Oof, that’s a real loaded term, right? I remember the first time I encountered as a newly out trans person, and I did not much care for the person who used it. Later, I’d learn that that word was now almost explicitly the domain of a group of people called transmedicalists or truscum — which was one of the people I met. So, I did what I think most trans people do — I dropped it from my vocabulary entirely. Like many trans people, I began to regard the word as a red flag word when I saw others using it.
For those of you who don’t know, transmedicalists/truscum folks pathologize being transgender: they regard it as a medical condition that needs treatment. These folks might talk about how to be transgender requires dysphoria, or to be your gender requires medical intervention. These things are categorically untrue, and I genuinely believe that beliefs of those type stem from their desire to have validation in the eyes of an abusive society.
I’ve always been very open about my transitional journey. I’ve grown so much as I’ve transitioned, learned more about my community, and learned more about myself. I became very comfortable in my identity as a woman who is transgender. That felt right to me and it continues to feel right even to this day. My transgender experience has been defined by just so very much internal work, learning, and surprise. It’s been a life-saving and truly beautiful experience. It has been *my* experience. My. Unique. Experience. And when I speak of my experience and use metaphors for myself they are meant for me, and if they are helpful to others, then I feel truly blessed to have given something of value. I use my words because they feel honest for me, not as a prescription for others.
When I started on my transitional path to get my surgeries, I felt something new in me. This wasn’t the same as me being transgender: that experience felt very vibrant and alive. Instead, I felt this new and reassuring sense of something physical, whole, concrete, and secure. I used to tell a joke, that was only kind of a joke, about how much I would prioritize pharmacies during a zombie apocalypse because I would rather be bitten than “change back.” This has largely been one of the biggest anxieties of my transition that someone or something could take my hormones away from me and that my body would revert. What I didn’t realize, entirely, was what that anxiety was trying to tell me about my relationship to my body and my gender. They weren’t the same thing, but they were related, and they informed each other in a feedback loop. The more my body has changed, the stronger I have felt in my connection to my gender.
So, I did what I always do. I tried to find language and metaphor and framework to work through the thing I was feeling. I invented for myself a triangle that described how things seemed to work: my triangle described my gender, my social sex, and my physical sex.
My gender is very much an internal experience, a desire in me that wants to be seen and accepted. I believe we all have that desire to be seen as so many of our discussions revolve around it. This is a thing that has always been true of me and sits interdependent on my body, or my physical sex.
I describe my physical sex as the literal makeup of my body in its entirety. I say of my body right now that I am “male adjacent” as this seems an honest way to describe where I am at. A doctor who saw my body without any knowledge of who I am, would probably mark me down as male. The presence of breasts, soft skin, etc., might tell this doctor that to treat me as a male medically could do me harm. And so of my body I say that it is “male adjacent” as a way to bridge this gap.
My social sex is the observable me. It’s what people see when they look at me as a human and more than a body. They see a human being, up and moving around in full dress, moving and speaking and existing. They see her, and they deduce that she is female, and from that they deduce that she is a woman. When they speak to her, they say things like, “ma’am.” I can influence her with fashion, makeup, changes to my physical sex, hairstyles, and so on. There is a disconnect between how the world views her and how a doctor would view my body, the world views me closer to how I view myself. To some degree, my social sex is even informed by what I see when I look in the mirror. What do I, Evey Winters, observe in my reflection? These things will never be 100% in agreement: no person can ever see my internal experience or my gender. I view social sex as the top of my triangle. When my social sex is in alignment with my gender, I feel at harmony with myself. When they are not, I feel dysphoric.
So, what of this new feeling? The experience I have of being transgender is still there, it is a consistent and ongoing thing. I feel I will always be transgender. But there is this new thing, a very physical thing, a different experience. When I first started having that feeling it arrived as the words, “almost done.” And then it changed to the word, “complete.” I would feel complete when I had these surgeries. And then it turned to “safe,” because once I had these surgeries nobody could take this from me and throw my triangle back into discord. Even if you took my hormones away, I would go through menopause. My body would not become like it was before.
And that feeling of security, concreteness, and completion in myself felt different than this transgender experience I have. My transgender experience has been defined by growth, change, movement, experimentation, exploration, and discovery. All of those processes are so fluid, movable, effervescent, and even a little chaotic, that when this new feeling arrived I felt very strongly it was not the same thing: this is something fixed, strong, and mechanical. Those other things didn’t stop being true, but this new feeling is here nonetheless.
So, how do I talk about it? I have this feeling, what do I name it? And I arrived at a word that I felt could do the job: transsexual. It does summon up a certain feeling of physicality, it emphasizes those elements that I am feeling click into place in me: an irreversible change in my physical sex, that feeling of security and safety, opportunity, and even a new sense of harmony. Using it is a double win for me. I often joke about how the trans community loves to collect slurs like they’re pokemon cards. It seems for every label used to harm us there’s a sizable group of trans people who’ve taken that word and made it their own. And so I am claiming this word for my own, to describe a new experience that sits next to my transgender identity and bolsters it.
If my transgender experience feels like growth and change, then I liken it to a plant. This new experience is like moving to the right-size flowerpot. I’ll be able to grow more here, change more here, and be healthier here. I am better and more whole because I am both transgender and transsexual. I’m happy and pleased to be both.
I was hesitant to take this word, but it was the best fit I could find for my needs. I know how it’s been used, and by whom. I want this word to be useful for something positive, a description of something beautiful and safe I found in myself, and not an ominous prescription to others that they should match me. One of the core beliefs of the trans community is that we have the right to say and define our own internal experiences, not those of others. I am defining something for myself, an experience that I feel I am not alone in but is not universally applicable. Some people will never know this experience, and some people will never feel the need to give it language. That’s all wonderful.
But this is an experience, it’s a perspective from which I can grow even more into my role and identity as a woman. So in a way, I’m sort of coming out again. It does feel like coming out. I feel a sense of fear of rejection, hostility, and abuse no different than when I first came out as transgender. I had hoped to have more time to process my thoughts about this and feel confident in this experience, identity, and language. I thought I was safe to work through these new feelings and try on these new labels in my own community and my trust was betrayed. Best laid plans, I suppose. Some events in my life have made it so that I’m sort of obligated to come out because others do not agree with my right to say who I am and to define myself. I am Evey Winters, and I am a woman who is both transgender and transexual.