July 1998

When I submitted my first article for Oasis last month, I did so with questions in mind -- having the chance to answer some and maybe even ask a few of my own. Well, I've done both so far and I'm very happy with the way things are going.

When I put together my trans web site, Face of Words, the sort of issues I was dealing with were very trans biased: how do hormones work, what's the surgery like, etc, etc. A trans-site for trans-people by a trans-man. I knew that would change somewhat with my venture into what has been a largely GLB publication. So, I was a little unprepared for some of what I was asked, in particular, a question I haven't had to articulate for a very long time. One I should be able to answer if I'm to have any hope coming out.

"What makes you so sure you're a man? How do you even know? What about being a woman does not feel right?"

This is what I call the "explaining breathing" question set. You know, the sort of query that you apply every day of your life, but have never had to put it into words.

Explaining how you know something can be very difficult. The convicitions I feel begin at the root of my soul and are justified and explained (but not created!) by the examples of day-to-day life I see around me. I know I am a certain way inside. The way I am is nearly identical to how "male" is defined. I knew the definition before I was taught the word.

When I try to answer all of this, I try my damnedest not to give into gender stereotypes, but some of them do hold water.

A lot of people say that woman are strictly the nurturers and men are the... well, the aggressive type. As sweeping generalizations go, that's a load of crap. I believe in wide and varied spectrums of life, despite placing my psyche on the far end. But it is true, IMHO, that men and women express their emotional, analytical, and social tendencies in different ways.

At her trans site, Melanie Anne Phillips has a very interesting essay on her beliefs on mental sex. Basically, she postulates that men have evolved to be the spatial thinkers while women, the temporal ones. The pairing of two specialist minds would increase the success rate of the species. Which is why we have so darned many non-queer people.

In my opinion, men tend to think quantitatively, while women, qualitatively. Things vs. events. Numbers vs. feelings, etc, etc, ad nauseum. Despite being a musician and artist, I've always been very concrete minded (blockhead? {cough}). As a child, my play concerned specific goals rather than the experience itself. I played sports and war-type games while the girls played house and the like. Interaction was only a means to the end for me, rather than being an end into itself.

A lot of it is just my personality. I'm very analytical and like things to have a definable purpose. I'm an INTJ on the personality tests (types explained here), the "system builder" and it's one I seldom see reflected in women. The opposite of my type, the ESFP, is described as "loving to talk to people about people." That can explain a few of my guy friends, but fits the girls' floor I lived on last year to a "T". So, how much of personality is gender based? I don't know.

I try not to think of my masculinity in terms of clothing or social habits. But again, a lot of society is built on gender differences. Like, how men usually refrain from physical contact in conversations (guarding physical boundaries?), how women have an upward lilt in their voice inflection (to keep up momentum in order to branch into other topics?) I've employed nearly every masculine social trait (gestures, walking gait, etc) since as far back as I can remember. I grew up with my father as the only immediate male family figure -- the others were an older sister, a mother, and a grandmother. You'd think I'd emulate the majority (especially with my sister's hand-me-downs), but I was inexplicably drawn to the male spectrum. I was positive I was a boy until I was about 5 years old, when I was told otherwise. The majority of social conditioning I see doesn't begin until that age.

That's the best I can explain it right now. Tonight isn't one of my more articulate nights. What about being a woman doesn't feel right? That's easy. I am unable to relate to them, despite being attracted to them. I've tried, trust me. That's about all I remember doing in middle school. That was the clincher that confirmed I was no woman.

In my mind, it's what inside that makes us human. And what makes us that particular sort of human usually classified as "man" or "woman."



Addendum At the time I submit this article (nearly all of it lifted from an email reply I wrote), I am a few weeks from my goal date of coming out. Anything that has -- or has not -- happened is firmly in the past by this publishing date. Next month's column will either have a very euphoric or melancholy (possibly non-existent, even) tone. So please wish me some retroactive luck.

Tristan is a straight FTM in his early twenties. He studies music at a Florida university with the hopes of being an orchestral performer. When he isn't practicing, he's playing GemStone III or doing something constructive, like sleeping. He also has been known to fence, make origami sculptures, ride horses, and do things generally not associated with mainstream American culture.

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