Originally appeared in Transgender Tapestry #98, Summer 2002.

by Lisa M. Hartley

? 2001 by Lisa M. Hartley. All Rights Reserved.

Author?s Note: I refers to a voice from the transgender community and you refers to culture, which includes all of us.

I was betrayed?betrayed by you and betrayed unto myself. For half a century I struggled without understanding, without hope, without help. Now I know. Now I?m free. I share my knowledge with you, but still you betray me. You push me into the margins of society. You don?t see me when I?m near. To you, I am invisible. To you, I?m less than I was before. Somehow my victory in becoming the real me has offended you. You think I?m crazy. You think I?m gay. You think all kinds of things, almost all of which is steeped in a kind of mythology, reflective of your fear. You deny me a place. You deny me meaningful work. You take away my standing and greet me with a jaundiced eye.

Strangely, I still love you. I still want to share my story with you. I still need you. I don?t want to be alone any more. So please listen to me. Listen with an open mind and an open heart. This is what happened.

When I was born, the doctor looked at my genitals and said, ?it?s a boy.? He didn?t know I was both. I looked like a boy between my legs?yet in my head, the place that defines the sex I really am, I was a girl. The doctor couldn?t see inside my head, nor could anyone else, so they named me Billy.

You taught me to be a boy. I didn?t know any better until I was four. I didn?t like being a boy, but I was told I was a boy by every measure. So I hid my thoughts and dreams inside. It was my cross to bear. My hell. You induced this stress on me, stress I would struggle with for decades.

There were many barriers and many mazes in my journey. I wondered if I was crazy, if I was gay, if my hormones or genetics were messed up, if I would ever get over the feeling that I was different from everybody else.

Then I read an article in the November 1995 issue of Nature magazine that changed my life. It said I was right to want to be a lady. My brain revealed the answer to the mystery. The Bstc was female! The genitals were only incidental. Although they looked normal and behaved that way, my genitals reflected another sex, different from my brain. I was born with two sex identities?yet only one can be primary, according to the body?s need for balance (i.e., homeostasis).

As Nature Made Him by John Colapinto talked about David Reimer?s surgical sex reassignment from male to female after a botched circumcision. When he realized the betrayal, David would not live as a female. His brain confirmed his true sex identity, which was, in fact, male.

In May 2000 a study was published about intersexed babies, born with incomplete genitalia. Although surgical sex identity reassignment to female was done on 25 babies, 14 later insisted they were male. The genitals proved to be incidental to sex identity. The sex identity reflected in the brain ruled.

It seems to me the truth revealed by scientific research?that the brain is primary in sex identity?and confirmed by all the heartbreaking, pain-filled life experience stories told by transgendered persons, that the truth about transgender would finally be heard and accepted by everyone. Yet you scoffed at the anecdotal stories, dismissing them as folklore. You ignored the scientific findings. You tightened your grasp on moralistic argument and judged me to be unfit. You betrayed me, even when the truth was told. The fact is that transgender has nothing to do with a moral choice. It is an inborn and immutable physical reality.

As I went through my transition from what you made me be to who I really am, you had ?trouble with it.? You felt so ?confused.? Oh, really! Well, I was the one who suffered. I was the one who lost most of my life because of your wrong assignment. But you have ?trouble with it!? If you had truly loved me, you would have rejoiced with me and adjusted. But you could not do that. You had to tell me you were having ?trouble with it,? as though I was doing something wrong, when in fact, I was really making everything right.

I struggled with my rage and my disillusionment over your stubbornness until I realized my anger would consume me. My rage would turn against me and strike out in suicide. But you would not learn from that. You would continue to betray others who, like me, struggle with the question ?Who am I?boy or girl?? You would bury me with the gender name you imposed upon me when I was born?the final cruel and eternal betrayal.

So I?ve decided I will never commit suicide. I?ll channel the energy of my rage and use it relentlessly to help you grow to understand and accept me. My hope is that you will come to understand my journey required a great deal of courage in the face of enormous difficulty. It was a journey filled with self-doubt, the pain of loneliness, and your cruel reactive behavior, designed to force me to conform to the sex assignment you made upon me at birth or suffer the consequences of emotional abuse, physical abuse, and the soul-wrenching cruelty of generalized hatred and discrimination.

Now I am depleted of compassion over your having ?trouble with it.? My personal victory in rising above the catastrophe of a wrong sex assignment followed by a wrong gender socialization and enculturation should earn for me your adulation and a sense of awe reserved for celebrities. I need more than just a smile and a shaky word of praise. I need applause and all the trappings reserved for a hero. Then I?ll know you are really serious in your acceptance of me.

Perhaps you think I?m asking for too much. After all, other people suffer from social ignorance. Perhaps you?ll feel I?m asking for special treatment, like some pouting, angry, tear-filled adolescent. But I have discovered everything you did was wrong, that it was all backwards. I did not have a problem. I knew who I was. It was you who said I was a boy and expected me to be that way. I became the victim of what I call Culturally Induced Stress Disorder. My stress and disillusionment was compounded by my feeling that in order to survive, I had no alternative but to behave in the ways you prescribed for me. My suffering, my pain, my anxiety, my depression, guilt, shame, low self-esteem, and my sense of not belonging was not my fault, but yours.

You said I suffered from the DSM IV diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder. Yet all the while I knew who I was. I had no GID. You had GID all the time, because you wouldn?t accept the fact of my true sex identity, even when science supported me. When I came to psychotherapy, it was not to cure me from my need to be my true female self?it was to help me deal with the stresses of living in a world that refused to accept my true sex identity. Thank goodness there was a competent therapist who understood, who said I wasn?t schizophrenic, who didn?t say I suffered from dissociative personality disorder, who didn?t say I needed the shock treatments a transgendered friend of mine endured. After each shock treatment, she was asked if she still had thoughts of wanting to be a woman. When she said yes, they scheduled another.

Now I see clearly. I see your betrayal. You are the fragile one. I hope you realize this, too, and stop your fear-filled cruelty. Stop laughing at me. Stop rejecting me. Stop making me a scapegoat for your scorn. Stop ?forgetting? to include me. Stop marginalizing me. Stop cultural systems from wounding me. Stop the sloppy health care and exclusions from health insurance coverage. Stop excluding me from anti-discrimination laws. Stop excluding me from meaningful work. Stop housing discrimination against me. Stop the coldness and rejection from churches or other spiritual communities that leave me feeling so hurt and so alone. Stop the generalized discrimination and hatred that makes my life so frighteningly uncertain.

Remember: I did not change my sex. I confirmed my real sex identity. I got it right after you made a wrong sex assignment, and had it throughout the period of wrong-gender socialization and enculturation. I went through hell because you did not believe in me. You betrayed me.

Lisa M. Hartley is a Master?s level Clinical Social Worker with nearly 30 years post-masters experience, including work in clinical, supervisory, administrative and education arenas. She began active transitioning from male to female in 1994, and completed her real-life experience in 1997. She underwent gender confirmation surgery by Dr. Yvonne Menard in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on August 18, 1997. She has lectured to hundreds of people about the transgender experience.