What’s It Like Being Born in the Wrong Body?
I’m a writer. Interviewing people is part of the job. After 13 years of asking people—some famous some not—questions there’s not much that phases me or anyone that gets me super-excited to get a chance to talk to. The most recent was when I spoke to Nia Long a few months ago, but that was on the phone and I only had 15 minutes. Truthfully, the last time I really felt geeked about a face-to-face interview was a few years back when I got a chance to ride in a limo with LL Cool J, who rapped for me the whole time #Awkward, as we headed to the Brooklyn Diner in Midtown Manhattan to talk about his then-new album.
Well, week before last I got to have an interview that trumped them all. It wasn’t a sit down with another big name celebrity or even a CEO, it was just another writer by the name of Tiq Milan. I’ve known Tiq for years via email as a freelancer that wrote for me when I was Editor-in-Chief of The Ave magazine #RIP (Rest in Print) and we’d only met once many years ago at an album listening session. After we shook hands and parted ways at the event, I walked away with one question ringing in my head: Was that a man or a woman?
At the time Tiq went by his birth name Tika, which paired with baggy jeans and a fitted, was a bit androgynous. So I wasn’t sure if I had accidently given a pound to a lesbian woman or just another guy with a unisex name. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered it was both. See, Tiq was born female but four years ago began making the transition from a woman to a man which is now complete and requires daily shots of testosterone for the rest of his life. Two weeks ago I got to interview him on camera about being Black and transgender as part of a month-long series on LGBT issues on BlackEnterprise.com.
I learned a lot from my hour-long conversation with Tiq, namely there’s a difference between being transgender and transsexual. The former is tied to how the world perceives you and the latter involves a complete sex change. In Tiq’s case, he is a transgender, so his breasts were removed but his original genitalia remains intact. Despite that fact, he is legally classified as a male (thus not a lesbian) and has no plans to change what’s between his legs because “that doesn’t make [him] a man.” I’ll admit to being taken aback by that revelation, but by the end of the interview it all made sense.
After having a conversation with Tiq there’s no way you can sit there and think “she.” He had a moustache, deep voice and for all intents and purposes “acted” like your standard Black man. I felt like I was talking to a long-lost homeboy and not some “he/she” that less open-minded people might imagine.
There was no sense of discomfort on my part and we spoke openly about real questions that someone not in the know might have, like what bathroom does he use (“I stopped going to the ladies room after I went in there and women started screaming”) and what’s harder; being a Black man or a Black woman (they’re both equally hard in that he understands how Black men are racially profiled and how women are often underestimated because of their sex). Needless to say, the interview was an eye opener as it’s not very often that you get to sit down with someone that literally understands what it’s like to be a woman and a man of color in America.
Regardless of your personal views on the subject, did you learn something from the video interview? Did you know the difference between being transgender and transsexual? Did you see a man when you first saw Tiq? Would you have been “fooled” if you passed him on the street? Are you still confused by the idea of someone wanting to live life as another sex without changing his or her genitalia? Would you consider that person to be “gay” even if they legally were considered another gender? Would you be able to date someone that had a sex change if no one you knew ever found out? How would you respond to someone in your family announced that they were having a sex change? Would you be able to handle your child being gay easier than him/her wanting a sex change? Have you ever considered what life would be like if you felt trapped in the wrong body?
Speak your piece…