My disability is, for many, also a marker of identity. In the parlance of pop culture, I was “born in the wrong body.” In the words of the DSM, I have “evidence of a strong and persistent cross-gender identification.” While I am agnostic about the etiology of my disability, I began treatment before graduate school, which involved therapy, hormones, surgery, and navigating a lot of legal forms and paperwork.
My colleagues don’t know about my gender history (in other words, I “pass” as the gender that’s finally on my identification), but I still view my physiological situation as a disability. I realize that there are others in my situation who would shirk this description, and I am do not mean to imply that any transsexual or transgender individual is thereby disabled.
However, this is a physical condition for which I must constantly medicate myself and for which I’ve had significant surgeries. I live with the fear that my colleagues will discover my past history, which is a source of some not-insignificant anxiety. While I can physically use the bathroom as anyone else of my gender can, that doesn’t erase the anxiety that this space prompts when I enter it. At the same time, I often am privy to conversation about “tr***ies” that I’d rather not hear.
For the voyeurs reading and wondering if I am your colleague that you think is a little too “masculine” to “really be a woman”, or a little too “effeminate” to “really be a man”, I won’t disclose “which way” I’ve gone. Imagine the presumed cisgender female colleague that you’re ignoring used to be one of the “guys.” Does that make you want to consider her argument more? Imagine that the presumed cisgender male colleague who you’re telling about the female speaker’s attire used to be “a woman.” Does that make you want to rethink your objectification?
I’m on anti-depressants, I’m comfortable with myself and am successful in my field. However, that doesn’t mean my body isn’t the locus of intense anxiety and self-doubt. Combine that with the pervasive misogyny in this field, and I’ve got a lot to overcome. I am hoping that I can be part of those who are overcoming the latter, and that in turn will help the former.