Wrapping my mind around transgender

Simon Fitzroy-Hunt very much wanted to write this post, considering his experience coaching Toby/Kay Lloyd for the Scripps National Spelling Bee a couple of years ago.

Simon? You're on.

Thanks. As all of you know from reading my journal (yes, it was private, but I'm over that), I was shocked when young Toby Lloyd confessed to me, the first time we met, that "he" was a girl. I'd already seen "his" bedroom, which had the foundations of a little boy's room with a lot of pink overlay, so on one hand this made a certain amount of sense. But—was he biologically a girl dressed like a boy, or a biological boy with a girl trapped inside?

It was the latter. And the only benefit I can see to discovering that one is transgender is that one gets to choose one's own name. She chose Kay.

At first, talking about this afterward with my friend Ned, I admit I was a little flip about it. But Ned helped me see that I would have been livid if anyone had told me that I wasn't really gay because that made no sense to them. So, who did I think I was that I could second-guess what Kay knew in her own mind?

But I still couldn't make sense out of it. When I tried picturing myself in a girl’s body, my thoughts slipped away as though I’d tried to catch a fish with my hands in oily water. My mind felt more warped than wrapped. So, being who I am (that is, super intelligent, excellent at research and analysis), I dug into this transgender topic. Here's what I found.

It seems that brain scans of people like Kay show that their brain structures more closely resemble that of the gender with which they identify, rather than that of their external appearance. Google the phrase transgender brain structure if you want to read about this, in publications ranging from New Scientist to the Wall Street Journal.

Now that I have this information, what I can't wrap my mind around is how nature could get things so messed up. But also, now that I have this information, what irks me is that I had to have it. I mean, I was so busy categorizing people into gay/straight/bi, that when Kay threw me for a proverbial loop I couldn't just believe her. I had to have proof. It had to make sense to me. While this gives me a certain amount of empathy for straight people who need proof that homosexuality is natural and normal, I'm a little ashamed that I didn't just believe her they way I want people to accept that I know that I'm gay and leave it at that.

But even just believing a trans person began to confuse me. It didn't help when Caitlin Jenner came out as a woman and said that "when it came to attraction," she might still be heterosexual. But for her, that meant attraction to women. I've also heard about other trans women who say they're attracted to women, and they consider themselves straight. The only way this makes any sense to me is if these women didn't rid themselves of their male genitalia. And even that makes only a teeny, tiny bit of sense. To me.

But—why would these trans women even mention their sexual orientation? The answer is: WE ASK THEM. We ask them, and we sit there, heads tilted at a slight angle, hanging on every expected word, for an answer. Even if our intentions are good, even if we're asking because we're trying to understand, why do we think the answer will help? Why do we think we need to know it? And if they give us answers we can't understand, whose fault is that?

This question about what we look like naked hasn't been a problem (at least, not that I'm aware of) for people who belong to the L,G, or B part of LGBT. Although some gay men seem rather effeminate (Christian Siriano comes to mind), and although some lesbians seem quite masculine (K.D. Lang, anyone?), it didn't occur to very many people to ask about their body parts. We were all pretty sure we knew what they'd look like undressed.

Then came T.

I watch some American TV. For example, I find John Oliver amusing. In his June 28, 2015 broadcast, he showed clips of people who should know better­—from Katie Couric to Barbara Walters—asking someone who's trans, on camera, about their genitalia. As Oliver chastised, "It's none of your [expletive deleted] business!"

So while many of us (including brilliant me) still struggle to complete our own transition—that is, the one in our heads—I'm thinking it's time we stop doing two things: 1. expecting that everyone we meet is going to fit neatly into whatever categories make sense to us; and 2. asking invasive personal questions of trans folks that we wouldn't ask of anyone else.

Maybe it's time we started just accepting each other. Are you with me?