7th Preview of She’s Not the Man I Married

Excerpt from the last chapter, Chapter 7 – Love Is a Many Gendered Thing:

Too often, I’ve tried to predict the future. I’ve tried to understand “transsexualism” as if it were a monolithic thing, but it’s very subjective, and it’s described by good writers who happen to be transsexual in very different ways. Jenny Boylan calls it “a knife wound”; Dallas Denny describes it as a pebble in her shoe.[19] Another friend once remarked glibly that for her it was just like wearing the wrong shoes, so she got new ones. So which is it? I can’t figure out how all of these can be true, or which is most accurate in describing Betty’s feelings about her own transness. Clearly, different people experience transness differently and the same person may experience it in different ways at different times in his or her life. The standard notion of a “man trapped in a woman’s body/woman trapped in a man’s body” strikes me as the most simplistic explanation ever. That shorthand might be useful for people who need to know only a little, just in case their good manners fail them and they decide to treat a trans person they work with like a nonentity. People who don’t have a personal relationship with someone trans don’t need to know much more than “you knew her as Laura, and now you can call him Larry” and move on. But people have all sorts of moral indignations and crazy beliefs that what they think about something gives them the right to treat other people like crap. But in a world where it seems more important to self-righteous types that foster children go without homes than to let gay people rear them, I really shouldn’t be that surprised.

Still, people do think they need to know what causes transsexualism—what it is, whether there’s a genetic determination or a hormonal one, whether trans people are just messed up. I’ve always been partial to Dr. Harry Benjamin’s[20] take on it; he didn’t know the cause, but he figured out that the brain and the body didn’t always match, even if he didn’t know why. Looking a little into the way trans people had already been treated by previous psychiatrists, he realized that the only way to ease their suffering was to change their bodies, since decades of trying to change their brains hadn’t worked. That was all. There is something practical-minded and humanitarian in his thinking that people could learn a lot from, and not just medical professionals who deal with trans people.