Starting A Conversation

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There is an ongoing conversation I am having in regards to a post I read yesterday. It can be found here: Don’t Call Me “Cisgirl”. 

I think this is a very good opportunity to open a dialogue in the hopes of furthering understanding between Trans* and non trans people. From this conversation, though still in it’s initial stages, I can see where there is a very real difference in the way people are viewing what is being said. Indeed, it has become obvious to me that we are not just coming at this from different directions, but from worlds of experience and understanding.

I think for myself, when I first responded to this post, I did so from certain assumptions which have caused some misunderstanding. It is quite possible this is just a fault of my own, that I simply am not a very good spokeswoman in these matters, but I can’t help but feel that much of this arises from what we think others should know in regards to own viewpoints and this is true for both sides.

I hope there will be those who will take the time to read the exchange in the comments and let me know what mistakes I may have made and how I can explain things better. 

 

I hope that if nothing else is accomplished, then I can gain a better understanding of the issues that concern all women and through that understanding, become a better advocate for women, Trans” and non Trans alike.

6 thoughts on “Starting A Conversation

  1. I think you did a pretty good job, Kira. Of course, you have to take into account that neither side is ever going to adequately “see” the other’s point of view. I think until we acknowledge that it’s not the “bag & baggage” or lack thereof, but the person you are behind your eyes that makes the difference between male and female there really can’t be a full meeting of the minds on this issue. I think the point she was making was that being “recognized” as female from birth sets you up for societal programming that, honestly, sucks, and the regularly scheduled biological gross-out a female body puts you through sucks too – so, in her opinion, definitely not a privilege… and that’s not even counting the BS women in other countries have to deal with. On the other hand, I can see clearly that being a girl behind the eyes would bite *royally* if everyone was addressing you as if “bag & baggage” defined *everything* about you, your soul, who you can love, who you can hang out with, what you can talk about, what job you can do, etc. A lot of women get a similar restriction to “female roles”, though that’s not as bad in the west as it used to be, and chafe against those expectations and the body hate that the media pounds into our heads. Many women think that Trans* don’t have those pressures, or willingly fling themselves into those pressures because they like them without understanding that if you’re a girl behind the eyes male gender role restrictions would be just as horrible.

    There’s the view that Trans* are “lucky” because you don’t have to put up with the BS society and biology throws at women. There’s the view that nontrans women are “privileged” to wake up in a body that looks more-or-less like the person behind our eyes.

    What the first viewpoint misses is that you have to put up with the BS society throws at men (and there’s plenty – just try getting straight men to sign up for all-male naked yoga if you want to talk about body shame and body fear), plus you have to cope with forever being mistaken for a man, even though everything in your head says “NO!”, and the terror of what happens if you present yourself as “you” – are you going to get beat up? are you going to be called names? is some horrible woman going to scream bloody murder if you use the ladies’ loo? will your friends and family hate you? will some over-zealous Bible-thumper going to shriek hate at you? will you be ostracized by your community? will other Trans* be hateful to you? will you have your rights as a parent stripped away for being a “bad influence”? That’s not even counting looking in the mirror and not seeing a woman, but a “regular guy” face that needs shaving.

    The second viewpoint misses that women pretty much universally *hate* our bodies (though at least we have the comfort of commiserating with each other about how awful we look), we get BS from mechanics and any other ‘boys club’ professions, we smack face-first into the ‘glass ceiling’ at work, at home our families expect June Cleaver in the kitchen, Marilyn Monroe in the bedroom, and a welcome mat in the front hall, people question your choice of profession and claim you’re a bad parent if your kids are in day care so you can work, never mind that it’s almost impossible to make it on one income anymore. On the job – are your co-workers claiming you’re sleeping with the boss every time you’re in the running for a promotion? are you going to get fired if your kid comes down with something and you have to stay home with them? are you going to have to fend off the boss at the Christmas party? On the way home – are you going to get carjacked? raped? mugged? break down and get charged 5x as much as a guy would?

    I think it’s like any other divided segments of our increasingly divisive society – what you have *must* be better than what I have, because what I have sucks.

    1. Robi,

      Thank you for commenting, I really appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts. I agree with the points you made, it is an unfortunate truth that people often form their opinions and then don’t take the time or make to effort to understand or even value a different perspective on an issue even if it basically agrees with and compliments their own.

      I would like to speak to a few things you said if you don’t mind.

      In regards to “privilege”, looking at it now, I think this is an unfortunate choice of word. It somehow denotes a desired state, which may or may not be the case.
      I’m not sure what other word might be used to describe the lack of freedom a Trans* person experiences as compared to other non Trans* people, but I am sure we can find something better which is not as loaded with negative connotations.

      In terms of how people are treated, how they are forced into roles and expectations based solely on perceived biological grounds, this sucks for everyone, male and female. Yes, in Western society things are better than in other places around the world, but they are still far from ideal. Yes, women begin with a disadvantage due to being in a male dominated culture but I think this is something of a red harring in this discussion which arises from, (as you pointed out), the idea that a transwoman is making a choice to leave behind the protection afforded by male privilege.

      I can’t speak for anyone but myself in this, but I never experienced many of the things associated with male privilege. In fact being perceived as male left me open to attack based on my not being “male enough.”
      It also put me in the most dangerous place I have ever been in my life, that of being targeted by a sexual predator. I still have nightmares about that.

      Your second point touches a lot of issues and my response need to speak to those and some things you mentioned at the beginning of your comment.

      On the question of body hate, and yes, that is what it is, mine began when I was very young when I first realized my body was going to eventually change to look male. I spent a lot of time reading about these things, about how the male and female bodies change and grow and it didn’t take long to know what was in my future. The very thought of what I faced made me physically ill. You say that women hate their bodies? Imagine knowing your body was going to do the exact opposite of what you knew, down to your very core, what it should be doing. Imagine knowing that no matter what you did, not matter how many prayers you prayed, no matter how many tears you shed, there was nothing you could do to change what fate had decreed. If there was ever an upside to any of this, it was how much I learned in regards to how the human body functions. Yes there are a lot of “gross” things women have to put up with and more than once I told myself how lucky I was not to have to go through them, but deep down I would have given my soul to be “grossed out” every month because that would mean I was who I was suppose to be body and soul.

      You speak of those things which women face in the workplace, which is interesting because I have spent years in a female dominated profession and being seen as male has caused me all the problems you describe. These are issues which I have faced at the hands of both males and females. Other men look down on you because they think you have lowered yourself, even though they are in the same profession and women look down on you because they think you have lowered yourself and none of them have any respect for you or themselves. While no one accused me of being a bad parent because I worked, I have faced being accused of sleeping around to get ahead. I have worried about losing a job because of having to take time off because one of the kids became ill. Though I have to admit I didn’t have to fend off the boss, though I have been hit on. The other things? Well, I have feared being carjacked or mugged, and I have worried about breaking down and being over charged, because lets face it, in todays world there are plenty of A-holes. (As an aside, one of the best mechanics I ever knew was a woman.. oh, and she raced cars as well, needless to say, she could shame most any man when it came to knowing cars inside and out!)

      I think the whole “grass is greener” way of thinking really is an issue, but those of us who have gone through the time and trouble to educate ourselves understand that is a pointless argument. It isn’t about being “better”, it is about being true to yourself. It isn’t about wanting what you can never have, but wanting what is correct according to your own sense of who you are.
      It is easy to look at something from the outside and pass judgment, we do it all the time, but unless we can open our hearts and minds and make an effort to truly understand, then these arguments will persist.

  2. Exactly. When we can truly put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, then we can finally have an idea of what they’re going through. It’s an absolute shame that men in female-dominated professions face many of the same problems women face in male-dominated professions (male nurses and elementary school teachers, for instance), and it’s a shame that women can be just as ‘girls’ club’ as men in male-dominated professions can be ‘boys’ club’ and ostracize co-workers based on sex. It would be nice if people were judged on their aptitude for the profession, not on perceptions.

    As for carjacking, mugging, and that sort of thing – well, honestly, I’m a great *big* girl so those haven’t been concerns of mine at all (I’m 6′ tall, I wear a size 12EEEE shoe, I’m an enormous person), but they seem to be major concerns of “normal size” women. It’s not that I go through life fearless, far from it, but my fears don’t seem to be the “standard” fears.

    On the other hand, I can sympathize with you on not being “enough” of the “Initially Assigned Gender Role”. I’ve *never* been “girly enough”, so I got a lot of accusations that I must, therefore, be a lesbian. I have nothing against lesbians, but I like boys, thank you. I’m too big, too clumsy, too homely, I laugh too loud, I have a slightly crude sense of humor, I’m brainy, I read science fiction and fantasy, I like comic books, I like video games, I like Star Trek… I get along better with men than women. That led to some sticky, painful and degrading situations trying to find a way to be accepted and finding that ‘the girlfriend’ of somebody who has friends isn’t the same as having friends and doesn’t convey *any* protection from some of the other situations women have just cause to fear. I’m so sorry that you had to go through that sort of thing. Getting told you’re not being enough of what they’re telling you to be when you don’t even want to be that must *seriously* suck. It kinda sucks when you *do* want to!

    Anyway… I think that fussing over who has it “better” is counter-productive for both groups. I wish I could give you a big hug for being willing to tackle this thorny subject and offer a shoulder to cry on when the world is entirely too full of ass hats and other obnoxious people who try to tell you you’re not enough of what you don’t want to be and that you can’t be what you know in your heart you are. I can’t fix the world, but I hope you know that there are people out here in the world who think you’re wonderful for just being you.

  3. Hi Kira,

    I certainly don’t believe that transwomen are privileged or have life easy etc. Indeed, there will be issues that crossover between both trans and cis women. My blog is about the issue of ‘cis’ being synonymous with being ‘privileged’ which I find particularly offensive.

    Thanks for all your comments and opinions that you left on my blog. It opened up an interesting debate.

    Best wishes. x

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