When you read discussion lists a lot, you get into very fine levels of meaning when it comes to sex and gender. I can’t possibly reconcile all the opinions that various crossdressers, transgenderists, transsexuals, and others have on the issue, but one thing seems productive to me, and that is to stop thinking of transition as a simple change of state. Many things change in response to discomfort brought on by GID and one’s decision to do something about it.

My sense of my own dysphoria comes from an inner identity and not from any sort of general discomfort at relating to people as a father, husband, brother, or any other role I’ve played in the past. I have “performed” my masculinity (harkening to Judith Butler’s almost impenetrable scholarship) more or less effectively, and in almost all of those cases, I really didn’t mind because I was doing something other than “being a man,” but teaching a class, working on a contract, driving a tractor, playing with my kids, and so on. As I transition, I am keenly aware of my self, my identity, but I don’t notice a whole lot about those actions (teaching, playing, etc) changing a whole lot, mostly because I was already doing them thoughtfully and lovingly and don’t see any reason to try to perform them any differently now (allowing, of course, that biological and social factors may push those performances in subtle ways, even if I don’t deliberately change them).

So let’s think of trans-sition, or changing states or locations. What thing is it, exactly, that is changing locations/states? The easy answer is that it’s me, but “me” is largely unsatisfactory because the totality of “me” isn’t really changing. “Me” (or “George” or whatever proper or categorical noun you want to use) is too vague when we are trying to be specific. The next easy answer is that my sex is changing, right? Sure, to an extent, but if “me” is too broad, then “my sex” is too narrow, for being transgendered and coming to self-acceptance is so much more than sex. It seems to me that transitioning is far more complex than moving from one part of binary to the other part, but rather moving in varying speeds and intensities in several axes at once: the transition of flesh, the transition of self-identity, the transition of self-performance, and the transition of belonging (or the way others respond to us), to brainstorm a few. For example, one person could be changing their body without changing their performance, or changing their self image without changing their body, and so on. For each variable, we can plot an X on a line that pointed to where you are right now, the mark remaining stable or maybe moving, like a bank of monitors on an intensive care patient, and in doing so, we avoid collapsing all of these variables into a simple male-female, or masculine-feminine binary.

For example, I might describe myself today with the following trends:

Body
Male ——-x->———————————- Female

Identity
Male ———————x->——————– Female

Performance of Gender
Masculine ————-x———————— Feminine

Acceptance of Gender by others (passing?)
Masculine (low acceptance) -x——————- Feminine (high acceptance)