(Rethinking) Gender

MSNBC.MSN.com – By Debra Rosenberg – Newsweek

A growing number of Americans are taking their private struggles with their identities into the public realm. How those who believe they were born with the wrong bodies are forcing us to re-examine what it means to be male and female.

Growing up in Corinth, Miss., J. T. Hayes had A legacy to attend to. His dad was a well-known race-car driver and Hayes spent much of his childhood tinkering in the family’s greasy garage, learning how to design and build cars. By the age of 10, he had started racing in his own right. Eventually Hayes won more than 500 regional and national championships in go-kart, midget and sprint racing, even making it to the NASCAR Winston Cup in the early ’90s. But behind the trophies and the swagger of the racing circuit, Hayes was harboring a painful secret: he had always believed he was a woman. He had feminine features and a slight frame?at 5 feet 6 and 118 pounds he was downright dainty?and had always felt, psychologically, like a girl. Only his anatomy got in the way. Since childhood he’d wrestled with what to do about it. He’d slip on “girl clothes” he hid under the mattress and try his hand with makeup. But he knew he’d find little support in his conservative hometown.