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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Women with XY chromosomes

This week I had one of my appointments, and the counselor read me a draft of the surgeon letter. "She fully understands the implications .... She is out to all the significant people in her life .... she is clearly well adjusted." I cried. Four years now I've been stalking this letter. It's supposed to go forth on the 6th of January, and if it doesn't, I' m sure I don't know what I'll do. Burst, maybe.

:::

I asked Beloved for a sewing basket and she found a lovely one in what she calls her "storeroom," made of willow-withies in two colors. Then I got to pick through some spools of thread and needles and such, but I'll need to buy a thimble or two.

People knit or crochet at meetings, neither of which I've learned to do, but I can do my mending well enough that I thought I might as well bring it to things.

I have been, over the last couple of years, active in several trans online groups. What I'm looking for is a nonsynchronous support group. What I tend to find is people who get angry with one another a lot. This mystifies me. What does arguing with another transwoman about the meaning of "trans" do to aid the cause of any transwoman?? Sisterhood, they used to say, is powerful, and I'd love to go on believing that.

The worst stuff happens when one of the younger people, or someone posing as a young person (this does happen) pipes up with an innocent sounding question like "has your orientation changed" and, upon getting a variety of thoughtful responses from others --among them older women for whom sex is no longer such a big issue as it once was -- accusing them of being in denial about being gay. Which invariably starts a row. And when I see this, I sign off for weeks, waiting for the dust to settle, or perhaps forever, and move on.

Trolls, as such divisive people are called online, aren't looking for discussion, they're looking for a somewhat captive audience on whom to spring their own agenda.

I remember thinking that sex was just about all there was. I held that view from the age of fourteen to about the age of forty-eight. I was also extremely hetero during all that time. I wasn't just blocked about gay issues, I found the thought of two guys together repugnant; I could feel the repugnance, as though it were an axiom of nature.

Well, it was. It was an axiom of my nature at the time, which was a combination of two factors, over and above any social training: genetics and hormonal levels. If you have XY chromosomes and plenty of testosterone and you are, from before birth, predisposed to respond to female pheromones, you get to be normally hetero in your orientation.

Other factors being equal, of course, such as that you don't have androgen insensitivity syndrome.

Now, suppose you have XY chromosomes, plenty of testosterone, and are from before birth predisposed to respond to male pheromones. You get to be normally gay in your orientation. Normally. For you. And you may find the thought of a man kissing a woman repugnant accordingly.

Ditto for cisgendered women: If you have XX chromosomes and plenty of estrogen and you are, from before birth, predisposed to respond to male pheromones, you get to be normally hetero in your orientation, whereas if you have XX chromosomes, plenty of estrogen, and are from before birth predisposed to respond to female pheromones you get to be normally lesbian in your orientation. And you may find the thought of a woman kissing a man repugnant accordingly.

(Isn't copy-and-paste wonderful? But I digress.)

I fully expected, because I was highly attracted to my partner before I began transition, to become a lesbian.

Didn't entirely happen. I stayed straight and did a flip-flop, suddenly noticing guys.

We're still happy together, but it's different. As she said to me, if all this had happened to us when we were thirty, she would probably have had to leave me.

And that's fair. She wanted to have kids ....

All this tells me that those who theorize that I'm a suppressed gay, spending a fortune to avoid admitting it, or that I'm a fetishist, spending a fortune to have a female body handy to play with, are theorists whose views are colored by their own sexual issues and drives.

See, nearly all of them are male -- and nearly all of them mean Male To Female rather than Female To Male when disparaging transsexuals -- they can only "see" a world in which obsession with sex is the norm. That's what their bodies tell them. So they theorize to fit the world picture their bodies show them.

They should be made to take a month's worth of Estrofem before being allowed to pontificate on the matter.

Testosterone and estrogen are among the world's most powerful psychotropics. Think about that. Controlled substances. It's difficult, legally, to get hold of the one if you're legally hooked on the other from earliest childhood..

So, in the real world, you have born straight men and women and born gays and lesbians and people who are in between or none of the above. All of whom are, given whatever combination of factors they were born with, normal.

And then you get another layer: intersexuals and transsexuals. Not normal? If this were all about sex, I might agree.

But once you can, as many well-educated people do, distinguish sex from gender, a lot of nonsense simply falls by the wayside.

Here's the thing: I was wandering through the stacks in my university's library, one day, back in the nineties, and pulled out a book, almost at random -- can't find it now -- something about its title intrigued me -- and it turned out to be a study of more than twenty women from a village somewhere in the Caribbean. Many women in the village were sterile, apparently, which may be what originally called medical attention to them.

There turned out to be a recessive gene that had cropped up due to inbreeding, resulting in XY individuals with very convincing feminine bodies, though their vaginas lacked depth. Typically, these women married and adopted children.

I looked at the grainy photographs, with the little black patches covering the eyes. I read the captions. I found the anecdotes. My heart raced. My breath came in ragged gasps. Anyone watching might easily have concluded that here was a fetishist or typical male looking at soft porn.

But the experience I was having was this: I was thunderstruck to discover that in the world there were women who were accepted by their communities. Women with XY chromosomes.

Not men. Women.

Suddenly there was hope for me.

Because I might not be a "pervert" after all.

Just a person.

--risa b

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