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it’s infinitely more accurate to characterize a trans woman as a woman pretending to be a man than it is to say she’s a man pretending to be a woman
This is such an important point, and it hits at the crucial problem that even when cis people do genuinely try to wrap their brains around trans people, they tend to have trans men and trans women entirely reversed.
When a cis man tries to imagine what it would be like to be trans, invariably that man imagines what it would be like if he “wanted to be woman,” because that’s what many people think trans women are.
Instead, he should be trying to empathize with trans men. He should be thinking about his own childhood and relationship to manhood, and then asking himself how it would have felt if he’d grown up being told he was a girl, forced to wear dresses, never recognized by other boys as a boy, and then experienced the horror of going through the wrong puberty and becoming a giant estrogen factory.
Many cis women, particularly in LGBT spaces, will fall all over themselves trying to empathize and identify with trans men, because the same transmisogyny that tells them that trans women and cis men are connected tells them that cis women and trans men are connected.
Instead, cis women should be asking themselves what it would have been like if they had never been allowed to have their womanhood acknowledged. How would it have felt to grow up being told you were a boy, not allowed to deviate from male stereotypes (often with violent repercussions if you did), always viewed by other women as an icky boy or predatory male, exposed to the utter horror that is being a woman in male spaces where they think no women are around, and had testosterone distort your body irreparably only to have everyone around you use your anatomy and appearance to forever deny your womanhood and where your best possible outcome is to transition and live your life in abject poverty fighting loneliness and dysphoria and surrounded by people who think you’re a disgusting, subhuman monster who should be locked away or put down?
If you want to worry about men pretending to be women, pay more attention to trans men. They are men who are forced to pretend to be women, and while that is immensely fucked up for them to go through, it doesn’t change the fact that they are MEN in WOMEN’S spaces, and many of them take advantage of transmisogynist ideas about gender to stay in those spaces even after coming out and transitioning. Just look at all the trans men at women’s colleges – schools that in most cases will not allow trans women.
Trans women have always been women. Trans women have always been female.
Trans men have always been men. Trans men have always been male.
A trans woman cannot be a “man pretending to be a woman” because by definition we aren’t men and never were.
Needed to hear this today.
If you wanna have a clue what being a transgender person is all about, read this.
“ exposed to the utter horror that is being a woman in male spaces where they think no women are around ”
So many people have no idea how true this is. Almost no statement I have ever read has resonated with me more than this.
One of the arguments certain people (mostly terfs, but dishearteningly often well-meaning feminists who have accidentally been corrupted by terf rhetoric) make about trans women is that we experience “male privilege.” This is a muddy topic, because there are certainly some situations where being socially read as male is a convenience (it is much easier to apply for jobs pre-transition and then transition while employed than it is to apply for jobs during or after the more awkward and difficult parts of transition, as an example).
There can be benefits, here and there. But to call it privilege, especially with the term “male” attached to it, is horribly misleading .
Trans women can, in the earlier parts of our lives, EXIST in male spaces. That does not mean we belong in them. Or feel comfortable anywhere near them. Even if you look outwardly male, being in male spaces is terrifying . Even being in NEUTRAL spaces is terrifying. You are in a constant state of panic around men. And you fear rejection and ostracization from other women – the people you most empathize with and understand, whose personalities and ways of thinking most closely match your own, whose communities you desperately crave to be a part of because that’s where you belong – almost as much as you fear breathing the same air as any man you aren’t comfortably out to, including friends and family . We NEVER feel safe. And we are firsthand witnesses to all the reasons we SHOULDN’T feel safe around men. They’re horrifying. What was so frustrating about the “Locker Room Talk” scandal during the 2016 election, as a trans woman, is that you know from personal experience that it was “anywhere and everywhere outside the earshot of a woman” talk. Dozens of sports teams came forward and said no, we don’t talk like this, we would never say things like this, we would never disrespect women like this. I have never been an athlete. My only experience with locker rooms was required as a high school credit, and made me extraordinarily uncomfortable. I ASSURE you, I have heard talk like this OUTSIDE of the hypermasculine world of sports . The level of total disregard that men have for women’s most basic humanity is STAGGERING. Men don’t see women as less than human. They see women as less than ALIVE, nothing more than usable, disposable objects .
Trans women’s great “privilege” of existing “safely” in male spaces is being exposed to this world and these people up close, alone, (if in a locker room, without most of your clothes, and with all the added shame about your body that comes from that) in a state of absolute terror that ANYTHING about your personality, your mannerisms, your body language, the way you don’t quite fit in with the way they talk, will tip them off that you’re not one of them. Your LIFE depends on whether they notice. That’s not safety. That’s Russian Roulette where you don’t get the option to stop playing, and not only do you not know if or when you might get the bullet, you don’t even know how many bullets are loaded in the first place. Every single interaction with another human being is a trigger being pulled in slow motion, in overwhelming, agonizing detail as you can only wait to find out if you drew a blank.
We spend our lives pretending, often badly, to fit in with these people. Not because we have or want any god damn thing on this earth in common with them, but because the alternative – that they will know we aren’t – fills us constantly with a paralyzing, spine-chilling terror that is almost impossible to describe. Even when real benefits that do come from being read as male (again, this is usually socioeconomic factors), we are constantly, inescapably aware that all of these things come at the expense of our own authenticity . We have to lie to get them. We live in unbearable discomfort with the fact that everything good that happens to us is because other people are making these massively incorrect assumptions or judgments about the kinds of people we are . We live with the fact that everything good could be taken away the second anyone finds out we’re not what they wanted based on our appearance, because often it’s the only way we can survive at all.
Let me rephrase that last part for emphasis, because it’s integral to understanding the core of this issue, and the core of the argument that OP (and the excellent addition) wanted to make. If your takeaway is just ONE part of my addition to this post, let it be this:
Every single interaction we have with another human being is based solely on the value assigned to us based on our physical appearance, and how well we can conform to those expectations, which leaves us feeling suffocatingly, deeply uncomfortable and often terrified for our personal safety and livelihood.
Think about that before you put the words “male privilege” anywhere in a conversation about trans women.
For parts of our lives, we can exist in male spaces. But even in them, we are still always, at our core, women. Everything else is social. Everything else is acting. Trans women pretend to be men until we just can’t take it anymore, and we either live as the women we always were, or one way or another, we die. We can never really be anything other than female.
Womanhood is not the thing trans women have to fake.
Cis folks, read this.