How trans do you want to be?


The Danish Girl, Universal Pictures, 2015

From London Review of Books:

This is a selection of quotes from transsexual narratives, suggesting that as often as not the authors both know and don’t know who they are, or even – in some cases – who precisely they want to be:

Some transsexuals are no happier after surgery, and there are many suicides. Their dream is to become a normal man or woman. This is not possible, can never be possible, through surgery. Transsexuals should not delude themselves on this score. If they do, they are setting themselves up for a big, possibly lethal, disappointment. It is important that they learn to understand themselves as transsexuals.

April Ashley, The First Lady

The trans prefix implies that one moves across from one sex to another. That is impossible … I was not reared as a boy or as a young man. My experience can include neither normal heterosexual relations with a woman nor fatherhood. I have not shared the psychological experience of being a woman or the physical one of being a man.

Mark Rees, Dear Sir or Madam

‘I live as a woman every day.’
‘Do you consider yourself to be a woman?’
‘I consider … Yes, yes, but I know what I – I know what I am … I do everything like a woman. I act like a woman, I move like a woman … I know I’m gay and I know I’m a man.’

Anita, a Puerto Rican transgender sex worker interviewed by David Valentine in Imagining Transgender

My body can’t do that [give birth]; I can’t even bleed without a wound, and yet I claim to be a woman … I can never be a woman like other women, but I could never be a man.

Susan Stryker, ‘My Words to Victor Frankenstein’

I certainly wouldn’t be happy with the idea of being a man, and I don’t consider myself a man, but I’m not going to try and convince anyone that I’m really a woman.

Jayne County, Man Enough to be a Woman

It had been such a relief for me when I could stop pretending to be a man. Well, it was a similar relief not to have to pretend that I was a woman … I was now a lesbian with a boyfriend, but I wasn’t a real lesbian and he wasn’t a real boy … no matter what I bought – I’d look in the mirror and see myself as a man in a dress. Sure, I knew I wasn’t a man. But I also knew I wasn’t a woman.

Kate Bornstein, Queer and Pleasant Danger

I have a male and female side … I don’t know how they relate … [I] had to ask myself: how trans did I want to be?

Juliet Jacques, Trans

As the oestrogen started to change her body, Jacques felt for the first time ‘unburdened by that disconnect between body and mind.’ She even wondered whether one day the original disconnect might be ‘hard to recall’. But this didn’t stop her in the same moment asking: ‘What kind of woman have I become?’ Soft-spoken and deep-voiced, understated and urgent, Jacques comes across as a woman carrying an ambiguity she doesn’t seem to want or feel able fully to shed. She is also as keen to talk about Norwich City Football Club and the underground music and counter-culture scene as she is to tell her tale of transition – why is it assumed that transition is all transsexual people have to talk about?

“Who do you think you are?”, Jacqueline Rose, London Review of Books