A Real Man

Brooklyn girl grows hair on her chest

"My uncle doesn't hug me when he sees me anymore, the way he did when I was a woman," Drew says. "He shakes my hand now. It feels great."

When someone calls him "sir"-whether it's on the street, in a restaurant, or in a bar-Drew still gets a charge out of it. But, of course, this raises the sticky question of what makes a man a man. What, after all, does calling someone "sir" or being fooled into doing so really mean in a society as androgynous as ours? Non-transsexual people are mistaken for the opposite sex every day. So what is it that will finally draw the line? Will it be when the breasts are gone and the approximated penis is in place, or will it be when Drew has lived as a man for a good 10 years? After all, most of being and feeling like one sex or the other has to do with being treated like a member of that sex. Drew won't really know what it's like to be a man until he has lived it for a long enough period of time to make it count. Having missed boyhood, the most formative years of gender identification, he may never feel quite like a "real" man.

Drew has had arguments about this very question with guys in bars. He relates it this way: "They tell me that wanting to be a man and having surgery can't make me a man." And it's true that Drew will never have a genuine penis, and perhaps most importantly wasn't born with one, but he insists that this doesn't matter. "I'm not sure I can tell you what makes a man a man," he says, "but I know it's not a penis."

Drew Seidman, née Susan: "In every one of my previous lives I had been a man."
photo: Michael Sofronski
Drew Seidman, née Susan: "In every one of my previous lives I had been a man."

He has a point. Most people would agree that if you lop off a traditional biological male's penis, or even if you merely castrate him, he doesn't cease to be male. He wouldn't then pass for a woman on the street, for example. So is it primarily our hormones that make us what we are? This seems truer, since they are responsible for so much of what we associate with each sex. Hormones are, after all, the prime ingredient in Drew's transformation. Removing the organs is entirely cosmetic-a far less subtle and complex process, if for no other reason than reconfiguring one's various knobs and crevices has no chemical effect on the brain.

But these kinds of questions don't seem to bother Drew much. He's more concerned with enjoying his new life, and appears content to let the rest of us bicker over the details. Smiling his slightly too pretty smile, he sums it up quite simply: "I just can't wait to be a dad."

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