This is a working document, where I am trying to work out my own views on a range of issues affecting FAAB & MAAB intersex people, FAB women, MAB & FAB transsexual & transgender people, and FAAB & MAAB intersex people who are gender nonconforming. I would welcome any constructive feedback.
FAB = female at birth
MAB = male at birth
FAAB = female assigned at birth
MAAB = male assigned at birth
MtT = male to female transsexual
FtT = female to male transsexual
I undertake this as somebody identified as a MAAB gender non-conforming woman-identified.
I am unclear exactly where this taxonomy originated, but it is extremely helpful to me in unpicking some of these issues, and I will give credit if I can figure out where it comes from originally.
One source is here: http://twanzphobic.wordpress.com/fab-speak/
Who refers to here: http://noanodyne.com/2011/03/pro-faab/ for a fuller explanation of what “pro-FAB” means
I start with where I am coming from – skip everything that starts with ‘I’ if you want to get to the meat, or start here if you want to avoid picking through the rest of my posts in order to deconstruct my narrative.
I was assigned male at birth, and although I had certain anomalies that required medical attention and surgery, I was raised male. That was not a mistake, it was the most sensible assignment in my situation.
I was not comfortable with my assignment, nor the treatment of reinforcement of my social gender, but I appreciate that it gave me more privileges than I would have had otherwise.
I would have preferred not have been treated medically, unless absolutely necessary; I consider most of the treatment I had was not, it was about trying to make me physically and behaviorally conform to a male gender role.
I was never very good at, however hard I tried to perform it.
I was not born in the wrong body, I was born in the body I had, that is the only body I will ever have, and thinking there was something wrong with it is nonsensical to me.
I did not have a deformity, I was different from most males, and that was the reason for medical intervention; the only body I would like is the one I would have had if I had not been interfered with. I can never have that, I have the body I have now.
I struggled with gender dysphoria from when I was a young child (not understanding what it was, and in denial), and eventually changed my gender identity as an adult.
I could ‘pass’ quite easily, and worked on the shop floor of a major retail chain serving mostly female customers, and my gender performance was never an issue.
I have never sought to hide my transitioned status, nor to make an issue of it, in day-to-day.
I do not live in ‘stealth’ or actively try to ‘pass’, although I do make an ‘effort’ when going out for dinner and stuff, just like anybody.
I am biologically male, legally female, live as a woman, and am usually seen as a woman, I do not believe I can ever be ‘female’ in the biological sense of the word, just as I was never really ‘male’
I have difficulty performing female, because much of the female gender role is as meaningless to me as the male gender role.
I don’t understand men really, but I think a lot of their behaviour is governed by testosterone. I never had that much, and if I had, I doubt I would be the way I am now.
To be honest, I don’t understand a lot of women either – especially women who run around after men.
I believe I am/was intersex, because I don’t know what else would explain my childhood surgeries and experiences.
I might be wrong, but I have met and got to know quite a few intersex people, who I usually like and get along with, and often they are people I do understand better than I do most men, women and trans people. Intersex people I have met have tended to accept me as such, and encouraged me to accept this about myself. I did try to deny this for quite a long time, and at first thought I must be a transsexual, but I cannot believe a lot of the things it seems you have to in order to be a transsexual.
I cannot consider my life before transition was a lie, although I eventually found out I was not quite who I always thought I was. Although I tried, I could not see any point in swapping one deceit for another. I try to live somewhere between male and female, as far as I can within the constraints of a society that expects people to be one or the other. I would like to see the end of these socially constructed gender roles completely. They are absurd.
I recognise that I am in a very priveleged position which allows me to do this, and to see things the way that I do.
I have been told by medical specialists that I show/showed three symptoms of male underdevelopment, but my records were truncated when I was discharged from medical care at around 16, and nobody has been able to access any hospital records apart from the dates of admissions. The only evidence I have are the scars on my body, which I keep to remind me of how I came to be the way I am now; I do not display them, and I will not describe the procedures that took place. Some things are private. I have done, but I feel no need to validate myself any more.
I have had no DNA tests as an adult that I am aware of, because the endocrinologist at the intersex clinic I attended insisted there was no point – in his words, too much water had passed under the bridge, and most of the damage was done when I was treated as a child anyway. A karyotype test was carried out, which I am told was XY, but I never got to see the result, and a negative fertility test. I think that this was a trustworthy doctor (I still find it hard to trust people in the medical profession, including women), although I don’t really understand why I couldn’t see the results of the test I had to pay for. I now no longer care why I was treated as a kid, although I still get pissed off at times that I was treated, and am quite angry that nobody told me the implications of my treatment when I discharged myself at 16 – because of the consequences for my adult life, and potential problems that I was completely unaware of (osteoporosis in my 40’s, for example). I discharged myself because I was sick of being prodded and poked, and having impromptu genital examinations by complete strangers wearing white coats during visits to the hospital.
I was hypo-gonadal, from what i can make out, which meant I was hypospadic, cryptorchid and infertile. I will not go into more detail, other than to say that the first two were why I had the surgeries, one of which was abdominal. The first has been confirmed by a urologist, the second I can remember the procedure involved in trying to rectify this, graphically, and the ten days spent in hospital, mostly in recovery.
I don’t know why I was that way, but these three together are symptomatic of intersex in their own right, whether going by ISNA’s definition of intersex, or the more recent taxonomy of DSD.
I reject the disorder in DSD, preferring variations or differences in sex development to disorder; however, I support having a clear value-free taxonomy. I do not consider the signs of intersex to be deformities, although I acknowledge that some symptoms manifested through the syndromes and conditions that give rise to intersex may require medical interventions. I do not believe that purely cosmetic genital plastic surgery is necessary for intersex children, because that is all about reinforcing gender conformity on the body.
I do not know whether my intersex history is connected to my gender dysphoria or not, all I know is that one of my earliest memories are of my first surgery around four, a few things that happened before that, and the sense of discomfort about being a boy that developed after (obviously, I had no concept of gender dysphoria, the distress was in some way connected to what had happened to me physically through the surgery, and realisation I was a boy). I’m pretty sure the surgery was for the hypospadias. It could be that the dysphoria was an iatrogenic reaction to the surgery and the way that changed me, or is could have been connected to the underlying hypogonadism, or independent of both – I have no idea.
I do not like videos or images of genital surgery, these are triggers for me. I attended intersex and transsexual/transgender (HBIGDA/WPATH) medical conferences during my research, observing the proceedings as a social anthropologist, but eventually had to stop attending such meetings, because I found the images disturbed me, and they triggered suppressed feelings.
I resist the determinism inherent in the pervasive belief that reassignment and/or transition is the only thing that can be done about gender dysphoria.
Gender dysphoria is not a mental illness, lots of people have it, not only transsexuals and transgenderists. It is time it was removed from DSM & ICD.
People cannot have the wrong body, it is meaningless to say that a male can have a female brain, or a female can have a male brain, or that a male can know how a female thinks, or that a female can know how a male thinks.
This is because people think like themselves, and nobody can know how another person thinks – it is closed to them. You can get an idea of how other people think through their writing, and listening to what they have to say, but that’s about it.
People might be more dominant or submissive, aggressive or gentle, considerate or inconsiderate, talkative or reserved, caring or uncaring, nurturing or detached – but the association with gender identity is synthetic.
In the experiments on foetal rats brains to produce ‘reverse lordosis’, nobody has ever produced a male rat who has a liking for heels, or a female rat who likes sports-jackets! 🙂
However, in humans, the libido should not be underestimated as a factor in the desire for reassignment. Humans do gender, rats do not.
The hormones we produce, or don’t produce, and the ones we replace them with, affect our emotions, which affect the way in which we think, and how we behave. That is biochemistry, not gender.
Sex/gender reassignment surgery is cosmetic plastic surgery, and access to such procedures should not be related to gender in any way, or require psychiatric supervision, and be available to anybody who chooses them.
Who pays is not an issue I feel the need to address, it does not interest me; but as opting to undergo cosmetic proceedures that are not part of a diagnosed medical condition is a choice, there will be consequences.
People who have a history of mental illness should be discouraged from undergoing these sorts of treatments.
People who want reassignment should have the opportunity of counseling first, with neutral and independent counselors, so that they can be clear about what is involved, and what alternatives there are in dealing with gender dysphoria.
Adult transsexuals are free to do whatever they want with their bodies on that basis. It is their responsibility, their informed choice and if they make a mistake, they make a mistake.
It is healthier for people to choose to do these things, rather than being led to believe that they have to do them because there is no alternative.
People will kill themselves if they believe they have to transition and have SRS, and the trope that it is inevitable is potentially harmful.
I support feminists who seek to maintain spaces as exclusively FAB.
I do not support the idea that a MAB trans person has any right to insist on access to sensitive areas designated as being for FAB women, although I support trans people’s right to ask for access to certain services on the basis of need.
If such access is denied, there needs to be alternatives, as trans people can be victims too.
I support people who, with full information and disclosure at their disposal, choose freely and without compulsion, to transition from one gender role to another, for whatever reason, and/or to undergo whatever cosmetic plastic surgical procedures they feel they need or do not need to undergo in order to help them do so.
I support the autonomy of trans people in making their choices out of free-will, as long as those choices are not based on the flawed logic that such an outcome is pre-determined, in which case I am constrained in my support.
I support people who feel that they are uncomfortable with their birth sex or assigned gender, and who feel unable to conform to gender roles or stereotypes, to live and identify as they wish; including not identifying as either male or female.
I support intersex people who are happy with their assignment to live as the men and women they have always felt comfortable being.
I support intersex people who are unhappy with their assignment to live as the men and women they feel the most comfortable being.
I support intersex people who do regard themselves as having some form of disorder, or disfunction, and support them in seeking out whatever medical assistance they feel will help them with that.
I support intersex people who do not see their situation as being part of a disorder, and who reject medical approaches that would seek to put right something that they feel was never wrong in the first place.
I support FAB-activists in their pursuit of radical feminism, and acknowledge I have much to learn; I realise that for them, what needs to be done must seem overwhelming; because of my own background, there is little I can contribute.
I consider it important and necessary for there to be gender-neutral facilities and spaces for people who feel unable, unsafe, or uncomfortable using gender-specific facilities, such as the sex-segregated spaces that currently exist. In the same way that spaces are set aside to accommodate people with disabilities, facilities could be extended as specifically unisex facilities for people who are uncomfortable with sex-segregated facilities, available to whoever needs to use them.
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