Trans Women and Socialisation12 March, 2017
Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recently stated that trans women are not actually women because they have “male socialisation.” I find this proclamation of hers infuriating because it is a cleaned up and repackaged version of Janice Raymond’s bigotry. She may try to cover over this bigotry by saying trans women have a place in feminism and trans issues are part of feminism, but that does not negate her instance that trans women are not women and her implied relegation of trans women to a second class citizenship in feminism (and third class within society).
Adichie’s attitudes are revealed as the bigotry they are through a thoughtful consideration of trans female experience of socialisation. First, and most important, we must acknowledge there is no singular trans woman experience any more than there is a singular cis woman experience.
Second, not experiencing overt female socialisation does not mean a trans woman experienced overt male socialisation. Rather, she would internalise female socialisation, thought patterns, and mannerisms. Some of these women (for, indeed, trans women ARE women), e.g. Kristen Beck, may adapt and mimic male socialisation patterns as a survival instinct while internally identifying with female socialisation patterns, which she may easily switch to upon social transition. These female socialisation patterns might have a more exaggerated appearance, but would be genuine socialisation patterns. Other trans women may not have adapted to male socialisation mimicking. These women, e.g. Laverne Cox and Janet Mock, may have defied society’s attempt at male socialisation. Expressing their gender identity early on and being punished for their refusal to adapt to male socialisation. This creates a trans female socialisation where they are punished for failure to conform to male standards and punished for adherence to female social standards–including those cis women are rewarded by society for integrating into their identity. Further, we are now seeing trans women who begin social and physical transition at an early age, e.g. Jazz Jennings. She and girls like her, receive more traditional cis female socialisation from those who are accepting and trans female socialisation from a rejecting society.
Third, trans women who transition later in life and who mimic male social patterns do not possess typical male privilege. Instead they possess male presenting or male passing privilege. In this instance because they appear to be a cis male and mimic cis male behaviours they do receive some male privilege benifits, but these benefits create a type of cognitive dissonance for the not socially transitioned trans woman because she does not identify as male and feels like a fraud stealing what does not belong to her and living in fear of being exposed. She is either self-aware that those privileges were received due to an unfair perception of gender identity or she quickly learns this after social transition.
Regardless, each of these trans women have
1) received, absorbed, and integrated or rejected traditional female socialisation;
2) they are more aware of male socialisation patterns than cis women because it was forced on them (which is NOT the same as adapting and internalising male socialisation);
3) they possess a unique trans female socialisation, which gives them a valuable voice when discussing female identity and intersectionality.
All of this is to say, trans women are not men; trans women are not a third gender; trans women are women.
It is, also, important to note that trans men receive the mirror opposite type of socialisation that affects them in their own unique ways. Further, male privilege that they develop post transition will always be influenced by attempts at female socialisation foisted on them and further influenced by how accepted or not their gender non-conforming behaviours were as a child.
Posted in Caitlin On . . ., The Blue Journal | Tagged Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Feminism, FtM, Janet Mock, Jazz Jennings, Kristen Beck, Laverne Cox, MtF, socialisation, socialization, Trans feminism, trans men, Trans woman, trans women |