On the Edge of Trolling, Pt 2

By , June 12, 2009 9:17 pm

Welcome back! In our last episode I mentioned that I’d received a few comments that stradled the line of what trolling means. Rather than just approve or ignore them, I’m responding to them in a more open format. Enjoy!

Anonymous’ second comment was to The Transphobic, Cissexist People in our Lives. It’s a little long, so I’m going to break it up and respond section by section.

So this is something that makes me angry… Trans people, specifically the M to F people, saying they are feminists. They weren’t raised as women, they were never oppressed because of their genitalia or reproductive organs, never told they couldn’t be firefighters. Perhaps they were told they couldn’t play with dolls?

I don’t understand why they think they expect to be automatically considered “women” when they are obviously MID-TRANSITION. You are, by definition, IN THE MIDDLE, not on either side.

So claiming to be a feminist!? is distasteful to me, at the very least, because you want to shuck your privileges as a male and then whine about how hard women have it. When YOU WERE NOT BORN THAT WAY. You have CHOSEN to become a woman, so STOP THE FUCKING WHINING.

I think that Anonymous was responding more generally to my blog, and not to this specific post, as it (and the discussion that followed) didn’t really cover feminism.

However, that’s irrelivant to the larger claim that anyone, let alone trans people specifically, can’t be feminists. Neither Dictionary.com, nor Wikipedia, nor Stanford, nor any other resource I could find indicates feminism is a philosophy exclusive to women, or people raised as women. Feminism, at least the feminism I identify with, isn’t a womyn-born-womyn space, and doesn’t benefit only women. CrimethInc says it better than I could but, in short, for every girl who was told she couldn’t be a firefighter there is a boy who was told he couldn’t be a ballerina. Yes, women are ultimately the victims of sexism and the benefactors of feminism more often than men, but it’s naive to think sexism doesn’t cut both ways and its elimination wouldn’t benefit people other than those who have “been oppressed because of their genitalia or reproductive organs.” (Which, by the way, trans women have too.)

I’m also really interested the anger Anonymous has towards mid-transition trans women who wish to be considered ‘women.’ Unfortunately, until there’s a trans-only bathroom/pronoun/clothing line/dressing room/etc I’m forced to pick one or the other. On top of which, there is no gatekeeper to gender. Every definition has its exceptions (intersexed, AIS, infertile, too feminine, too masculine, too something) and I don’t see how my self-identification as a woman harms anyone.

But finally Anonymous gets to the root of the matter: male privilege. Well, on that, I’m going to go ahead and quote myself:

As for accusations of having been male and suffering from misogyny, I’m not going to pretend I’m magically free of the effects of having been socialized as male for twenty-plus years, and that transitioning hasn’t been a humbling experience. Transitioning has helped me understand exactly how insidious culture and socialization is in creating expectations about appropriate behavior, and I am learning that certain things I was socialized to think were OK really aren’t. You have every right to call me out if you perceive something I say to be misogynistic. But you don’t have a right to presume I don’t know what I’m talking about, or that everything I say, as a trans woman, is automatically misogynist.

But we’re not done yet. That’s right, there’s more:

I couldn’t choose to be a man.  I was born into this body, born into the Mormon society that automatically strips women of their rights except in regards to childbirth and the home.  You are CHOOSING this life, although you have neither the genetic makeup(XX chromosome) nor the hormones, nor the biological structures associated with “being female”.  So why the fuck you’re crying when people call you out on not “passing” for female or when they challenge your right to be called a feminist, or when they just get sick of your sensitivity to trans-centered jokes or transphobia (or homophobia for that matter)… I mean, it’s probably because you’re being RIDICULOUS.

I’m choosing to transition. But it’s the same choice a diabetic makes when taking insulin: treatment or death. The only thing that kept me going before transitioning was the thought that I might one day be able to do so. Had I felt that door was forever closed, I would have killed myself before hitting puberty. I did not, however, choose to be trans.

And I don’t know – I haven’t gotten a chromosome test, but (as I said above) any definition of gender is fraught with those who don’t quite fit, and who straddle the line. Likewise, I know women who have had mastectomies or hysterectomies. Does that mean they’re no longer women, because they lack “the biological structures”? (And, although I’m forced to admit I don’t produce them myself, I do have the hormones. My curves are mine, thankyouverymuch.)

But moving on:

I dated a man who decided towards the end of our relationship that he really wanted to become a woman, wanted the surgery, hrt, the whole shebang, and well, since I’m attracted to men, not women, we decided to break up.  Being the kind-hearted, open-minded individual I am, I tried to remain friends with this person.  He changed his name to Tiffany.  So Tiffany began changing radically from the man I had known and loved, changing into this uber feminine pre-teen sort of person, which is not the sort of person I’d hang out with anyway– I’d chosen this person because they were the kind of person I enjoyed hanging out with, and now they decided to radically not be that person anymore, belying any of their genetics or biology — which to me, is really what you ARE — and they became this person I just didn’t enjoy talking to anymore.

And then I got accused of being “insensitive”.  I’m sorry?  I’m not really expected to be friends with someone who I don’t like, am I?  Moreover, someone who doesn’t respect my own perspective AS a woman, specifically the perspective that rejects society’s view of women as objects and anyone not uber feminine isn’t a real woman– I mean, seriously, these are things I’d spent my whole life learning, and to watch someone else stumble through it like a noob when I’m right there trying to help is FRUSTRATING.

At last, we get to the root of the issue. Anonymous is an essentialist, equating biology and genetics with destiny. This argument always confused me, particularly coming from someone who I assumed considers herself a feminist. In addition to not being gender-exclusive, a big component of my understanding of feminism is biology not being destiny. Going back to a diabetes analogy, I hope Anonymous wouldn’t begrudge a diabetic their insulin, even though it goes against their genetics or biology.

I’m not trying to say genetics and biology have nothing to do with who people are. I know that I have a lot of my parents in me, and I’m thankful for it. But to say I’m biologically destined to be something is just silly. And again, I didn’t choose to be trans – but I’d argue strongly being trans was biological in origin, which means not transitioning would be going against my biological ‘programming.’

All that said, I’m truly sorry Anonymous couldn’t stay friends with Tiffany. She’s right, in that a lot of trans women (and men, to a lesser extent) change drastically in their transition and undergo a very awkward, very stereotypical, very hyper-feminine stage, which they may or may not grow out of. It’s the same reason girls go through a very similar stage, with excessive makeup and ridiculous outfits, as they try to develop their own identities as women. I don’t think Anonymous was insensitive for calling Tiffany out if she did become a stereotype or a parody of femininity. But I do strongly suspect Anonymous did so in an insensitive way anyway, simply because nothing she’s said thus far indicates she ‘gets’ what being trans means.

Lastly:

Anyway.  I understand that being trans is hard, but life is hard all ways.  Even if you do decide to stick with what you were born with and not use your “gender confusion” as a cop-out to obfuscate your REAL PROBLEMS and REAL LACK OF COPING SKILLS.

I lied. The root of the issue had a deeper, uglier, root. (Like with pie.) Anonymous, by using quotes to dismiss the possibility gender dysphoria is a real thing, doesn’t believe trans people really exist. She’s not denying my actual existence as a person, but she’s saying I don’t really want to transition – I’m just using it to cover up what’s really going on in my life. How kind of her to clue me in on my secret motivations…

I would suggest growing some figurative balls and stop being such a baby about things in general, but that’s just the way *I* deal with things.  As a woman.

Does this mean you’re not coming over so we can do our nails and cry at Gilmore Girls?

23 Responses to “On the Edge of Trolling, Pt 2”

  1. Lisa Harney says:

    Cis people and their wacky analyses of trans people’s lives.

    I like how she both acknowledges that you had the option to transition and made that choice, but then denies that she has that option too – she simply chose not to make it (perhaps because she doesn’t want to transition) and then frames that as “She never had the choice to be a man.”

    Also, soooo tired of people whose critique of trans women apparently begins and ends with “But you’re toooooo feminine!”

    • Rebecca says:

      Exactly, Lisa! Thanks for catching her contradictory statements about having a choice v. not having a choice to transition…

      • Lisa Harney says:

        Yeah, cis people like to pretend that not transitioning is not a choice, just the natural way to be. But it ends up making their arguments look silly.

        Well, silly to some people.

  2. Lauren O says:

    Does this mean you’re not coming over so we can do our nails and cry at Gilmore Girls?

    You could not have come up with a better ending for this post. It would have been physically impossible.

    • Rebecca says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Lauren! I’m glad you enjoyed the ending.

      And I dunno, I like to think I’m pretty flexible and that, were there a better ending, I might have been able to contort myself into it. ::Grin::

  3. Rachel_in_WY says:

    I love how Anonymous defines feminism as “whining about how hard women have it” in the first quote. If that’s all I thought feminism was, I certainly wouldn’t be motivated enough to defend it from the oh-so-scary trans invaders.

    • Rebecca says:

      Ha! I hadn’t realized it, but you’re right – that is sort of the conclusion that could be drawn from summarizing all of Anonymous’s comments. Although I imagine she wouldn’t be thrilled with that summation…

  4. Mattie says:

    I’m always slightly bemused by the idea that trans people, and specifically trans women in this arguement, suffer no discrimination unless we transition. Surely the fact that it is such a big issue to even come out or not be in denial before transitioning suggests that we are rather affected by transphobia and sexism in society as soon as we are remotely aware of being trans? I’m not saying that pre transition trans women don’t get accrued male privilege based on how society genders us, but surely saying that none of us fight that or that this trumps any other sort of discrimination entirely is a bit simplistic.

    • Rebecca says:

      I completely agree, Mattie. I’m also frustrated with people (like Anonymous here) who – on top of what you’re saying – don’t actually give any time or energy to what they’re responding to and just automatically assume anything said by a trans woman is misogynist or an exercise of her male privilege…

      But I think it really goes back to my obvious disagreement with Anonymous about who gets to use the label “feminist.” If anyone can be a feminist, which I believe to be the case, than male privilege can and should be called out when it appears, but a trans woman (or cis men, or whomever) can still have a valid contribution to a feminist conversation even supposing her (their) male privilege. But since, as Anonymous clearly believes, only women can be feminists and no true woman is trans, she’ll just sully the conversation with her ambiguous expressions of gender, her phallus, and her male privilege…

      • Lisa Harney says:

        If anyone can be a feminist, which I believe to be the case, than male privilege can and should be called out when it appears, but a trans woman (or cis men, or whomever) can still have a valid contribution to a feminist conversation even supposing her (their) male privilege.

        Trans women can have a valid contribution to a feminist conversation because they (we) experience sexism and misogyny, compounded with transphobia and trans misogyny. Centering discussions of trans women in feminism in terms of male privilege is centering trans women in trans misogynist terms. Specifically, terms used to discredit trans women as women and position us outside feminist and women’s concerns. Further, male privilege is used as an accusation of sin, as if trans women spent our pre-transition years gloating over the privilege we received while passing as male, and abusing it for maximum gains so we could transition into an easy life of wealth and status.

        But that’s just me.

      • Lisa Harney says:

        Part 2:

        (Cis and trans) Men have a valid contribution to feminism because they’re inextricably part of the system that supports sexism and misogyny, and of course are frequently the source of it. Men who want to deconstruct and debunk their male privilege absolutely belong in feminist conversations, as long as they understand that their voices come after (cis and trans) women’s voices, that they shouldn’t be trying to focus feminism or center their own voices.

        I think this is entirely separate from trans women.

        But again, that’s just me.

      • Lisa Harney says:

        Sorry about spamminess, there.

        • Rebecca says:

          Oh, no worries! Thanks for your thoughts, and I’m going to respond to both comments here.

          Trans women can have a valid contribution to a feminist conversation because they (we) experience sexism and misogyny, compounded with transphobia and trans misogyny. Centering discussions of trans women in feminism in terms of male privilege is centering trans women in trans misogynist terms.

          I think that’s a good way to rephrase what I was trying to get at, and probably more exact than what I did say.

          What I meant was that any participant in a feminist discussion (or in any discussion or conversation, really) should be made aware of whatever sexist/misogynist/trans misogynist/transphobic/etc speech they put forth. It’s possible that some trans women have acquired negative worldviews mentioned above (sexist/misogynist/etc) due to their socialization as male – in fact, I’ve been realizing that’s true for me, to some extent – and this should not be allowed to slide. But I completely agree with what I think you’re saying, that trans women who do act or think that way should be made aware of it just like anyone else, including cis women (who are not immune to misogyny or sexism) and by using the term ‘male privilege’ specifically, it others trans women and denies our experience as women.

          As for your second comment, concerning the place of men in feminist discussions, I completely agree. And, although I don’t think I would have before, I’m starting to agree that the discussion about the place of men in feminism is (or, at least, should be) separate from the place of trans women. I need to think about it some more, though.

          • Lisa Harney says:

            I don’t think it’s entirely accurate to propose that trans women “socialize as male.” I wrote this awhile ago:

            Socialization isn’t a passive experience. How you absorb socialization is directly affected by your own self-perception. If you’re constantly told that you suck as a person, you’ll absorb and internalize the message. People in western society tend to absorb the following (false) institutionalized messages: White people are better people than people of color, straight people are better than bisexual, gay, or lesbian people, cis people are better than trans people, men are better than women, able-bodied people are better than people with disabilities, and … the list of privileges and oppressions is long.

            As a trans girl, I didn’t socialize as a boy. I had boy socialization pushed on me, but that wasn’t what I experienced. We don’t have special antennas built into our bodies that only route messages appropriate to our bodies – we swim in a sea of socialization. I experienced socialization aimed at girls and women. I lived every day wanting my body to be female, and I saw myself as a girl, I identified with girls and women. That was my personal reality. I absorbed messages about how girls being attracted to girls was wrong, about how wanting to change sex was wrong, about how men are better than women, about what girls were supposed to be like, and what boys were supposed to be like.

            I’m not saying that I didn’t experience any male privilege. That was inevitable, but that privilege was heavily complicated by the fact that I absorbed socialization intended for girls, that I saw myself as a girl.

            I realize my experiences aren’t everyone’s, and I realize that being perceived as male can impact your attitudes about yourself and others around you. But at the same time, we all live in the sexist society and pick up zillions of sexist messages – and the difference between a man who internalizes those messages and a woman who internalizes those messages is that the man sees those messages about someone other than him, and a woman sees those messages about her and other people like her.

            So, when a trans woman, who despite not having begun transition yet, sees herself as a woman who is mistaken for a man, or stuck being a man, or forced to be a man, or trying to be a man, how are those sexist messages internalized? I think it’s more complicated than “socialized as male.” Even a woman who doesn’t come to terms with or identify herself as a woman until later in life (like, teens, twenties, or later) still has to deal with the internalized messages that say women are inferior to men, and how this relates to her own womanhood.

            And yeah, in a feminist space, everyone needs to be held accountable for oppressive behavior. Singling trans women out as uniquely oppressive is just another way to mark us as other.

          • Rebecca says:

            As a trans girl, I didn’t socialize as a boy. I had boy socialization pushed on me…

            (lots cut)

            I’m not saying that I didn’t experience any male privilege. That was inevitable, but that privilege was heavily complicated by the fact that I absorbed socialization intended for girls, that I saw myself as a girl.

            This distinction seems really important, so thank you for bringing it up. You’re right, what I commented above did not accurately capture the subtle difference between “being socialized” a certain way or “socializing” a certain way. That is, I was viewed as a boy growing up, and so others attempted to socialize me as such. But I didn’t identify as a boy, and so my own experience of socializing was not simply or purely “male,” in spite of others’ behaviors or expectations.

    • Lisa Harney says:

      Trans people are affected by transphobia all our lives.

      We’re raised in a culture that says that transitioning is wrong, immoral, perverse, fetishistic. That it’s bad for someone assigned male to be feminine (and there’s a derogatory word for that – effeminate), let along want to be female (feminine, masculine, or androgynous gender expression). Some of us, if we make it clear that we’re trans, suffer badly for it. And some of us can’t hide being trans (even though we’re likely to be read as gay or lesbian).

      And of course, I’ve run into more than one feminist who believes that (for example) trans women experience male privilege in terms of never receiving negative messages about body image via the idealized images of women in the media – like, none of us have any body angst.

      Transphobic analyses of trans people rely on the cis assumption that everyone is cis until proven otherwise. A trans girl at 6 years old and a cis boy at 6 years old are seen as experiencing the world and themselves in much the same way. Trans realities and perceptions are utterly denied and invalidated.

      • Rachel_in_WY says:

        This is a bit off-topic, but I’ve never gotten the whole “fetish” thing. All the trans people I know were so stressed/anxious/uncomfortable/whatever initially that they were not sexually active really at all. And it seems like it often takes some time to get comfortable enough to engage sexually, unless you’re already in a relationship. Which makes perfect sense to me, since being sexual with a partner seems to require a minimal level of security and self-confidence. So how could anyone think it’s some sort of fetish, when transitioning actually seems to sort of temporarily shut down one’s sexuality in many cases? It’s so bizarre, and suggests that those who believe this simply aren’t paying attention.

        • Mattie says:

          Because of the way being trans has been long portrayed as a sexual thing, an extension of homosexuality (since these theories and ideas almost never mention trans man).

          Because we are legally defined as insane everywhere (except France for the last month or so). So we can’t be trusted to tell people the “real” reason we do it and they are free to make up whatever they like and ignore what we say to suit their own prejudices.

          Because of the way psychiatrists have theorised about us from their comfy privilege. Because of theories like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autogynophilia by people who are entrusted by society to “treat” us and are given power to shape how we are defined and power as gatekeepers to make us conform to their theories in order to gain access to assistance.

          Because calling it a sexual deviance is easier than actually getting to grips with the idea that gender is not straight forward and simple, or God given and immutable. Or dealing with the way trans people challenge ideas of male and female that underly sexism and our whole societies. Because being male bodied and rejecting being male is seen as so clearly wrong, mad, deviant, since being male is seen as the most desirable state.

          Because calling us deviants makes it easier to other, fear and hate us.

          I could go on.

          • queen emily says:

            That’s true Mattie. The problem is that it essentially starts and ends with the idea that trans women are cross-dressing *men*, transitioning to get ourselves off. It all falls apart if you see us women, but whatevs eh Bailey et Blanchard…

            I do think that meme spreads in numerous ways popularly beyond the cross dressing one.. There’s all those fun variations like ‘trans women = potential child abuser’, ‘trans women = rapist,’ ‘trans women = gay man *and* crossdressing het man’ – none of which make sense, but all of whom I’ve seen appear in the meedja and/or courts at some point or other

          • Rebecca says:

            I would also say it’s because the cis individuals putting forth fetishistic justifications for transitioning don’t turn around and think about their own damn sexuality for more than two seconds.

            If I see myself as a woman (I do) and want to be sexual (I do) then of course I’m going to fantasize about sexual situations in which – guess what? – I’m a woman. Likewise, the cis friends I’ve talked about sex with acknowledge that they obviously picture themselves as their identified (and assigned) genders in fantasy, so why should I be any different when picturing myself as my identified gender?

            It’s so amazingly absurd to imagine I wouldn’t be more turned on by the idea of myself as a woman than as a man. But, as Queen Emily says above, when one operates from the assumption that trans women are “really” men, the conclusions one draws will obviously be (to say the least) batshit crazy.

      • Rebecca says:

        A trans girl at 6 years old and a cis boy at 6 years old are seen as experiencing the world and themselves in much the same way. Trans realities and perceptions are utterly denied and invalidated.

        That’s a really powerful way of putting it, and I think cuts to the heart of the absurdity of implying (or, as in Anonymous’ case, outright stating) that someone pre- or mid-transition isn’t affected by societal/cultural depictions of women or of trans women.

        • Lisa Harney says:

          I expanded on that in this comment.

          And yeah, before I transitioned, when I saw attractive women anywhere, I somehow doubt my reaction (“I wish I could look like that”) was remotely typical for cis boys. Of course, many transphobic feminists would take that statement as proof that trans women (because I am a trans woman and thus am all trans women) hold unrealistic beauty expectations about women, never mind that many cis girls have the same experience. And never mind that I’m talking about how I thought over two decades ago.

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