Gender Ambiguity for Dummies

Hermaphroditus, sculpture, Del Prado Museum, Madrid

I can’t stand it when misinformed people make dismissive, derogatory comments about transgendered people. Worse yet, some of these people go as far as to commit hate crimes against trans people and gay men. It makes me all the more sad: that there are people, especially in the U.S., ESPECIALLY in New York, who are not evolved enough to accept these individuals for who they are.

The recent beating and consequent death of Islan Nettles, a black 21-year-old transgendered woman in Harlem, New York, is being investigated as a hate crime. Another transgendered woman posted a blog in response to this calling for awareness and a coming out of the people that know/like/love trans people. Their family and friends, their lovers, their co-workers, people that have interacted with them in any way, who would know that trans people are just people like you and me with a different set of insecurities. Everybody has them. It’s just that theirs revolve around being born in the wrong body/gender as opposed to whatever your own insecurity might be (be it the size of your breasts, your lack of career accomplishments, your trailer park background, your weight, whatever).

I’ve never been in the closet about my trans relations and will gladly tell you that my ex girlfriend was trans and she is still one of the most beautiful people, inside and out, that I have ever met. And I have many trans friends in addition to her.

After meeting my girlfriend and several of her friends, I got to know them and realized that they are all just regular people, with their own hopes, dreams, plans, concerns, neurosis and relationship problems. Though their relationship problems are often unfortunately exacerbated by the fact that they are trans and their partners’ inability to deal with it or admit it to their friends and family. This still drives me nuts. And it drives me nuts how any sort of (actual or perceived) gender ambiguity is met with a certain haughtiness, stigma and degradation from a lot of people. They call them “hermaphrodites” and the word usually carries a negative connotation with it.

Well, in light of all this, I wanted to share with you the original story of Hermaphroditus. When I was traveling in Spain a few months ago and running around museums like a madwoman, I came across a beautiful sculpture in the Del Prado museum in Madrid of Hermpaphroditus. The sculpture was of a reclining woman, lying on her stomach, with her breasts showing. But if you came in close enough and looked carefully, you’d see that she also had a penis. Next to the sculpture, was the description of the story behind it.

In Greek mythology, Hermaphroditus was the son of Hermes and Aphrodite (hence, the name), two of the most powerful Greek gods. He was so beautiful that when a water nymph found him and made love to him, it was so passionate that their bodies actually fused into one and he wound up with both female and male body parts. That’s the story, guys. And I’d love it if you could relay it to the dimwits that make derogatory comments about trans people and hermaphrodites.

I have no idea where/how modern culture (or at least some of it) managed to turn this thing on its head. Granted, a biological hermaphrodite is not exactly the same as a trans person that decides to transition to the other side, but it still all falls in the same category of gender ambiguity, which can be something beautiful and wondrous if you let it. Not everyone fits neatly into a box. And not everyone needs to (the world would be a very boring place if everyone did, wouldn’t it?)


Stop being afraid of people you don’t understand. Get to know them, instead. Ask lots of questions. You’ll learn something new. You’ll find parts of yourself there.

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