty upsetting and disturbing, too, but for different reasons. At the time, I had already been studying religion and the history of religion for several years, and I knew that many of the claims that Christian Fundamentalists make about their teachings are simply untrue. And eventually, I told her so.

“You don’t have to believe that,” I said. “Most Christians don’t believe you have to interpret everything in the Bible literally. Many of the greatest thinkers of the early church didn’t believe that – they even taught that taking the Bible literally was just wrong in a lot of cases, and you have to look for the higher, spiritual meaning behind the surface meaning.”

All of which is quite true.

For starters, turning again to the GSS, among respondents to a question about what religion they belong to (code RELIG), only about two out of five people who identify themselves as Christians give the TWOG response (The Word of God) to the BIBLE question I wrote about last time. In other words, TWOGs are a minority not just among Americans but also among American Christians. The largest number, 50 percent, are what I call INSPs (“The Bible is the inspired word of God but not everything in it should be taken literally, word for word”) and about 10 percent even give the least Fundamentalist response (“The Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by men.”)

Of course, TWOGs/Fundamentalists regularly claim that if you don’t agree with them on this point, you’re not a “real” or a “good” Christian. Besides being an example of the classic “No True Scotsman” fallacy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman ), if this claim were true, it would mean that many eminent church fathers, including Clement of Alexandria, Saint Jerome and even Saint Augustine (beloved by Fundamentalists for formulating the doctrine of original sin) were not “real Christians.”

The real reason Fundamentalists preach Biblical literalism (though they don’t actually practice it consistently) is, I believe, pure authoritarianism and dates to the Reformation: rejecting the authority of the Roman Catholic church and especially the Pope, the Protestants embraced the Bible as the only sure authority for religious belief and practice – but authoritative only if interpreted according to their own teachings.

There are numerous problems with the whole Fundamentalist approach, but one of the most glaring is the fact that the effort to declare the Bible an infallible authority about everything in the universe boils down to another classic logical fallacy, the argument from authority (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_authority ).

What that boils down to is that it doesn’t matter who makes a statement, you still have to judge whether the statement’s content is true, i.e., corresponds with reality. Alas, in many, many cases, the Bible’s statements do not. Threatening people with eternal damnation for not believing things that don’t make sense isn’t “good Christianity,” it’s just bullying.

The Path Not Chosen

“Despite my strenuous efforts to be as boyish as the next boy, my peers never accepted me as fully masculine.”

It appears that certain elements of today’s society – I’m referring, of course, to Trump and his allies – think they can substitute an imaginary reality for the real one as a way of cramming their dehumanizing, anti-democracy agenda down the throats of Americans. I think this is wrong in every sense of the word, and also debasing and destructive to our whole culture.

At its core, this strategy aims to make opposition to Trump’s policies impossible by denying the existence of any facts that would demonstrate the malignancy of those policies, and asserting the existence of “alternative facts” that allegedly demonstrate their virtue and even necessity. So we see things like Trump ordering government workers to “disappear” data on climate change, presumably to replace the real, scientific data with the kind of phony, biased research that right-wing and oil company-funded outfits like the Heritage Foundation have been churning out for years.

Of particular concern to me right now is the circulation of falsehoods about the nature of sexual orientation and gender identity (and gender in general) by people who just want to discredit the advances in understanding of these matters that have been achieved in recent decades. Opponents of same-sex marriage and LGBTQI equality simply want to silence us so they can turn the clock back and force us back into the closet and the shadows, or prison.

Just in the last few days, for example, it seems that a ridiculous lie has been spewed across the internet to the effect that transgenderism is a sort of “fad” that was “made up” by social media site Tumblr. Clearly, what this breathtakingly stupid claim is meant to achieve is the delegitimization of all of the abundant evidence showing that transgenderism or non-binary gender is, in fact, a reality, and is not something people adopt voluntarily the way they might decide to get a tattoo. (Some people, of course, have claimed for years that homosexuality is a matter of choice, despite the blindingly obvious idiocy of the claim.)

I’m well into my seventh decade and can tell you from personal observation that transgenderism or non-binary gender is a “real thing” and has been around a lot longer than Tumblr, other social media, and the internet as a whole. As a term describing a certain state of being, it may be relatively new, but the state of being it describes has been around for probably as long as human beings have existed.

I can only vouch personally for the time from the late 1950s to the present. It was back then, when I was just 5 or 6 years old, that I began to realize that though I was told I was a boy, I had a definite preference or inclination toward things considered “feminine” and a definite disinclination toward things “masculine.”

My inclination was strongly discouraged by my parents whenever I tried to exhibit it in any outward way, and my father in particular pushed me hard to act more like boys were supposed to act, and take an interest in the things boys were supposed to like. By “pushed hard,” I mean that he (and my mother, too) used every means at their disposal to encourage, persuade, punish, shame, and even beat me into conforming with their ideas (and society’s) about what a boy my age should be.

But here’s the thing that makes me convinced that gender identity is not the either/or matter, determined by birth anatomy, that so many people think it is: With all the incentives I was given to conform, I naturally tried very hard to meet my parents’ (and society’s) expectations in this regard. But despite my strenuous efforts to be as boyish as the next boy, my peers never accepted me as fully masculine.

Somehow they knew that there was something “other” going on with me, and throughout my youth, from grade school to high school, I was more or less continuously taunted, insulted, harrassed, abused and even assaulted. Starting with “You walk like a girl, you run like a girl, you throw like a girl, you fight like a girl, you cry like a girl” – because, yes, that kind of thing did sometimes drive me to tears. And later on: sissy, queer, homo, faggot, and all the other terms that creative haters have come up with over the years.

What this proved to me, in sum, is that my gender identity is not something that I initiated in any way or have any control over. It is an objective reality that I have to live with in the same way as the color of my eyes or the size of my feet (or, indeed, the shape of the moon). I might be able to disguise these things for a time, but I can’t make them go away. And for someone to assault me or deprive me of my rights because of my gender identity makes exactly as much sense as insulting or attacking me about the size of my feet.

It took me a long time to accept the reality of it. For years, I oscillated between being strongly driven to live and express what I was feeling and being just as strongly driven to deny and reject it (i.e., I experienced dysphoria, as it’s called now). But I understand now that it’s real, and it’s really part of me, and to eradicate it would be as much an act of self-mutilation as cutting off my feet, and just as pointless. So to any transphobes out there who still want to insult me, then insult away, and be damned. You won’t change me.