I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't have some awareness of transsexuality. My cousin Erica is a male to female (MTF) transsexual person. (Aside: Some people just say "a transsexual," including some trans people that I know, but in the same way I wouldn't say "a black" or "a gay" I will generally use transsexual as an adjective that modifies an aspect of a person's humanity rather than as a noun.) She is a somewhat distant cousin from me and her immediate family wasn't initially so accepting so I never met her until another cousin's 90th birthday just a few years ago. I don't know exactly how to describe the ways I heard about her talked about other than to say that she was the butt of some jokes except that everyone is the butt of some jokes and embarrassed stories in my family so it didn't seem malicious even if it wasn't optimal. Additionally, I was so fascinated by the idea of someone that would change their sex that I didn't really care what anyone else thought. I just wanted to meet her for as long as I can remember.
The other way in which I became aware of transsexuality was through programs on the topic on Discovery Health that I watched in high school. They were typically told as biopics on individuals, more often MTF than FTM, that were altering their sex through some combination of hormones, SRS , nd lessons on how to appropriately modify their voices and body movements. To me, this was a pretty straight forward thing. My understanding was that they were people who felt that they were born with the wrong bodies and they took action to rectify their spirit with their body. It wasn't my experience but it wasn't hard to understand. One program even discussed a study on the post-mortem study of the brains of 6 transsexual women demonstrating that a substructure of their hypothalamus called the BSTc was the same size of that typically seen in people born female. There was debate over whether this was a born variation that explained these women's transsexuality or whether it was a result of hormone therapy, but it seemed possible that there was a simple biological explanation for their transssexuality. It didn't seem like the kind of thing that should invite vitriol and even hate crimes to me. I never understood that.
That was a great primer for me, but there was a lot not being answered. Were the little boys who wanted to play with dolls longing for that because it was inherently a girl thing to do, or because that's what girls were doing and they knew they wanted to be girls? Where was nature in nurture in gendered behavior. Beyond that, there was a whole lot more learning to get me from that limited-but-valuable understanding of being transsexual and transgender to the gender queer, gender fucked, gender what/what gender? place that I live today. But that is all for another blog on another #transtuesday.