-Essay-

BERLIN My body is that of a man but I am a woman and I want to live my life as a woman. In our minds, our bodies define who we are. We are either male or female. This belief makes me a person that should not exist. I did not question this perception for a very long time and refused to accept myself. But I have now realized that I will have to, and want to, live with this body.

Most transgender people do anything and everything to hide their biological nature. But as a person who is 6 feet 5 inches tall with broad shoulders and large hands, I will always cause a stir when I'm dressed as a woman. This is why I only have two choices — either to be a desperate man or a conspicuous woman.

Despite the fact that my gender is only one of the many facets of my personality, I am always confronted by it. Everything revolves around the question as to who or what I am. I always have to justify myself to others despite the fact that there are more interesting aspects of my life than my sexual identity.

I compromise and live both as a man and as a woman. Take my marriage for instance. I love a woman and I know that it would be utterly unbearable to her if I switched to the other side permanently. She has been living with the knowledge that I've felt like a woman for more than 15 years and, it has been, and still is, a long and often painful path that we try to navigate while building our relationship. But our relationship is important to the both of us and we do not want to give up on it.

I prefer to play the male role in my professional environment. In terms of employment, I would be cast aside very quickly if I didn't. Even employers with a progressive company would never go as far as to hire a transgender person in a management position as they are afraid of offending their business partners. Executive officers are not allowed to be confusing.

Other transgender people criticize me for not going all the way and crossing that last remaining hurdle — having my body surgically altered. In the end, they are stuck with the same ideas as the majority of society. They believe that your body decides your gender.

After all, there is this wonderfully convenient explanation for people like me — that I am "imprisoned in my own body." It's an interpretation that could make everyone happy. But it's not true. It's not my body that is wrong but society's norms and perceptions. A person's gender is not determined by his or her genitals. Transgender identity is so much more than physical attributes. Soul, reason and psyche are as much a part of it despite the fact that these are invisible attributes. All of these factors make us who we are. No one would seriously try to argue that it is just our body that defines us as humans. Why should that be any different with people who identify as transgender?

We have emotional, physical, and intellectual needs that are completely independent of our sexual identity. Why should I have my body surgically altered just to satisfy a stranger's perception of what a transgender person is?

Many people don't have a clue about my identity as a woman; they only meet me in my male capacity. Others only know me as a woman. Only a small group know me as both male and female. Most of my friends and acquaintances treat me the way I present myself, namely as a woman. I am grateful to these people because they make me feel accepted.

I would like to be addressed as "Mrs" when I present myself in women's clothes in public. And have people accept that I use the women's toilet. I am, of course, delighted when someone helps me into my coat or holds a door for me. But that in itself would be a bonus. I would be happy if you would just treat me as if there is nothing particularly special about me. I am ecstatic if you just look at me briefly, look away again and continue on your way as if nothing happened. These are the moments when I think, "Hey, I can actually be a woman!"

But at night, when a group of people advance toward me, I do sometimes feel afraid. I know that transgender people in particular are at a higher risk of being a victim of a hate crime. But I do not allow my fear to control me. I do not want to give other people the opportunity to hurt me, whether psychological or physical.

Some people will always try to make jokes at my expense. But, thank goodness, I have rarely experienced this kind of behavior. First and foremost, I am happy to be living in Germany, where the law protects me and I cannot be stoned to death. And where I am mostly accepted as a woman and human being. Which is why I prefer to say thanks instead of complaining.

There are advantages to be recognizably "trans." For example, no bouncer refuses us entry because we add a dash of exoticism to a nightclub. Many people tend to open up in my presence and tell me things that only their closest friends would know about.

Some people say that that I am brave. I do, indeed, have to be brave and it took me a long time to be brave. Which is why I am happy when people recognize my struggle. But, at the same time, it highlights that my wish to be just a normal woman will never come true. I will need to continue being brave because I will always be conspicuous. Despite all my efforts, you will always be able to tell that I was not born a woman.

I wish that one day I will no longer have to be brave. I wish I will no longer be conspicuous. I wish that people would treat my sexual identity like they would the fact that I'm left-handed. I know that I am not what you imagine a woman to be. But I am, nonetheless, a woman. And I am thankful that you accept that to a large extent.


*This is part of a series "How I See You," that allows people to tell their own stories. Lara B., who preferred to maintain her anonymity, spoke with Süddeutsche Zeitung journalist Violetta Simon.