Is it betrayal if I want to go beyond being transgender anymore?
Almost two millennia ago the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote in his Meditations, "Look how tiring it is -- this cacophony we live in. Enough to make you say to death, 'Come quickly. Before I start to forget myself, like them.'"
The noise continues, as everything, and nothing, continue to change into the same all over again.
Journalist, former professor and filmmaker Elinor Burkett began her controversial New York Times Op-Ed "What Makes a Woman?" with an interrelated question: "Do women and men have different brains?" She recounted the story of Lawrence H. Summers, a former president of Harvard who was excoriated when he suggested that male and female brains were indeed different. Then the piece turned to Caitlyn Jenner, who, Burkett wrote, was "lionized" for bravery, and even for progressivism, because she defined her femininity based on that very assumption: "My brain is much more female than it is male," Jenner told interviewer Diane Sawyer.
Such certainty eludes me. I lay no claim on knowing how a woman thinks, since "a woman" is an abstraction, and, in any event, I believe one may never know oneself in totality, let alone the mind of another.
Awareness of limitations opens up the possibilities they contain, however. Another observation from Aurelius makes the point: "Not to know what the world is is to be ignorant of where you are. Not to know why it's here is to be ignorant of who you are. And what is."
When I say that I only knew that I felt like a woman through the prism of being with men, what I mean is: that sensation is how the feeling began.
Austrian author Hermann Broch's description of a young woman losing her virginity in his novel The Guiltless springs to mind: "And there follows (after a little awkwardness and a little pain, but with the gravity of the self-evident) the primordial surprise, the eternal surprise which -- even when it does not, as now, occur for the first time, but has become usual and customary -- is always irradiated with the shine of the first time and must always, invariably, come as a surprise: the sinking, the fitting, of two human bodies into one another."
I've quoted this passage elsewhere, and there is no hiding why. For me, Broch's unity mirrors Plato's ideal of love, in which the two halves of our souls search the world for each other, and both philosophies reflect the reality of being human: we experience ourselves in relation to others.
In my own life, the promise land on the other side of changing sex lay beyond dictates about my identity, my gender, and any ideas, thoughts or feelings I wished to impose. Being myself means acceptance from friends, family, and society -- for who any of us can be is just one human being among humanity.
Our history reveals that whatever seems new under the sun may amount to no more than a happenstance of perception at any moment. As Burkett observed, "Women like me are not lost in false paradoxes; we were smashing binary views of male and female well before most Americans had ever heard the word 'transgender' or used the word 'binary' as an adjective."
She is right: other women did come first. And we are all of us their children.
Still, identifying as transgender can make a demand on people that distinguishes this identity from others. Even though I present myself to a potential intimate partner as I am right now, I nevertheless recognize that he could view me otherwise in light of my past. Attraction between us might, for him, spark a question about manhood -- or even the nature of his own sexuality. Intimacy asks for patience in receptivity to the sinking, the fitting, of two human souls into a moment together.
Now, could it be that -- in such an instant of union -- maleness and femaleness unfeather into their essence, somewhere in between both genders and any others, a merging of gender expression as in the undifferentiated body we all once had?
It's all relative.
"Don't ever forget these things: The nature of the world. My nature. How I relate to the world. What proportion of it I make up. That you are part of nature, and no one can prevent you from speaking and acting in harmony with it, always," Aurelius said.
I may be a woman of men, but I am a woman still -- and distilled -- as we vanish into one.
The feeling then is transgender no more.
This blog post is the final segment of my mini-book Transgender No More. Thank you for reading.