Tag Archives: gender issues

Kimwei on BBC Radio Devon’s Pause For Thought: Gender & Non-binary

This week I’m talking about gender, being non-binary and gender stereotyping in a series of Pause For Thoughts for Laura James’ Early Show on BBC Radio Devon. There will be 7 in total, so stay tuned and remember – nothing’s binary.

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Are You A Boy Or A Girl? (The Myth Of Binary Gender)

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For years I’ve been asked “Are you a boy or a girl” by strangers, but really, it’s a question I should have been asking myself.

A 9 year old asked me:

“Because you’ve got short hair, does that mean you’re a boy?”

I thought for a moment… what’s the easiest way to say this?

“Well”, I replied, “the truth is that I AM a girl but often I’d rather be a boy”.

“What, like George out of Famous Five?”

“Yes”

“Oh ok.”

It was an easy conversation, but the child’s mother felt the need to apologise for her son’s question. Apparently it’s offensive to mistake people’s gender. This is probably why the trans community are often so sensitive – it’s difficult when people can’t see which gender you plainly are.

This is the first public statement I’ve made of the following: I identify as transgender.

Although I don't choose to "pass" as male, sometimes I like to see how I might look if I had a male body. Photos like this help me to imagine it.

Although I don’t choose to “pass” as male, sometimes I like to see how I might look if I had a male body. Photos like this help me to imagine it.

I’m comfortable with this, but have been reluctant to be public about it so far. But now it seems important to talk about it in order to raise awareness.

In this day and age, most people have got to grips with the fact that some people have a sex change (gender re-assignment). People can just about cope with this because fits within the mainstream ideas of binary gender. Yet, being transgender simply means this: my gender identity does not match my assigned sex. Those like myself, who neither identify as male or female and whose gender identity isn’t constant, open up a whole new can of androgen worms.

In the late 40s and early 50s, The Kinsey Reports made waves by showing that rather than people being simply gay or straight, a spectrum of sexuality existed. It turned out that people were straight, bi-sexual or gay, to varying degrees, with blurred lines and overlap. Why should the same not be true for gender?

A debate on gender-spectrums is tempting, but I will discipline myself into putting it aside to give my own personal account. Here I’ll explain why and how I identify as mid-gendered.

To start at the beginning, I was born into a female body and understood from a young age that I had a girl’s body. Therefore I set about learning what girls did and did it. By the age of 6 it seemed abundantly clear to me that there had been a mistake, because of course I was a boy.

I knew what boys did and switched instantly to doing those things, insisting on wearing trousers. Spelling “Kim” backwards I found “Mik” and for a while signed all letters as “Micky”.

Completely aware that I had a girl’s body, I realised that if I were to be seen as a boy I would have to act exactly like one. I tried football (badly), wore a baseball cap and bomber jacket. By the age of 11 I had abolished crying or showing emotions that I saw as feminine, especially excitement. I was totally aware that a boy could cry and still be a boy, but since I was a girl trying to pass as a boy, I could never be caught doing anything “girlie”. (I wouldn’t recommend giving up crying to any child, as I am still trying to undo its effects)

Unfortunately by the age of 12, my breasts had fully developed. I realised that I wasn’t going to pass as male anymore. Reluctantly I set about finding out how to be a woman…

…I was rubbish!

After struggling for over 10 years, I met someone who was putting himself through a rite of passage. He decided that to become a true man he would have to set himself challenges that he associated with being strongly masculine. In his case: physical ordeal, walking new ground, hunting and farming. I realised I could do the same thing, by challenging myself to double my physical strength. I managed this within 3 months of weight training. Finally I was strong, like a man and had the androgynous body to match my insides! Then I was set on a course to discover how I could express my gender identity, within the confines of my physical body.

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Beard experimentation. Again, I don’t think this felt tip would convince anyone, but I was touched when after I’d explained that I’m transgender to someone, they asked if they could draw this goatee onto me to help them better understand my gender. A request like that could have seemed offensive, but this person’s intention was good so it wasn’t.

Strangely enough, I never felt the desire to have a sex change or to live as a man. I also don’t feel comfortable simply being labelled as a “strong woman”. I have cried with disappointment to look in the mirror and see a woman’s body, but not frequently enough to want to change my physicality. I see myself as mostly-male, but inside a woman’s body. This means I experience myself as mid-gendered. It’s important to me that those who I’m close to see me this way.

Wait a minute; doesn’t this mean I’m expecting people to accept me as transgender, without even trying “pass” as male? Is this too much to expect from the general public? I don’t think so. People are getting the hang of gender fluidity. I’ve had “the talk” with all my close friends most of whom have seen it coming anyway. I’m not willing to go back to “pretending to be male” by mimicking what other men do/wear/say, just like I did as a kid. I’d certainly be seen as transgender if I did that, but I wouldn’t be myself so it defeats the object. I wouldn’t recommend, “pretending to be male” in this way or “pretending to be female” to anyone male, female or trans.

By the same token I’m not going to start billing myself as a transgender singer-songwriter; it would be false advertising because my voice is female and defines the recordings.

I’m lucky because Kimwei turns out to be an androgynous name. It’s possible to change my title to “Mr.” by deed poll, so that’s my next step. It seems like just the right balance for me to have a female body and a male name. I’d rather be a husband than a wife or a dad than a mum.

If someone you know identifies as transgender, ask them about it – since how they identify their own gender and prefer to be treated will be different for each trans person.

Amnesty International currently have 2 transgender cases in their Write For Rights campaign. I’d encourage everyone to send at least one Write For Rights letter/card this Christmas as it’s a truly effective at helping those who receive them. All their causes are extremely good ones, not just those concerning gender. The letters do more than lift morale – people really do get treated better/pardoned/released from imprisonment as a result this kind of support being sent.

Thankyou for reading

Kimwei

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