This essay was originally published in the 2005 edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves.”I identify as a male-to-female (or male-to-feminine androgynous) transgender or genderqueer person in a male body. I was born and raised as a straight male but started questioning both my gender and sexuality around the age of 16 for many complex reasons.
When I was little, kids in school would make fun of me by calling me “Suneela” to characterize a perceived weak and effeminate nature. I decided to reclaim this, but in a way that would make people think and not assume my gender when they look at my name (Suneel is a boy’s name in Hindi). It gives me an androgynous quality, which I like.
Often I’m plagued by self-doubt — am I doing this just to attract attention? I answered it myself when I expressed these doubts to my friend Erica (thank god for her) and she asked me the most fundamental question of all: What does being a woman mean to you?
To me, being a woman means having an identity that is feminine but without any preconceived notions, ideas, or mind-sets about what a woman is or what a woman should be — in any sense, be it in terms of looks, actions, habits, social roles, or anything else.
Everybody feels like there is some kind of “ideal” man and “ideal” woman. Well, I reject that. I am a woman with no conditions and no strings attached. And no presumptions, either. You may find me rather androgynous, deviant, and gender-bending. I like to dress up, be pierced, and be effeminate or girly.
Yes, I am all those things, or rather, I possess all those qualities. But I claim the right to choose my ultimate gender beyond my traits, looks, qualities, and features, even if it is different from the sexual organs I possess. And whether that’s feminine or hermaphrodite or my desired blend of masculine and feminine is my choice.
You can love it, be OK with it, be uncomfortable with it, be revolted by it, or leave it. But it’s my choice. Being a woman means being a woman.