I'm crossing over what you know
Is it the boy you need in me
Or the girl you could be? - Amy Ray
The Search for Identity
Identity defines how we interact with others, how we view ourselves. The quest for identity usually involves the assumption of labels - man, woman, straight, gay, bi, friend, lover, daughter, son, student, worker, and a thousand other words that attempt to define with a few letters an entire person. I used to think that words were everything, that through them I could learn who I am and what I'm doing here. That's a flawed way of looking at the world for me. Words don't describe how I feel when staring off at where the ocean meets the sky. Words don't describe the contentment I feel around good friends. Words don't describe the joy I get when I'm "sir'd" by a stranger. Words don't describe my encampment in the no-man's land between woman and man, between masculine and feminine, between butch dyke and trannyboy. Language doesn't let me describe myself as I'd like. So I simply smile, adopt the closest words I can find for who I am, and go merrily on my way through life. Works for me pretty well. Give it a shot.
I wish I could say I have a firm identity. But I think that's an impossibility. Who I am as I type this sentence is a different person than I was this morning crawling out of bed, or who I was this afternoon helping my dad. I'm a different person each minute of each hour of each day of my life. We all are. And I don't get that idea out of a stupid book Descartes wrote a few centuries ago (that guy is full of crap anyway) or from any other philosophy text. It's simply fact. Who we are changes day by day. I think we grow, and learn, and mature (or de-mature) all the time.
That's a good thing. If I was the same person I was five years ago, this column would be so depressing half the people who read it would finish it and cry. And if I wrote this column tomorrow, it would be different. But we have to learn that change is okay.
My parents are perfect examples of that. They take all my identity crisises in stride. To them, I'm a good person, of some intelligence and with a kind heart. That's all that matters to them. Whether I go by Alex or Beth, they don't care (though I will, in their words, always be their daughter Bethany). Whether I change my body, masculinize it, or whether I suddenly go crazy and start wearing pink frilly dresses, doesn't change their love for me. I wish all parents of queer kids could take lessons from my folks. The world would be a much better place for it.
I'm okay living in the no-man's land between butch dyke and trannyboy. That's a good place for me right now. If I go ahead to become a traditional FTM transsexual or if I stay in transgender land, or if I go back to plain old butchdom, is okay. It's all a part of the journey that makes up my life. I've found a contentment in embracing my transgenderism that I didn't find even in embracing my attraction to women.
I'm a boy. I'm a son, a daughter, a friend, a female-bodied man, a transgender, a genderqueer, a butch, a dyke, a queer, a writer, a pagan, a grandchild, a young adult, a child at heart, a former Catholic schoolgirl, owned by my critters (cat and fish), and a person most of all. The labels I apply to myself, or the labels you may throw at me, are just wrappings.
Alex Kimball is a 19 year old FTM genderqueer who attends UMass-Amherst in pursuit of knowledge, though he doesn't ignore that life is the greatest teacher. You may contact him at email@example.com if you're interested, want to argue, or just want to talk. He is the proud "owner" of a Siamese fighting fish called Sparky and the number one affection-giver for Melly the cat. He formerly wrote for Oasis as Bethany Kimball.