Posts Tagged ‘Trans feminism’

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Trans Women and Socialisation

12 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.

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Poem 1612

4 January, 2017

​Injustice came and I ran.

I ran to the politicians, but they said you’ve no power here.

I ran to the courts, but they said you’ve no voice here.

I ran to my faith, but it said you’ve no redemption here.

I ran to the shelters, but they said you’ve no place here.

I ran to my blood, but its beat had stilled.

I ran to the rock and hid beneath it.

Injustice found me and used the rock to seal my grave.

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Awesome Con DC is not a Safe Place for Trans Women

19 April, 2014

Awesome Con DC is not a safe space for trans women.

i had been looking forward to going to the convention for several weeks. i was excited, but also nervous. The geek/nerd community is not always the safest place for those of us considered outliers. i debated whether i should wear a cosplay and who i should go as, but the more i thought about it the more i wondered if i would be more likely to be misgendered, to be mistaken for a guy in a dress, if i was in costume than if i just went as myself. So this morning, i decided to put on a light weight skirt and an Alice in Wonderland t-shirt. i wore my hair loose, letting it hang past my shoulders and with a side swoop to soften my face. i wore a little make up, some nice nail polish, and a cute necklace from my Mum. i was sending out a very clear signal. Include in this, my not having been publicly misgendered in about a year. This was totally feasible.

Standing in line, waiting to get in, a woman approached me and said, ‘Nice costume.’ Then wandered off before i could tell her i was not in costume. my girlfriend and i talked about it and decided she must have liked my shirt and said costume by mistake because of all the people in costume. Inside, we went to artists alley. While i was standing near a booth i overheard a conversation between a man and his wife about a ‘man’ they saw and the wife said ‘that he is a she!’ i told myself, they could have been talking about anyone. Maybe a girl doing a cross-play? Though there were not many around . . . and fewer still were in costume . . . and they were looking toward me.

i started feeling overwhelmed and did not know what to do. My girlfriend took us over to Carla Speed McNeil’s table (the authoress and artist on Finder and creator of Lynn, my favourite trans character–confirmed by her). She remembered me from the last time i saw her (at SPX) and we had a nice talk about her work, what was new, and what her plans with Lynn were. i was feeling better; i thought i could take it on again. So we went to the panel “Representation is Important.” i sat down in the back row and my girlfriend set her stuff down by the wall behind me (she had her Hela cosplay with, in case she decided to change) then rubbed my neck and shoulders. The room filled up fast and soon the seat beside me, that i was saving for her, was the only one left. One of the staff members asked if this other person could sit there. My girlfriend said that was okay and i said it would be all right, too. He asked my girlfriend, “Are you sure you don’t mind?” and she said it was fine. Then he indicated me and the neck rub i was getting; he said, “Clearly he doesn’t mind.” [emphasis added] My girlfriend said, “She. She is a woman.” The staff member said, “Oh. Sorry,” and walked away.

This was too much for me and i shut down. i shut out everything. i did not hear much of the panel. i did not feel the less-than-comfortable convention seating. i did not feel my body or my presence in the room. After the panel, i told my girlfriend i wanted to go home, but i would be sad if she missed the convention just because i went home. It took a little talking, but i did convince her to stay and have fun.

All the way home i could feel people, especially men, staring at me. Whether it was on the sidewalks or on the metro they gave me that double look. The one that first says ‘oh, a woman,’ and then says ‘ew, a he-she.’ The glances that turn to glares and the people who catch their breath as you walk by. i got one smile; a sad, reassuring smile from a young lady who recognised and offered a moment of sympathy. That smile got me home.

i’m sad. i’m sad because there were panels and Q&A’s i wanted to go to. There were events i wanted to participate in. There were booths i wanted to visit and comics i wanted to pick-up. i really wanted to get a yuri manga because i just got introduced to them and i was excited to buy a couple, to see my girlfriend and i represented in a story. i didn’t get to do any of those things because i was made to feel so out-of-place. The environment and my interactions indicated to me that girls-like-me, that i, did not belong there.

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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.