I am in the middle of reading a very interesting book called “Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People” by Joan Roughgarden. The author of the book argues that Darwin’s sexual selection theory is false. I intend to eventually review the book once I complete it, but I felt like I needed to write about a particular part that I just read that seems to have implications for my relationship with my mother.
CN: non-binary erasure.
“I envision gender identity as a cognitive lens. When a baby opens his or her [sic] eyes after birth and looks around, whom will the baby emulate and whom will he or she [sic] merely notice? Perhaps a male baby will emulate his father or other men, perhaps not, and a female baby her mother, or other women, perhaps not. I imagine that a lens in the brain controls who to focus on as a ‘tutor’. Transgender identity is then the acceptance of a tutor from the opposite sex [sic]…The development of gender identity thus depends on both brain state and early postnatal experience, because brain state indicates what the lens is, and environmental experience supplies the image to be photographed through that lens and ultimately developed immutably into brain circuitry.”
When I was a small child, I believed that my mother gave birth to me, and only me. I had a sister and I explained this away by asserting to myself that my father gave birth to her, not my mother. She was mine and only mine. From that early age, I sensed a strong connection to my mother that I imagine cisgender males tend to share with their fathers. If Roughgarden is correct, then it seems I focused on my mother as my “tutor” very early on as a trans female child.
Of course I also love my father, but I never felt a similar connection to him. He is my father, and I have always felt he was. I just never saw him the way I see my mother. There came a point when I became aware of the gendered expectations I was ‘supposed to’ adopt and adhere to. In a way, I felt somewhat obligated to develop that kind of connection with my father. It’s not that I didn’t want a special relationship with my father, I just felt like I was attempting to create an artificial one in order fulfill my duties as someone assigned male at birth.
Fortunately, I did have a genuinely special (yet different) relationship with my father. It’s not the same one I might imagine I would have if I were cisgender, but it’s a good one nonetheless.