The Trans-Woman Nameless Exception

Updated: Nov 1, 2021

Trans Women Are Living Icons of What the World Has to Gain

People wonder how I didn't know—till age 54—that I'd always been a woman. It's the topic of my memoir, How to NOT Know You're Trans, and its follow-up, TransQuality. The simple answer is: I wasn't allowed to.


Father Culture has gaslit us all.


Scene 1 - Women, the Spoils of War

The professor opens my college freshman year with Homer's Iliad as the foundational piece of Western literature. The story begins with its hero, Achilleus, throwing a fit and sitting out the Achaeans' siege of Troy because his commander, Agamemnon takes for himself Briseis, daughter of the priest of the Trojan temple that the Achaeans have just sacked.


"Women are spoils of war," says my professor, explaining that men leaving their homes to fight in battle expect compensation. This is their pay. Agamemnon and Achilleus fail to divvy up Briseis equitably, which spurs the plot of the Iliad.


Not a person in the room says, "Whoa! Why isn't the focus of the story on the absolute horror of Briseis' meaning nothing in comparison to men's dilemma in deciding whose sex slave she's going to be?"


If I'd had the poise to ask that question, the answer would've been, "That's the way it's always been."


Scene 2 - Women with No Name

A collage of scenes cascade from pulpit, Sunday school, and Christian apologetics, story after story of women with no name.


A woman kisses and anoints with oil the feet of Jesus, who proclaims, "Her name will be remembered forever for this." His followers never bother to list her name in scripture.


Jephthah pledges to sacrifice the first thing he sees on his return home if YHWH grants him victory in battle. Arriving home triumphant, he is greeted at the door by his daughter, whom he promptly sacrifices, the text never mentioning her name.


Proverbs-31 lauds a perfect wife who is never named, probably because she is an idealized caricature of what patriarchs demand of a woman.


Even named heroines like Esther and Ruth remain caricatures for their carrying out the demands of childbirth, fidelity to husbands, and maintenance of patriarchal bloodlines.


No one ever stood up in church to say, "Wait. What?"


Scene 3 - A Glaring Absence of the Feminine

Never, never, has the United States had a woman in the highest office. Never.


Then again, for the first nearly 150 years of the United States women weren't allowed to vote.


The Woman-less Air We Breathe

The air we breathe is rife with women always having to be an exception to make a difference—exceptions to what we think women are.


In How to NOT Know You're Trans, I describe growing up in a household that prized the masculine to the exclusion of the feminine:


I knew implicitly from a young age that I was to be a boy. I’d no idea I could be anything else … Dad was the magnet in our household. Mom was chopped liver—till she wasn’t there. My dad was a charismatic, winsome leading figure in our small city, looked up to by all the pillars of the community. He also was incredibly handsome and a consummately natural dancer. I didn’t think about these things because I simply didn’t see them as remarkable. He was Dad. And if my mom was a beautiful, talented woman, she was eclipsed in my eyes by my dad because she was always there for me at home. There when I woke up in the morning. There when I got back from school in the afternoon. There when I was sick. Which meant, of course, she was the one who more often than not taught and disciplined me. All the glory.


Brian and I waited for Dad to come home. Dad was fun. Dad knew the best games, the funniest movies, the most interesting things. In comparison, Mom (and, for that matter, my sense of my feminine self) was like a carton of milk in the fridge—you expected it to always be there for your cereal. Dad (and my need to be masculine in a way that ensured his staying in my life) was the prize inside the Quisp or Cap'n Crunch—you couldn’t count on it being there, but when it was, you partied!


Everything on TV, at school, and in the world confirmed this bias. The masculine was supreme. It was shameful to throw like a girl … My dad had been a star shortstop in high school … he played baseball with a grace and ease that I wanted to emulate. And he was a helluva batting coach, leading to priceless moments of father-son engagement when he’d take me and Brian to the lot next door or drive us to a nearby field to shag flies and ground balls and to, best of all, hit. Mom didn’t know the measurements of a baseball diamond, let alone how to hit a frozen-rope liner. She knew medical stuff and was an expert on treating the scratches and bruises we’d get. But, hey, that was the milk you always expected to find in the refrigerator. Brian and I kept our eyes on the prize—Dad. So did the world around us, despite the Women’s Lib movement, which … merited scoffing and derision. No wonder then, that I radically objectified any feminine tendencies in myself. I latched on quickly to the notion that being a dude was the ideal.

Trans women are derided and legislated against because we spurn the birthright endowed to those declared male at birth.

Spurning the Birthright

Trans women are derided and legislated against because we spurn the birthright endowed to those declared male at birth.


It's not always been that way. Archaeology demonstrates that civilization was once characterized by the complementarity and partnership of women and men—not by domination of men over women. Yet, any attempt to question patriarchal hegemony is fought tooth and nail by those who see it as the attempt of women to dominate men.

Trans women are attacked not because we're freaks. But because we've always been here to offer a minority report on the way things could and should be.

Living Icons

Make no mistake about it. Trans women are attacked not because we're freaks. But because we've always been here to offer a minority report on the way things could and should be. We are living icons of a wholehearted embrace of the feminine aspects of reality, despite the odds and forces amassed against us. Our existence demonstrates that there has always been more than what this world allows, lest those in positions of power lose their dominance.


I don't seek to be a living totem of fear to those in power or a vanguard of a new age. But I am, whether I want it or not. Don't cut me down because my very flesh is the messenger.

In the meantime, take me and all trans women as someone like yourself—deserving of a name, freedom from slavery, and not having to be an exception in order to just be.

What We've Lost, What We Can Gain

Ponder what we've all lost. Dare imagine what this world can gain. Dare to let me be me, and you and I might see the world change. In the meantime, take me and all trans women as someone like yourself—deserving of a name, freedom from slavery, and not having to be an exception in