Thursday, February 05, 2009

World's Youngest Transsexual?

I've seen this story on a couple of blogs this morning, about a young woman in Germany who is apparently a rising pop star and transsexual.

My first thought was to be please at the (for once!) reasonably respectful and positive writing; I found both the article and the blog mention pretty good in terms of pronouns, quotes from her doctors and family, etc. What struck me, though, besides the cringe-inducing sensationalism of using her given name in the headline, was the tagline of "World's Youngest Transsexual!"

I think it's great that she was able to get her family to support her, and that she was able to access good healthcare and pursue the treatment she needed without the 'blunt trauma' of puberty, as the article puts it, that I imagine many of us went through. Though the question of how young is too young to transition certainly comes up, it, while both contentious and interesting, is not my point.

The main thing I'm interested in is the fact that the article seems to be making a distinction that she's the youngest transsexual in the world because she's already had surgery. Does that mean that she wasn't a transsexual, per se, until the moment of obtaining surgery? To take it away from such a surgery-centric model, and bring it back to myself, I found myself wondering, have I always been a transsexual, even before I started pursuing transition? What about before I even realized I wanted/needed to transition?

I am now most comfortable calling myself a transsexual, or a man of transsexual experience, but that wasn't always the case. I (like many of my friends, it seems) identified as genderqueer/trans* for a number of years before realizing that I still hadn't gotten it quite right, that I am transsexual and definitely needed and wanted to pursue social and medical transition. I'm trying not to project any assumptions about what it does or doesn't mean to be transgender, and this is certainly not to say that I believe a genderqueer -> trans* -> transsexual trajectory is 'normal' or 'right' or what have you. Clearly, these can be separate identities or they can coexist. I certainly am still more genderqueer than many men I know, regardless of whether they are trans or not- I enjoy a bit of crossdressing, etc.

But I also sometimes think that transsexual is a more appropriate word for me than transgender, simply because I don't feel like my gender has changed much. I'm the same slightly effete masculine person I've been for ages.

All that said, I think I've come to feel that I've always 'been' a transsexual, I just didn't realize it for quite some time, and so spent years first misidentified (by myself and others) as female, and then misidentified (by myself) as genderqueer/butch, and now finally have realized that I'm a transsexual man. Still, the means that I (all transsexuals?) were once "the World's Youngest Transsexuals!" It occurs to me that it's pretty condescending and insulting for this newspaper to act like they've discovered a rare species, The Youthful Transsexual, simply because they've found someone who has had the good fortune to be able to access the medical care necessary to transition at an earlier age than most of us.

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