Author: Rose Montoya
I was born in a small town in Idaho surrounded by religious and conservative influences. I grew up without the knowledge of the community I now identify with—without hearing the word transgender while the words gay and queer were just names classmates called me to pick on me. In eighth grade I met a trans woman who stage-managed for Opera Idaho that my sister sang in, but I forgot about it because it made me feel uncomfortable and I thought it was irrelevant at the time. I’m sure other kids I knew have since realized their LGBT identities, but my first experience of someone coming out of the closet was myself. I always knew I was different from the other cisgender, heterosexual kids. I loved to play dress up and felt the best when I strutted in my room wearing my mom’s heels and my sisters’ dresses. I was allowed to play with Barbies and Polly Pockets but in order to get a Wii one year for Christmas, I had to give away my ‘girly’ toys. I gave my girl friends’ makeovers during recess in elementary school through 6th grade. My parents signed me up for baseball but I never liked any sport that I tried. I was constantly reminded that I wasn’t like other boys whether it was through bullying, or having decisions made for me by my parents. After puberty I realized I was attracted to men I was confused by it at first and suppressed it. Shortly after, Ryan Murphy’s show, Glee, came out and YouTube was becoming careers for LGBT people for the first time. I watched these queer influences and quickly identified with them. In 10th grade, I came out as gay.
Fast forward to college: Orange Is The New Black had recently come out. I was studying film, liberal arts, and women studies. I decided I needed to educate myself on the LGBT community as a whole, it’s history, and especially more on this idea of defying the gender you’re assigned at birth—I didn’t know it was an option for me. I found it confusing so I labeled it wrong before. In high school my favorite class was Theory of Knowledge. Epistemology is the study of what we know, how we know it, ways we gain knowledge, and the areas of knowledge we can have all in relation to concepts such as truth, belief, and justification. This helped me question everything I was taught. I disregarded anything that offended how I felt inside and held on to what made the most sense.
I analyzed gender with an epistemological lens. Everything we know is filtered through language. We learn about the world through our parents teaching us specific speech patterns to label things in order to identify them and tell them apart from other things. Abstract feelings, ideas, and thoughts are understood by assigning words to them. The terms ‘male’ and ‘female’ were necessary in order to identify the different sexual characteristics in humans that combine to reproduce. Of course, not every human fits into these binary sexual characteristics.
Our bodies are complex; we still don’t fully understand parts of the human body—especially the brain. On the other hand, our sexual organs have been well researched and analyzed. We have 23 chromosomal pairings, which can cause a plethora of discrepancies in sex due to the millions of possible combinations. Typically, human females have two X chromosomes while males have an XY pairing. 5-alphareductase deficiency can cause humans that appear to be female to grow a penis at age 12. Those who have an X and Y chromosome and are insensitive to androgens can have a vagina. Humans can be male because they have two X chromosomes, but one of their X’s has an SRY Gene. Humans can be male because they have two X chromosomes but also have a Y (Information from the online WHO Genomic Resource Center on Gender and Genetics). Sexual characteristics shouldn’t be limited to labels as simple as male and female. Sex is fluid and since gender and sex are related, gender should be fluid too.
I began questioning myself. I knew I wasn’t a man, but I couldn’t wrap my mind around identifying as a woman. I was evaluating my privileges and trying to figure out how to unlearn the internalized racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and other forms of internalized discrimination. Patriarchy has limited freedoms and controlled people’s behavior by saying the male sex/gender is better. I knew I had privilege as a man and thought that identifying as a woman might appropriate womanhood and offend others. So I told myself I was gender queer. I didn’t want to identify with a binary gender anyway, because if it was congruent to sex then gender must be fluid.
I never much liked biology class, but I did really enjoy studying queer theory and woman studies. I read books such as Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornetein and Gender Trouble by Judith Butler. I was also studying film, which included examining works such as Visual And Other Pleasures by Laura Mulvey. Through my research I first came to the conclusion: gender isn’t real. I didn’t want to believe in gender at all because of the harm that it has caused others and myself. We have a history of oppressing women, femmes, those with vaginas, those attracted to the same sex, and those who present differently than expected.
Then I began to experience body dysphoria. I didn’t feel connected to my body. I heard phrases from other trans people such as “I was born in the wrong body” or “my body is like a disease that needs to be healed.” I didn’t feel like I fit in with the cisgender community so I wanted to fit into the transgender community. I adopted these phrases as my own, even though they didn’t feel right. What I knew was I when I looked into the mirror I would see a man staring back at me. I wanted my body to be more feminine, to match the femininity I felt inside. It felt like a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from. I was discontent with my physical form. It was then that I started to identify as a woman. I wanted to feel confident and secure in my anatomy. I thought I wanted a cisgender woman’s body—a body with soft features, curves, boobs, and a vagina. So I went to a therapist who helped me discover myself and helped me start hormone replacement therapy. Since then, I’ve learned to love my body again. My body is softer and curvier—more feminine. I don’t need surgery to be content. I’m confident in the body I was born in and my identity as a gender queer, trans woman.
Gender is the relationship between our bodies, our soul, and how we interact with the world through sexuality, self-expression, and self-interests. However, while our society would be better off without labeling or judging others based on sexual characteristics, appearance, expression, interests, sexuality, or race, we live in a physical world. So in a way, gender doesn’t exist—if you don’t want it to. I find it important sometimes to have a word for how I’m feeling or what I’m experiencing. Womanhood matters to me because I enjoy coming together with other people with similar experiences to my own and talking about our shared and differing experiences. If an experience has a term, it has meaning and it has power. It is more difficult to deny or oppress the existence of something that is explainable and identifiable. So I identify as a woman, but not just a woman because our identities are complex and intersect with everything that we are. I guess a more accurate way to describe myself would be: I’m a Hispanic, gender queer, trans woman who’s willing to learn more about identity and open to changing in the future.
You are allowed to identify however you would like. It’s okay to be confused or uncertain about your identity. My definition and understanding of gender may be different from yours and that’s okay. But we must respect each other and understand that no one can experience gender or identity in the same ways.
“Instead of saying that all gender is this or all gender is that, let’s recognize that the word gender has scores of meaning built into it. It’s an amalgamation of bodies, identities, and life experiences, subconscious urges, sensations, and behaviors, some of which develop organically, and others which are shaped by language and culture. Instead of saying that gender is any one single thing, let’s start describing it as a holistic experience.” -Kate Bornstein
Rose Montoya, the Author is a fan of LGBT News and submitted this article for publishing and sharing with our fans & followers. Thank you Rose!
Rose’s website: Rosalynnemontoya.com