Here is the full transcript of Decker Moss’ TED Talk: Hey Doc, some boys are born girls at TEDxColumbus.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Hey Doc, some boys are born girls by Decker Moss at TEDxColumbus
Decker Moss – Writer, public speaker and dog-lover
13 years ago today I came out as gay and it was a huge, huge relief. And at the time I remember thinking, “Thank God, I will never have to do that again.”
Turns out I was wrong. Because two years ago, I came out again. Only this time, instead of announcing that I wasn’t attracted to the opposite gender, I announced that I was the opposite gender. The day I was born, a doctor slapped me on the ass and said: “It’s a girl.” But the problem was that I never really felt like one.
But in our society, gender isn’t about how we feel. It’s about how we look. It’s assigned to us, the moment we’re born, by a doctor, based solely upon what’s between our legs. But I think that needs to change.
One of the first things that I learned about my gender was that it wasn’t only about me. It was about everybody around me too. When I was a little kid, I was labeled a tomboy. Because I was a girl who wanted to do boy stuff. Like run around in the yard without my shirt on. I wanted to join the Cub Scouts so that I could go camping, in the woods, overnight. I wanted to play football, and baseball, and hockey. But this was the ‘70s and back then girls were not allowed to do that stuff.
So I settled. Instead of the Cub Scouts I became a Brownie. Instead of baseball, softball. And instead of playing hockey I did the next best thing: I went ice-skating. But I had a plan. Because there was a ring near our house and they rented boy’s hockey skates and I thought: “Well, if I can’t be a hockey star, at least I can pretend to be one.”
So one night I bounced up to the rental counter in my pigtails and I asked for those hockey skates. And the attendant looked at me, reached back, grabbed a pair of white figure skates, dropped them on the counter in front of me and said: “Girls get these”. It didn’t matter to him that I felt like a little boy on the inside because I looked like a little girl on the outside.
How many of you here today are male? Raise your hand. First of all, totally jealous. Okay, now all of you who had your hands up, I want you to imagine a moment this morning, when you first walked into the bathroom to shave, only this time imagine how you would feel if you looked in the mirror and the face starring back at you actually didn’t need to be shaved because it was perfectly smooth. No facial hair, no stubble whatsoever.
Now imagine what you would think if you looked down at your body and your chest, instead of being flat, you realized you had breasts. Not man-boobs. And when you look a little further, you realize that your penis is gone. And when you scream out in horror, the voice you hear sounds more like your wife or your sister.
Now imagine going to your closet and picking out the exact same thing that you’re wearing right now. You get dressed, you jump in your car, you drive down to the event here today. And when you walk in and hand your ticket to the attendant, they look you directly in the eye and very sincerely say: “Thank you ma’am, enjoy the event.” How would you feel?
Once I hit puberty, that’s how I felt every day of my life. And when I looked in the mirror, I wanted to scream too.
I’m 44 years old and I didn’t start my transition until about a year and a half ago. And sometimes when I tell people that they say: “Well if you’ve felt like this your whole life, why didn’t you transition sooner?” Well, it’s kind of complicated. First of all, coming out to my parents 13 years ago as gay was stressful enough. The thought of telling them that I wanted to have a sex change — not on my bucket list.
But seriously, it was a lot more than that. I was terrified. I was terrified of how public I knew it would be. Because let’s face it. It’s pretty much impossible to transition gender without anyone noticing. And just like at the ice ring, I knew that my gender wasn’t just about me. My family, my friends, my coworkers, my clients. They were all going to be affected by this. I knew that many of them would struggle a lot. And whether I liked it or not, they were all invested in the idea of me as female.
And, ironically, I was invested in it too. But not because I identified as a girl but because I identified as a twin. My sister, Jenny and I, are fraternal but our entire lives we’ve looked and sounded identical. And I loved it. I loved walking into a room with her and watching heads snap around and stare at us in amazement. It was a huge part of my identity. My identity with my twin sister.
And I knew that taking testosterone would erase it. My face would change, my voice would drop, and we would never again, ever, look and sound identical. And the thought of that made me really, really sad. Because I knew that making that decision would not only have an irreversible impact on my identity, but on hers as well.
But one day, she was at my house and we were standing in the kitchen and I told her that I made an appointment to talk to a therapist about my gender identity issues. And she said, “I knew that one day you’d come to me and say that you had to deal with this and I am glad. Because, well, on the outside the rest of the world has always seen you like this… I know that deep down you’ve always been like this…”
My gender journey hasn’t been so much a giant leap as a series of giant leaps. Three, to be exact. Starting with the one that I knew would have the biggest impact on me emotionally. And probably the smallest one on my identity as a twin and that was my decision to have top surgery. To have my breasts surgically removed and my chest reconstructed to look male. But that’s easier said than done. Because in our society, women should look a certain way. And when you’re born female and you voluntarily choose to have your breasts removed, people think there is something very, very wrong with you.