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“I don’t think my body was a mistake”

2009 February 9
by Anne Dalke

I am very grateful to both Ryan and Alex for taking the time to join us, and to talk with us, and to answer (some!) of our questions today. Some of my notes (recorded here as an archive for myself, and for anyone else who might find them of use):

  • “I am not attracted to ‘a gender.'”
  • “mistaken for”–whatever that means!
  • the ability to “pass” can affirm a gender identity
  • “I embrace ‘trans’ as an identity (“not en route to somewhere else”)
  • identity “stealth”
  • “I have no interest in passing; I embrace the complexity of a female body using male pronouns. I am not transitioning. I am trans.”
  • “I disagree with Sandy Stone. Not every one needs to be completely performative. I don’t put myself into a box; I dislike labels.”
  • “what does it feel like to be trans? ” there’s no one experience
  • labels are imposed; they are not personally adopted
  • I use labels, and I define them for others.
  • labels are important for making sense
  • “labels reduce”: they ignore the other “normal” parts of me
  • “I don’t think my body was a mistake”
  • “there’s no rectification needed; no need to “fix it!”
  • I embrace the process. I embrace the ambiguity.
  • not wanting to be male, but wanting to be seen as boy: an aesthetic
  • difference between what you are, and what you present
  • “Bryn Mawr requires a documented commitment to womandom”
  • questions about insurance fraud: are we talking breast reduction or gender reassignment?
4 Responses
  1. Maddie permalink
    February 11, 2009

    “I don’t think my body was a mistake” … I don’t think nature is capable of making mistakes; no person is an “oops”, and its unfortunate that so many people have trouble seeing that.

  2. Karl Van Der Meer permalink
    February 11, 2009

    Nature is not an entity, and has no determinism. Gender dysphoria is not a mistake, but neither is cancer, infanticide, or the dodo.

    The personal and philosophical implications of a given feature have very little to do with some romantic, naturalistic state, and are more or less assigned by the individual or society. That something is outside of normative human experience does not necessarily make it detrimental or wrong, and in modern postindustrial society there are a very few number of abnormalities that have to carry any penalty at all, provided we’re halfway civil to one another. I hope you’ll forgive the connotations of “abnormal”, as I’m speaking in a technical sense. The point is that naturalistic fallacy is integral to the way that gender issues are approached and used to justify any number of regressive views. There’s no sense in taking the same fallacy and applying it to your own perspective, when there are much better arguments for the acceptance of a broad spectrum of gender and sexual identities.

  3. Ryan permalink
    February 13, 2009


    I’m –incredibly– interested to hear your thoughts regarding that statement. Let me know if you have questions about why I think that, or what I meant when I said it.


    No harm no foul with the use of the term “abnormal”. But what, in this context, does normal mean?


  4. Ryan permalink
    February 21, 2009


    Yep, that’s exactly what I meant. Nobody exists at the ends of the spectrum. We all fall somewhere in the middle, and the sooner we stop racing towards the (non-existent) opposing poles, the sooner we’ll stop tackling and trampling each other. There’s more than enough room in the middle for everybody, so let’s all just calm the hell down. I wish that, at the time of my coming out, someone in my life had told me that being trans doesn’t necessarily being militant or putting on a performance. I didn’t have to wear ties or do ridiculous things with my hair. (Oy, just the thought of it is giving me heartburn.) Every pronoun didn’t need to be corrected, every cis person didn’t need to go to Trans Training 101 and wasn’t out to get me. (In fact, the cis person with whom I was most contentious at the time is now my bestest friend.) If being that way makes someone happy? Good for them. Really, that’s wonderful — happiness can be hard to find. But being that way made me totally miserable, and I wish someone could have helped me avoid those potholes.

    Assert that “everyone is transgender!” at enough trans advocacy booths and yeah, you’re going to find a whole lot of chips being shouldered. After so many years of not fitting in, of being called names, of being afraid to be discovered, it’s gloriously liberating to be able to reclaim the labels others have been maliciously chucking at you and to shout Yes I Am! I understand that, and I believe that everyone deserves to celebrate who they are. But to create virtual checklists — to define what does NOT (and, therefore, to define what DOES) count as transgender — is to replicate the same hateful, hurtful experiences which have caused so much pain and suffering to trannies and cissies alike. Sigh. So, back to your question: how do I reconcile the two schools of thought? This is going to sound like a cop-out, but: I don’t. Wanting a label of one’s own is just as valid a preference as not wanting a label at all. The point is not to get everyone to agree on which is the RIGHT way to be. (There isn’t one right way.) The point is to get more people to be respectful of those around them.

    I think the way we create this balance is, as Gandhi said, to be the change we want to see. If we want to get respect, we have to be willing to grant it to others first. To make the world a more open and loving place, we have to be more open and loving ourselves. To create balance, we need to find the point at which our own individuals lives are balanced, and work to keep ourselves there. If we can then help others find that point for themselves? Even better. But none of this is going to happen by forcing anyone into anything.

    Did that at -all- answer your question(s)?

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