Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gender Blender

This is a repost from March 2010.  Yesterday Oprah had Chaz Bono on her show.  Chaz talked about feeling better as a man without breasts and with more testerone surging through his body.  I felt sad for his mother, glad for him, and confused for me, because I have him in my brain as a woman and I don't know if I can change my thinking.  Chaz has decided to keep his vagina. So there you have it: a man with a coochie.  My husband Jake shook his head and changed the subject.  What do you think about this?

I watched The Sonny and Cher show every week as a child, put towels on my head and danced as I pretended I was Cher Bono singing Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves. To me, Cher was also beautiful with her gray hair and crooked nose in Moonstruck.  Then about ten or fifteen years ago, she changed her nose and dyed her hair.   Now Cher looks younger than me, and she was an adult when I was a child. I really did appreciate the original, but I suppose it was never any of my business what kind of surgery she felt she needed in order to look good enough. But that's not really what I am getting at. 

When Sonny and Cher brought their daughter Chastity out occasionally at the end of the show, it was my opinion that she was an adorable, well dressed little girl.  Now not exactly like her mother, she has changed herself to himself and become Chas. Chas is difficult for me to comprehend because I do not understand why a woman in her forties would want to become a man. I have been taught all my life that there is woman and man and nothing in between, and up to this point I have believed it. It was always one of those unspoken understandings that civilized people accept without giving much thought.

OK, I am just going to say it. Bev and I cannot understand how any woman could get used to cleaning a penis every day when she never had one! I have been grossing my best friend Bev out with this subject. Ladies, can you imagine something swinging between your legs as you walk along?

As I said before, Chas seemed like a very cool person as a girl and she was the same when I saw him as a woman on Celebrity Fit Club several years ago. She was intelligent, kind, and reliable, and so my guess is that he is the same decent person. I assume the flush of testosterone throughout his body has changed his personality somewhat, but probably not completely.

What really got me thinking about this subject is a conversation I had with my brother about the imprecise application of gender and I wondered about the difficulty of drastic physical change for a woman in her forties. Chas had to have his breasts removed and a total hysterectomy. The hormonal balance of his body was remade. I remember what I felt like when I was pregnant and
how the chemical changes in my body made me nauseous and irritable.

There was this show on NPR in which a man who had been a woman was interviewed. One of the changes that stood out in his mind was his libido. He said when he saw an attractive woman he started to picture her naked and t imagined what it would like to have a sexual encounter with her.  He said he did not have those kinds of thought when he was a woman, and it surprised him.

Then I thought: What about the genitalia? I thought the new penis would be made from some body part like the removed flesh from the breasts, but I read that it is actually a prosthesis made to individual size!  I keep thinking of the people who make those and maybe it is no different from making a prosthetic leg or arm for them. Even after reading this I still do not understand how they make a scrotum. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_change_operation  And just about every woman knows that if the bladder and urethra is working, you don't bother it, because of the potential for infection and bladder collapse.

As far as gender is concerned I think that man and woman are two extreme categories that most people do not fit into exactly. Most people probably fit between the two. I will use myself as an example. I am not a girlie girl. Not romantic. Don't generally like receiving flowers and candy, was never interested in weddings, never looked for a man to marry, and I hate combing hair.  I do like cooking, decorating, making jewelry, the friendship of women, and smelling good.  So I fit somewhere on the man to woman continuum line, but not precisely into the woman gender.  My husband on the other hand is romantic and likes smelling good too. And Jake (my husband) can cook, but he pretends he cannot. So what is he and what am I and who gets to decide? Do we decide or do our cultures?

We are used to thinking of people as woman or man. The Eskimos have a lot words that describe different kinds of snow. Maybe we need some more
words to describe ourselves. We have man, woman, transgender, lesbian, homosexual, transman and transwoman. We need some descriptions of human beings that have less of a polemic affect on the human mind.

Whether or not Cher had any influence over her daughter's choices I honestly don't know; I just noticed that she had chosen to get a lot body work done and maybe Chas understood plastic surgery because he saw his mother deal with it so many times.

I cannot imagine what Cher feels.  It must be hard for her to handle the change, and yet she has a good child that she loves and wants in her life.  It would be very difficult for me because it always takes such a concerted effort for me to transform my thinking in any way. The dividers of my mind seem to be set in rock and made out of Roman concrete.  I feel this way even though I know that mostly everything in my life did not turn out the way I expected.


  1. Hi there Middle Aged! NO! I cannot imaging anything swinging down there! I cant imagine wanting to be a man, and I asked my husband, and he cannot imagine wanting to be a woman! He LOVES being a man and I LOVE being a woman. To me it seems that the whole thing is profound self hatred, that would make one CUT OFF their breasts! And whatever they do to the vagina, to create the penis! My thoughts go to the "doctors" who perform these surgeries--mad scientists is more like it. I once saw an episode of Tyra where a young black man who had the trans operation in Thailand or somewhere, lament with great regret about having done it. There are many complications that can happen and just the destruction of his body. Chas has to be suffering!

  2. I don't think that everyone who is born with a female body fits into the woman gender. To change physically from a woman to a man must be scary and painful. I would like to ask Chas why did he feel that he had to do go so far. I wonder if he thinks that the only way he can be taken seriously as himself is to be seen as a man, because the world only sees the body he was born with. Maybe one day people will not have to do something as drastic as cutting off their breasts. Perhaps there will be a gender between male and female. I think that in reality humans inhabit than more than these two genders. I think God made us this way, but humans have, for some reason, maybe survival of the race, found only the two categories acceptable. In my life, I have met people in my life that I knew did not naturally fit male or female, but they had no choice but to be seen as man or woman.

  3. Well, there are plenty of intergender people... have you ever read Jeffrey Eugenides' novel Middlesex? (I bet you'd like it, as it's set in Detroit and I think his descriptions of growing up there are great.)

    I read something recently - can't think where - about a documentary that has been made about Chastity/Chas. There's a lot in terms of Cher losing her daughter due to Chas' sex change. I think I'd like to see it.

    And I gotta say that i cannot imagine how awful it would be to feel like you were trapped in the wrong kind of body...

  4. I wonder if he thinks that the only way he can be taken seriously as himself is to be seen as a man, because the world only sees the body he was born with.

    You know - I think Chas is trans. I have an internet buddy who is a pre-op trans (F to M) and she and her siblings have always felt like she was a guy who happened to be born in a woman's body.

    It's very difficult (if not impossible) for me to imagine being a guy, let alone wanting to be a guy... but I think that for some gender-variant people, this really is the right choice. Like you said, though, maybe someday it will be better for trans- and inter-gendered people - no need to go through drastic surgeries. (Although I have a feeling that many more people would make the transition if they were able to afford it...)

  5. Here's a link to the article I mentioned: