Hey Doc, some boys are born girls: Decker Moss at TEDxColumbus


Translator: Helena Brunnerová
Reviewer: Denise RQ Thirteen 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 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 weren’t 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 rink near our house, and they rented boys’
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 did not matter to him
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. (Laughter) OK, now, all of you who had your hands up, I want you to image 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. (Laughter) 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. (Laughter) 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. (Laughter) And just like at the ice rink, I knew
that my gender wasn’t just about me; my family, my friends,
my coworkers, my clients 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 wouldn’t only have an irreversible impact
on my identity but on her’s 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 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. Wrong enough
that in order to have my surgery, my surgeon required
a letter from my therapist diagnosing me with a mental condition
called gender identity disorder, and wrong enough that when I went to make
an appointment with my family doctor for my pre-surgical clearance, and he suspected
what I might be having surgery for – and not because I told him,
because he googled it – he refused to see me. And he had been my doctor
for over ten years. And wrong enough that when I ended up
in the emergency room, a week after my surgery,
with a blood clot in my leg, I lied to the doctors, and the nurses,
and the ultrasound techs and told them that I had
a breast reduction. Because I was afraid
that if I told them the truth, they would refuse to see me, too. But not wrong enough that my health insurance company
recognized my therapy and my surgery as medically necessary treatments
for my diagnosed mental condition and would cover the cost. So I paid for those out of pocket. But despite all of that, the emotional impact of surgery
was life-changing for me. For the first time since puberty,
when I looked in the mirror, at least from here to here,
it looked right. But then something happened. It was like as soon as I had
my male chest, it became harder and harder for me
to hear people call me by a female name, my female birth name,
and female pronouns. So I made my second decision. I decided to legally change
my name to Decker and asked that everybody in my life
please call me by male pronouns. But unlike with my chest surgery,
which I did fairly quietly, when I changed my name, I had
to tell every single person in my life; everyone; not just my family,
and friends, and my coworkers but my lawn guy, my pool guy, my veterinarian, my electrician,
my bar friends, my neighbors; everyone. And when you change your name to the name
of the opposite gender, it’s awkward. I felt like I needed
to explain this somehow, come out to them
in some way as transgender. But does my pool guy
really need to know my life story? (Laughter) The whole thing was gut wrenching. It took months and months
and months and months of phone calls and emails
and heart-to-hearts, and it was messy, and it felt endless, and I was scared out
of my mind the entire time. But in the end, I survived. And pretty much everybody
that mattered to me either embraced me or was able to adjust. A handful of people didn’t. And I learned who my real friends are. But I also learned something else. I learned that life
cannot be lived in a bubble – the family, and friends, and coworkers. That it’s a big world out there,
and it’s full of strangers, and the bartenders, and the waiters,
and the TSA agents, and the cab drivers didn’t get the memo. They didn’t know I’d changed
my name to a male name, they didn’t pick up on the male pronouns,
and they definitely didn’t notice this. They noticed this. To them, I looked like a she. I sounded like a her, or a ma’am. So in the end, I made
my third big decision. I chose to walk away from the part of my identity
that I loved the very most: the part that I shared with
my twin sister. I chose to take testosterone because by then, I learned
that that one hormone was the only way that the rest
of the world was ever going to see this as anything other than female. And in the end, I really,
really needed them to see me the way
that I’ve always seen myself. And today, they do. Whenever I meet somebody new,
they see me as male. And they see me like this, but the cool thing is
my sister sees me that way, too. But there are still hurdles because changing your gender is not the same thing
as changing your gender marker, and that one letter
is attached to everything from our birth certificate
to our death certificate and everything in between. Even the ticket application
for today’s event asked your gender. But legally changing
a gender marker isn’t as easy as choosing and M or an F
from a drop-down menu. There are laws, rules, regulations, fees. And it’s up to every individual state. My birth certificate says ‘female.’ I was born in the State of Missouri,
and in that state, to change a gender marker
on a birth certificate requires a court order
based upon proof of surgery. But I live in Arizona. So for me to get that would mean making a court date, buying a plane
ticket, flying to Missouri, paying a fee, standing in front of a judge with a letter
that says I got my boobs cut off – thanks – (Laughter) taking that court order
to the Department of Vital Records, only to have them issue me
a birth certificate marked ‘amended.’ So, essentially anyone who saw
my new birth certificate would know that I was born female anyway. If I had been born here, in the State
of Ohio, I would have had it even worse. Because this is one
of three states in the country where gender marker changes
on a birth certificate aren’t allowed for any reason ever. My driver’s license and my health
insurance both still say ‘female’ because it’s a really good idea
if those two things match. But changing them both to ‘male’ could give my health insurance company the right to deny my coverage for anything
having to do with my female anatomy. Because the way they see it,
men don’t get things like ovarian cancer. My Social Security card – ‘female, ‘ my college transcripts -‘female, ‘ and on and on and on. So, despite everything that I’ve done
to get the world to see me as male, on paper I’m still female. Our world is set up
to keep us in these two boxes. But why? Is all of this gendering really necessary? Just for a minute, I want you
to throw out everything that you know about what is male
and what is female; throw it out. And imagine a world, where gender
isn’t left out to doctors or judges, one where we are all able to claim our own
gender based on what’s between our ears, rather than have it assigned to us
based on what’s between our legs. Here, we’re all able to self-identify as male, as female,
as both, or as neither. And here, we never assume
someone else’s gender because of how they look, how they sound,
or because of what name they go by. In this world, when you walk up and hand
your TEDx ticket to the attendant, instead of them
automatically saying “Sir” or “Ma’am,” they say, “Enjoy
the event today, my friend.” And when you sit down and start chatting
with the stranger next to you, before they ask you
what you do for a living, they ask you which pronouns
you prefer to go by. In this world, I wonder,
would I have gotten those hockey skates? And joined the team? Or became an Eagle Scout?
Or a football couch? Would I have had to change my birth name
because it was too female? Or take testosterone to be seen as male? And sacrifice a part
of my identity as a twin? Would my chest surgery
simply have been seen as cosmetic surgery? Something that I chose to do
to feel happy in my own body? Like fixing a birth defect. In this world, one free
from this rigid binary, I wonder, would I have had to come out
as transgender at all? Today, just happens to be
National Coming Out Day. And if we had been born,
or if we had lived in a world that I’ve just described, perhaps I would have walked
up onto this stage today and come out to you
as an artist, or a writer, as a dog lover, or an ESPN junkie, or a lifelong Dolly Parton fan. (Laughter) Or maybe I simply
would have walked out here and come out to you as who I am. [Human] Thank you. (Applause)

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