Q: Are you male or female?
A: Neither of those terms adequately describes my experience.
I've struggled with accepting the label of "transgender" for myself. I feel like sometimes I'm a phony because I don't take hormones (although I suspect I have low testosterone to begin with), or have any desire to undergo surgery. My experience is mainly confined to my head. But I also feel like the stereotypical "transgender experience" is too myopically focused on transitioning. There is - ironically - too much emphasis on being one sex/gender or the other. The transgender person is conceptualized as occupying an unstable between point, in which their sex does not match their gender, and the ultimate goal is to make those two things align. In the end, they will go from being one sex to another, and their feeling of being transgender should, ideally, subside once their body conforms to their mind.
My experience is different. I don't mind remaining transgender. I don't have any strong desire to align my sex with my gender. I do identify mentally with the female gender, and though I have very feminine physical qualities, my anatomy is decidedly male. I also spent the majority of my life thinking I was a normal male. But I'm not. The whole thing about being transgender is that you get into this headspace where you want the rest of the world - which thinks only in black and white, where sex and gender are the same thing - to treat you as the sex/gender of your mind (i.e., gender) instead of your body (i.e., sex). So, for example, you have a penis, but you feel more comfortable using the women's restroom.
In the traditional transgender experience, this makes sense, because the goal is to transition, and eventually align your ("incorrect") sex with your ("correct") gender. Until you do, you're a work in progress, but you'd still prefer to associate with the sex/gender you identify with, and not the one you've been mislabeled as all your life. But how does this change for non-op transgender individuals? I acknowledge that my experience is not female, and that I will probably never be 100% female, because I don't desire to change my sexual anatomy. And even if I did, I'd have an experience that most females don't have - growing up male. I'd also lack an experience that most females have - growing up female.
But on the other hand, it's not fair to describe my experience as being typically male, either. I really don't fit neatly into either category, although I feel a strong pressure to conform to one or the other. Which is tough, you know. How do I identify? If I say I'm female, I feel a pang of guilt because I'm giving people the wrong impression of my anatomy, and they might get pissed off (like the cat-callers do, or the hypothetical other woman in the women's restroom) when they find out. It also doesn't do justice to the fact that I'm attracted to females, but I'm not, in all accuracy, a lesbian (although in some ways - mentally and not physically - I feel like one).
But if, on the other hand, I say I'm male, I'm not only misrepresenting my gender presentation (why would I go out of my way to cause confusion by telling the waiter or sales clerk who thinks that pretty customer in the dress is a girl, unless I wanted to sabotage his attempts to hit on me?), I'm doing an injustice to my gender identity as well. I may not be female, but I don't feel male, either. The truth is, I don't honestly feel comfortable identifying fully with either label, except insofar as we're willing to concede that we're talking solely about gender, and not sexual anatomy - which is not the way that most of the world uses these terms.
So, ultimately, I would be perfectly fine labeling myself as transgender, as long as it's understood that this is instead of, and not in addition to the designation of male or female. Yet, it still doesn't make it easy for me to navigate a world that presumes that sex and gender are one and the same, and that for those rare individuals for which this isn't true, they are only going through a temporary transitional stage before all is made right, and everybody's sex and gender line up once again. But I guess that's the price of being different in a world that thrives on conformity...