Really learning a lot from this exchange on gendertrender between Gallus, Moira and 23xx

Gallusmag said:

I would never ever refer to a female transitioner as male or with male pronouns, even knowing that it “hurts her feelings”. Because even if it hurts her feelings I think it is really important to “hold the door open”. I don’t mean giving women a bunch of shit for transitioning. But holding the line that says “I accept you as a sister”. Women I know who have detransitioned know that I am someone they can talk to who supports them as a fellow “gender nonconforming” woman: and that I always have.

(Rest of it in comments here.) This is the same feeling I get from reading dirt’s blog as well. dirt and Gallus both care very deeply about female transitioners. And the female detransitioners I know have really appreciated having that door held open for them.

And then I think, who is doing this on the mtf side? How would it happen? But the picture is completely different.

The radical acceptance of feminist sisterhood is unique to female culture. I have personally benefited from it a lot in my life, both from the decades-long friendships I’ve had, the shared concerns and in-depth discussions, and now (ironically) in having a space to actually articulate what it means to be male but live as a woman, with a few very close friends. To put it simply, it’s a collective power which we all share and cultivate in each other. Thanks sisters, I really love you and I would never have become the person I am without you! ❤ ❤

But what about the brothers that I’ve never felt like I had?  When I was in the psych hospital at 17, and the (male) therapist was trying to get me to read the Robert Bly/men’s movement books, was he reaching out to me in “brotherhood”? I guess, but it wasn’t a brotherhood of radical acceptance. Really, his motivation was the same as the skinheads who didn’t want me at their hardcore shows any more: “You need to man the fuck up,  bro.” He was just a little more “polite” about it.

And it was the same motivation as my sixth grade English teacher who got me to lift weights for a few months. (Well, maybe he had some pervy motivations about that as well, though he never touched me and I don’t remember noticing any inappropriate stares from him.) I was skinny and effeminate but I still had “potential” to be a “regular guy.” Of course, that didn’t keep me from getting sent to the principle the next year for “acting out” (wearing shorts, having long hair, painting my nails, etc.) Fuck.

But what is the “shared” experience of brotherhood or “radical” male acceptance, as it exists today? (For example – on reddit.) Sharing the feeling of power over. “Well dude you may be weird/gay/kinky/a tranny but we’re both better than women/black people/jews/fat people/stupid people/faggots/etc. Cheers bro!” Ugh.

I’m so glad that Joel Nowak is doing his mtf detransition blog. That’s a resource that we’ve needed for a really long time. Most of the male detransitioners I’ve met in my life were straight crossdressers who took hormones for a few years, then decided to quit because it was killing their boners. I’m not trying to play No True Scotsman – that’s who they were before they became “transwomen”, and they continued to crossdress part time after “detransitioning.” So, not really people I could relate to.

Joel doesn’t seem hung up on re-establishing his masculinity, it seems more to me that he just wants to be a whole person. And there’s thankfully no talk of clothes! He still seems to believe in the ideas of “transmisogyny” and true transsexuals, but he does seem to genuinely care about other males who are or have been trans. It’s an awesome start! And the tactics he uses don’t need to be the same as Gallus and dirt, because obviously his audience is quite different. His blog is a lot less angry and judgmental than the author of m2f2m and transgendersurvivor. And it’s way more sensible than sexchangeregret, whose author seems a little off his rocker. (Like, how many masturbatory books does he need to publish about his crossdressing? Seriously!)

What would radical acceptance in a male community look like, in a postive way? Is it something I could ever want? I work in a virtually all-male environment. Yesterday I gave a presentation to a room full (standing room only) of 40 men and one woman. The woman and I have never spoken, and she ignored me when I tried to say hi when I came in. Working with all men felt lonely at first, and it still does, but you get used to it after a while – every women who stays in STEM has to, eventually.

But the only reason I’m comfortable in that situation now is because I’m different. Like Auntyorthodoxy has said, sometimes the reason you’re trans is not that you “know you’re really a woman”, but that you know you don’t want to be a man.

I hate to flog this yet again, but the last thing I would want in a male community is the DGR male radfem contingent telling me I’m not a woman. Yeah bro, I know I’m not female. I also live as a woman, and my living this way is not directly harming any females. That’s not true of all trans women, but it’s true of me! Deal with it. And after you’ve dealt with it, let’s try to think about a way forward that’s not just you rigidly parroting things that don’t apply to you.

And to be honest, I’m suspicious of trans-critical males on principle: because where is the harm to males as a class within trans politics? I don’t see it. Of the trans-critical men I’ve known irl, they all had an axe to grind. Either they felt like their own transition was a failure, or they were a wannabe transitioner, or they were a homophobic and misogynist crossdresser, or they were a straight up homophobic heterosexual bro. Honestly, a lot of trans-critical males are even worse than trans males! And that’s saying a lot!

I do think trans politics is harmful to many of the small group of males who spend time identifying as trans. There was a thread about transition frustration on trueselves last year that was heartbreaking. An mtf who’d been on hormones for a year and a half was complaining that they didn’t pass, it felt like a waste of time, and they didn’t know what to do. But the only “support” was the same old bs that caused the problem in the first place – “Hang in there! You’ll get there! Who cares, now you’re your true self! You can be happy! Cis people are stupid! Blah blah blah.”

Q: Why couldn’t they have gotten some more honest input up front?

A: Because honest input is “transphobic”.

Total laugh or cry time.  😥

note: slightly edited from original post here.

Thinking about Radical Feminism as an mtf

Backstory: I was born male but I’ve been living as a girl/woman for over half of my life now, and I’ve read a lot of radical feminist texts. In fact, the first feminist book I read was Andrea Dworkin’s Intercourse, when I was 15. So I’ve been thinking about radical feminism for even longer than I’ve been transsexual! This post is kind of long, because it takes a while to build a foundation. Please try to read the whole thing!

My understanding of radical feminism, and why transwomen are different from females

Radical feminism is based on the analysis that females as a sex class are oppressed by males as a sex class. It’s not about individuals. If you don’t believe that patriarchy exists, you might want to review statistics about violent crime world-wide. It’s overwhelmingly perpetrated by males against females. But I’ll assume you (the reader) already know this.

Since you do believe that patriarchy exists, then you have to acknowledge that on average, trans women grew up with male privilege. Trans women who were visibly gender non-conforming in childhood probably suffered oppression for being gender non-conforming. But many/most trans women live outwardly as gender conforming boys/men up until their “discovery” of their trans identity. In fact, many trans women live as men into their 30’s, working as men in male-dominated fields, marrying women and fathering children. Hint: that’s not ‘female privilege!’

Since trans women grow up with male privilege, which is a totally different way of seeing the world, it’s legitimate to differentiate between females and transwomen. Female socialization means “you’re not a full human being.” For females, that starts at birth, and continues in your adult life. Transwomen as a class don’t experience that socialization from birth. In fact, we don’t experience it until we began passing as female. After all, gender is an assigned characteristic based on perceived sex, not an identity.

Since transwomen and females are legitimately different in important ways (socialization, biology), it’s to the benefit of all women (both female and trans-) that we have spaces exclusive to our own kind. Females need somewhere to unpack the bullshit around being female socialized from birth. Transwomen need somewhere to discuss the whole of our lives, including the parts when we lived as boys/men, without fear of that discussion changing the way people perceive our gender.

So wbw is not transphobic – it’s not even about us! The least we can do as (trans) women is to support our female sisters. If we don’t support them, why should they support us?

Practical things

So, let’s consider some practical implications. I think it’s valid and important for females to have wbw spaces – in my mind, this means things like MWMF, Radfem2013, and female-only discussion groups, whether it’s a book club, a survivors of CSA group, or whatever. If a group of women invites a transwomen to join them, great. But transwomen don’t have any “right” to female space – please! That’s like complaining to the teacher in elementary school that some “mean kids” left you out, and then the teacher tells those kids they “have to be” friends with you.

Transwomen shouldn’t use women’s locker rooms (or other spaces where people get naked) unless they pass, and they’re discrete enough that no one notices if they’re preop. Sorry but penis doesn’t belong in female space, even if it’s on someone who’s perceived to be a woman. That’s just out of safe-space considerations for females who’ve been raped. Likewise, the presence of a transwoman who’s obviously male in a space where women are naked is also triggering for obvious reasons. Whether or not a non-passing transwoman has had surgery doesn’t matter in this case, unfortunately.

Bathrooms are a little more flexible, since there’s no expectation of nudity. My perspective is that the right time to switch public bathrooms is when you’re likely to cause less commotion in one than the other. But this has to be reality-based. A while ago Cathy Brennan posted an incredible story of a transwoman who was asked to leave the women’s bathroom. She described her encounter with the security guard: “When I said it had never caused a problem before, and no-one has either noticed or cared I was trans, he replied that they noticed – implying that I do not pass as a woman, which I don’t believe is correct.” Hahaha we don’t get to decide if we pass, that’s up to other people!

That said, we as transwomen need to stop pretending that it “never happens” that trans women use bathrooms and locker rooms for “improper purposes”. We need to call these people out! If we don’t do the difficult work of policing the boundaries of our community by calling Colleen Francis a male sex predator, or calling out Reed Barrow aka sissytgkristal or whatever, then trans gets redefined as “sexually predatory males.”

Likewise, we need to call out the anti-lesbian rape apologists, like Morgan Paige, Julia Serrano, Savanah Garmond aka leftytgirl, etc. We also need to call out trans women who advocate physical violence against females – that would be Monica Roberts, Kinsey Hope/genderbitch, Anthony Casebaer, Char the butcher, etc.

You may have noticed a pattern, which is that all of these people have been profiled on pretendbians. (Except genderbitch, who definitely should be.) So, I actually don’t support pretendbians being taken down, until these people change their behavior! Maybe it’s not the place of a non-trans-identified lesbian to do the callouts, but since the trans community has failed, I’m glad someone is doing it.

How this effected me personally

I personally experienced male privilege growing up, because my interests in technical fields (which translates to high-paying career in adulthood) were encouraged. Nobody said “You like math, you should be a teacher!”, they said “You like math, you should be a scientist!” That’s a pay difference of about $70k btw. It’s kind of the definition of patriarchal bullshit in elementary school education!

I also personally experienced a lot of prejudice because in middle and high school, I was gender non-conforming. This came in the form of verbal and physical harassment, both by students and by teachers and school administrators. It really messed up my self-worth, and unfortunately I still haven’t recovered 100% from that.

Despite the occasional physical abuse I experienced, my physiology allowed me a much greater sense of physical safety than many of my female friends in general – I was taller, I had broader shoulders, I had more upper body strength, and I wasn’t worried about getting raped, since I didn’t have a vagina. I also had the first 13 years of my life when I wasn’t as obviously gender non-conforming, where I had felt sure of the physical integrity of my body. In contrast, I had a number of female friends who were sexually abused as children. CSA is much more common among females, btw! It’s related to that patriarchy thing.

So, the privilege and the oppression didn’t just “cancel each other out” – rather, they intersected in some complicated ways, which for obvious reasons is the definition of intersectionality!

My first introduction to gay and lesbian theory was to radical feminism, thank god! I later got swept up in queer theory, but I had to discard it eventually since it failed to explain the world I live in. 99% of the people in the world base their definitions of man and woman on physical sex, and secondarily on conformance with sex roles. Trans theory assumes that a tiny fraction of the population gets to make up new definitions which have nothing to do with anything, and everyone else is wrong! That analysis left me really depressed, because it’s so in conflict with the real world, so I discarded it.

Recently I’ve taken up radical feminist analysis again. It’s challenging to me but ultimately feels a lot more liberatory. I am a male who lives as a woman. I’m never going to not be male. By accepting that fact, it can’t hurt me any more. That doesn’t mean I’m going to be out all the time. It doesn’t mean I’m going to stop hanging out with women and “go back to my roots” by joining a men’s movement group (lol). But it means that maybe I have some hope of finding peace in my life.

I don’t know “why” I’m trans. At this point, it happened a lot time ago, and it’s kind of a done deal. Were my motivations “correct”? I don’t know. I definitely said some sexist bullshit when I was a teenager and thinking about transitioning! All I know now is that I’m happier at this point in my life than I’ve ever been, so I probably made the right decisions.

I’m very selective about who I talk about being trans with irl, because I know how the rumor mill works, and I know how people will change their behavior towards me when they find out I’m transsexual. The only way to cut that bullshit out that I have found, was to not talk about being transsexual irl. I also cut a lot of people out of my life, over the many years after I transitioned.

That means life is kind of lonely sometimes, but thank god I have tumblr, other internet communities, a few irl trans friends who I intentionally sought out, and a few special female friends who I can talk about it with.