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I must confess to being somewhat of a Shania Twain fan.  One of her better known songs is the hit entitled “Man! I feel like a woman”.

And so for today’s blog post I wanted to address the idea of feeling like a woman.

Much of what we see in the press in relation to transgender ideology inevitably involves the word “feel”; most commonly “feeling” like one was meant to be a woman or “feeling” born in the wrong body.

In yesterday’s blog post I spoken about the dangers of gender stereotyping and I believe this fits in quite nicely.

So, what exactly is a “feeling” ?

dictfeel

The dictionary gives two meanings for the word feeling; either an emotional state/reaction or an idea/belief. I find this very interesting.

Looking to the first meaning, the question that must be asked is if biological sex is an emotion ? I can describe to you what fear means because in my life I experienced both being in fear and not being in fear.  I can equally describe anger because I have experienced both anger and calm. How can I though define my biology as an emotion without a basis of comparison? I am and will always be a man and have nothing to compare that to. I can compare being a man with a beard to being a man in a dress but what exactly is that telling me other than how I feel about gender stereotypes ? Who defines how a woman should feel or how a man should feel ?

The second meaning seems much more appropriate; an idea or a belief. Ideas and beliefs are based on our life experiences, our circumstances and the influences of those around us, especially during childhood. Our collective set of ideas and beliefs are entirely unique to us.  Indeed these beliefs don’t have to be logical and frequently aren’t and I think all of us somewhere have strange ideas that we have carried throughout our lives that seldom make sense!

When someone says “I feel like a woman” to disagree is a fruitless argument. Without a basis of comparison between being both biological man and biological woman it is impossible to argue. Furthermore it is quite possible that someone does indeed “feel like a woman” in that they have an idea or belief based on their understanding of gender roles and stereotypes and the influences that person has been exposed to. Remember right now we are seeing a generation of kids being exposed to the idea that sex is not biological and human beings really can change sex. When the dictionary says these ideas and beliefs are often vague and irrational they have it right.

The obvious question I suspect is how can I be transsexual yet reject the notion of “feeling like a woman”.  Probably all of us have been exposed to gender stereotypes and gender roles growing up. Coming from a religious background I might argue that for me that exposure was above average for want of a better phrase.  I was “the man” to be head of a household. I was “the man” who should go out and earn money to be the great provider. I was “the man” so I was not allowed to have an emotional response.  In the face of these stereotypes we all respond in very different ways. Many accept these stereotypes and live their lives quite happily. Increasing numbers reject some of these stereotypes but again live their lives perfectly content.

For a very small group of people however these stereotypes can cause significant distress leading to mental illness in some cases. The pressure of the societal rules associated with a natal sex is so overwhelming that it causes anxiety, fear, anger, panic, despair and I’m sure a few others besides.

As a man I like make-up. I like to carry a handbag. I hate all sports. I like to knit. I enjoy shopping and fashion. I like dolls houses. I could give many more examples. Simply though, that is me and when society tells me that I am not allowed to be me this causes so much distress that my life is adversely impacted. Everything from TV adverts to magazine articles to product marketing is geared to telling me “these things that you like aren’t for you because you are not a natal woman”.

I do not “feel like a woman”.

I do feel overwhelming distress at societal expectations as to how I should behave as a man. This distress is so severe as to cause severe anxiety and panic.

I am not a woman nor am I trying to be a woman. I am trying to live my best life free from the societal pressures that tell me that the way I choose to be a man is wrong and forcing me in a direction I simply cannot go. I am so disconnected with the male stereotypes and role that I cannot function within it. I am not trying to be a woman; I am trying to not be a man.

This is what being transsexual means to me. I very much aligned with the gender roles and stereotypes that society has defined as being a woman. I detested my male body and what it represents. I wish that I had been born a woman but I am not.

As I said yesterday the solution is not to redefine woman but to allow man to include people like me. Unfortunately for me my life experiences and circumstances have so damaged my mental being that medical intervention was necessary. Perhaps in a more enlightened and equal society the idea of “gender reassignment surgery” may become a thing of the past.