XYZ.

These are my own un-edited, un-counseled, thoughts. I implore you to feel these next few paragraphs not in a sense of pity or sympathy (if such emotions should come to you), but more that I have specifically chosen each word to aid self-understanding and contemplation. There is no remorse, or ‘what-if’ word selected to trigger a negative response on purpose.

 

I write the below summary to prove to myself that one: you don’t need any physical/emotional-altered sense of sobriety to write how you feel, and two: maybe someone else needs to hear these words.

“When you were born, the doctors didn’t know if you were a boy or a girl”.

I first heard these words when I was in my early-teens, around 13 or 14. At the time, the implication didn’t fully sink in. I thought maybe the physical process of birth (a wonderfully disgusting natural process of blood and baby) had obscured the doctor’s vision for a brief half-second or so, and that this identity crisis happened to everyone.

This wasn’t to be the case.

When I was born the doctor’s had to secure a genetic test from my blood sample, to scientifically determine what x, y or z combination I was. Though I have not seen the paperwork myself, I have been re-assured countless times from these know-it-all doctor’s that the ink on my paper forms the sex defining chromosomal pattern of ‘XX’.

A girl.

So what did it mean to be a girl? Well from growing up through numerous pediatric visits, I learnt being a girl meant your ‘chain didn’t hang low’ from anywhere below, your transitional period to womanhood involved an internal exorcism, and boys would be allowed to ‘complete you’ by filling up ‘that hole’ again and again and again, and you would miraculously enjoy it.

This was all well and good, except I wasn’t actually a girl. Sort of.

When I was born, I was told that even though my blood work said XX, my body said something else. Some parts were missing. These parts would need to be constructed before I could begin ‘chrysalising’ from girl to woman. My first surgery happened when I was very young, so I cannot recall any specific emotions during that period.

What I can recall is that it failed.

Phrases of ‘it didn’t work’ or ‘we’ll have to reconstruct this and this’ infiltrated my growing up phase until I was 14, and finally finished major surgery attempts. I learnt what sex was well before any of my peers. I learnt where things went, what hormones controlled them, and how the circle of life definitely didn’t involve a monkey holding you up over the plains of Africa. I learnt I wasn’t yet built as a normal girl, and it would be hard to commit to a male partner through the vital act of procreation if the ‘under-construction’ sign was left hanging around my neck.

Throughout all of this, there was one teensy internal problem I wrestled around in my head.

To put it frankly, I wasn’t all that attracted to boys.

My thoughts from an early age were always involving women. They weren’t full on sexually graphic thoughts, but rather my dream life felt somewhat better if my partner was a female.

So, here we have one girl growing up being told she is undergoing surgeries to become a woman. Being designed to enjoy her pre-determined heterosexual life (among other more serious health issues that undoubtedly were necessary). My opinion of how I sexually identified myself was never called into question, because we never really think of children being able to understand the different brackets available.

What I was told growing up is ‘the doctor is always right’ and ‘they’re only doing it to make you better’. So if the doctor is always right, maybe once I become a real girl I’d start to like boys? That’s how it’s meant to work right? I mean, since they kept saying ‘you need this to be normal’ and being normal involved ‘boys’ then surely my thoughts were only happening because I wasn’t yet this definition so desired by everybody else. I mean, doctors always know what’s best, don’t they?

Coming out was indescribably hard because of this build up of internal confliction. I finally broke down and expressed my identity to numerous family members and friends, and was indescribably lucky to be welcome with open arms by all. (I understand some people are not so fortunate, and I know how lucky I am to not be in that situation).

I also told my current doctor during this revelation period. Her response was ‘I have another patient similar’.

Wait; there are others like me?

Hold up a minute.

You mean to say that all this time, all of these previous comments about ‘design’ and ‘boys’ were not necessary? I had no right to fault her, as she wasn’t the doctor I had as a child. But she represented every confusing thought I had about myself. And I hated her for it. I hated the doctors of past for ‘deciding’ who I was. I hated the pedestal they had been worshipped on because the medical profession is like playing ‘God’. I hated them for turning me into a mashed up board game of ‘Operation’ and ‘Guess Who’.

Most of all, I hated myself for believing someone else could tell me who I am for so long.

It took a long time to progress from this.

Now I am 22. I just visited my most recent doctor (the same one that triggered the hatred) who discussed (amid the blood tests and steroid dosage adjustments) how I would feel about one more surgery.

The ‘defining’ surgery.

The one where I’d finally be able to remove the sign around my neck.

Now, at 22, I finally get to choose who I am.

And I said ‘ok, let’s look into it’.

Because, at last, I know that the doctor isn’t always right.

But I know that they don’t always know what’s wrong either. Their job is simply to offer the choices at hand.

I now understand that my particular condition is relatively new, and that during the period in which I was born a lot of doctors had to experiment on people (such as myself) because there was no data to help them. I was an experiment, and my emotional outcome is being documented to help the next batch of doctors figure out the best outcome. I might not enjoy thinking about the past, but I know the present ‘me’ can be fixed.

I also know that even if this final surgery is performed, I will not be a girl.

I will be a writer, a stay-awake-all-nighter, a lead foot driver, a can’t-cook-for-shit-foodie, a kinda photographer, a joker, a tomboy, a blue jean femme, a sarcastically challenged individual, and a myriad of other labels that I can’t possibly spend all day writing out.

I am so much more than an x, y or z. And, if I ever have children, this is what I will teach them too.

E.

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Job fairs, and opening my eyes to how big the world really is.

It’s the beginning of May now, which means my adventure in China is now approaching an end. My contract to Shijiazhuang Foreign Language School is almost up.

To be brutally honest, I don’t want to go home.

It’s not because I don’t want to see friends, family and everyone in between. I do, more than ever. But New Zealand is so, so small, and trying to develop any sense of identity and worth is difficult. It is also a relatively poor (yet developed) country especially after the global financial crisis, so earning money becomes a chore and not something to enjoy and develop within a career setting.

China however has proven to be one of the better decisions I have made in my short 22 years of life. Granted there have been unexplainable, almost breakable, points about it. It would take the rest of my life (and then some) to be able to give you a concise and accurate description of China, and even then it would not do it justice. Regardless of all this, I want to stay in China and ‘find myself’ in a more global setting.

Sarah, an expat better versed in the China scene, mentioned a job fair that was happening in Beijing. I had never been to a job fair before, and asked if I could come. Luckily for me she is a gracious individual (and possibly delighted at the thought of some travel company) so she said yes.

Catching the G train (oh NZ, how I wish you had such a magnificent rail system) we arrived in Beijing close to 11am. After navigating the subway using our paper maps and an app I downloaded (Explore Beijing) we arrived at the swissotel Beijing for the job fair relatively on time.

The job fair was specifically designed for foreigners in China and had ~50 stalls spread around the second floor conference room. Most were for teaching jobs through various universities, understandably. Others though were for marketing, finance, engineering and many other areas. I had no idea what to expect from a job fair and found myself quite unprepared for some encounters, especially regarding my outdated and unavailable CV (I managed to break the printer, whoops). I am definitely applying for the marketing and writing opportunities I discovered and left my contact information at, and have been re-designing/updating my CV today for further opportunities. Overall I found the day quite successful, and I now have a wider understanding about jobs, careers, and how to begin finding myself in such a large country like China.

Wish me luck!

E.