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Trans Women Have Always Been Female

5 September, 2013

Early today i was reading a post about how all trans women’s experiences are female experiences, even ones that happened before social transition. You can find that post at Cis-Critical, not Cisphopic‘s Tumblr page. The permalink is here. This is a point that people miss and a lot of times they miss it due to the incorrect but deeply entrenched idea that trans women are mimicking womanhood and femininity. i know too many people who are quick to agree that since transitioning i have had female experiences who just as quickly write-off pre-transition experiences as male experiences. This is just a rephrasing of the idea that i am a man who decided to become a woman. But i’m not.

i was born female. My brain or neuro-chemistry or psyche or what-have-you has always been female. i have always understood myself to be female and i have been aware of how others did not recognise me as female since i was four years old and reprimanded for lining up with the girls. i have lived my life as a female, but one whose femininity was not taken seriously. i was beaten and emotionally abused by peers and family because they did not see masculinity in me and they decided it should be there. These are not male experiences; these are the experiences of a female who was being conditioned by force and against her will to be male.

So i adapted. i learned to fake masculinity to protect myself. That act was convincing because it had to be, my life literally depended on my ability to hide who i really was, to play a part so flawlessly that no one would know that i was female. But, playing the part does not make me male. Whenever i was alone i expressed my femininity, i gave myself permission to drop the act. For as long as my body shape allowed me, i would wear my mother’s clothes every time i was alone in the house. When i could no longer fit into her clothes i would ride my bicycle (that horrible dark blue bicycle that i was given because the ones i was looking at were too ‘cute’ and not ‘man enough’) to the local Salvation Army thrift store and buy girl’s and women’s clothing that i could fit into. i had to hide it really well, because i knew being caught meant trouble and, depending on who caught me, another beating. Even with those precautions the fear of being caught was so high i would burn the clothes after a week or two, play my role till i couldn’t take it anymore and then start the cycle over again. i took ages in the bath because it was my time to experiment with make-up and nail polish. Sometimes i filled the tub with water but never got in, it was just a cover so i could buy an hour alone to be myself. i am thankful for my acceptance into the drama club in high school because it meant i could stop hiding stuff at home. There i had free access to a huge women’s wardrobe and make-up. Thanks to a brilliant English teacher/drama coach (whom, i suspect, had an inkling of who i really was) i had free access to the wardrobe after school and sometimes during English class. If it hadn’t been for that teacher and that place where i could be myself, i would have have committed suicide before graduating because the pressure of playing male to keep everyone else happy was that destructive to my health and well-being.

None of this is a male experience. And, i know, it is not the typical female experience, but it is a female experience because it was experienced by a female who tried desperately to make everyone else happy. A female who wanted nothing more than to make her Da and Mum and brother happy. So it kills me when people tell me i had male experiences prior to socially transitioning because they are actively erasing my past and ignoring my very real, very traumatic lived experiences.

My brother is a huge culprit in this erasure. He fully supports my right to be who i am now, despite his not really understanding it, but he does not accept that i was female before i announced my intent to transition. He holds to the idea that because i acted like a male around him that, obviously, is who i truly was. He rejects the notion that i was female from birth, that i had learned to hide who i was while he was still an infant, long before he could even be aware of gender differences. i’ve attempted to explain this to him, but i am met with rebukes. He tells me i’m exaggerating or lying. He says things could not have happened that way because no kid that age could ever be aware of those feelings or be clever enough to hide them. my past cannot be allowed to exist as it happened because he is too afraid of loosing what he believes happened; the lie, the act, is real to him and matters more than the truth of my experiences.

And he’s not the only one who does this. Yes, i received certain benefits of male privilege growing up, i cannot nor do i attempt to deny that, but having received those benefits due to other people’s insistence i was male does not alter the fact that i was a female pretending to be male. The existence of some aspects of male privilege (because of elements of my femininity i could not hide i was also excluded from aspects of male privilege) in my past does not negate my lived experience of being a female hiding as a male. i saw my experiences through the eyes of a female; i felt them with the heart of a female. i mourned and hated the existence of that male character because it was not me; it was a show and i loathed having to perform it. i constantly felt fake, on the verge of being discovered. i felt filthy and whoreish selling myself out to keep people happy. i may have draped myself in trappings of masculinity but i did it as a female trying to survive in a male dominated world that hates to the point of violence and murder my type of femininity. Every time someone says i was not female before i socially transitioned they erase my history and my life; they commit and act of psychological violence against me and hold up the patriarchal, sexist culture that forced me to hide who I have always been to begin with.

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One comment

  1. “i may have draped myself in trappings of masculinity but i did it as a female trying to survive in a male dominated world”

    This really struck a chord with me, even though I’m a ciswoman. Anyone who’s ever used a male handle in online gaming (to avoid harassment) ought to recognize this impulse immediately, even though it’s a different situation; the need to protect oneself often outweighs the need to be honest about one’s true nature.



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