What is a man?

Happiness is trying on men’s clothes at a second hand shop with your queer girlfriend.

At least, that was yesterday’s definition over in my world.

Some multiples have parts who have a different sense of gender. I’ve touched on this before in About Transgender. This can be a challenge. We have one who doesn’t identify as male or female, but who doesn’t come out very much. We also have a couple of guys in a female – dominated system, and a female body. We’ve struggled with this. The neat and simple thing to do is to accept and welcome and move on with life. Some multiples manage this really well. We, for various reasons, haven’t. It’s not neat or simple or easy at all for us. Gender is a loaded concept for us, with lots of baggage. So we’ve suppressed and hoped we didn’t have to engage. Why have male parts? Why are they here? Why continue to be here? Can’t they let go of their sense of male identity? What is a male identity anyway? Why do they feel so different from our ‘tomboy’ parts, those who tend to reject the feminine while still feeling female. How do we create a safe space for them when most people don’t cope with parts on any level?

When we first started to make sense of the mutliplicity itself, we were so suspicious about it all. Like a lawyer, we attacked every aspect of it – how do I know I’m multiple? Have we invented it to please the shrink? Is it iatrogenic? Do we just want to be ‘special’? What if we’re mistaken? I find the same suspicion about the trans parts. Do you have to be this bloody complicated? Can’t you just all identify as female? Do you have to have recognition externally, isn’t it fine if people just think you’re butch? Aren’t you just trying to alienate yourself/piss off your father/prove something? Wouldn’t you have to let go of your sense of identity to integrate anyway? You’re holding us back. You’re making us vulnerable. Go away.

You’re not a real guy.

You’re not a real trans either.

There can be a powerful sense of being an imposter when you’re a trans part. I don’t belong to the trans community because I’m only a part. And most of my system is female and out a lot more than I am. We’re never going to transition. But what makes a guy, anyway? It can’t just be about bits. It can’t be about a bit of flesh in my hand, or being able to pee standing. It can’t just be hating my breasts and thinking I’m ugly and weak. It can’t be rejecting the feminine, I like poetry and reading and have a system full of women and girls I think of as my sisters. I’m not into misogyny or rejection. But I know being called a woman makes me angry enough to spit. I know that the thought of my girlfriend recoiling from me in fear or disgust makes me want to die. I know that I want to be a better man than my father. I know that the cultural ideas of masculinity seem like grotesque parodies of the tenderness and strength and complexity I admire in good men.

I now know that having Rose take me shopping to buy guy clothes, to laugh at the shop assistant who looked at us in disgust, to go home with a bag of trousers that are too long in the leg and tshirts with collars on them and guy shoes makes up for the glitter nail polish on our hands and the nose piercing and the way we are always identified as lesbians when we hold hands in public.

What makes one belief acceptable and another one psychotic? If I thought I was a rabbit or an astronaut instead of a guy, what then?

I’ll never forget watching a movie, many years ago. The main characters kiss. We switch back and forth, one moment the woman feeling his stubble graze her skin, another the man, tasting lipstick and the sweet drink on her breath. Co-consciousness can be mind bending at times.

I think of Jung’s ideas of anima and animus, the male and female aspect in all of us. I think of an old boyfriend, when I was young, pointing to the ground – here is male, and across from it is female. Then in a diagonal cross – and here I am, and here you are. Both and neither. Different but connected by our inability to relate entirely to one or the other. I remember borrowing his clothes to wear some days/

With suppression comes shame and loneliness. There’s been a kind of hope that without a place in the world, we would quietly unravel, unknit back to yarn, the raw stuff of self. Let go of shape and identity. It hasn’t worked. I can’t answer the question ‘Why am I here?’, but maybe I hold the key to some of the self hate. ‘What would you tell someone else in your situation?’ Rose asks me. Your approach isn’t working for you, try something else. 

It is what it is. There’s glitter on my nails. Rose holds my hand, unthreatened, unafraid. The words and labels are only ways to describe and explain things that are far deeper than words. She pays for a bag of clothes for us, makes a space in the world for us, tries to use the right pronouns. I’m part of a whole, and most of that is female. I refuse to be afraid of that.

4 thoughts on “What is a man?

  1. You know, Sarah, what you have said, I think could apply to a lot of us if we’re honest, but we’re rarely allowed to be honest, so we suppress anything that goes against the norms. I’m a male; I don’t have d.i.d., but I have a wife who has d.i.d. So I often use “multiple” language to express the fact that I clearly have parts of me with feminine tastes and interests.

    My wife knows part of the reason I buy her beautiful jewelry is because I love it myself, but am not “allowed” to have it. And when the little girls first joined us, I had a girls’ party with them, and we did facials and painted our toes…and part of me longs to paint my toes, again, for myself…but again, I’m not allowed. I even brought it up to my wife recently, and her response was lukewarm…so I probably won’t. And there’s definitely part of me curious about getting pegged by a person so my g-spot gets hit by something other than a hard, fake, dildo.

    As I’ve helped my wife heal from her d.i.d., it’s forced me to be BRUTALLY honest with myself so I could deal with the huge storm of emotions that the self-denial (necessary to help her and the little ones heal) caused…but as I was honest…I realized that I was being forced to deny parts of my personality because they aren’t socially acceptable for “males.” I’m at peace with the presence of those parts of me…but sad that I end of keeping them hidden, even from my wife, because she’s less accepting of me, than I am of her and her d.i.d. 😦



    • Finding yourself outside the narrow gender binary can be really tough, and you’re right, it’s certainly not just multiples or people who identify as trans who wrestle or simply don’t fit the boxes. I’m sorry you don’t feel that you can express this aspect of you very much, it may be that some parts/aspects/altars of your wife are more comfortable than others. You may be interested in contacting local queer supports, for example I have make friends who do not identify as trans but as gender-queer, and who appreciate being able to meet up with other people safely for dinner one a month, where no one will be surprised if they wear heels or have painted nails. It can be really comforting to connect to a community who don’t find you strange. 🙂


  2. You have to be who you are Sarah, at any time . Its about being what is there and let yourself be you at that time. It is a condition that is so complicated that you don’t need any more distress than you already have. Your partner tries to be understanding but even at times she will not be able to help you no matter how she wants to. But she loves you enough to keep on trying. Try to pay attention to the parts that you can accept, use breathing techniques whenever you can.
    Relaxation has to be a key. Look after yourself as best as you can. 💕


  3. I appreciate and can agree with what you have shared as it’s relevancy in my life has it’s own reality, thank you Sarah I find a kinship of a shared life experience with this blog.


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