Dysphoria, Incongruence, Identity, Agenda
Whether gender is a construct, neuroscience or biologically determined, I’ve always felt incongruent with my birth-assigned one but not in denial of it. Not that it was that easily determined either. At birth, I was designated female and called Katherine but an hour or so later, doctors discovered I was male and my parents renamed me Jonathan.
I spent my school years from primary through secondary internally feeling like I belonged elsewhere, to another gender group, that of girls, or more accurately, to neither. When puberty was significantly delayed, due to a hormone disorder and stunted development, I suffered psychologically, along with bullying for not being manly enough. Ironically, I now get jibes about not being feminine enough from some trans people (some even called upon me to detransition) and male gender critical comments that I look more like an ageing rock star and should make more of an effort. I’m quite happy being somewhat butch, despite my love of long hair, and gender non-conforming.
As an adult, I struggled with my gender, denied and buried it with marriage and evangelical Christianity, only for it to burst out with repressed vengeance years later.
So at aged 40, I began transitioning, transparently as Katy Jon. I went into psychotherapy, explored sex and body workshops for self-development, and experimented with various styles and expressions, until I found myself, my confidence and my congruence between inner and outer selves, and the various parts of who we are that go towards making us who we can be.
Going on feminising hormones (2010) was a happy moment and I found some relief. Even my low levels of Testosterone had clearly caused me distress. In 2012, I signed up for surgery thinking I would have years to actually make up my mind…
In late 2015, I was called with the offer of a bump onto another surgical list within months not years and after some internal deliberation decided to go ahead with a penectomy, orchidectomy, clitoroplasty and labioplasty in 2016. I’ve not had a day of regret and my gender dysphoria went but I do not feel or identify as female as a result just free of gender dysphoria. Non-binary feels more accurate, though person is my preferred label. Hence I tend to introduce myself as a transgender person, though don’t resist when people use trans woman or even woman of me but I will not demand or appropriate their usage for myself.
More on my gender journey can be listened to on the Fifty Shades of Gender podcast, episode 16, on which 100+ other people’s stories can be heard too.
Having been on this path many years now and worked in other areas of diversity (around faith groups, disability, mental health, and foreign nationals) I became inundated with requests for support and to offer training, give talks and lectures, about being transgender or how that sits in society.
Hence, GenderAgenda was born. Through this agency, I delivered training and talks to City & County councils, HM Prison Service, Police & Fire Services, Job Centres, Unions, Colleges and Universities, Theatres & Venues, and Therapeutic Counselling Services.
I do more wearing just the Katy Jon Went hat now, beyond gender stuff – there are plenty that have taken up the mantle of trans training. I’m more keen these days to navigate the minefield of engaging with those critical of transgender and indeed diversity and inclusion directions in general. I am a moderate willing to engage with any and that sometimes means being misunderstood, willing to compromise or yield a valid point. It means hearing and being heard by those who disagree, finding a way to create a coexistent society that can take everyone with it, and leaves no man, woman or trans++ behind.
Recent panels and talks and media interviews have covered more than just transgender though and have ranged over the full LGBTIQA+ human rights spectrum, as I firmly believe that gender education is about more than being trans or intersex, and that diversity is about more than sex(uality) and gender. We need an intersectional understanding of human rights and respect that recognises inherent and individual human value, dignity, and autonomy over our body, freedoms, and expression.