Updated: 3 days ago
I was free for about 20 seconds one night in Bloomington, Indiana, mid 80s. I was walking home late from the library by way of Lincoln to 10th street, after stopping for a beer and popcorn at Jake's. A car slowed down behind me and I was pissed. Wearing my ugliest car coat, hippy ponytail, I was swinging my arms wide and practicing my most ungainly stride, copying the walk of male friends. The automatic nausea in response to the car pulling up to the curb was not welcome. Then I heard, "Sir, could you point me to the nearest gas station?"
Free at last!
For a few seconds before my voice broke the spell, I felt free as a bird, ready to soar through crackly ceilings like a bat-shit crazy valkyrie out of hell itself. I could travel the world like this! Go anywhere, fearless, see anything!
Didn't even need surgery. Not something I've wanted—in fact, the idea that I need to lop off sections of my flesh and sew on new stuff in order to have this freedom, well, makes me so mad I can't think about it long enough to make plans.
In later years I came to know and admire a number of people bravely making the transition from one gender to another. Thinking of three in particular, two transwomen and one transman, I realized that while all three had girlfriends, each of their stories was quite different. One of the transwomen was now a lesbian. The second had wanted to be a straight woman, but abusive encounters with men post-trans had traumatized her back to woman lovers. And she was a Marine. Well, he had been a Marine. My transman friend was so darling I could hardly stand it. With her beautiful hair now shorn, wearing the jeans and white t-shirt of an adolescent boy, I just stood there dumbly wishing I were still in high school. In any case, her girlfriend had stood by throughout the transition and now they were to be married as husband and wife.
But wait—if you can go from straight male to gay female or vice versa, then how many possible combinations are there? Maybe this schema could account for my original teenage hypothesis of being a gay male in a female body! My logician brain, always happy with truth tables, started setting out the possibilities. Except it soon clashed with the Occam’s Razor part of my brain, eager to keep things as simple as possible. Are we going to need new and ghosty dualisms in the theory-pool?
If you can be born male or female (we'll leave out intersex and bisexual variations for the moment) and God says cisgender—identifying with the skin you're in—always means heterosexual, then you've got a tiny truth table, like for negation: p or ~p. That's it, either the thing obtains or it does not, so two options for one trait—sex—which signifies 2¹ = 2 possibilities.
where P = male and if you're not a male then you're a female. Or vice versa.
If you can be born male or female and either gay or straight, then it's 2² = 4. There are exactly four possibilities, two options for sex times two options for gender orientation. The LG of LGBTQIA are secretly happiest with this setup, since the rest of us cause entirely too much trouble. Plus all this can still be done in the genotype, just like eye-color and Mendel's peas, with four resulting phenotypes:
where P = male (nonmale being female) and Q = straight (nonstraight being gay).
You can be born male & straight, male & gay, female & straight, or female & gay.
However, if you can be born male or female and any of the above possibilities can also be trans, we’ve got a 2³ = 8 situation:
P Q R
T T T
T T F
T F T
T F F
F T T
F T F
F F T
F F F
where P = male, Q = straight, and R = uh...cis or trans?
Or is it a 2⁴ = 16 situation? If I was born female and straight and but felt male and gay, are these now four distinct variables rather than three? Do I fit Line 8 on an 8-line truth table or Line 16 on a 16-line table? And are we mad at J. K. Rowling because she drew the wrong truth table or because she mislabeled the variables?
I give up. Now I don’t want to draw truth tables anymore.
No wonder we came up with the all purpose spectrum-wiggly gender fluid. Don't even need Kinsey scales for this, tightly bounded by 1 to 6 with exclusively hetero- or homosexual at either end.
Whew! says the philosophy brain, so...no need for a new and cumbersome ghost-in-the-machine dualism, nor even trialism—there's a fine concept—to account for multiple metaphysical entities squishing into our human frames. We can return to the messy interplay of gametes and biography, Nature and Nurture somehow consistently producing a good 10% of us in every population. Or a bad 10%, depending on your lexicon.
Or just badass, according to mine.
Freedom it is.
23 DECEMBER 2019