FAQ’s Answered #4: What Does Being Transgender Bring To My Writing?

Today in a series of replies to FAQ (frequently asked questions) sent to me by fans (and sometimes not so much), I answer the question “What Does Being Transgender Bring To My Writing?

It’s 2019 now, and it’s been 19 years since I started transition and 13 years since I had my final surgeries. As a matter of interest, since I woke up after my “big op” on January 10, 2006, I felt completely natural – and above all, whole and complete! As a result, I sometimes have to stop and think to remember what it was like to have grown up and lived a male life.

I did all that: went to school as a boy, got conscripted into the army, got married, and lived a male life all the way up to the age of 27, when I’d had enough of being ‘inauthentic’ – which is just a modern way of saying that I lied – a lot – about who I really was inside to everyone.

In those days I felt I didn’t belong among the guys because, well, I wasn’t really a guy on the inside – I was just playing a part and trying not to give anything away. When I was among girls, I didn’t feel I belonged there either because while I felt as they did, they didn’t perceive me that way at all.

Yes, transition has solved a great many problems for me – chiefly dysphoria – but has it solved everything?

I find myself suddenly sliding that question under the heading “Philosophical”… And it is – oh yes, just like most existential dilemmas!

At first, in 1999 when I began my transition, I stopped doing any of my hobbies – working on my cars, woodwork, metalwork etc – because they were considered ‘too masculine’ for a girl, and I took up new stereotypical interests and activities.

Several years later, when I’d got fed up with living how others expected me to – which restricted my freedom and growth as a person, I stopped caring a damn what people think, and took up my old hobbies – along with the new. That’s right, I do woodwork, I build things and work on my cars in my garage – and get compliments from male passersby who generally can’t believe their eyes!

You see, it doesn’t take anything away from my femininity to pick up a spanner or to build a table, weld or to get a little grease under my fingernails! Being a woman isn’t about what you do for a hobby, or what you wear, and I’m comfortable in my own skin now – and I’m proud that I can (and do) more things than most people I know – regardless of their gender – or their age!

Oh, it never goes away – that feeling that you’re not quite the same as everyone else around you… in the case of males and male culture before and during transition – and even after, there’s still a slight distance and a momentary hesitation on my part – even after transition, and even when other women fully accept me as female and part of female culture – and they do.

Why do I feel that way? Well, I suppose one of the main reasons is because that old me that lived the male life and the post-transition me are one and the same person inside… and I’ve literally walked on both sides of that gender fence.

Having lived on both sides of that artificial social “fence” has brought with it experience, knowledge and insight into – well, a great many things: feelings, emotions, physical and mental experiences, as well as social and cultural.

After all, in this society we live in, life is quite different for males and females. The more I think about it, the more ridiculous and unfair I find it that a person’s entire life – from birth, through childhood and when considering future outcomes – is decided based on what sort of tackle they’re carrying between their thighs!

There’s a simple yet powerful comparison for this, in the shape of toys. Toy stores – and advertisers, manufacturers, designers – and parents – most still categorize toys into ‘girls toys’ and ‘boys toys’. Some parents still refuse to buy toy guns and cars for their daughters, or dolls or kitchen sets for their sons. Why is that? It’s almost as if they’re against their daughters’ desire to play soldier, or to pursue a career in law enforcement, or to defend themselves… or for their sons to learn how to be better fathers or to know how to cook!

I mean, is a toy gun, drill, car, doll, or astronaut costume operated by the child’s genitalia? I’m sure if they were, they’d ALL be moved to the “adult” shelves… in a sex shop!

Are human beings – and their worth as people – defined by whether or not they have an innie or an outie? Of course not! Ridiculous thought, isn’t it?

…and yet it seems that there are some people on this planet who want it to be true!

There are still places (and even more importantly people) who discriminate to the point where careers, jobs and vocations are divided by gender! Does it take a penis or a vagina to be a lawyer? A doctor? A soldier? An astronaut?

Also, the sheer amount of “male-washing” that has sought to obliterate the role of women in history is pretty astonishing. Everything from terrifyingly efficient and proficient women warriors and benevolent leaders, to contributions by modern women scientists has been simply overlooked or gone unmentioned as if to reinforce the relatively modern notion that women are and always have been (and should remain) weak, compliant, not as intellectual – and should stick to their defined secondary gender-stereotypical role!


Just as an example, the remains of Viking shield-maidens – highly respected and feared female warriors – were until only recently automatically designated ‘male’ by archaeologists, in spite of the bony remains indicating that the individual had been female! Presumably it was just too inconceivable (or unwelcome) a notion that ‘pathetic, weak, stupid’ women could ever have been tough effective soldiers… a regressive mindset that modern woman soldiers have had to contend with in our time as well – and have over time disproved with relative ease.

In ‘Murica, the former “Land of the Free” (soon to be renamed “Trumplandia” if things keep going the way they are) a new legal arrangement is set to allow employers to force female employees to wear dresses or skirts and to punish them if they dare to wear pants!

In 2019???

No wonder the rest of the world is shaking their heads – I mean, when a country like the USA – which had until recently been taken very, very seriously as a world power, especially in matters relating to human rights policy – goes as badly off the rails like this, hopping and skipping backwards into a morass of “moral panic” Prohibition Era insanity, it’s time to sit up and take notice!

Bear in mind that this comes from a government which seems to prioritize laws to regulate women’s bodies and reproductive health care above a tsunami of catastrophic failures: issues like fiscal responsibility, electoral integrity, moral accountability, gun control, domestic terrorism and biweekly mass shootings! It only indicates the level of depravity to which the worlds largest near-former democracy has sunk!

Women still encounter immense prejudice and discrimination everywhere in global society – at home, in schools, in choosing a career path, in education, in the employment market, in the workplace, in public, in law – and in terms of equal benefits and remuneration.

When a man gives orders in a professional setting and says “I want x, y and z over there”, it’s taken as ‘just fine’ because ‘he knows his job’ and has the experience to back it up – but if a woman with the same work experience or qualifications says the exact same thing in the same tone, she’s ‘domineering’, ‘arrogant’ and ‘bossy’. Who the hell does she think she is, anyway? Hmm…

I’ve also seen how this misogynistic outlook is applied to people who go against its metaphorical grain: namely feminists and LGBT people.

You see, the notion that women can be strong and independent (or terrifying) – or that gay women don’t need men in their lives, or men being attracted to other men, or transgender women deliberately devaluing and discarding male physical characteristics – or transgender men taking on male physical characteristics – is deliberately misinterpreted to be a threat to what is called ‘toxic masculinity’.

“Big boys don’t cry.” is the first saying that springs to mind. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but they do. And they should – because otherwise they generally grow up to be abusive, inwardly weak, fragile internally homophobic adults willing to do anything it takes to hide their feelings and their vulnerabilities from others – including abusing those who care about them. South Africa – just like the US’s Bigotry Belt – is full of these ‘manne’ with their toxic masculinity who swear at the ‘moffies’ in the street in front of the wife and kids – but spend their private time with young twinky rent-pieces or getting off watching shemale porn.

It’s the same with so-called ‘men of the cloth’ who habitually attack LGBT people from the pulpit, advocating genocide and death camps for LGBT – it’s never too long before they get caught out diddling school boys or picking up men at a local spot, and then they disappear from sight. But they hate anything that isn’t ‘manly’!

What? Them show any signs of being gay to the world? Never! They’d rather die – or come bliksemming out of the closet in another tabloid news expose’, still clinging to the hangers with their khaki cargo-pants around their ankles.

That’s all part of ‘toxic masculinity’. It’s not only abusive towards the feminine – it’s abuse of the self.

The idea that a woman or a gay man, or a transgender person could possibly be a warrior, a combat effective soldier – or essentially a bigger ‘he-man’ than your quintessential heterosexual alpha male – is simply discounted in the general mindset – as well as largely in fiction.

This is the reason why those who cling to this archaic mindset support any and all initiatives to have transgender and gay soldiers expelled from their relative armed forces. Down through the years, gay men have typically been portrayed as lisping, mincing comedy props, and if they’re physically threatening at all, then they’re usually cast as the villain – and given the unflattering characteristics of being cowardly or back-stabbing, and worse.

Obviously, as a writer, I’ve rebelled against that offensive bullshit narrative, because it’s simply not true, but I digress!

Quite a large number of males – especially those ‘old bulls’ who still call the shots and strut around rather dangerously on that increasingly fragile glass ceiling – seem to be so in love with male genitalia in their own special homophobic and transphobic ‘toxic masculinity’ way, that I’m surprised they haven’t yet seen the irony!

That ubiquitous bugbear of logic and reason, religion, is all too often the cancerous tumor at the root of this institutionalized cultural and social unfairness! Today we have gays, lesbians, bi’s and transgender people supporting paid torture facilities run by quacks and con-men and fronted by religious extremist churches that con victims into thinking they can pray and suffer their way ‘straight’ – all for fear of actually accepting themselves for who and what they are!

On top of all of that, you have the family members and “friends” of these victims of religious bigotry applying pressure onto them like stable boys shoveling shit onto a trailer – because they’re more afraid of what their pastor or the pew-neighbor they rub elbows with each Sunday will think of them having a gay or trans child/ cousin/ sibling/ parent than the welfare of the person they’re supposed to be concerned about!

That’s right – many heterosexual people are still deeply frightened by the thought that they might be – or perceived to be – gay or transgender, because of the toxic religious upbringing they’ve had!

They daren’t speak out against homophobic outbursts or speak out in defense of an LGBT person, because people might accuse or suspect them of being gay themselves.

Every which way we turn, religious bigotry stands in the shadows, lurking, smiling like it has its long slimy fingers in every pie.

In order for there to be true equality between genders, races, sexualities – and in fact ANY ‘alities’ – religion, or at the very least organized religion has to be ripped out, root and stem, and discarded – however, that is a topic perhaps best left for another article, another time!

All that aside, all of the above has resulted in me not feeling entirely “part” of either male or female culture or society. Not that I doubt my gender – which is undeniably female, or my personality – which is feminine, yet also undeniably strong. It is often my strong personality which people – especially males find intimidating, because you know, women are “supposed to be” weak, agreeable, lesser-than, and compliant – and if you’re none of these things, you don’t ‘fit in’.

Well, I’m sorry to break it to you folks – I’m a real person, not a tetris piece – I don’t fit in and disappear. I’m not a give-in-and-obey kinda gal – I’m a stand-up-and-shout “Listen here, mother-fucker…” and set-your-shit-on-fire kinda gal.

Unfortunately, some brainwashed gas-lit sisters have been so taken in and influenced by the patriarchal narrative that they too espouse misogynistic tropes and values! Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists – (sadly sometimes including some lesbians and gays) have somehow convinced themselves that they’re feminists and “the good guys” when they’re really the opposite – anti-feminists.

A prime example of this incongruity is the TERF bitches who attack me on social media saying I’m not a woman because I’m trans, I’m a ‘mutilated male’ whose insistence to the contrary undermines ‘true feminism’ – or the lesbians who send my wife hate-mail because she’s married to a trans-woman and we both identify as lesbian. Apparently dating another woman makes her ‘straight’. Fancy that.

While science has overwhelmingly shown that gender AND sexual orientation are determined between the ears and not between the thighs, for the low-brow TERFs, gender is merely physical – and so they expend many fruitless hours attacking effeminate gay men, drag queens and transgender women and in the process employing the same tactics and misogynistic mindset as used against women by our joint enemies – Christofascism and the patriarchy.

So after setting the background for the question: “What does my being transgender bring to my writing?“, I will finally answer it:

Obviously, feminism – and definitely a fair, equal rights humanist ethic – a sense of fair play and justice, and finally, a unique perspective in which diverse characters and their experiences are written from the point of view of someone who has been in that exact or similar situation and who knows with a degree of certainty what it felt like!

I write characters who are free and equal, or who fight for their freedom or equality – and the amazing thing is, I do it in a stealthy, entertaining, humorous and uplifting way, without any shouting or bra-burning.

Further reading:

I hope I’ve answered this question to your satisfaction!

Feel free to email or message me via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn if you have any comments or questions!



If you would like to know more about Christina Engela and her writing, please feel free to browse her website.

If you’d like to send Christina Engela a question about her life as a writer or transactivist, please send an email to christinaengela@gmail.com or use the Contact form.

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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.


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