Sex: none of the above – a message about transsexuality – Brief Article
Growing up gay isn’t easy. So as adults, gays should be among the most accepting people in the universe, right? Ha! With the dawning of a new millennium, perhaps it’s time to loosen the ties that bind each “alternative” sexuality unto itself to the exclusion of others. Take me, for instance. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for eight years and have been writing horoscopes for gay magazines for seven of those years. I think my reputation has been pretty much that of a straight fag hag, given my many nightclub appearances with drag performers like Jackie Beat and Alexis Arquette. But in the eyes of the law in some states, I’m not even a female. I was born what is called intersexed–meaning I was biologically neither fully male nor fully female but a combination of the two.
Growing up, I knew nothing of this. I was brought up as a boy named Charles; all my friends were gay males my age. They thought that’s what I was too. In school–at least until I could no longer bear being the Carrie White of my community–it was assumed I was gay as well. I was constantly teased, though not with the usual gay insults; I was “the boy who acts just like a girl.”
I didn’t know what I was. The more I learned, the more confused I became. And my gay friends were no more help than my parents in helping me to sort things out. At 16, I was stamping hands at Dallas’s biggest gay disco. I had a blast, even if I remained unkissed. At 17, I made one lame attempt to be a “drag queen.” What a disaster–instead of lipsynching, I insisted on singing live.
I first heard about sex changes in my teen years and began to wonder if that’s what I was–a transsexual. I dismissed it at first, but when I was 18, I decided I was a male-to-female transsexual after all and began six months of physical and psychiatric examinations. Here’s what the doctors found and chose not to discuss: The fact that I started growing breasts at age 11, long before most of the girls in my class. That what appeared to be a normal boy’s penis as a baby never progressed and instead became an enlarged clitoris. That a grossly unethical hormone treatment, undertaken by my family physician to force me into being male, had failed. (It was only a few years ago that a sonogram proved I have a full female reproductive system.) None of that was considered: I was a transsexual. I was just relieved to have an official name to put on what I was.
I began group therapy to be with “people like me.” Major disaster. I didn’t really understand how these people were different from the female impersonators I knew; the transsexuals thought I was from another planet. There was no bonding.
Twenty years later I have yet to find “people like me.” I’ve known that I am intersexed for 15 years now. It was a relief but didn’t change anything. I was still the kid who wore a wig to school in the first grade and who tried hard to learn how to “cruise” as a teenager. My best friends are still gay men because of the similarities in what we endured and discovered about ourselves. But now I no longer flee from those lucky enough to be born fully one sex while choosing to become another, in part because I understand why transgendered people are the last to leave their closets: They fear rejection not only from heterosexuals but also from the gays and lesbians who may well be the closeted transgendered person’s closest friends.
Knowing that nature has a sometimes demented sense of humor only proves to me that those people who claim same-sex attraction is a choice are about as grounded as those who say you can’t get pregnant if you have sex in a swimming pool. Life experience proves such theories wrong. Life experience should also teach us that a person undergoing sex-reassignment surgery is not just another gay person who can’t deal with reality and that that person has more in common with us other sexual deviants than gay people are sometimes willing to admit.
Let’s face it: Almost no one is born fully normal–whatever that means. And it’s time for the separatists among us to stop trying to ignore all the subgroups within our community. Gay, lesbian, transgender, transsexual, or intersexed, we’re all the way we were born. And we all have to find a way of coping.
Connella can be reached through www.advocate.com.
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