The truth is that as a blogger I’m a bit of a sycophant. I need readers in order to be motivated to write and I thrive when I know they’re out there. So I’m just happy she found it worth responding to!
But in reading it, I realized that Kira viewed the question in a very different way than I did. As such, I agree with much of what she says. Part of the problem may have been a failing on my part to provide the context in which the question was asked.
The conversation that prompted it was in part focused on some of my own frustrations about the pace and quality of my transition, and whether or not I’d ever be able to extricate myself from my life to a degree that transitioning would not shatter everything I’ve gained in my adult life (that’s not shattered already — see my marriage, for example). In other words, the question was asked not in the context of “maybe you’re not really trans, maybe you’re a crossdresser,” but more in the context of “Do you think that you could live your life the way a crossdresser does — moving back and forth between Him and Her — than transitioning all the way?”
“No single thing abides, and all things are fucked up.”
I’ll quote the concluding point of Kira’s post, as it’s where she directly addressed the question my therapist had asked. Kira writes:
To me, this is what separates me from Crossdressers, they put on a persona. An almost separate identity from themselves, becoming something else while presenting as the opposite gender, yet inside, in their heart of hearts, they are the same person in a different costume.
For them it as much about the presentation as anything. For myself it is only a outward expression of my inner truth. I do not “become” Kira; I am Kira, and this is just one of the ways I express myself.
That’s an answer that I can certainly agree with. But I think, in her own way, Kira is putting on a bold face in this statement. The problem of identity is something that every transperson faces. It’s the very definition of dysphoria.
Further, my self identity has always been tied to the way that others perceive me. It’s simply my nature. As a kid I was unpopular, bullied, and so I kind of became fixated on being liked and being accepted. By the time I got to adulthood it had become an almost an obsession with being viewed as “normal.” Calling attention to myself was out of the question, unless it was guaranteed positive attention. To say it could border on neurotic wouldn’t be far off the mark; I once went into a panic attack because guests came over and the house was not presentable.
I’ve made a lot of progress recently in letting go of this issue. I don’t think I could ever have set foot out the door in a skirt if I hadn’t! However, the question of how others see me is still important. And it’s at that level that the question of the crossdresser vs. transgender arises.
Kira said in her post that:
Being Transgender is as shallow as your skin and as deep as your heart.
That’s a fair description. For me, it means that being transgender is something I am both on the inside and on the outside. To be one but not the other is … well, dysphoric. For me, not being able to be seen, to be acknowledged is damaging to my sense of self. I may feel like Ali inside, but if everyone sees me as Him, treats me as Him, expects me to be Him, then isn’t that my reality?
For me, my exterior is a necessary reflection of who I am inside. And it frustrates me when what’s inside and what’s outside are out of sync.
“The problem with introspection is that it has no end; like Bottom’s dream in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it has no bottom.”
And of course, to even be seen as a reflection of my inner self requires effort. There’s no gentle way to say it: I have a man’s body, and a not very flattering one at that. To date I have not taken the step of making any true alteration to that body — hair can be cut, beards grown back, weight regained. And to think that even with all that effort I might still be “read,” might still not be recognized for who I am inside …. that’s just downright demoralizing.
I can’t imagine that any transgender person isn’t frustrated by this state of chimeric semi-existence. I think we all just handle it in different ways. For me, it brings dysphoria, depression, and doubt. Am I always the same person inside? Of course. But unfortunately I can’t be that person, not all the time, not even most of the time. My life is dominated by the expectation of being Him to nearly everyone that matters, in nearly every situation I’m in. At what point does the role become the reality?