Are You a Man or A Woman?

Is it really that simple? Does it really matter, anyway? A truly informed discussion of gender identity. 


I am asked this question from time to time, from those whom I do not know; and those who do not know me. I suppose my gender presentation, and identity, are not so black-and-white; but why is it so important to know my gender? Information gained about who I am [by the question, “Are you a man or a woman?], is the possible knowledge of my genitalia. They may also hope to alleviate some of their own discomfort, with a response that may or may not satisfy them. So, perhaps, it’s genitals first, human beings second. What purpose does this actually serve? From my point of view, this has no relevance in getting to know who I am, or anyone else, for that matter. I have genitals, yeah, but I am not genitalia. Human beings HAVE genitals; they are, however, NOT their genitals. My gender is also something that should not concern anyone else, just like a heterosexual person prodding someone who is not heterosexual. There isn’t any point in revealing my gender identity aside from the possible, yet unlikely, temporary alleviation of discomfort for the person doing the dissecting.

I am trans*. I had a penis attached to my lower body when I was born. Until four years ago, I had my penis – in the functionality and shape of a penis. I now have a neo-vagina, which is created from the same skin and tissue that makes up my penis, and scrotal sac. So, essentially I have a penis in the form and function, of a vagina. The testicles have been removed. Having my genitals reconstructed, did not change who I was, and who I am now. It isn’t a gender change, but rather a reformation of my genitalia. To say that trans* persons who choose to undergo this surgery, are getting a gender change, is actually likening the person to their crotch. It ignores all other portions of one’s body; it ignores one’s personality; and it overlooks one’s complexity. Going through my transition [journey], has taught me how unimportant gender is, in the scheme of things, as well as to who I am. It made me rethink human beings and society, and how drastically diminished human [and societal] potential actually is. Gender is used as a societal construct, through which human beings are simplified, filtered, and bound to two strict categories: male & female. Unfortunately, in the process of attempting to make it easier to grasp human beings [emotionally, mentally, psychologically, and physically], and their behavior, the vast complexity of our species is neglected; what is not fully understood [humankind], cannot be accurately simplified.

To answer the title question: Because I do not entirely understand the abstract concept of gender, I cannot say with certainty what I am [with respect to gender]. Because I am not my genitalia, the question does not hold any relevance in determining who I am.



Photo of Amber Rose who discusses gender reassignment surgery (GRS) and contentment

Amber Rose Gianeli is a frequent and valued contributor to the Gender Wellness of Los Angeles blog. Read more from Amber here.