Editors Note: This is a story by Kari Lassauniere, a transgender woman I have the distinct pleasure of knowing. I’m sharing it because the story offers a perspective that can be of great value to transgender women. I’ve edited it just slightly.
How did I get to accept the penis as a feminine body part? Or more importantly: how did I get to accept MY penis as part of MY feminine body?
This will be an article where we are going to talk about genitals. Sex stuff is going to come up. Colloquial and medical terms for specific genitals are going to be used.
I would, however, ask that you keep in mind I am trans femme. I write for myself and about trans women. But first, a little recap on what we are supposed to think about when it comes to trans genitals and why thinking that way is junk. Not that junk though. 🤣
The current narrative surrounding transgender women accepting themselves and then coming out runs something like this: As a child the trans person just knew they were trans. As a small child they intrinsically knew what being trans meant and that they needed to transition to survive.
This will manifest as a feeling of being “Born in the wrong body”. They will consequently have an awful childhood, no matter how supportive their parents are. They will come out publicly at some point and embrace all the überfemme stereotypes. At some point they will start hormone replacement therapy. They will absolutely hate their genitals and they will at some point have bottom surgery, specifically a vaginoplasty.
This is wrong. It’s all completely wrong and we need to tear it up and toss it out.
A different take
I am not saying trans people don’t need to transition, or that surgery may not be necessary. I am not even saying that embracing whatever expression of femininity that has resonance within you is wrong, even when that expression is looking like a barbie and dressing age inappropriately.
What I am saying is wrong, is the cis-heteronormative lens trans people and transition are viewed from. As long as you view yourself and your identity through this lens, you cannot accept yourself nor your transition in its entirety. With this conception of trans people and transition, genital surgeries are mandatory.
Through the lens of cis-heteronormativity the cis body, and state of being, is considered normal and desirable. Being transgender, on the other hand, is an abnormal and undesirable state. The state of being trans, in a cis-heteronormative society, is to be a faulty product sent back for repair. This is because through this lens “woman” actually describes “cis-woman”.
Dave Chapelle refers to a neovagina as “impossible pussy” in reference to the “Impossible Burger”. It’s not real meat, he says. It’s as near as can be without slaughtering a cow, but it’s still not beef.
Listening to many trans women speak about their neovaginas, they use words like “it looks like a real vagina” or “it’s indistinguishable from a cis vagina”. I use the examples of Dave Chapelle, a virulent transphobe, and trans women because it highlights the near universality of this view of trans people. Both transphobes and trans people accept this paradigm. We, as trans people, buy this narrative just as readily as cisgender people.
However, a vagina is just one part of a woman and this view extrapolates beyond mere genitals. Cis-women are seen as the real McCoy and trans women as the near perfect imitation, if the transes have the snippity-snip-snip that is. This ideology, the idea that cis is normal and trans abnormal, starts at birth and pervades every inch of trans and cis lives. Worse yet it harms both cis and trans people.
An inconvenient mandate
When a child is born, a few things happen. The newborn gets weighed, measured and gendered. This is the first interaction the child will have with the prescriptive system dictating their existence from there on out. Gender is an understanding of oneself and as such, looking at a baby’s junk, before that baby has the mental capacity to understand the self, then declaring the baby’s gender as known – by the presence of a penis or vagina – is incorrect.
The best a doctor can actually do is assess the child’s genitals and make a relatively safe assumption as to what gender the child is, but at birth no one can be sure. By recording a known gender on a birth certificate and saying “Congratulations! It’s a Boy!!” a child is made either cisgender or transgender. You cannot be transgender if you have no gender to be incongruent with.
This is where the fault lies, this is where trans people learn to hate themselves. Within minutes of our birth we are labelled, categorised, documented, and our disorder cemented. In that instant we go from being a child full of potential, to a tragic story that needs surgery to – at best – be a very good facsimile of the real deal.
We also need to ask exactly what is a cis gender boy or girl? What exactly are we imposing on cis kids? Maybe they don’t feel the intense dysphoria a trans child feels, but by imposing a gender on that child, are we not stifling their understanding of themselves and their potential? Are we not putting the newborn into a limiting box?
In that moment, your genital configuration at birth becomes a predictor of your entire life story. If your gender happens to coincide with what society accepts as the genitals appropriate for your gender, you are cis. If, however, your genitals do not coincide with the socially “normal”, you are transgender and you are now abnormal.
Coming to love her dick
So we get back to my earlier statement of genital surgery being mandatory in a cis-heteronormative society. When you accept cis as normal and trans as abnormal, you also accept prescribed remedies to bring the transgender body into normalcy.
Unfortunately, in this environment, your new genitals will always be “Impossible Pussy” and never a “Real vagina”.
You will be forever trapped in the wrong body.
Once again we need to ask the question: How did Queer Kari learn to stop worrying and love her dick? It’s a profound question. Strangely it had nothing to do with my penis. In fact it was completely unintentional.
I was born and assigned male at birth. Growing up I had the distinct understanding that there was an incongruity with my understanding of myself, and the identity imposed on me. I didn’t want to play with Barbie and I didn’t give a rat’s ass about the colour pink. I simply understood that I was not what the world understood me to be.
Later at Kindergarten, our class was divided into boys and girls for activities. And this is where the incongruence came a little more into focus. There I understood that I was seen as a boy. Unfortunately I neither had the vocabulary or understanding of myself to adequately express to either my parents and teachers that I was, in fact, some form of girl.
It was only much later when I had pried myself from the iron embrace of my parents expectations, society’s prejudices and religion’s clasp, that I was able to admit to myself that I was not male. When I did come out, when I did fully grasp what I was and was able to resolve the incongruence, my first stop was to start the process toward vaginoplasty.
We don’t understand gender
Before I got there though, I made a stop at hormone replacement therapy and feminism. Somewhere in the process of growing boobs, and a steady diet of Contrapoints, feminism and losing my male privilege, I realised something: Much like male privilege, cis privilege is a thing.
Cis Privilege is the idea that cis is the norm, the default and trans is not merely another state of being, but an abnormal one. This privileges cis people over trans people and creates a social inequality that cannot be opted out of. I cannot choose to be cis as a black person cannot choose to be white, as Matt Walsh cannot choose to not be an idiot.
This is what is completely wrong. And this is what must be torn up and thrown out.
When we remove the idea that trans is an opposite to cis, we accept that it is, in fact, just another possible state of being. Neither wrong nor right, merely being. From this position, the words “transgender” and “transition” can be understood to be constructed incorrectly.
If you understand trans as a “normal” state, then the word transgender shifts from meaning “someone whose gender is incongruent with their biology” to “someone whose genitals at birth are a variant differing from the mean“. We move to a position where we must accept that some women have a dick. Similarly when we look at the process we have labelled “transition”, we must ask: what exactly are we transitioning to and from?
When we accept the imposition that a gender is incorrect and that gender is an understanding of the self, it follows, then, that someone like me may never have been identified as a male. If I had a say in it, I would have ticked the F or NB box. And if this is an understanding of myself, exactly what gender am I “transitioning” from and too?
That is to say, no one is cis or trans, they merely are.
I didn’t accept my penis and learn to love it, I learnt that we as humans simply don’t understand gender. I simply choose to refuse to accept cis privilege. I am not “impossible”.
My penis was never a male penis. My body was never a male body. To me transition is a flawed term describing treatment for a hormonal problem that was causing me depression.
I am not transgender. I am Kari.