The following piece is the ninth installment in “Dressing the Part,” a twelve-part series exploring cultural issues and the effects of social transition from the perspective of a femme-presenting trans guy.
[In conversation with myself.]
A: I hate being human.
B: Oh, great, here we go again.
A: Eating, sleeping, pooping, exercising … they’re all such inefficient processes. And don’t even get me started on feelings. I hate how our lives are pretty much run by these messy, complex inanities. [Pauses] Being a person is absolutely disgusting.
B: So what would you rather be? A machine? A robot? A brain floating in a tank?
A: Machines break down, robots can’t think for themselves, and brains floating in tanks probably still have feelings. I want to be a perfectly rational consciousness, free to observe the world away from the burden of physicality and emotion.
B: Cut the edgelord shit. If you weren’t human, you wouldn’t know what it’s like to write an essay, or to learn something new, or to spend two hours getting sunburnt on the beach with your tripod for that perfect picture.
A: Maybe those are just coping mechanisms for dealing with the human condition. [shrugs] I don’t hate humanity. I think that it’s fascinating. I just wish that I didn’t have to be a part of it myself.
B: Right, because you worship at the high altar of rationality. [simpering] “Ooh, rea-son! Lo-gic! Look at me, I’m never affected by anything!”
A: I wish I were never affected by anything. Especially gender dysphoria. It throws a wrench right into the gears of my worldview.
B: What do you mean?
A: I wish that I could just be a cis woman, or a “normal” trans guy — you know, to neatly fit into either the “female” or the “male” box. I’m out as a man because of my feelings about my gender. I dress femme because I feel that my gender identity shouldn’t get in the way of my gender expression. And I hate it so much, sometimes.
B: What’s wrong with that?
A: I’m not able to explain why I identify or dress the way I do in a rational manner. I can only do so in terms of feelings.
B: You act as though these boxes that society slots us into are rational to begin with. Think about it this way — if there existed an accepted “third gender” for people with vaginas who were expected to dress like women but behave like men, would you be able to rationalize your identity then?
A: Yeah, I probably would.
B: So many people are quick to cast themselves as freaks without bothering to examine how illogically society operates in the first place. Conforming to an irrational norm does not make one rational.
A: Oof, you got me there.
B: The word “transgender” only exists alongside the notion that gender is made of neat little categories that one must fit into. You can only “trans” a gender by crossing some sort of boundary. Maybe we’d all benefit by examining why those categories exist in the first place.
A: Okay, but we do live in a society where, whether it’s reasonable or not, people believe that there are two main genders that look very distinct from one another. And I think the dysphoria that prompts me to be so loud about my gender identity is inherently irrational.
B: I would argue that gender is arational, not irrational.
B: Gender does not go against reason; it exists in a realm outside of it. You could even say that it … [grins] … transcends reason.
A: That was a horrible pun. And I don’t think that gender “exists in a realm outside of” reason, whatever that even means.
B: Oh, really? How can you “prove,” through logic alone, that a woman is a woman?
A: That’s a whole can of worms.
B: You opened it first. [crosses arms] Just for the sake of simplifying the argument, let’s pretend that we’re pseudo-intellectual conservatives who think that a woman is the same thing as someone assigned female at birth. That is, we’re going to reduce the concept of “gender” down to biology. To simplify it even further, let’s say that a woman is someone with a vagina, a womb, breasts, and estrogen as a primary sex hormone.
A: We’re not conservatives, but we’re certainly pseudo-intellectuals.
B: [sarcastically] Ha-ha. [seriously] Pay attention. Let’s say that these four traits — vagina, womb, breasts, estrogen — are the parts that make up a woman. If a person has these four things, then they are a woman. And having these traits make a woman look and sound a certain way.
A: Go on.
B: Because there are a lot of women in the world, over time, an accepted shortcut will be made: if a person looks and sounds a certain way, we can assume that they have these four characteristics, and are therefore a woman.
B: But what if a woman has some health complications that result in her having to remove her womb and breasts? She no longer has all four traits, but she still looks and sounds like she always has. Is she still a woman?
A: Society would say so.
B: Okay. Now, say that another person who did not have these characteristics undergoes a vaginoplasty hormone replacement therapy, so that they now have a vagina and the estrogen levels of a woman. Would they now be a woman?
B: [sighs impatiently] We have two people. They both have vaginas and estrogen as a primary sex hormone, but one was born a woman and one was not. Are they, in this case, both women?
A: Um, it’s hard to … society would probably say that it depends on how they look and sound.
B: So you’re saying that society would be all like, “I think you look and sound like a woman, so therefore, you must be a woman, regardless of how well your actual biology matches up?”
B: Does that sound rational to you?
A: It would, if you didn’t add the part about actual biology matching up.
B: Exactly. You can’t reduce womanhood to a vagina, womb, breasts, and estrogen. Womanhood is greater than the sum of its parts.
B: You can’t “reason” your way around it, but that doesn’t make it irrational.
A: I see your point. But we’re getting hung up on all of this abstract philosophy. We can sit here and pontificate all day, but the thing is, I still have dysphoria and it still makes me feel unreasonable.
B: “It makes me feel unreasonable …”
A: [glares] I’m aware of how it sounds.
B: What do you consider “unreasonable” and “irrational”?
A: Being overemotional about things. Saying that everybody should go along with something just because I feel a certain way. I just don’t want to be the person constantly telling others to change their behavior because I don’t like it. I would hate to be a special snowflake about everything.
B: So you don’t like emotionality and encouraging people to be considerate?
A: Forcing them to be considerate, yes. I don’t want people to think that they have to accommodate me because I’m weak and fragile and would fall apart otherwise.
B: So you associate irrationality with overemotionality, weakness, and fragility?
A: Yes, like being too delicate to stand up to the cold, hard facts.
B: The very facts that don’t care about your feelings?
B: What about other types of irrationality, such as fucking with people for no reason? Or purposefully looking up content on the Internet that pisses you off or makes you cringe?
A: [grins] Those sound kind of fun, actually.
B: So you wouldn’t feel bad about engaging in this sort of “irrational” behavior?
A: Nah. I guess I should, but I don’t.
B: Do you actually hate irrationality, or just irrational behaviors that are deemed feminine? I’ll bet you eighteen thousand theoretical dollars that it’s the latter.
[A is quiet for a long pause.]
A: … shit.
B: Perfect rationality — the stuff of econ textbooks — is kind of boring. I’m also willing to bet that you wouldn’t be completely rational, even if you were just a consciousness. You’re much too irreverent for that.
A: You know me too well.
B: Well, I am your rationality.
A: Yeah, yeah. Being human is still a scam, though.
B: Oh, it totally is. But you can have fun with being a part of society. Let’s throw aside all the eating and pooping stuff for a second. You — just by virtue of being you — can really impact the way society thinks and operates.
B: Well, you can expose how illogical society is in the first place. Take that example you gave earlier, about how you wish that you could just be a cis woman, or be a “normal” trans guy. You could show, through your existence, that gender identity and presentation are two totally different things. And you could explain it in a clear way.
B: Right now, it’s kind of on the individual to conform to society. But I think that you, as an individual, could make society re-think its little irrationalities that it tries to pass off as fact.
A: I do like making people think from a new perspective.
B: Exactly. You can even think of gender dysphoria as a forcing function. What is dysphoria, really, but an alarm alerting you that something is terribly wrong? It forces you to never stick to the status quo, to never conform.
A: To never accept the default ways of thinking.
B: Exactly. It makes you act and stay sharp. It breaks open those neat little boxes you’ve created in your mind, because it’s too uncomfortable to do otherwise.
A: Dysphoria doesn’t care about my rationality.
B: It doesn’t give a fuck! Isn’t that kind of beautiful?
A: Yes, actually.
B: A truly reasonable person is always open to new considerations. There are many people who consider themselves “rational” but never actually stop to question things. Dysphoria actively forces you to examine at least one part of the world this way.
A: Thanks. [Laughs] I do feel better now.
A: I still think that eating, sleeping, pooping, and exercising are much too inefficient, though. One of these days, I’ll invent a pill that makes all of these inanities go away.
B: I look forward to that day. In the meantime, let’s enjoy fucking with society.
A: Let’s. ✦