When Andy Cray was a kid, he played basketball, was self-conscious about his weight, and thought he had a small penis.
The Communication senior sits straight-backed in a noisy coffee shop. He’s wearing camouflage shorts which display his hairy legs. He beams about the goatee he is starting to grow. He talks about recent heartbreaks and a road trip to Ann Arbor, Mich. He complains that he is a slob, and likes to use the word “ballin’.” He fidgets with a green bandanna.
For anyone looking on, it would be difficult to tell that Andy had been born Andrea.
“When I was a kid, I really legitimately thought of myself as a boy for a long time. I remember telling my mom that I had a penis and that it was just really small,” he says. In preschool, he used the boys’ bathroom. “After being reprimanded numerous times, I figured it was a problem.”
Being aware of his gender didn’t stay this easy though. “When I got to middle school and knew more about sex, I figured I was just a lesbian,” he says. “Starting from when I was 9 years old, my mother would call me into her bedroom yearly and ask if I was.”
In college, he realized “female” just didn’t describe him. But it took three more years before he realized that he had to do something about it.
“This last year, I went through a series of life changes … I broke up with my girlfriend at the time, I decided to apply to law school and I decided to do something about the way I was feeling about my gender.”
Andy’s hands frequently stroke his chest due to an uncomfortable, specialized bra that he wears to make his breasts less prevalent. He is having breast reduction surgery in March. While many transsexuals take hormones to complete their gender adjustment, he doesn’t want to do that.
“I’d like to wait until my surgery before giving it serious consideration just because I want to have time to adjust to my new body,” Andy says. “Gender is confusing to begin with. Plus, there are some things that testosterone can’t help me with anyways.”
Attempting to answer whether transsexualism is biological or mental, a study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism looked at activity in the part of the brain that controls thoughts on sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation. The study, conducted on male-to-female transsexuals by the Graduate School Neurosciences Amsterdam, showed that these transsexuals had brain activity more similar to females than to males. The Amsterdam Gender Dysphoria Clinic, which handles 95% of sex-reassignment surgeries in the country, estimates that one in 30,000 men and one in 100,000 women undergo surgery.
Cray disagrees with the study and points instead to social beliefs about gender and gender roles as the cause. Beginning at birth, he says, a set of behaviors and qualities are set for both men and women. Good girls have different qualities than good boys. He says, “I don’t think there’s anything biological about it.”
Cray says he falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between man and woman. But he moved to the male side for social reasons. Whether it’s in the workplace or in social situations, he feels he just identifies better with the male gender. “In terms of society’s expectations it makes me a whole lot more comfortable to be known to the world as a man,” he says. “It would be doing women a disservice for me to pretend.”
Not everybody in Andy’s life is as ready to accept his gender. “My mom wasn’t so happy with it,” he says, “She told me she supports me but not this decision in my life.”
On the other hand, Andy says his friends weren’t surprised when he told them. “I can’t see Andy in any way other than being a guy,” says his friend Amy Pooley, a SESP freshman.
Amy met Andy when he contacted her over the summer on behalf of Rainbow Alliance, where he’s the group’s activism chair. Amy says Andy’s identification is something that defines him, but there’s more to him than that.
“It’s a defining characteristic in that sense, but he has all these other qualities that are talked about a whole lot more than him being transgender,” she says.
Andy doesn’t see himself much different than most people. He says the only difference between transsexuals and non-transsexuals is that the latter need to do a little more work. “A lot of women are really proud to be a woman,” Andy says. “But for me, I’m really proud to be a man.”