My life has largely been defined by talking about ‘not being a man’. I am a transwoman. That means I was born with what society normatively calls a ‘male body’. But I define myself as a woman; and am usually seen and treated as such by people around me. Some people do sometimes ask me, in what I perceive as quite an insensitive way, if I ‘had once been a man’. I confidently answer: ‘no’. I have never been a ‘man’ in the precise meaning of the word. I have been a boy – at least in the eyes of society – but have been living as a woman since late adolescence and have been feeling very comfortable in my feminine gender ever since. I relate to men in exactly the same way many heterosexual women relate to men: they are a part of my life that I do not want to miss but too often I perceive them as ‘the other’ and frequently doubt that I will ever truly understand what’s going on in their lives, hearts and minds.
Genders are culturally constructed narratives. Not all men – not even all heterosexual men – are alike and neither are all women. Almost no human being will perfectly fit into a culturally defined ‘gender box’. We know that not all men make great warriors and not all women are good at doing the household chores. There are men who fail in natural sciences but excel in learning languages. And some of us may even have heard of women who loathe shopping for shoes. Even though our culture tries to neatly classify all human beings into two gendered categories, a more careful analysis will tell us that individual human beings actually fall into a continuum of numerous gendered behaviours and identities; and even quite a number of biological sexes (if we talk about the numerous variants of chromosome combinations with which babies are born every single hour). One could almost say that in some way or other all human beings are transwomen or transmen. All of us struggle with fulfilling the expectations that society has imposed on our masculinity and femininity and try to live up to some of these expectations while failing with regards to others.