No, I haven’t betrayed the sisterhood & other thoughts on trans guy ‘privilege’

3 Weeks on testosterone and I’m already getting the ‘you’re betraying the team [women]’, ‘you’ll never be able to speak about women’s issues again’ bullshit… I’m not erasing my past, I’m just owning my future.

I think what angers me, and makes me sadder, and more militant as a feminist, is that this you’re a traitor for taking testosterone thinking is indicative of how we see men as excluded from feminist issues, how we see men as the enemy. And, of course, how we construct what a ‘woman’ and a ‘man’ are, and how we construct them as ‘enemies’, as opposites, as ‘men are from mars, etc. bullshit’, just to suit our own narratives of Patriarchy, the Villain and the Victim, and to keep perpetuating these narratives instead of breaking them down.

When and why did we become so invested in living up to a definition and ticklist of what a ‘man’ is, what a ‘woman’ is and that the two were fundamentally different creatures? And what do we base these delusions on? DNA, biology, psychology? When did we decide that definitions created who we’re allowed to be and become?

Firstly, why assume that femininity is the exclusive playground of women?

Secondly, why assume that we as transmen, masculine of centre (MOC) or non-binary (NB) people on testosterone (T) have issues with femininity? I, for one (and having spoken to my trans brothers and non-binary siblings know this to be true of others) am more able to express my femininity in a masculine body. Exponentially more able than we were when our bodies were perceived as female. Because in the latter body everything feminine we did just increased being misread as female and catapulted us further into dysphoria. As more masculine-looking, feminine behaviour, qualities, etc. simply allow us to express our complexity as humans more fully. Does this complexity and contradiction scare you? Well it frees us…

Thirdly, you’re assuming that all transmen, MOC or NB people on T embrace male privilege, the patriarchy and misogyny. Um, no, we don’t. Most of us spent a good deal of our lives living as women, experiencing the backhand of male privilege, patriarchy and misogyny. And not just in surface level ways either. How many women in your life do you know who have been sexually abused? Most of them? Yes, well that’s how many transmen, MOC and NB people have been sexually abused. So why would we jump at the chance to enact that oppression on others? (This is not to say that there are not some asshole transmen, MOC and NB people; trust me, there are. Just as there are asshole men, women, transwomen . . .). Trust me, most of us are very aware that we’re seen as betraying our sisterhood. In fact, we’ve been plagued with the guilt that we are in fact betraying the sisterhood. And then we realised that this was bullshit. So rather than embracing patriarchy and its inherent oppressions, I, for one, am very wary of the privileges that will be foisted upon me, and as a feminist, the only way for me to undo the patriarchy as a non-male person suddenly treated as male, is for me to expose the way I, as one and the same individual have been treated as a woman and now suddenly as a man. I would only be betraying the team if I accepted these micro and macro changes as something I deserve for seeming to belong to the penis club.

So all these assumptions you, and we, are making, makes life as a newly masculine person tough, and a bit of an obstacle course. So no, we’re not stroking our beards, shaking the secret handshake and smirking with self-satisfaction. No, we’re voluntarily turning our lives upside down, bracing ourselves for entirely new bodies, re-locating ourselves in relation to our past selves, and on top of all that navigating completely untested patriarchy-infested water which you and your assumptions dismiss at every turn. Please remember that before you speak about how we’re betraying the sisterhood, how we can never speak about womens’ issues again, how we cannot be feminists and how much easier it is for trans*men than trans*women.

Jack Monroe recently published a great article about society’s obsession with gendering us according to the binary, and how non-binary people, and those of us with non-binary tendencies, which Monroe argues is all of us, fit into feminism: “No amount of testosterone or top surgery will erase being catcalled out of car windows while walking to school in my uniform. Being called a slut as I walked home from school. Being pinned to a sofa and repeatedly sexually assaulted in my early 20s by a man that I thought was my friend. Being uninvited from family weddings for refusing to wear a dress. Being hit across the head by a man who followed me and my friends home from Girls’ Brigade one night and sexually propositioned us. I am not denying that I was raised a girl and then a woman. My parents always told me I could be whoever I want to be – prime minister, I used to joke. Now, I just want to be myself […] If this threatens you, go and have a long hard look at yourself and ask why my ovaries-and-testosterone combo makes you so uncomfortable, or why the contents of Caitlyn Jenner’s knickers is any of your goddamn business; and go check out Conchita Wurst’s fashion advert while you’re there. Gender constructs need to be deconstructed, for all of our sakes – that’s feminism, and I’m not waiting around for Germaine Greer to catch up with us all to do it.”

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8 thoughts on “No, I haven’t betrayed the sisterhood & other thoughts on trans guy ‘privilege’

  1. Thanks, this is a great article. Fwiw I think the trans exclusionary crowd are missing the real issue. Its not about transwomen trying to join a club they are not entitled to join nor is it about transmen rejecting a sisterhood. The real issue we as feminists need to be dealing with is why any of this matters in the first place. Why is their male privilege? Why are women paid less? Why does discrimination happen? Why does society tolerate (endorse?) rape culture? Etc and the more allies we have in this campaign surely the better. I do not seek to be advantaged by being trans. I want equal rights for all people regardless of gender. Gender is a personal thing, it matters to the individual, it should not matter to employers etc. This is the real fight and the trans exclusionary crowd are missing it. Just my 2 cents. But what do I know, I am just a tranny with delusions…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Women who claim that they are feminist, but are not accepting of all trans identities, can not have it both ways. They can not exclude trans women because they are not “real women” and then condemn trans men for being traitors.
    The pathologizing of T has to stop – lots of women take hormones for all sorts of reasons (hot flashes, birth control, the fountain of youth…) with no blowback.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What you say about feeling more comfortable expressing femininity in a masculine body resonates with me. I felt way more comfortable expressing and playing with femininity once I cut off all my hair, embraced the androgynous-to-masculine ways that I felt inside and wanted to express externally, and came out as nonbinary. It’s so funny – if you’d asked me a couple years ago, I never would have identified as femme, or wanted to be “girly” in any way, because when I did access that part of my identity, I was seen as a straight cis-woman, and felt the pressure to conform to certain roles and expectations that were incredibly uncomfortable for me. Now that I’m out, I feel much more able to flow between expressions day to day without that discomfort.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: No, I haven’t betrayed the sisterhood & other thoughts on trans*guy ‘privilege’ | The Invisible Trans*

  5. Pingback: What is Feminism for me as someone who appears male? #transgender #diaryofaqueerfeministgenderfucker | life writ large

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