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Posts tagged ‘privileged ignorance’

Being Trans Still Means You Got Gender Socialization

When I speak of MTFs with suspicion and wariness, it comes from the experiences I’ve had in real life with these same people. Apparently it’s rare for someone to have bad experiences with MTFs in real life—I should mention that every single MTF I’ve had bad experiences with spent an inordinate amount of time online. A lot of gamer guys get Inappropriate Asshole Syndrome—they rarely get that what they’re saying might be so inappropriate that it’s not funny or humorous anymore, even for shock humor.

Almost all the MTFs I’ve met suffer from these problems:

– They don’t identify as women; they identify as MTFs, and their transsexual identity is the most important part for them.

– They act like men, including:
a) throwing a tantrum when you disagree with them,
b) monopolizing the conversation,
c) ignoring discomfort signals and a noted lack of participation in a particularly male-privileged fashion,
d) acting entitled to your time, space, and praise. Tolerance? Yeah. Praise?… I only praise my cats, my friends, my garden and Pele.

– They become aggressive and threatening if you point out some way they aren’t acting like women—because they were acting hyperfeminine.

That last one—acting hyperfeminine, the way very few assigned at birth women act because they have to juggle their own personhood and identity and selfhood with that portrayal—is one that pisses me off the most. To my eyes, having grown up around women and loved them and as a practicing gynosexual, many MTFs act out the caricature of women that’s fed to men—because, having grown up as men, they have no ability to tell just how much horse dooky it’s made from. Correcting them isn’t policing: if you want to live and be recognized as a woman, the least you can do is challenge the patriarchally-filtered ideas of them you’ve been brought up in. The least you can do is not blatantly insult, objectify, and dehumanize them by acting out those outrageous fucking caricatures.

I’ve met women who happened to be born into a male body—but they were women: they grew up as girls, passing full-time from very early ages, often with help from their parents. One went to Thailand at 15 for SRS and had been passing from the age of nine—her parents helped her legally change her name to Christina. (She was thirty at the time.) They were women not because of their identified genitalia, but because of their socialization. They also didn’t just tell everyone in sight that they were an MTF—you had to get to know them, first.

Most MTFs, however, have male privilege embedded in their behaviors—you’re not allowed to criticize them unless they think they’re doing something wrong; you’re not allowed to feel unsafe because of their behavior, because you’re being “transphobic.”

Transphobic. Such a fucking joke. Apparently you’re transphobic if you ever do or think anything that one individual transindividual doesn’t like.

… A few years ago, in the Pacific Northwest U.S., I was almost raped by an MTF. Zie came up to me outside of the library and we started talking; zie seemed a little off—anxious, though I was sympathetic to that—but I ignored the misgivings and discomfort I was having (zie had basically trapped me into fifteen minutes of talking about zeir writing) because, honestly, I didn’t want to come off as a douche. I tried being tolerant and anyway, I like making new friends.

Zie invited me over to zeir place and I accepted—though, thankfully, I brought along Aslan. On the walk there, zie was incredibly inappropriate in a way that I have only known online-gamer boys to be. Several intensely lesbophobic jokes were made, including a reference to sex being penetration, with fingers if not necessarily dildos and lesbian porn. We got to zeir house and went in through the back; they had a dog, whose name I remember but won’t reveal, who was badly neglected and neurotic. The inside was—it’s not directly relevant, but the filth of the place creeped me out; I’ve only ever seen as mess that bad once, when I and some schoolmates volunteered to clean out an item-hoarder’s house so she could live in it again—and zie went upstairs.

It’s still unclear. I felt like I was in a haze: zie wasn’t being aggressive enough to trigger any of my defenses or fighting instinct. I do remember, very clearly, zie trying to get my friend out of the room—I tried to go with, but zie pulled me back and just kept… fucking touching me.

I remember there was a crucifix on the wall, and that zie kept talking about zeir computer and pulling me onto the bed. And wanting out.

How did I get out? Aslan pulled me out. I only know because xie told me. Once we left, the MTF started stalking us and Aslan had to actually physically stand between us and threaten zem; I was on the verge of a panic attack, and once we left, I ended up having it. Zie called me transphobic.

I laughed it off, and I only realized recently how fucking angry I am about that entire… farce. Transphobic? I was transphobic for not just sitting down and letting zem sexually assault me, just like I’m misandrist for not letting men fuck me.

This might be fucked up, but outside of everything else, I can’t stop thinking about that dog, and if they’re okay.

Just because you believe you’re a woman doesn’t mean you act like it. Just because you’re on estrogen doesn’t mean you’re not a fucking rapist. The behavior and socialization—the lack of privilege—does not go along with the genitals: transsexuality is not something that determines what kind of person you are… it only focuses on your body and the way you are perceived.

The fundamental experience of women is global, in every civilization: as property. That is the fucking universal experience of women. I don’t understand much of this “cis privilege” idea because it seems to be the case that women are constantly suffering the same physical, sexual and emotional violence that MTFs are, all while being “cissexual.” I can allow that it might exist in some way that hasn’t been properly fleshed out yet, but as someone who’s genderqueer and always has been, I can tell you this: transfolk are not necessarily more right about oppression, transsexuality and transgenderism than anyone else is. Just because we know what we feel doesn’t mean we know, without a doubt, the truth of the naturalness and the nature of being trans.

I feel fucking alienated as hell when people openly mock transfolk, talking about how FTMs just want to fuck gay men with their vaginas (??? I have never known an FTM, other than that porn actor, to do that) and how those born male can never be women, no matter how early in life they pass and transition… and to a point I understand the impulse.

But I feel more alienated by a trans narrative that tells me that to be valid, for my identity to be genuine, it has to be natural—something inborn and inherent within me, a neo-essentialism. I feel safer in a room full of radical feminists, knowing that I have a better chance of having my concerns and arguments taken seriously, sharing an understanding that gender-as-sex and sex-as-gender is socially constructed, knowing that all of us are working towards gender abolition because that is the only way all of us will be seen as people… and that they won’t try to rape me.

The problem I have with MTFs is the problem I have with all men: they act like men. They are not safe. Reacting with hostility and calling me transphobic only compounds the problem by attempting to silence me.

Just because I disagree doesn’t mean I’m transphobic. I know next to nothing about the inherency and reality of trans within the world and the human population as a whole: only the experience. And if anyone tries to tell you they do know—they’re lying through their teeth.



I picked up this story from my roommate last night and asked permission to transcribe it. Zie repeated the entire thing to me this morning—it’s an anecdote about a conversation zie had with a close friend of zeirs a few years ago.

Lou liked talking about all the political shit with zem, all the things she was passionate about. Well, there was this guy who’d been stalking her for a week or so—he stopped after suddenly finding himself in a particularly violent crowd who happened to not be very understanding about this behavior of his—and Lou was speaking about how the reason men thought it was ever acceptable to do this was because men don’t see women as having these boundaries set up. For a guy, of course a woman doesn’t have boundaries, because he never observes them—or at least that’s how guys subconsciously think.

She said, guys didn’t have to fear having stalkers because the reason women can have stalkers is because they don’t have any boundaries, whereas the inverse was true for their stalkers: guys had boundaries that just so happened to include being allowed to stalk women.

That was part of male privilege, but no guy would really understand that, because to see privilege means you can’t have it. Or to meaningfully see privilege means you can’t have it, is what she said.

“And it just pisses me off, and that’s the reason I’m a lesbian.” She looked over and Aslan and said, “No offense.”

Aslan answered, “None taken. I understand I’m a guy, I have that privilege.” Zie then followed that up with, “and that’s just the way life is a lot of the time.”

And Lou looked at zem as if expecting zem to continue zeir sentence, but when zie didn’t continue, she prompted zem, “AND?”

Aslan replied, “And what? That was all I had to say.”

“And what does this mean to you? I’m not the one with the privilege here. I’m not the one who needs to change. I’m not the one who admits to being the one with the privilege here. I’m not the one who needs to do something about that.”

“What can you expect me to do?” Aslan pointed out. “I said I have privilege, but I’m a guy, what can I do about that?”

And Lou told zem, “Think about it. Think about what you did when you admitted that being human gave you privilege over animals. Now think about what you should do when being male gives you privilege over women.”

It took Aslan years after her death to think about what she said and what the meaning of that was, because the first thing zie said was, “What, so I shouldn’t eat out girls anymore?”

That’s when Lou decked zem. Really fuckin’ good. It still hurts thinking about it, said Aslan. And zie damn well started thinking about things differently after that.

But it’s still where most men stop. After admitting you have male privilege comes… What? I said I had privilege. There’s no AND. There’s just the statement and then nothing.

When you grow up with the people you have power over being actively involved in your everyday life, you unconsciously develop behaviors that continue that oppression. There are two ways that oppression can progress: passive, which is where the power structure is largely maintained through segregation, and active, which is when the power structure is maintained through direct browbeating from the privileged. Most of the time it’s a little of column A, a little of column B. In the case of male privilege, it’s a little of column B, a lot of column A.

Male privilege is actively maintained by men acting like total jerks to women so that when it comes down to it, women are too unsure, humiliated and intimidated to disagree in any meaningful way. It helps that men get to define reality for women, that even when a woman says, “I’m feeling threatened,” the man will just think she’s being too much of a pussy to admit he was right. The fact that men are so used to being right by popular opinion, and the aggressive way they react to having their rightness called into question, maintains the power differential between men and women.

The gendered power structure is maintained by men’s behavior. Men expect to be praised, so they have no qualms about being in the spotlight—they assume they are awesome. And they usually are given praise. When women venture out, they are met with silence at best and outright hostility otherwise. History is filled with glorified male idiots and brilliant women who kept their silence because they knew it’d never be listened to.

Especially you men who like to think they’re progressive and rights-oriented. You say you have privilege. AND? And, and, and?

Talking about it is not enough, because by talking you refuse to actually do. Where is your actual renunciation of privilege? When are you listening to people who call you out on being privileged even when you don’t want to hear it? Why are you still acting defensive when you’re told how to change your behavior? How do you even justify talking with women if you aren’t going to change your behavior so they don’t feel unsure, humiliated and intimidated into silence on whatever subject?

You have male privilege. AND?

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