Posts Tagged ‘trans female’
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.
- Conservative Media’s Distorted View Of Trans Women On Display (lezgetreal.com)
From the article “Follow up re: “I date women and trans men” by JOS:
”Cisnormativity, essentialism, & socialization “I’m also baffled by the assumption that trans women were all successfully socialized as normative dudes. Obviously, there is no universal trans experience. In my experience, the socialization failed at every turn. Because I was never a man – that was sort of how my body was understood by default (even the shape of my body got policed) because our culture’s understanding of bodies is cisnormative. But I’ve always been a girl who got forcibly put into the boy box. I tried really hard to fit for 22 years, and I failed miserably. My failure was policed with verbal, emotional, and physical violence.”
My personal thoughts on this run parallel to JOS’s. I don’t understand the argument that all trans women were socialised male. I can’t say that there weren’t trans women who were (there are as many ways of being trans* as there are trans* people), but I know my own socialisation was more female than male. Though society wanted to put me in a box with others assigned male at birth, I did not take to that socialisation. The fact my uncles not only allowed but also encouraged my cousins to inform them when I was acting in a non-cis male manner and approved of beating me when I failed to act appropriately male is proof that the male socialisation did not adhere to me. The beatings I took from my “peers” at school for my failure to perform masculinity and the teachers who turned a blind eye to this abuse is further proof that male socialisation was not successful in me.
This lack of male socialisation, however, does not imply full female socialisation. As someone assigned male at birth I was excluded from female society and socialisation. As a result, the female socialisation I received was what I could learn through observation or through the media. Thus, my socialisation taught me to be meek, submissive, and always put everyone else’s (especially men’s) needs before my own (how else could I go thirty years hiding who I am, if not to keep everyone else happy?). I was not, however, a recipient of a female socialisation that taught me how to protect myself, believe in myself, or embrace my femininity as part of who I was. My feminity was never acknowledged as natural, real, or beautiful.
So, I ended up with a hodge-podge socialisation that told me it was my place to be submissive and pleasing and that others (particularly men) had the right to physically and emotionally abuse me when I failed to meet their standards of acceptability. A socialisation that taught me I was disgusting, corrupted, and of no value. These are the messages I internalised and these are the messages I need to incorporate or move beyond as I develop from a frightened girl who has normalised her abuse into a woman who can move through the world with poise and confidence. Does this sound like male socialisation to you?
This is difficult to say, i really don’t think there are words that accurately reflect the depth of my emotions on the subject or the pain i feel when acknowledging the issues involved. After a lot of time and consideration i have come the conclusion that i cannot participate in the trans* communities and support groups in my area because there is not a space for me. When i go, i feel i don’t really fit in or belong with members of the groups. It is not an issue of “being trans enough” (though that is a very real discrimination some trans* identified individuals face). Instead, it is an issue of whether i belong in attendance.
i had a group i attended regularly for a year and a half. There are good people in that group, but i don’t belong in their space. They are college-aged kids that are radical and experimenting and that’s not me. i felt increasing outside the acceptable attitudes of the group because i am not subversive enough. These young trans* and gender queer people call into question the ideas of a binary, cis-normative, non-kink culture through their actions, dress, and public discussion/displays of kink/sex. They are young radicals who stand against the myopic perceptions of society in a vocal, visible manner. This is good. We need groups like that. my presence in such a group, however, is inappropriate. As a woman fifteen years older than the members of the group, i am not subversive enough to be part of their community. i want to blend in, i want to go unnoticed, i want people to not question me and to not harass me. i fall into a pretty standard female role and i am okay with that; it’s who i am, but it means i don’t fit.
i attended another group on occasion. This group was the opposite of the first in both age and attitudes. It is a group of trans women in the metro area that are just trying to be themselves. i was one of the youngest members of the group, with the majority of the women being in their fifties (an age difference as great as the first group, only reversed). Most of the women in this group tend to be either post-op and stealth or pre-op and part-time. The path they walk is one of hiding and making sure that people do not under any circumstances learn who they are, ever. It is a hard road to walk, living dual lives, and keeping secrets. Ultimately, the women in this group believe every trans woman must receive surgery (not only sex affirmation surgery but also facial feminization, trachea shaves, and other “enhancements”) or she will never truly be female. i don’t fit in with these women. i do not believe every trans woman must receive surgery or she is not a woman and there were women in the group who were offended that i would not reveal if i had undergone affirmation surgery or (if i had not) if i planned on having it or any other “corrective” procedures. Though i live most of my life stealth, i reveal my history to intimate acquaintances who either should be given or would benefit from this knowledge. i walk an unusual middle ground that the others were not comfortable with; i am, ironically, too subversive for this group.
There does not seem to be a space for people like me in the community. i have not meet others who are like me and, in the end, who i am leads others to feel disappointment, discomfort, or disgust. For a community that stands outside the definitions of society, we create some very narrow definitions for our members to conform to. Not all of us can do that. Where does that leave us?
Here is the cover to the anthology I am being published in (as: Jennifer-River). You can find more information on the anthology here: http://www.squaresandrebels.com/2012/07/finally-when-we-become-weavers-among.html?m=1