Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Having it Both Ways

originally posted on LJ on 6-22-07

I went to the 3rd annual TransForming Community event tonight – it is an event that is dedicated to exploring the friction at the intersection of contemporary trans and queer communities. I think my two favorite pieces of the evening were those by Prado Gomez and Storm Florez, both of whom (in different ways) addressed the issue of trans men needing to own the fact that they are men (rather than retreating into the excuse that they are not “really” men when it suits their interests). Prado’s piece discussed how some trans guys will wield masculine/male power and privilege at one moment, then the next argue they don’t actually have such power because they’re trans, or they weren’t socialized male, or that they aren’t capable of sexually violating someone else because they don’t have a penis. Perhaps I appreciated these pieces so much because they addressed a certain double standard that I see going on all the time in queer/trans/feminist communities, but which has not yet been clearly articulated.

In my work on the issue of trans woman-exclusion, I have found that one of the biggest hurdles trans women face in making our case that we should be able to participate in lesbian/women-only spaces is the growing number of trans guys who now feel entitled to be in these spaces too. I have (on numerous occasions) heard trans guys who are on T and who go by “he” say they have no qualms about attending Michigan because they don’t feel 100% like a “man”. Or they’ll say they are genderqueer or boi-identified, even though their appearance definitely reads “man.” Of course, this having your cake and eating it too attitude comes at the expense of trans women. Because if trans guys are inherently “safe” because of their transness or female socialization or lack of penis, it implies that trans women remain inherently dangerous.

I remember once, when I was doing outreach for Camp Trans, getting into a heated discussion with a lesbian who insisted that trans women were a potential threat to women’s spaces because male socialization and privilege are insidious – she insisted that we still carry that around with us even if we feel as though we’ve moved beyond it. Afterwards, as I walked toward my BART stop, a guy harassed me. When I ignored him, he got hostile and made a point of telling me that he could take me if he wanted to. Afterwards, when I reflected on it all, I was really pissed – not only at the harasser, but at the lesbian who I spoke with just beforehand. It suddenly struck me that, in effect, she was lumping me into the same category as the guy who had just threatened to rape me.

For the same reason, I now get pissed at trans guys who want to have it both ways: being men in the male-centered mainstream and then being “not-men” in queer/women’s/feminist spaces. They seem not to give a shit about how this invisibilizes and marginalizes trans women. We, after all, are placed in no-win situation by this same ideology: We are treated as second-class citizens in the male-centered mainstream because of our femaleness, but then we are derided as being scary, untrustworthy “men” in queer/feminist/women’s spaces...


1 comment:

  1. A friend of mine had a link up to one of your posts on her facebook. I realized who you were (the author of that awesome book that's been on my READ THIS NOW list, a list that got put on pause by life) and decided to check it out. Finding your views and writing awesome, I started wandering around the rest of your blog, pondering now and again about replying. Then I hit this post and def needed to say something.

    I am a transman. I have been on testosterone injections since my birthday this year (March 1st) which, in addition to being over 6 feet tall, has made me face the surprise of suddenly having the option of being "stealth" since I went pretty much straight from being viewed as a butch lesbian to a gay flamer.

    I am lucky enough to have heteronormative, cisgendered, female childhood friends who have stuck with me through everything and then some. I have realized during many conversations that we can still relate on some aspects of being female bodied, but being read as I am, our gender specific experiences overlap less and less as time goes on. Even when speaking with a childhood lesbian friend of mine, I've realized that my life now most certainly doesn't fit back into that community.

    Yes, I was raised as a girl, yes, I was socialized as a girl, and yes, I was... content as girl for many years. This has caused and continues to cause problems in my life as I adapt to society's new expectations for me, but the very fact that I have to adapt to new expectations proves that I no longer face the same pressures or rewards as I did while being a girl. Just as I do not feel comfortable using a woman's bathroom, I do not feel comfortable claiming any woman's space as mine anymore. My transwoman friends have much more claim on these spaces than I do. Just because I can relate with my past joy of Midol does not make me more savvy to being a girl. Being a girl does, which is something I am most pointedly not doing anymore. I may have kept some female mannerisms, accessories, and the occasional bit of clothing, but those don't make me a girl, nor am I any longer read as a girl while acting that way or wearing those things.

    I will say that not all transdudes share my feelings, and some really are perfectly happy both being read as male and still sharing the female experience, but just because they get in on the "lived a life as a woman" card, shouldn't transwomen get in on the "living a life as a woman" card?


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