Gender Reassignment: It Sure Ain’t Simple


I was already knee-deep in my own transgender inquiry when – early last week – two pretty, famous transladies bitch-slapped Katie Couric for asking what was going on down there, and got the LGBT community all riled up with their empowered awesomeness. 

My fascination started earlier – sometime before I watched a YouTube video about a transgender teen couple that affected me on such a deep visceral level that I passed out a third of the way through, and yet after I went out of my way to introduce myself to Vivian – a seventy-something transwoman I see around town – while she was eating alone at Whole Foods.  I don’t know why I introduced myself to Vivian.  I’ve seen her many times since and haven’t so much as said Hello.  I think it had something to do with the fact that she looks freakish and scary in that way a lot of transladies do, and that I wanted to move past judging and separating, and find a place of connection amidst so much seemingly mangled humanity.  

It started at ecstatic dance where – despite the sucky music, the spazzy emoting and the ubiquity of hemp bell bottoms – I get my weekly groove on, amidst a colorful sea of ageing free spirits, many of whom are transgender.

I was inside the bathroom stall, racing to simultaneously foot flush and re-tie my sweatpants, eager to get back out on the dance floor.

“Oh, shoot!”  

I bounded out to see Mary fumbling beneath her camisole.  But, I already knew it was Mary when I saw the pink ballet slippers beneath the stall, because everyone else dances barefoot.  

“My bra came undone,” Mary moaned, mildly panicked beneath a smear of blue eyeliner and electric orange lipstick.  “Can you help me?”

“Of course,” I chirped, reaching for the industrial-sized nylon straps she was struggling to connect behind her.  “Which row? 

The question was part habit, and part courtesy – like, when I waited tables in Beverly Hills and made a point of greeting the trannies who frequented the lounge with “Good evening, Ladies,” because it made them smile and sit up even taller in their Versace corsets.  It was obvious which row.  Every thread of Mary’s bra was stretched to its outermost limit, working overtime to make its way around her distinctly masculine ribcage.  

“The first one.”

Feeling as though I was helping a coltish tween back into her training bra, I felt the urge to offer Mary some helpful tips as she entered this exciting threshold of womanhood.  I wanted to tell her that when it comes to exercise, hook & eye straps are not her friend, are too precarious, and that she’s wiser to choose a sports bra, or a cami with a built-in shelf.  But, I wasn’t sure that my advice would be welcomed because when it comes to surgically-sculpted chicks, it’s hard to know when they crossed over. With the naturally born kind, there’s a fairly reliable adolescent window in which bras and periods are timely and topical.  I have no idea how long Mary’s been a “woman,” and didn’t want to come off as condescending.  She’s in her mid-60s; she’s my elder.  Are there established etiquette guidelines for this sort of thing? 

“There you go,” I chirped, smoothing the tag on the underside of the strap, and pulling down Mary’s purple camisole, which only barely covered the length of her six-foot torso, just meeting the elastic of her pull-on skirt at her undefined waist.  I gave her hip an affectionate pat.  “See you out there.”

Home later that night, I was flipping through Richard Rudd’s Gene Keys, a mind-blowing book/system that contextualizes each of the sixty-four DNA codons as a pathway to enlightenment, each with its own shadow, gift and “siddhi” frequency.  The shadows beckon our curiosity, acknowledgment and study, as it is only through their transmutation that we unlock the higher frequencies of our genetic coding. 

I randomly turned to Gene Key 53, which takes us from Immaturity to Expansion to Superabundance, as long as we are courageous enough to surrender to the evolutionary impulse and to not micromanage our existence based upon egoic preferences and the enduring illusion of our separateness.

“…evolution demands that systems become more efficient, and efficiency is based on simplicity rather than complexity.”

I flashed upon Mary’s manicured man hands struggling to reach behind her back to fasten the overstretched row of hooks around her surgically implanted breasts.  My mind leapt to quantify the complicated machinations she endures on her long, painful, medically-molded, hormonally-boosted path to become “woman,” despite the fact that she doesn’t bleed, has neither womb nor ovaries, and isn’t fundamentally connected to the cycles of the moon the way un-trans-women naturally are. 

Ooh, no, she didn’t, I can already hear the LGBT-empathic knees jerking throughout the field. 

“I tend to feel that anyone who is willing to go through such drastic surgery must have a profound and righteous reason for doing so,” wrote my editor, after I pitched him this story.  “And it’s not my place to second guess them.” 

This seems to be the de facto politically correct response to my questioning the gender reassignment industry because anytime I attempt to initiate a dialogue about the bizarre complications the transition necessitates, and wonder aloud if perhaps it might be easier and more supportive to simply redefine our current understanding of gender, the person to whom I’m speaking leaps to defend the transgender right to lob off their genitals, receive any number of foreign implants into their bodies and spend the rest of their lives dependent upon pharmaceutically-processed hormones, none of which I’m challenging.  Of course they have the right.  That goes without saying.  But, is it wrong for me to wonder if there isn’t an easier way?

Back when gender was first identified and tossed into the lexicon, it was simple – men had penises, Adam’s apples and y chromosomes, and women had breasts, vaginas and fallopian tubes.  It seems it’s no longer this simple.  We are an ever-evolving species who are now starting to exhibit gender inclinations that demand that we expand our definitions beyond those with which we are familiar. 

“…the shadow frequency…wants expansion without having to expand itself, which is why true expansion is actually relatively rare,” writes Rudd.  “Expansion is a process of transcending and including.  The wonder of expansion is that each new level of integration is built upon the levels that came before, which are thus included in the synthesis itself.”

Ken Wilber popularized the idea of transcending and including in his Integral Theory, a notion Claire Graves incorporated into his Spiral Dynamics, wherein he posited that every next level of consciousness includes those that preceded it.

Transcending and including requires that we broaden our notions of gender, and create new categories where two have historically sufficed.  Transcending and including allows people with penises to wear make-up and dresses while still loving and cherishing those very penises.  Transcending and including encourages a person with a vagina to walk and talk and gesticulate as “manly” as she wants to without twisting her clit into a balloon animal and calling it a penis.  Transcending and including requires that we grow our awareness and understanding of gender without removing those bits and pieces of our miraculous bodies that might inspire folks to challenge our own understanding of who we are and how we choose to live.

Again, none of this is to say that if someone wants to lob off her tits and call herself Paco, that she shouldn’t be allowed to do so, but I find myself wondering if there isn’t a way to find peace and harmony in one’s own skin as it is while adopting whichever gender lifestyles we’d prefer. 

“In a human being,” Rudd continues, “the expansion of frequency can only occur in one way – through the heart. 

Slicing off one’s penis, chopping off one’s breasts – these are not heart-based actions.  These are endeavors driven by separation, by a lack of acceptance so massive that it inspires voluntary amputation, which has me wondering if gender reassignment surgery is really the most loving and intelligent way to deal with this gender identity business.

In my experience, the conversation is – as yet – impossible to have because we’re so quick to defend Mary’s pain and right to amputate and implant and whatnot, that there’s no room to explore the larger consciousness shifts to which Mary’s discomfort is pointing without inspiring others to think you’re a homophobic bigot with a monster truck full of hate-crime paraphernalia.  Part of it points to humans delightfully empathic nature (yay, humans!), though a big piece of it points to the repressed shadows that the trans conversation necessarily triggers because it calls into question the very gender identities upon which all of us are living our lives, which is downright terrifying because gender identity is about as fundamental an understanding of Self as we have.  And so we leap to defend folks’ rights to transition because it’s obvious and politically correct, and because it allows us to dodge the larger questions to which this whole thing is pointing.  The give away is in the pacing – the immediacy of this knee-jerk defense betrays our terror of allowing the larger question of our evermore unstable gender delineations to seep into our consciousness where it threatens to undo our comfort, our safety and the duality upon which our reality exists.   To bring the gender identity question into the mainstream where we all have to face it challenges our entire ontological reality which is why the inquiry inevitably inspires us to shut-down and spout off a hasty and holy justification of the basic human right to slice, dice and medicate, when the truth is that we defend because we’re too freaked out by the whole thing to delve deeper, and really look at what this trend is expressing, which affects all of us – not just folks who think God got their genitals wrong.

Superabundance refers to a state of complete and total awareness of all that is.  This siddhic state of the 53rd Gene Key requires that we unidentify with these meat suits we think we are.  Granted, it’s a lofty ambition – to detach from form, to merge with the oneness we are, and yet, the irony of the contrast is potent.  To surgically redesign our bodies so that they match our outdated gender definitions is to marinate in the darkest shadows of this Gene Key, and to repress the evolutionary urge to which the trans-trend is pointing.  The 53rd Gene Key invites our culture to respond to the cues these courageous transfolks are expressing by evolving our very definitions of gender and identity, ontological reality, comfort and industry be damned.  

If this is happening to a few of us, it’s happening to us all because we are one human species.  To continue to confine the conversation to the LGBT edges is to deny our unity, as well as the very real evolution to which the trans phenomenon is pointing.  Yes, it’s confusing and confronting, and oh, so much easier to simply ignore it while saying the right thing if and when the topic arises, but my sense is that this is an opportunity to expand our awareness and our expression far beyond the distracting objects that may or may not hang between our legs, and to leap forward as a unified species beyond the reductive confines of our outdated gender definitions.  I claim no expertise or inklings as to how this is going to unfold, but I do know that armed with love, courage and willingness, we can figure it out together, without jetting to Thailand to have our junque hacked off. 

 
Image by lamdogjunkie, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.