Back in early December during my big “coming out” week, one of the questions that was asked of me was “How long have you known that you wanted to be a girl?” My answer was “I suppose that I have always known this all of my life.” My next thoughts about the question brought up a number of instances in my memory when I had felt this “wanting” but at the same time they felt like they were revisionist thoughts that I conjured up to give me a history of why and how I came to be who I am in the present.
One of the things that I have learned about the human memory is that its primary function is for survival. And despite the fact that the brain records everything our senses tells it about an event and stores it somewhere in the brain forever, by the time the data is stored away in whatever part of the brain that stores it as long term memory, it is no longer an accurate recording of that event, but rather a very compressed version of it. Furthermore, as time goes by, the brain will compress similar memories together so that later a single stimulus can trigger the playback of a whole series of similar memories compressed even further still. The reason the brain does this is a matter of our survival as a human individual, for if the brain didn’t compress the data, by the time the stimulus of a serious threat to our survival is translated into action, the old proverbial bear will have gotten us. This same survival mechanism also distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom because it gives us the ability to choose our responses to a stimulus rather than simply react by instinct. It is also the mechanism that creates something of which no other beast is capable and that is context.
So going back to the question of how long have known I wanted to be a girl, the issue of trying to put together memories to answer that question, I will need to fit them within the context that I have been given by the question itself. It also raises the question of whether any memory I may recall may only be a means to justify my choice to pursue a different course for my life and that I could just have easily selected those particular memories to give credence to my choice to pursue my present transition into sisterhood.
That question also brings up one that is so much a part of the issues around sexual orientation and gender identity in our society and that is the issue of whether or not our sexual orientation and/or gender identities are born into us or a matter of choice. The answer to that question is now a very large part of the political, religious, and moral landscape and given the complexity of the issue, will not be answered in the court of public opinion, for it must be answered in the hearts, minds and souls of each individual who is willing to contemplate it.
My personal belief is by no means an answer to anyone’s question but my own. I believe that as a human individual, despite what genital organs I was given at birth, I was also given a clean slate upon which the events of my life was to be written and by which I would come to eventually be able to make sense, to put into a context, what is written on that once clean slate. While I can fuss over which memories of mine might have indicated that I have always wanted to be a girl, the truth is that none of those memories can create the context for them. The context was created outside of those memories, just as a container is created outside of it’s contents, and given my belief of who I am in the present, the contents for me are far less significant than the context which now holds those memories.
The context of my life as a transgender girl/woman is really only a few months old, but at the same time the context has always existed, just as the context that I am a man, gay, lesbian, questioning or just plain “straight” has existed within my soul since before my present incarnation into a life I have been given and yet still mistakenly call my own. What has given this present context its power is my choosing it as the one which has given me wholeness, the very definition, as I understand, of the word integrity.
So that brings me once again to the question I have been asking myself and which others who may have only an inkling of what it means to make such a choice as I have made have asked me. The answer to the question is moot, for I have made the choice to follow one path over another which I had already chosen to follow for sixty two years, the choice to live as a man. I have chosen a new context into which I will live this life from this point forward but despite all of its many challenges, I have also chosen to be madly in love with myself for having chosen it.
And while the name of Deanna was given to me by the spirit of the woman who has been living within me all of these years and who has finally broken out, I chose my middle name as a celebration of my new life of joy.
Deanna Joy Hallmark