Magical Thinking

fast-transitionWhen I was a child, I believed that I could become a boy by wearing boy’s clothes and acting like a boy. My first attempt to transition was when I was five. I got a short hair cut and I took a new name (I didn’t tell anyone that I changed my name, but I thought of myself as Paul). I refused to wear dresses. I waited for other changes to start happening. I waited for people to notice that I was really a boy. 

It was magical thinking. I really believed that if I tried hard enough and wished for it fervently, then something would happen. Then my mother would finally allow me to wear pants to school. Then my teacher would allow me to lineup with the boys. 

I refused to accept the obvious because it hurt more than insisting on the imaginary. I kept believing that it was possible, even probable, that I would wake up one day and be boy. While I waited, I lived “as if”.

According to Piaget, the prime ages for magical thinking are between two and seven years old. I started on time, but I missed the cutoff by about 50 years. I am a magical thinker.

My documents all have an F under sex. My gender expression and identity skew masculine. I do not identify as an F anymore (if I ever did other than as a concession to bureaucracy). Nor do I identify as an M.

Radical feminists, right-wing ideologues, and religious zealots believe that I will never be a boy or a man. Once a girl, always a girl. They claim that no matter how much surgery I have, and no matter which hormones I pump through my system, I will always be a woman pretending to be a man. Even if I “pass”, which I am not trying to do, they say I will only be fooling myself.

The simplistic way to differentiate between sex and gender is to say that sex is biological (visible and not so visible genitals, reproductive organs, chromosomes, and hormones) and gender is how a person expresses their sex. From that perspective, sex is universally binary, and gender varies by culture, and over time, while staying aligned with sex (according to either the laws of patriarchal oppression or the laws of nature).

This view ignores the naturally occurring diversity in genitalia, reproductive organs, chromosomes, and hormones. Legal sex (as defined by a birth certificate) is binary, but real bodies are not. I’ve had top surgery and a hysterectomy, but I have not gone on testosterone. My body is neither/nor. I am somewhere in the middle. Legally, in the United States, there is no middle.

In New York, where I live, it was easy for me to legally change my name to Jamie. Today, it would be just as easy for me to change the sex marker on my birth certificate and/or my driver’s license and become legally male. F to M. I am not allowed to leave it blank, or to choose a third or a twenty-sixth alternative. No N for neutral or non-binary. No B for boy or butch. No Q for queer.

When does magical thinking become reality? When society catches up? Why are the bigots so intent on controlling, and commenting on, which bathroom I use?

On some level, I still refuse to accept the obvious. It still comes as a shock to me that many people consider my original genitals to be more important than my gender expression or identity. I didn’t get it when I was five, I don’t get it now, and I probably never will. 

Notes: I was glad to find out that CN Lester also is a magical thinker. This short piece from their blog a gentleman and a scholar  describes their plea to the universe to set things right.

17 thoughts on “Magical Thinking

  1. writerspilecki

    I just read an article on a study which showed that trans people’s brains match their “chosen” identity rather than that of their body–things like spacial reasoning etc. Fascinating. Will this change in our lifetime? God, I hope so. But backlash is real shit, so it may take a really long time. But, you know, live your truth!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I tend to be an advocate of “born this way” – although I think that there is much more diversity in our genetic make-up than a strict binary. And although I don’t want to mix up intersex with transgender, there is medically no agreement on where male starts and ends, where intersex starts and ends, and where female starts and ends – there is only starting to be some agreement that it should not be decided necessarily right after birth based on visual assessment.

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  2. Xiomara

    My partner’s gender is not defined by the organ which doesn’t dangle between his legs… Rather, by the organ inside his head (and it’s huge, the way I love ’em 😉). It’s sad that some people define who they are based on their genitals. I just shared your blog with him & he appreciated it, just as I did. Thank you!

    Interestingly, he and I were talking about the bathroom thing right before I got your blog by email. The whatifs terrify me. To think that my love’s life could be at the mercy of a bigot, and all because he needed to pee!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      The US is impossibly backward on many issues. My state (NY) is better than most for identification and still doesn’t offer it, and the federal government is always about 5 to 10 years behind (if it ever catches up) with more progressive countries. Case to point, I’ve only had trouble flying within the US and leaving the US. I’ve never had a problem with getting through security in any other country including some that have very intense scrutiny of passengers (I think this is because our TSA doesn’t look at your passport before they search you, which would give them a little more information on gender).

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  3. Lesboi

    I guess my magical thinking took the form of my fantasy life, sort of like you, I guess. I’ve asked myself if I created my own trans-ness with all of that fantasy and considered the idea that perhaps through “the law of attraction” I had actually attracted the pieces necessary to make myself into my boy self. If you can imagine it, you can be it? I don’t know. The mind is a powerful tool and I do think that if you focus it on a thing enough miracles can happen. Certainly, I never thought that my fantasy of being male would ever truly happen in this lifetime, but here we are. Things are changing in the right direction. Slowly, but surely. We all need to keep up our magical thinking and fantasizing of the futures we want to live. Maybe, collectively, we’re all helping each other out by sending so many requests out to the Universe and the powers that be.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      My therapist claims that holding on to that fantasy was a good survival mechanism and prevented me from having to make a feminine false front (I think I was fundamentally incapable of doing feminine). I just feel so much better having it out of my system and into the real world – and not trying to keep it under wraps – even if sometimes it feels vaguely ridiculous.

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  4. Searching4Self2013

    I struggle with this concept so much. I get the kernel of it, I heard it often from my mother growing up: “wishing doesn’t make it so”. But I have to believe, commit to the conviction, hold fast to the certainty that there is a distinction between magical, wishful thinking of the baseless, childish variety and the deep internal knowing that corresponds with identity. Otherwise, wouldn’t I be conceding to the haters that my gender identity, my sexual orientation, my outward presentation are all mere choices, that it’s just envy (of privilege and penis and power) that makes me think I’m a non-binary butch, that butch is a gender and it is my gender, and that it is as valid as the F’s and M’s on all the forms? So much turmoil in sub a simple concept. Thanks for sharing your story.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks for pulling that argument together – you nailed it. It is still magical though to think that this gender non-conforming identity will be recognized, accepted, and handled with sensitivity by people who right now either can’t comprehend it or condemn it.

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      1. Searching4Self2013

        Oh, I see. Yes, I can agree with that. Wishing doesn’t make acceptance happen, advocacy and activism and social/legal work makes it happen. So, until that work yields progress, it stays in the magical bucket. Sigh. Nothin’s everyone easy, is it.

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