I am not the sum of my parts; a penis does not make me a man, an uterus does not make me a woman. I am not the sum of my parts; testosterone does not make me a man, estrogen does not make me a woman. I am not the sum of my parts; my clothes do not make me a man, my socialization does not make me a woman.
As I continue my journey as a trans person, finding the path that is right for me, I discover that my trans identity is far more complicated than I even ever imagined it could be. I was never a proponent of the “trapped in the wrong body” narrative for myself, though I acknowledge that this is a very real experience for some trans folks.
When I first started taking testosterone, I was slightly apprehensive. I felt a huge amount of pressure to take T so that people would eventually see me as male and respect that I wanted them to use male pronouns. There were few physical changes I actually desired from taking testosterone, mostly just a deeper voice, no longer menstruating and a beard (optional).
But as I learned to work through my almost paralyzing fear of needles (I passed out when I went to my doctor for my injection tutorial), I started to really like some of the changes that were happening to my body. I liked the way my face was changing, the way my fat was redistributing, the hair that was growing on and above my knees. These things gave me the strength and motivation to work through some pretty intense anxiety every week and eventually the courage to do my injections myself.
The last sixteen months that I have been on T, have been some of the most interesting and informative months of my life. It has been a struggle to get people to read me as male, to respect my pronoun preference, to not try and conform me to their definitions of masculinity, because let’s be honest, even the most open minded queer folks still have their own preconceived notions of masculinity.
I would say, though, that in the last month or two, I have started to pass as male about 90% of the time. I am finally in a place where strangers read me as male most of the time (even when they read or hear my first name) and folks at work are using my preferred pronouns most of the time, and usually correcting themselves without intervention when they “she” me.
Without having to constantly fight for the recognition I had been seeking for so long, I have begun to rethink my trans identity in a big way. To be clear, I have always identified first as trans, second as queer and third as a person who uses male pronouns (even though people have tried to police me into a male identity, both queer and normative, trans and cis). But even though I may appear male, and have always seen myself the way I appear now, I feel very strongly identified as female at my core. And now that the hair on my face is growing in more coarse, I wonder why I ever wanted a scratchy face.
I used to look at other men and wished I looked like them and now that I do, I look at other men and think about how different we are underneath the rough features, the facial hair and our “masculine” identified clothing. And I am not just talking about our bodies, but our lives and our experiences. I used to look at other women and think that that was not an experience I identified with and now that people don’t see me as female, I look at other women and understand how underneath my masculine identified features, body hair and clothing that I identify strongly with them and the female experience.
I was socialized as female, lived in this society for 28 years as a (perceived) woman, and that is an experience that I am forever grateful for. I would not want to have been raised or socialized in this society by my family as male; I already have a hard enough time permitting myself to feel, to share, to be intimate with others. It’s also important for me to feel connected to my grandmother, my mother and my sister. It is important that I keep not only their memories alive, but that the female lineage of my family doesn’t disappear with my transformation.
Sometimes I wonder if I will ever feel comfortable in this body, this time, this place. I wonder if maybe I am just wired to reject any normative notions of what it means to be human. I wonder if I am just meant to torture myself with this path toward self-actualization, if I will ever stop asking questions or being curious, if I will ever be content in my identity and my experience of being human.
I think about whether starting testosterone was the right the thing for me, and at this point I have to say it absolutely was. For the first time in my life, I feel like my hormones are balanced, which has allowed me to really be able to process through a lot of my experiences of loss and my abandonment issues. For the first time in my life, I don’t have to try and hide or deny my femininity to allow people to see me how I see myself, resulting in me being an outspoken feminist. For the first time in my life, I look in the mirror and see exactly who I have always felt I should see looking back at me, allowing me to focus my energy in other places.
It is impossible to say whether I will always feel this way, but for the time being I feel resolved in my gender identity. I am trans. I am queer. I am male. I am female. I am gender non-conforming. I am not the sum of my parts. I am not blue. I am not green. I am as teal as you can fucking be.
Lindsey Dietzler is a trans/queer rights activist and community organizer. He is a co-founder of Video Action League and founder of CAMP: A Queer Sports League. Dietzler received his Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Studies from Columbia College Chicago. He is currently working on organizing a new queer/philanthropic dance night in Logan Square. Dietzler enjoys dancing, riding his bike and snuggling with his cat.