This is our truth, tell us yours
Sometimes subjects intersect in the most curious ways.
Regular readers will know that we, as a blog, uphold the rights of trans people, and shy away from any kind of biological essentialism that says the configuration of genitals at any given time is the only defining characteristic of sex or gender.
Over the weekend I was talking to one of the men I most love in the world. He has prostrate cancer, and,at his age, with other health problems, doctors have to consider how to stop his body producing testosterone. One option is hormone therapy. Another is orchietomy. In the back of my head, as he talked, I wondered if the doctors were just covering all the options, and offering him an alternative that would be worse than complying with the hormone therapy that leaves elderly prostrate cancers with hot flushes, reduced libido and associated weight and health problems. Would he fear surgical castration sufficiently to comply with the chemical castration that remains our best weapon against his kind of cancer?
Reader, I flinched from addressing the topic directly. This is a man we are talking about, a man of vigorous appetites and huge presence, accidentally sexist on occasion, proud, a former manual worker who can still command a room just by entering and surveying those present. How would he react? I kept my voice light. Which option would he choose? His response was blunt, and frank. ‘If the drugs won’t work they can cut my bollocks off. They’re no use to me if I’m dead.’ I could imagine him saying the same thing at the bar of the workingmen’s club, staring down anyone who dared contradict him.
He didn’t even consider that he might be changed by the experience, or diminished or altered, because he knew he would not be. The rest of the conversation skipped lightly over his work, his family, his neighbours and the widow whose family were sure he’d like to spend more time with her, even though he cordially despises her liking for Abba and Emmerdale. The notion that his manhood is somehow defined by whether he has testicles or not would not have entered his frame of reference for a moment, because his manhood is social, not biological, is a way of being.
He would never consider the issue in the abstract, but by being so clear about his priorities, about what makes him a man, he helped me understand some key issues far more clearly than if I had written ten thousand words, or read a library of blogs and articles arguing and asserting for all they were worth.