My first encounter with transgender reality came when I was in graduate school. I worked on the top floor of the physics building at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. This was not a stuffy community – facility announcements were prefaced by a breathless woman asking “May I have your attention please? May I have your attention, please?!” But on the floor just above, at the end of a long dark hallway, the only female technician in the building had her workroom. Nobody seemed to spend much time down there, and a machinist finally clued me in “He went away one summer and came back a woman.”
I have to admit that this choice is problematical to me.
Here’s a less extreme example: I met a man who explained that he felt like he had two personalities, one male and one female. He was a large man, but felt compelled on occasion to wear women’s clothes. What I eventually came to understand was that as a father in a previous life, he had gone down in a ship with his young daughter. The girl had hidden herself in him as they drowned, and part of the work he was doing in this life was to give her the opportunity to work her way out again.
There are men that spend all their lives trying to get into a women’s bodies, and often they do so using methods that are psychologically or physically abusive. There’s a certain symmetry in being reincarnated as a woman. Should we have sympathy for their desires to become men again? That was the opinion expressed by a Unitarian Universalist minister. The UU movement famously supports LGBT choices, and the minister asked us on that day to try “walking in his shoes.” I had to hold my tongue, knowing that she wouldn’t understand, but what came to mind was: “But that’s just what he’s doing – learning what it’s like to be a woman so that he can have some respect for their needs! How is that end going to be furthered by supporting him as he – yet again – mutilates a woman’s body?”
Carlos Castaneda described the view of the Yaqui sorcerers regarding gender. Masculine and feminine souls have different topologies – one projecting and one receiving. His adherents evolved a discipline called “tensegrity”, and believed that the womb gave women enormous spiritual power, power that a man’s genitals could never challenge. But the Yaqui view was that all such power originated in the soul – in fact Castaneda encountered a masculine sorcerer that had turned himself inside out, and so presented as a woman.
If the soul is what matters and persists, then a man like Bruce Jenner will find himself back in a woman’s body again. In this life, why not get as much benefit from being a man as he can? He was put here in a man’s body for a reason.
But his struggle to become a woman may be of help to the rest of us. Science can’t really explain our sense of gender identity. Maybe Jenner’s choice creates another opportunity for society to recognize that gender is not simply about biological form.
Sexual arousal is a consequence of a yearning of one spirit for another that causes blood to pool in the parts of our bodies that feel most pleasure. That yearning is complicated by procreation, which at this point is overburdening the carrying capacity of the earth. Perhaps homosexuality is a way of freeing our ecosystems of the physical side-effects of the deepening of our spiritual relations?
But isn’t that a distorted view of life – that our sexuality defines our deepest relationships? In my thirties, I was taken aside on two occasions and warned that gay men weren’t accepted in the top levels of the institution that I was working in. Being someone that dreamed every night about women, I never got the message: my failure to engage sexually made people assume that I was gay. That I was committed to a relationship built upon intellectual and emotional compatibility seemed to escape them.
I know that my workmate in college was a terribly unhappy person – their physical transformation was incomplete, and therefore unsatisfying. It also came with terrible social ostracism. Why do doctors then pursue this craft? Is it merely so that the superficial external presentation matches the internal reality, so that those that see sex as a mechanical activity will not be surprised when the inner personality – the very soul of the man or woman they are loving – comes to the fore? Wouldn’t it just be better to prepare people to recognize the nature of the soul that they are pursuing, and thus to learn something about their inner selves at the same time?
In spite of all of my questions, I feel no hostility to the transformation being pursued by Jenner and others, unless that it seems to involve an enormous investment of energy. I guess that as long as they can afford it, it’s just another experiment in living. Let us know how it works for you!
Hi there! You seem to be sincere and well-intentioned, so I wanted to leave you a comment. As a trans person, I would like to suggest you do some reading about trans people’s experiences before staking out an opinion here.
Just briefly: We don’t “choose to become” the other gender. Rather, we experience a mismatch between out internal selves–our souls–and our social role and physical body. We then choose to manifest our inner truth in the world. After transition, we may or may not look “normal” by your standards–and the fact is most trans people blend in completely with our true gender–but that is beside the point. Gender is not actually a rigid binary with everyone incarnating as either men or women, period. There are also intersex people, masculine women and feminine men, and those who are called in this life to transform, cross over, reveal a secret.
These matters of the heart just aren’t as clear-cut as you’re making them out to be. It doesn’t make much sense to the rational mind. But I think you will come to understand it if you learn more about trans people’s lives.
Rimonim – Thanks for prompting this clarification: when I talk about “choosing”, I am talking about the choice made by the soul in entering the body during the process of incarnation. In that state, the connectedness of time is accessible to us, and so we make “choices” relate to a journey to some future that we access through many lives. That is a part of our existence that becomes veiled in shadow as we become enmeshed in our physical existence.
Writing about this topic is an extremely sensitive issue. I am gratified that much of what you have in your reply seems to be a reiteration of my post. I don’t think that there’s really much that separates us!
Furthermore, given that the “straight” society has done much to make miserable those of us orientated differently, I should also emphasize: I hope that this post helps to place that prejudicial reaction in context against the terrible confusion all of us have about gender, sexuality and spirituality!
This blog is about the conscious and intelligent transformation of our souls. I believe that understanding is a necessary aid to healing through the sharing of love.
Thanks for the clarification, Brain! I have a better sense of what you mean now. Allow me to further clarify what parts of your post I wanted to push on. Please let me know if I’ve misunderstood you.
This is the part I thought was an over-simplification. There are a lot of purposes to having a male body. For some, one purpose might be to transform into a female body to express one’s soul and teach everybody something about the interdependence of male and female and the importance of our subjective truths.
As a trans man (trans man means female-to-male transgender; we always refer to the person’s gender identity, not assigned sex) I think the purpose of my being born female was not to make the most of being a woman, but rather to transform, to be a special type of man, to teach my family and my society that their rigid gender categories are far too limiting for human beings.
The problem is the unjust ostracism, not your colleague’s transition. Also, while your colleague may have been unhappy with her* physical transition, the overwhelming majority of trans people report being far happier, healthier and better adjusted after transition. Transition works. Trans people are literally 100s of times less likely to commit suicide after transition, and far less likely to experience depression and anxiety, and given the ostracism, that’s really saying something. That is why doctors pursue this crafts–it is life-saving, necessary medicine. Is it our prejudiced society that deems trans bodies flaws, deficient, etc.
[*I say “her” because you indicated your colleague was a trans woman. It is considered very disrespectful to refer to trans people with the gender pronoun of their assigned sex instead of their gender identity. Some trans people have unusual preferences–Jenner has asked for male pronouns for now, if I understand correctly–but the norm is to refer to people with the pronouns of their gender identity.]
No, it is not. We don’t transition for other people–we transition for ourselves. It’s not that our souls are just too surprising or too different from the stereotype. It’s that we have a core experience of ourselves as male or female, which permeates all aspects of our experience. There is more and more evidence that trans folks’ have brain structures that are different from other people of their assigned sex, before any medical transition treatment. It’s a bedrock aspect of our experience. I didn’t “become” a man–I just miraculously grew up to be one. Some medicine was involved in that process, but it’s actually secondary–I would live as a man even if I could not have taken hormones or had surgery. I am happy to live in a country where I have access to medical treatment. But this isn’t at bottom about hormones or surgery. It’s about who I am.
I’m glad that it’s working for you!
I think that everything that you say is true, valid, and reflects a positive experience of living.
As for what I meant (I’ll just reference you excerpts above):
First excerpt: I’m glad for your elaboration of some of the ways that being in a mixed-gender incarnation may be of value.
Second excerpt: I agree absolutely with your comments. As a Christian, I understand that life is terribly hard to live well, and we should be as gentle and affirming as possible of the ways that people express love for themselves.
Third excerpt: I was posing a rhetorical question regarding the motivations of the doctors. Note also that as I understand things, the brain is an interface to the soul, and so mixed-gender incarnations will show differences in brain structure as compared to same-gender incarnations.
Thank you for your explanations, Brian. I see where you are coming from. It has been a pleasure speaking with you. God bless. 🙂
I really appreciate your patience! Thanks for the blessing, and may love find you in all things!
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