I was watching the Oscars this past Sunday night and had just finished cheering on the Best Actress recipient when Jimmy Kimmel said a line, easily missed, but which caught my attention: “I wish I were a woman”. This line caught my attention because at various points in my life I have wrestled with this very issue—and I thought sharing some of my journey in this matter would be helpful.
My elementary school life was very lonely. The combination of diagnosed Developmental Coordination Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and undiagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorder and Non-Verbal Learning Disorder. By the time I got to Grade 5 and 6, I was pretty isolated. Partly due to my disabilities, and partly due to my general personality values, I think I was 10 when a girl I went to horse camp felt it important to point out how feminine I seemed. This had me wracking my brain for long after, as I didn’t feel I was all that feminine–girls were certainly a bit of a mystery to me, though one that I definitely wanted to explore–but from a romantic perspective, not a lived experience perspective.
As I moved through late elementary school and high school, and began to make my first close friendships, almost all of which were with females I often wished I had been born female because it seemed like my life would have been a lot easier. I want to be clear though–I did not feel I should change my sex, or that I was female in a male body–I was, quite frustratingly male, I just wondered how my life would have different if I was born female and wished I had been.
As I grew and moved on through university, college, and beyond, that distinction became apparent to me. I realized that the assumption my life would be better if I had been born female was just that–an assumption, and one completely without basis. So much would have been different that it’s impossible to say whether my life would have been better or worse or the same.
Having accepted that, I was then left with a few pieces to put together. While my gender identity was unquestionably male, I had a lot of values and interests that were traditionally feminine at least in the West. Compassion, empathy, and emotions spoke to me much more than cold rationality or aggressiveness. Rather than use brute strength to get through life I prefered to develop endurance and resilience. I preferred cuddling to rough housing, peaceful, sideways solutions to direct confrontation. I was drawn to cute animals and babies, and I rocked out to female pop artists like Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato.
The only way I could make sense of all of these puzzle pieces was to realize that I was male, but I was a male who didn’t want traditional gender norms to dictate who I was. My medication, my disabilities, my values, my choices–all had made me into a man who saw a lot of value in the traditional feminine.
I have come to terms with all of this relatively recently (within the past couple of years probably), and no longer devote so much time to “what ifs”. Instead, I am resolved to be a man who can be a true ally to women. Who can model a type of new manhood that lives in harmony with all genders, and all sexes, and that is not tied to traditional gender norms.
Seen through that light, my long-standing female friendships have helped me to become the ally I was always meant to be. My experiences have led me to to identify as a Christian feminist, which may not be what one traditionally thinks of when thinking of Christianity but which Sarah Bessey argues quite strongly for in Jesus Feminist when she looks at the stories of Christ. There’s even some good evidence for Paul being much more a feminist than many traditionally assume, as both Bessey and Rachel Held Evans point out.
So to Jimmy Kimmel, and those like him I say: the world does not cisgender men to become transgender; what the world needs is cisgender men who are willing to buck patriarchal systems, defy traditional gender norms, and stand as true allies to women and girls. That is what I try to do, and I invite all to join me in that effort.