Watching a recent show on transgendered people reminded me of a common thread I have noted since first advocating for transgendered folks, especially female to males (FTMs); genital reassignment surgery and its lack of necessity for many. At first I was quite confused as to why someone who was so obviously born into the wrong body would make the decision not to reassign everything they could, surgically, to the body they should have had all along. And though I know creating a phallus is a difficult and often unsuccessful surgery, I would have thought more FTMs would desire the procedure. However most of them that I speak with have no immediate plan or overwhelming desire to have their genitals surgically modified.
I know firsthand what it feels like to be trapped in a body that doesn’t belong to who you are. And while I do not fit the typical gender binary system, and changing my gender completely would not correct my dysphoria, I can, with utmost certainty, relate to needing to make changes just to fit your skin. I also understand the lack of urgency in genital reassignment. We are treated and related to in the way that people perceive us. The things people can see, make judgment, and base opinions on are the things we strive to show the most. These are the changes most sought after when transitioning.
For FTMs “top surgery” or the removal of the female breasts and the addition of male hormone therapy are the two major things that have the most effect in how the outside world perceives them. Being able to present and pass as a man during the transition period is vital to emotional health. Taking this into consideration, it solidifies the fact that gender is not based on genitalia. If our genitalia dictated what gender we were, those that have transitioned without genital reassignment surgery would still feel incomplete. And while I am sure some do, most I have known do not. Their own dysphoria was never based on their genitals.
Our genitalia is what we derive sexual pleasure from, not what defines us. All day long we assign pronouns to people out of instinct and familiarity. There seems no need to ask for “proof” by seeing their genitals. We naturally interact with people according to their gender, not their genitalia. It makes perfect sense that a transgendered person could feel complete even without genital reassignment surgery. Their genitals are not what the world makes their perceptions from nor are they likely to be the biggest source of concern. Our sexual organs simply define the avenue to which we derive pleasure or procreate. Gender is not sex.
Echo resides in northern New Jersey with her wife and the two youngest of their five children. You can visit her blog at dysphoricallyspeaking.blogspot.com.