The maxim “trans women are women” is a false equivalency that means at least three things.
First, it means that being raised as girl from birth is not an important or relevant aspect of being a “woman” because one can be a woman without these formative experiences.
Second, it means that having a female body is not an important or relevant aspect of being a “woman” because one can be a woman without being female bodied.
And third, it means that to be a “woman” simply reflects an individual’s desired relation to the social category “woman;” rather than serving as shorthand for the physical and cumulative experiential realities specific to female-born (and certain intersex) people around the globe.
To be a “woman” is to have been assigned the girl/woman social position at birth; subjective identification with that social position is irrelevant and varies wildly.
Reducing the experience of womanhood to a subjectively defined “inner knowledge” that is “inclusive” of anyone who claims to have such inner womanly knowledge erases the lived realities and material constraints placed on women and girls from birth—regardless of whether women enjoy being “women” or not, and regardless of whether they “identify” with other women or not. I will not trivialize these objective realities in order to “validate” the subjective identities of a few. That is not a statement of hate, it is a practical refusal to prioritize identity theory over women’s real lives.
Those of us who define ourselves as feminists have all at least at some point in our lives not identified with the full gamut of the social position that is imposed on us as humans born female-bodied or intersexed-deemed-female.
This does not make us transmen.
It makes us aware.
Some of us it makes radical.
Reblogged this on Female Biology Matters and commented:
Succinctly put by Elizabeth Hungerford:
Femininity and masculinity refers to concrete bodies but also to the constructed gender.
1) The struggle of women in their practical experience and for equal rights in practice.
2) The suffering of people who cannot comply to current heteronomous gender determinations – and for whom this would be a subordination and psychic deprivation.
Both of these issues can and should be addressed without pitting the two against each other.
Reblogged this on Critiquing Trans & Gender Identity Doctrine.
I was assigned female at birth and I’m not a woman. This whole “deny trans women’s womanhood while including people who aren’t women in your definition of womanhood” thing y’all do gives me a godsdamn headache.
I know, identity libertarianism creates some really mind-bending results, doesn’t it? And then THINKING about what they MEAN to a power analysis of social-class dynamics (aka ‘politics’)!? Oy. It hurts the brain. Denying material reality does that.
You know what gives me a godsdamn headache? The existential identity politics that demands “womanhood” as a human right.
To be a “woman” is not a human right and denouncing your social position as a woman is neither radical nor politically effective: it does not do a DAMN THING for the rest of us who remain in the subordinate social role of “woman.” Individualism and emotions of “empowerment” have no place in politics unless you are a libertarian.
Sensumpan, this is incorrect: “Femininity and masculinity refers to concrete bodies…”
Male and female refer to concrete bodies. Gender is a social construct that is layered OVER the material reality of sex (genital appearance at birth as illustrated in the Phall-O-Metrics graphic).
Confusing sex with gender is the very evil this website exists to combat. Please stop being confused.
“The suffering of people who cannot comply to current heteronomous gender determinations – and for whom this would be a subordination and psychic deprivation.”
^A PSYCHIC deprivation? What is this, a religious belief? No. This is material reality.
I was wondering something reading through your most recent article. People who are transsexuals, that is those who transition because of body/sex dysphoria, not because they like pink, not because they like dresses, but solely because something in their brain is not working properly. People who transition because of sex, not because of gender, who recognize that gender is made up and harmful to women, but at the same time are incapable of making their brain or body stop telling them they should have been female. How do you consider those people? Are they equally complicit in these harms? If you don’t mind answering, I would really like to know!
Thank you for your earnest question. In fact, “brain sex” does not exist. It is pseudo-science and remains quite controversial. It is FAR from a settled matter, though many people who consider themselves very smart about trans issues (trans-smart) will often passionately insist otherwise. When pressed to provide scientific evidence, the studies available on brain-imagining have very small sample sizes, limited statistical significance, and have not been repeatable. See the link above for more information. Continuing to rely on weak science and stereotypes about what women are predisposed to think and feel is just a reconstruction of neurosexism. Here’s another blog written by a transwoman that you may be interested in reading.
On an ideological level, to believe in “brain sex” is to believe 1> in gender essentialism generally (prgrammed from within), and more specifically, 2> “brain sex” theory inevitably postions trans-identified people as neurologically abnormal. Errors of nature, in other words. That is some offensive shit right there. And what about butch lesbians? Are they also neurological freaks of nature and they just don’t know it? Maybe we can find a pill to CURE these weirdos so they can be more hetero-NORMative like HEALTHY people are supposed to be! I’m being sarcastic in order to shed light on the logical ends of such thinking.
We need to THINK THESE THINGS THROUGH. Nothing less will bring social understanding and progress. Even if it’s emotionally or intellectually difficult to think. We must do the THINKING WORK on the conflation of sex and gender.
Thank you for your answer Elizabeth,
I’m sorry if I make it sound like I was defending brain sex, I just use the word brain because it fit in the sentence. I truly have no idea why I feel the way I do, and for my whole life wished I could be cured of it. Not to say that gender atypical behavior need be cured, just that I definitely didn’t and don’t understand why I felt the way I did/do and wished I could ‘fix’ it. I don’t claim to know the origin, only the affect it has on me.
I suppose I just don’t want to hurt anyone by living my life the only way I know how. I wanted to know if you still view someone who makes every effort to combat negative societal attitudes towards women and misogyny, but is trans for reasons of some disorder rather than because I like feminine things as part of the problem.
Kat: ” incapable of making their brain or body stop telling them they should have been female”
If a male is hearing his brain or body telling him he should have been female, what does that mean exactly? The only thing a male knows of being female is from the outside looking in. So “should have been” could include any or all of the stereotypes that the male has ingested from society’s billions of messages about women and girls, most of which are pure misogynist mythology. Therefore, his ingestion and regurgitation do not rise to the level of a sacred act that must be defended and protected as a human rights issue. Especially not by women who are working doggedly to undermine and overcome those billions of misogynist messages about females. Gender critical feminists do not support an individual’s needs to promulgate stereotypes about females, no matter the reason, because those stereotypes harm females, and males claiming special status in this way harm females as well.
Mental illness is a subtext of your question. But the males who are claiming these things are also claiming that they have the right to “identify” as women regardless of their sex and SRS status and without being diagnosed as having disordered thinking or other mental health issues. Quite the contrary, transgenderism is now being positioned as something completely natural and normal. The trans* political movement has been trying to have it both ways for a long time, claiming mental health issues when it suits them and claiming perfect normalcy out of the other side of their mouths. It is because most people aren’t paying close attention that they’ve been getting away with this. That contradiction is also not the problem of gender critical feminists. Women and their liberation from the oppressive system of gender is our topmost concern, period.
Hi again, Kat.
I’m REALLY glad you left a second comment so that I have the opportunity to explain something:
I don’t blame individuals for needing to survive. I don’t hate females or transwomen who wear make-up and heels, etc. I try not to hate myself for the things I do to survive, like having to exchange labor on the open market of capitalism or crying a lot (<very feminine). I do lots of things that lifestyle purists would disagree with. I am not a lifestyle purist, I am a POLITICAL THEORIST. I support the work of transwomen including Aunty Orthodox, Snowflake Especial, and even Just Jennifer (usually).
You can do what you need to do to survive as an indiviual without insisting that it is a biological imperative via “brain sex” and without reproducing the idea that “woman” is nothing more than internal feeling, that “woman” describes an identity (not an oppressed political class that is DEADLY for females), and/or that “woman’s” authenticity can be measured by her desired relation to a social construct.
I absolutely agree with you on a lot of what you have said. In fact I have done my best to be critical of those very behaviors and mindsets from within the trans community. Since getting more involved recently I have seen just how bad it has become, because the focus is on identity, and gender just as you said. I was merely asking, or more hoping, that the transsexual population, those who transition not because of gender or stereotype – or to gender or stereotype, but because of incongruity with their sex, were less problematic. Those with diagnosed GID, on hormones, having had or seeking surgery, and living normal lives as women.
I don’t ask, or want you to focus on my issues. What you are fighting is more important, and widespread, and ultimately benefits trans women as well. I am on your side entirely, and am just mostly hoping I guess that you might see people like myself as less of a problem.
As far as the issue with what it means to feel as though they should have born different, I didn’t mean to say they know what It’s like to be a woman, or know what it means to be female. More the opposite, I knew what it was to be male, and I knew I couldn’t live that way. Something about the mere fact of being male was the problem. I don’t know why and fully admit it to be a disorder, but I wasn’t capable of living a full and happy life as a male. Since transitioning I am much happier with who I am as a person, truly, and I have a full and fulfilling life. I don’t know the why or the how, only the what. I simply don’t want to harm anyone by living my life, that is why I’m here today, to see if you view the choices I’ve had to make as problematic.
Thank you Elizabeth,
That is absolutely the answer I was hoping for and I thank you for taking the time to talk to me today. I will continue to make sure I do not make generalizations or boil identity down to a tool for personal gain. I’ll also continue to combat these ideas from within the trans community at large, unfortunately I came here today due to my increased involvement there, which brought to light a lot of the problems you have pointed out over the years. Namely how many women transition because of or into their idealized version of femaleness, and impose very rigid male typical thinking on other women.
I am glad we could talk and if you don’t mind I would enjoy sticking around.
Awesome comment, No Anodyne. Thank you very much.
I am curious about your opinion as to where intersexed people lie on the Phallometer?
HUNGERFORD: THE PHALLOMETER WAS CREATED BY INTERSEX PEOPLE TO ILLUSTRATE THE PHYSICAL MECHANICS OF BOY/GIRL SOCIAL ROLE ASSIGNMENT.
If a person is born with ambiguous masculine genitals, has those genitals removed at birth, and is raised as a girl, yet has XY chromosomes, is this person a man or a woman? What if this person realizes that something is wrong in his/her teens, or early adulthood, and then transitions to male. Is this person then a man or a woman? re: David Reimer.
HUNGERFORD: RAISED AS GIRL=SOCIALIZED AS GIRL=SOCIAL POSITION AS GIRL/WOMAN.
HOW COULD SOMEONE “REALIZE” THAT SOMETHING IS “WRONG” UNLESS ONE CONFUSES CHROMOSOMES WITH GENDER AND BELIEVES THAT XY PEOPLE CANNOT OR SHOULD NOT BE FEMININE OR LIVE AS “WOMEN”?
REIMER IS IRRELEVANT; I AM SO TIRED OF HEARING ABOUT THIS ANECDOTAL MYTH. HIS POOR LITTLE PENIS WAS MUTILATED AT EIGHT MONTHS OLD. THAT IS NOT AT BIRTH BY A LONG SHOT, SOME CHILDREN ARE WALKING AND TALKING BY THEN! FURTHER, HAVING YOUR GENITALS POKED AND PRODDED BY DOCTORS (AND BEING TREATED LIKE A MEDICAL FREAK) *EVEN ONCE*–LET ALONE REPEATEDLY THROGUHOUT YOUR CHILDHOOD– IS TRAUMATIC IN ITSELF. HAVE YOU EVER CONSIDERED THAT? OR REIMER’S FAMILY HISTORY OF *SEVERE MENTAL ILLNESS*? YOU SHOULD.
On a superficial level it would appear that this person, having been assigned a female role at birth, should understand, by your definition, what it is to be a woman, or at least a girl. In spite of this, the person’s true male gender could not be quashed, and finally emerged. Is he any less of a man because of his female upbringing? Under your definition, it appears he is less of a man because he was not assigned male at birth; indeed, under your definition, he is not a man at all.
HUNGERFORD: WHAT IS “LESS OF A MAN”? I DON’T CONSIDER “MAN” AN IDENTITY, BUT A SOCIAL POSITION CREATED OUT OF LIFE-LONG, CUMULATIVE EMBODIED SOCIAL EXPERIENCES. YOU PRESUME THAT GENDER IS PROGRAMMED INTERNALLY BY CHROMOSOMES (OR SOMETHING). SOCIAL ROLES ARE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTS THAT WE INTERNALIZE AND ADAPT TO, THEY ARE NOT PATTERNS IMPRINTED ON OUR ETERNAL SOULS OR BRAINS. “the person’s true male gender could not be quashed, and finally emerged” <<TRUE MALE GENDER? PLEASE DEFINE WHAT THAT MEANS. AND DON'T REFER TO STEREOTYPES.
What about people born with AIS Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, who are raised as girls, yet possess XY chromosomes? Are they men or women?
HUNGERFORD: RAISED AS GIRL=WOMAN.
What people who suffer from Turner's Syndrome, with an XXY mosaic chromosomal structure, raised as male, yet transition to female? Are these men or women?
HUNGERFORD: RAISED AS MALE=MAN.
What about a person who has XY chromosomes, yet possesses testicles and a uterus?
HUNGERFORD: THAT IS AN INTERSEX PERSON WHOSE SOCIAL POSITION, LIKE EVERYONE ELSE'S, IS CREATED OUT OF HIS/HER GENDERED SOCIALIZATION PARTICULARLY IN CHILDHOOD.
Regardless of a person's chosen, or enforced gender, his/her gender assignment doesn't detract from your own womanhood, unless you feel so threatened by others that you allow others to define you. Your definition of gender (assigned a certain position at birth), and by extension, of self, necessarily hinges on social approval, and is therefore far from objective.
HUNGERFORD: MY WOMANHOOD IS NOT A BADGE OF HONOR I'M TRYING TO DEFEND. IT'S JUST A FACT. NO ONE CAN TAKE MY LIFE EXPERIENCES FROM ME EVEN IF I WANTED TO GIVE THEM AWAY, AND I DON'T NEED ANYONE'S SOCIAL APPROVAL TO KNOW MYSELF OR MY LIFE HISTORY. IT'S ACTUALLY A VERY BIZARRE IDEA THAT I WOULD NEED TO VALIDATE MY "WOMANHOOD" WHEN IT HAS BEEN FORCED ON ME FROM THE OUTSIDE.
"SOCIAL APPROVAL," AS YOU CALL IT, IS THE RELENTLESS AND CUMULATIVE UNWANTED SOCIAL *PRESSURE* ON INDIVIDUALS FROM COUNTLESS EXTERNAL SOURCES TO COMPLY WITH "APPRORIATE" GIRL/BOY SOCIAL ROLES FROM THE MOMENT OF BIRTH (OR BEFORE), THROUGHOUT CHILDHOOD, AND AS ADULTS. I DIDN'T ASK TO BE A WOMAN, I WAS TOLD OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN THAT I WOULD BE ONE. YOU SEEM TO PRESUME THAT WOMEN'S SOCIAL INFERIORITY (OPPRESSION) IS A RESULT OF OUR PERSISTENT DESIRE TO DEFINE AND TO BE SOCIALLY ACCEPTED AS "AUTHENTIC WOMEN." YOU ARE INCORRECT ABOUT THAT. AS AN EXAMPLE, THERE ARE NOT MALE CHILD BRIDES, ONLY FEMALE ONES– BECAUSE SEX-BASED SOCIAL ROLES DEMAND IT. WE ARE NOT CLAMORING TO BE SOCIALLY ACCEPTED AS THE PROPERTY OF MEN, NOR AS INTELLECTUAL INFERIORS. BUT WE ARE TREATED AS SUCH REGARDLESS OF OUR WISHES. THAT IS THE GRAVE DANGER OF NATURALIZING GENDER ROLES AS INNATE.
Finally, you say that you will not 'trivialize these objective realities', yet you choose to employ a simplistic and trivializing device such as the phallometer to clarify your argument against what is really quite a complex issue. I couldn't help but find the irony amusing. Perhaps that is your intention, in which case, I suppose I've completely missed the point.
HUNGERFORD: INDEED, YOU HAVE.
I think that this article raises fair points and I can agree with a lot of the comments that have been left especially the one about trans women being able to benefit from a contradiction of sorts where we at times claim mental illness yet normalcy at the same time. I’ve never fully understood that either though I do consider myself to be a fairly normal person, gender status withstanding.
I do think however that this conversation is a bit incomplete. If trans women are not women, then what are they? Am I a man because I was born male? What does being a man mean? What if I were raised as a girl from a younge age? Would that change your position or is that a position that’s solely relying on biology?
I have a hard time swallowing the idea that because I was born male that I am therefore a man. Mostly because if there’s one thing you feel when you transition it’s way that people around you tend to change their attitudes towards you because now you’re a woman.What I mean by that is that when I navigate the world as I am now (and have been for the past 6 years of my life) I find that I face issues that are very simliar if not exactly the same as any other woman in this society. I felt the strange and at time oppressive way that society views and treats women and how dangerous it can be to be a woman in this world. I discovered that a lot of my experiences and my reactions to my rape survival (which, full disclosure, happened after i had been in transition) and later abusive relationships to echo that of a majority of ciswomen whom have had the same experiences.
I can never claim to know and feel what it would be like to be a cisgendered woman though i’ve found in my pariticular circumstance that the only true way I differ from a cisgender woman are the obvious things that come from having a vagina (which understandably can shape large and important aspects of the female experience.
I always just find myself very perplexed when my womanhood is invalidated by cisgendered women mostly because I find it a hard pill to swallow that my experiences are that of a man and not of a woman. Even though, frankly in my situation,being trans hasn’t ever really dictated or changed how i’ve got on socially or fit into society and trans, pop op, pre op or non op there’s only one area in life where i’m ever judged, handled or viewed as anything other than a woman in this world and tha’ts my doctor’s office.
Just some thoughts/responses to this article. I see the points and I think they’re quite good ones. I personally dont necessarily compare myself to a cisgendered woman, but I do think that I fall into the same ‘woman’ category that they do but we’re simply different. I have no issues accepting that I am male, but I think a ‘man’ is a very different thing all together. I’m curious about your thoughts. I won’t ever doubt who I am or how i view myself, but i’m interested in your position.
One thing: Turners is having a ox makeup. xxy is Kallmann’s (sp?)
Hi kattyblaque, thank you for your comment. It is the false equivalency created by “trans women are women” that causes so many problems because it excludes space for discussion of any *difference.*
There is, as you quite rightly describe, yet another level of sociological analysis to be done about CURRENT treatment-as-woman versus LIFELONG treatment-as-woman. I use words like cumulative and formative to start describing the differences. If we can agree that there are important differences between the life experiences of girl-socialized women and self-identified women, if we can TALK ABOUT THAT without ridiculous claims of “transphobia” being thrown around, I would call that an incredible breakthrough in the discussion about gender politics. Unfortunately, I don’t expect that will be happening anywhere but in very limited spaces created and controlled by gender critical feminists. It is interesting that some trans women acknowledge this, but it is TABOO for a “cis” woman to do so (btw, the word cis doesn’t mean anything to me; see my article “A feminist critique of “cisgender” here).
These are things we should talk about. And by TALK ABOUT, I don’t mean just the neutral observation of difference, but how these experiences SHAPE us differently. Sometimes trans people will talk about “rejecting” their childhood gender conditioning. I don’t think internalization of social role is that simple.
It’s interesting how people continue to bring up intersex conditions when defending trans. It’s even more interesting how they refuse to get the facts straight. Andrea, PLEASE do your homework before hijacking others’ genetic conditions to suit your agenda. You are being disrespectful to people who actually have these conditions when you talk about them without getting your facts straight. It’s even worse if you consider how few people are born with some of these conditions. You are appropriating disorders affecting a true minority.
Some basic biology: Turner’s syndrome is caused by the lack of an X chromosome, so that instead of a person having two functional copies of the X chromosome (XX) or a functional X and Y chromosome, a person is either missing one X chromosome in every body cell (referred to as 45, X– 44 chromosomes plus only one X chromosome, which happened during production of sex cells in one of the parents as a result of the incorrect segregation of chromosomes–, aka nondisjunction, usually during sperm production) or they have some cells containing two XX chromosomes and some cells containing only one X. In the latter case they have mosaicism, and may show less severe symptoms than a person with only one X, and they may be able to reproduce. There is no such thing as a person who is XXY having Turner’s syndrome, simply because in Turner’s syndrome, the Y chromosome is not present. You are referring to Kleinfelter’s syndrome, a completely different condition. People with Kleinfelter’s tend to be assigned male at birth, because they have the external genitalia considered male.
Although it may be convenient for you to bring up disorders like Turner’s as ammunition in your arguments about transgender, note that Turner’s is much more than an intersex condition. It causes most fetuses who have it to be spontaneously aborted, because the X chromosome determines much, much more than the sex of a fetus. It’s serious business. So show some respect, please.
You write: ” What about people born with AIS Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, who are raised as girls, yet possess XY chromosomes? Are they men or women?”
It’s simplistic to think that XX means girl and XY means boy when we know so much more about genetics than we did when doctors began to do human karyotype analysis, over 60 years ago. This was three years after Watson and Crick “borrowed” Franklin’s data to predict the structure of DNA. But at that time we knew very, very little about the how DNA actually functioned. Today, we know so much more. Not everything, to be sure, but enough to obviate simplistic discussions of the meaning of X and Y.
Today we know that to be male, a fetus needs a WORKING, functional copy of the Y chromosome, containing a WORKING copy of the SRY gene, which in turn affects other genes located on the other chromosomes in the cell. We also know that a male needs to have working copies of the genes affected by SRY, as well as working copies of other genes that are unaffected by SRY. Without all of this working, a fetus will not show the outwards signs of maleness that will determine how that child is brought up SOCIALLY. As shown in the phallometrics diagram, without a structure resembling a phallus of a certain size, a baby will be relegated to the female realm and brought up as such.
Hormones can turn certain genes on and off. In the case of complete AIS, the genes that are supposed to be controlled by androgens like testosterone, do not function correctly, because the receptor that carries the androgen to the gene is broken. So as a fetus, the genes that turn tissue into ovaries or testes, penis/clitoris, etc., are not turned on by testosterone, and the fetus gets a phenotype that looks more female than male, and at birth begins to be socialized by society as a female. And when puberty hits, again, the tissues that are supposed to respond to testosterone can’t. So again the person continues to look female. In the case of partial AIS, the genes respond somewhat, but not enough for the child to be assigned and treated as a male, and in the case of mild AIS, there may be only a defect in sperm production, but not in looks. So in that case, the child will be raised male, despite the inability to reproduce.
Well, I would say that there are different experiences obviously but I think the thing we should also recognize is that trans women are vast and our experiences will drastically differ from person to person.
For instance: I’m 23 years old. I went to school as a woman, I pass and haven’t ever really experienced discrimination for being trans, i’ve moved into the professional realm only as a woman and my romantic relationships have only ever been as a woman. I never really experienced what many would call ‘male privelege” because I never really fully had the chance to.
On the other hand:
There are trans women who transition much later in life that have had entire carrers and lives built on the foundation of thier male privlege. These trans women tend to have to spend years undoing what are now decades of an established male life and in a lot of cases will never be able to pass and will probably never truly feel how socieity treats women because in a superficial sense they just don’t fit into that box.
So the experiences of trans women can vary in so many degrees and I think they aren’t as easy to define as perhaps the experiences of a cisgender woman (which, I understand your issue with the term but it’s a term that exists much like the term ‘heterosexual’ exists in response to the fact that there are conversations that discuss the contrary).
There’s going to be a point in my life where i’ve spent far more years as a woman than I have as a ‘boy’. I wonder then what that says. I cannot discount the differences that come from being raised as a girl because those are very apparent differences. For example: girls are raised to be somewhat cautious of their surroundings, their bodies and how they conduct themselves. Trans women are generally not and that leads to a gamut of issues that shock us when we begin our transitions.
The way I live my life now, I can honestly say the fact that I”m transgender is irrelevent. It’s such a non issue across the board and rarely comes up in my life off of the internet and outside of youtube. I recognize that regardless of my birth sex, my genitalia or my status i’m not only socially recognized as a woman but legally. I can honestly say that the world is more likely to judge me for being a woman than they are to judge me for being a trans woman (especially being a woman of color).
I think that there needs to be a discussion of what our experiences are and what they fall under because while i can recognzie that there are areas where we differ that are simply irrefutable, I can’t ignore that at least in my personal experience people are indifferent to me being transgender and I experience the good, bad and the ugly of being a woman in this society.
kattyblaque, every female knows that privilege is not just about adulthood. It is very much about how you are raised as a child. Every female can speak to this, but here’s my story:
I am one of five children– four girls in a row, then a boy. I am three years older than my next younger sister, four and 1/2 years older than my brother. I remember both of their births/infancy clearly. My sister was born in a snowstorm, had the ceremony initiating herself to our family’s religion a month later, with a party at our house afterwards. My brother, similar. Except at this party, my grandfather handed out gold coins to every person present, in celebration of the fact that my parents had finally had a boy. No gold coins to celebrate any of the female births, just the boy.
My brother, whom I love dearly had many things given to him that the girls did not. A car when he turned 16. A college education, fully paid for by my parents. The girls got none of these things. I got my BS and PhD with a combination of merit scholarships and loans. I idolized my dad, yet at every instance, every time I offered to help him, I was told, “No. Get your brother.” “You are useless.” “You are like tits on a bull.” Those are exact words, despite the fact that I am talented in those areas typically considered male, more talented than my brother, who did not particularly like my dad or want to help him. I was not allowed to play sports. The all girls high school I attended on full academic scholarship did not have the same breadth of course offerings or similar expectations to the all boys school down the road attended by my brother. Why not? Because the expectations for girls, the value of girls was and remains less than for boys.
I won’t get into the treatment I received in graduate school as a result of my gender, other than to say that I was told that if I got married I could pretty much kiss a competitive career in academia goodbye.
Other women I’ve talked to have similar stories, even women your age. And we all know that people born in less affluent, more traditional countries can tell us stories that are even worse.
So kattyblaque, despite the facts that you see yourself as no different than a born woman and you think others treat you the same does not negate the fact that you were raised as a boy, and that being raised a boy you were valued differently, more importantly than most females. This has shaped you and affects the way you interact with others, no matter how much you discount it.
I hope it’s okay that first I say this is a really good discussion.
Elizabeth: Sometimes trans people will talk about “rejecting” their childhood gender conditioning. I don’t think internalization of social role is that simple.
At nearly age 60, I totally agree with this. Rejecting your gender conditioning, particularly if you were raised male, is extremely difficult. You may hate what masculinity means, you may hate what males do to each other and females, you may reject society’s expectations, but still … you were raised male. A working-class male such as the one I’m married to does not expect economic privilege or status, but he is raised with a sense of entitlement. My oldest sister, in many ways raised as a male by my father, has a HUGE sense of entitlement and superiority.
In contrast, my middle sister and I, raised as females by my mother yet blessed with the same extremely high IQ as my oldest sister, were basically passed over. My sister wanted to study music and was told that was not possible; I wanted to be a forest ranger and was told that was not possible. No reasons why our interests were dismissed, no recognition by teachers or anyone else that we were both blessed with extraordinary academic ability. I fully believe that if we had been boys we would have been treated far differently, not only within our family, but in school and society. I actually don’t regret this as I see my role in life as one who views the world critically and profoundly, but I really would have liked to be a forest ranger.
I’m not buying that really and here’s why:
What you described is specific to your experience and your family dynamic. You may very well have been raised in a situation where the men in your family were valued over the women,however that isn’t a model that in contemporary times necessarily can be found in all families. I for one know several women whom have recieved preferential treatment simply because they’re women (see: daddies little girl). Is your womanhood or rather girlhood defined by the disadvantage you faced in your childhood? Are women whom come from families that value women over men have less of a right to claim womanhood?
I was never given anything. My parents never bought me a car (i dont even have a liscene), they didn’t pay for my education (in currently 200k in debt), and I’ve had to be self motivated because of the somewhat low expectations my parents had of me. I repeat that when I moved into the professional world i moved into it as a woman and when I graduated college they graduated me as the woman i am. I have never experienced any sort of benefit to being raised as a boy. In fact it was, for many years a great disadvantage as I had to deal with seeking employment in my hometown.
There are some trans women whom have experience some sort of benefit to being raised as a boy, there are however those of us whom have spent their formative years as the women they are post transition. I cannot refute or deny that there are things i missed from not being raised a girl but there was nothing i gained or benefited from being raised as a boy in my life both childhood and adulthood.
You can refute the realities of my experiences all you’d like but at the end of the day they are just that, my experiences as are yours. Mine do not represent all trans women and yours do not represent all women. The feelings and opinions of others are not going to change the realities of my life and the fact of regardless of being raised as a boy i am judge in this world as a woman and face the same discriminations.
kattyblaque, may I enquire further regarding the ‘cisgender women’ you compare yourself to? Do they self identify as cisgender, or have you given that assignment? And either way, does this occur in a thoughtspace where women are either cis or trans, or where one can identify as cis, trans, or neither, or both?
I’m just wondering what are the characteristics of the subset of women you are talking about when you make this statement:
“So the experiences of trans women can vary in so many degrees and I think they aren’t as easy to define as perhaps the experiences of a cisgender woman (which, I understand your issue with the term but it’s a term that exists much like the term ‘heterosexual’ exists in response to the fact that there are conversations that discuss the contrary).”
I’m sure the argument will be raised that things are different now, that the experiences of those of us who are older than 23 are much different, that the conditioning we have experienced is just not the same as for current and recent kids.
But as a mother of a 13 year old boy, I can see the very same conditioning happening. My son is an only child, so I can’t say that I treat him differently than a daughter, but at his school it happens every day. He attends a math and science magnet school, one that is open to all kids through an applicant lottery. Students are chosen randomly, but because many, many more males than females apply the classes are mostly male. Of course a kindergartener does not apply to school– it’s the parents doing so. And most parents in my community apparently do not see their little girls as math and science oriented.
But it’s more than that. I have volunteered at my son’s school from day one, and observed the ways boys and girls interact. In first grade I heard little girls talking about dieting, and bringing lunches consisting only of salads. Never the boys. Note that none of the kids at this school are overweight. They come from middle class to affluent families (another interesting thing about the applicant lottery– it’s self biased toward the wealthier in the community) in a so-called “progressive” city, parents who smugly think they are tuned into this kind of stuff. These girls’ parents did not give their daughters Barbies or Disney Princesses, but somehow most of the younger girls still come to school in pink ruffles and sparkles and are talking about boyfriends by 3rd grade, and worry about their non-existent “figures”. Of course, the boys aren’t worrying about any of this. The Lego team, despite lots of outreach, is still almost all boys. So is the chess team and computer club. Somehow, the girls have gotten the message early on that these areas are not for them. It’s sickening.
My point is that gender conditioning is insidious. And nothing so insidious can be rejected so easily, as many trans claim.
This statement belies ignorance about both childhood social, psychological, and cognitive development and about the pernicious ubiquity of gendered conditioning:
“…there was nothing i gained or benefited from being raised as a boy in my life both childhood and adulthood.”
You can’t possibly expect women raised as little girls to believe this?
Let’s start in school, I refer you to Failing At Fairness by Myra & David Sadker. In fact, maybe read the 2011 update to the classic. Sexism happens, even when you fail to perceive it as such. There are millions of little ways in which girls are reminded of their social value. Every single one has an effect.
Here’s another angle to consider, from the APA Task Force Report on the Sexualization of Girls:
This conversation is getting very interesting, and if it is okay I would also like to speak to the socialization/gendered development discussion. I think that, because trans women who identify as lesbians and who most often interact in these spaces are the ones who lived the most male typical lives it becomes really easy to see trans women as being these decidedly male acting and thinking creatures. Which is true, a lot of us are, but there are groups from within trying to combat that.
That said while my socialization was certainly different from yours, and that ought be respected, and there ought be discussions of that nature, it doesn’t make it necessarily more beneficial to me, to have lived the way I did. To spare a long winded sob story, some of us internalized the same things girls did, I thought that I had to conform to the same things they did in order to ‘earn’ being a girl. As a child its easy to think that girls are people who do lady like things, especially when that is all you were told. As a result those of us who internalize those things often suffer harsh physical, mental, and sexual abuse. But that discussion doesn’t belong here, as it doesn’t effect you and doesn’t need to be had in this space.
If trans women in womens spaces only spoke to issues that effect other women, and remained silent on issues that were trans specific, leaving those for specifically trans spaces would that work as a compromise?
Hi again, Kat, thank you for sharing.
I agree that internalizing the messages directed at little girls would be harmful to anyone. Everyone please take note that this is because GENDER HURTS (girls and) WOMEN. Gender is NOT a neutral binary. Gender is designed to teach girls to become women who are submissive, insecure, and self-conscious about EVERYTHING.
At the same time, being treated as a boy–and not a girl–surely benefitted you at certain points in your life, regardless of whether you realized it at the time time and regardless of whether you “liked” it or not. I really try to avoid using racial analogies because they are necessarily imperfect, but this would be like a white child contending that she had no benefit from being seen as white (and raised as white) by others in her childhood because she did not want to be white and internalized messages that were directed at people of color. Liking/wanting/feeling “right” about it is not the point. The point is that socialization is not under our conscious control.
To repeat what I quoted from Bethany Black (Julia Serano is on record saying similar things):
This disparate treatment applies to girls too, not just adult women. It becomes so normalized that it’s invisble. Here is an example from Swedish school teachers:
This is exactly what was proved, in much more detail, by Myra and David Sadker’s extensive research on classroom dynamics. Many teachers truly believe they are being gender-neutral until they are videotaped. Same for parents. Cordelia Fine covers this in her book “Delusions of Gender.”
By the way, I found what you said about ‘earning’ the right to be seen as a ‘girl’ very interesting. Many of us have this same feeling. For example, my hippie parents deterred me from “femininity” and refused to buy me “girl” toys like Barbies. I felt that I had to overcompensate to PROVE that I was an “authentic” girl by wearing skirts and pink and purple all the time. Gender fucks with all of our heads. Seriously. All of us. It really must be deconstructed, NOT naturalized as part of our essential beings. Naturalizing is the opposite of progress.
Thank you for your reply Elizabeth,
I’m sorry I didn’t mean to say I didn’t benefit at all or at certain times, but I think with the way my particular life turned out, I invited a lot of abuse into my life that wasn’t for example there for my three sisters. I know it gave me the benefit of being taken seriously where now I’m not. For example my advice with computers then was considered law, an unemployed 16 year old boy. But now a 23 year old woman actually working in IT with limitless amounts more experience, let’s just say people at the electronics store have accused me of being lost.
My point was simply that some of us distance ourselves from our past, because that isn’t who we are any longer, and because some of us had uniquely bad experiences as a result. And that some of us really resent that past and with the way we were treated its hard to accept someone saying that it was a privilege. Much the same, I’m sure, as you feel when some trans women accuse you of having ‘cis privilege.’ Because while the theory may be absolutely true in nearly all cases (male privilege for example) its hard to reconcile that with the reality of our lives.
I agree entirely that gender is bad for everyone, uniquely women and girls and I support entirely the efforts to deconstruct it. That is why I don’t really want to dwell on my experience, because my experience as a child wasn’t that of a girl, and doesn’t belong here. I just use it to highlight briefly that some people don’t have a net benefit from the way they were born, even if according to society they ought to.
That said it is interesting that you also felt the same way, I didn’t ever talk to anyone who indicated they felt the need to earn the right to be a girl, my sisters and friends often said they took it as a given. Oddly it seems more in adulthood that they are feeling this pressure. Albeit they don’t consider it great, but they do feel it more than they did as a child. Which may or may not be better I’m not sure. But I know that I saw how they were told to act, and I did my best to comply with that in hopes that somehow it would make me a girl. From this perspective it seems silly and even a little fucked up, but I guess I didn’t know better as a young child. Anyway, I’m sorry you had to experience that feeling, I know it is not very fun.
I hope that you don’t think of me as supporting the idea of gender and gender roles, but I know that it probably nearly impossible not to. The only defense I have for myself is that I recognize gender is bad, but I am transitioning because for whatever reason I cannot be happy in the sex to which I was born. Something about me I don’t claim to understand told me my whole life that I should have been female, and so I responded to that after making some very poor decisions and realizing it was the only choice I had left. I don’t do it because I like pink, or that acting feminine is built in to people’s minds, in fact I recognize that it is all forced, as it was on my sisters and I copied onto myself. I don’t really know why I transition just that I felt a need to, I always wanted to, and I had no where else to go in my life but to hope that addressing the concern I sat with for two decades may be the answer. Thankfully it has been, but I regret that I may be causing damage to a movement that I know to be of utmost importance, and one that I, regardless of where in my past I look, will have benefited from.
kattyblaque, I’m not surprised you would try the contemporary families tack in your response. Because surely what has been experienced by older woman could not be the norm for younger women, correct? Tactics like yours serve only to further divide women. You have chosen to live as a woman. So why not honor and respect the histories of the born women you emulate instead of dismissing them as irrelevant? Yet this is what you do every time you suggest that you have not benefited from the male socialization you received as infant, child and teen.
I have told my story, and you have told yours. But the key difference in our stories is not that you are a very young 23 years of age. The difference is that you were raised male. My husband’s story sounds a lot like yours– he is the first in his family to go to college let alone earn a PhD and he was saddled with massive debt doing so. His family also had very low expectations, but although they may not have expected him to amount to much, they NEVER told him that this was because he was a male. See the difference? Males don’t have the same limitations placed on them as females, period. Not when I was a teen, not when my husband was a teen, not when you were a teen.
As for the daddy’s girl thing, my sister-in-law was very much a daddy’s girl. What did she learn from this? To manipulate men, to live off her looks, to aspire to be a trophy wife, etc. It is only now that she has been discarded (as aging trophy wives are), that she is learning self sufficiency, something boys are taught from a very young age. So that “preferential treatment” you describe was actually a hindrance.
I have a son ten years younger than you. If you don’t see my story as relevant, given my age, surely you will relate to his, given the closeness in your ages. I can see the effects of male socialization on him. He is confident. He has never been told (by parents, teachers, TV or other media) that there are things he cannot do (apart from bearing a child), but he has been told there are things women and girls can’t do. Not overtly, of course. But we read the books he reads and still, despite being “quality” fiction, the bulk of the heroes are male, and the bulk of the females are stereotyped. Same as when I was his age. We check out the video games he wants to buy and watch the same movies he does. And although we do our best to winnow through the most egregious examples of stereotyping, they are everywhere. We went to see a scifi movie this weekend. Of the 20 characters on the screen, 2 were female. The girls in his class (he is at a math science magnet, as I wrote above) will not join the science math related clubs, like Lego robotics, chess club, computer club. They even use the computer differently, to socialize instead of playing strategy and building games like Minecraft, etc. This isn’t a hard wired difference, and it’s not aptitude. Girls do better at math and science than boys until well into high school. But they are being told it’s not a girl thing, and they begin to select out of these paths and into ones that will give them less economic independence.
All I can do as a parent is deconstruct my own socialization, and help my son deconstruct his. But even with this effort, he still benefits, because gender was designed to benefit his half of the population. This is also your half, although you have chosen to opt out. Refusing to accept that there were benefits given to you, solely because of your sex is choosing to ignore the reality and purpose of gender roles and socialization.
I totally get what you are saying, cerulean blue, and would like to add to it. kattyblaque speaks of her parents’ low expectations, but then speaks of her high self-motivation. My sister and I were told countless times we were expected to go to college (she did, I didn’t), etc, etc, but our female socialization made it very difficult for us to buck our family and their dismissals of our actual interests. We did not go against what we were told, whereas kattyblaque did, and I would guess it would be due to male socialization. A friend wanted to become a dancer, was told that was impossible, and accepted what she was told. Her brother wanted to become a cartoonist, was told that was a bad idea, and went ahead and became a cartoonist. As Elizabeth points out, these things are so subtle that one doesn’t even know one is experiencing them. If my mother was still alive and I could ever have told her how I felt about having my interests dismissed, she would be shocked and hurt. And by the way, lots of us weren’t given cars and did not have college paid for.
I have never and I would never seek to invalidate your experiences. I am more than aware of the struggles women have had to face in society and in your age. However, I find it interesting how you sit on this pedestal seeking to refute and object to any insinuation that I wasn’t perhaps raised with the amount of entitlement that your brothers were. A sheer lack of an ability to recognize that not every family unit is the same and that while yes, my parents attempted to raise me as a boy, I never fully was able to fall into that and everyone around me knew it…Even my mother and even my classmates.
I’m not the first in my family to go to college. My mother is a Harvard grad and my father graduated from the University of Illinios. They’re both educated and intelligent but they had low expectations of me because I was a gender nonconforming child…especially being a queer teen. Any sort of preferential treatment I would have recieved from being male was pretty much pushed past me because I didn’t at all resemble any sort of boy that anyone would have wanted to give preferential treatement towards. It was easier for people to simply not deal with me all together.
I spent most of my childhood in solitude. Be it rummaging around in the park or locked up in the library drawing. When I did have friends, they were all femae because the boys didn’t quite know how to deal with me (especially when I was a teenager and I was developing very noticible breasts).
I went to college for character animation. Animation is a historically sexist industry with very few women having major roles.. The year I got accepted into college, our class was predominately female. IThe years that proceeded went on the same way. When I moved into the professional world, I did so with a lot of my female classmates. They were, for the most part, able to find nice steady stable jobs within the industry. Some of which were major. Then again, you can say the same about my male classmates though they ended up moving up the ladder a lot faster. No one is going to turn to me and say that because I was raised male that I should then be able to pursue and fulfill roles that are given to men through male privielege. Just doesn’t work like that.
I can’t deny that I was not raised as a girl, but I think saying that I was raised as a boy isn’t really accurate because all of the benefits you outlined that your brothers recieved were not things that I at all was able to obtain. I can however say that I notice a stark difference between my personality and my boyfriends personality. My boyfriend IS a lot more entitled and a lot more confident than I am. He’s very easily able to command a room even though he considers himself shy. He has a sort of smug nature and appraoch to life that is in stark contrast to mine which is much more withdrawn and much more polite and cautious (i am constantly getting compliments on how polite i am. ahha). I’m not sure what that means about my upbringing but when he shows me pictures of his childhood and talks about his childhood experiences with friends and family, it sounds nothing like mine. Nothing at all. We’re the same age and we grew up in the same era and his childhood memories consist of things that simply never happened in my life as a child. He had a very stereotypical male upbringing. Even played football in highschool and college and was a frat boy. He has had complete sociation in this world as a man. He has benefited from male privilege and I see the stark differences between him and his sister who is just now going to college.
I am more than aware of the way that children are stereotyped and perhaps a bit brainwashed into certain gender roles. I am more than aware of the stereotypes women face in the medias you mentioned (especially being a character animator and childrens illustrator). But I dont think i really fell prey to that when I was a child…especially since I was a KCET kid. haha. My hero when I was a child was Xena the warriror Princess. And while, yes, i did love Power Rangers like every 90s kid, I always wanted to be the pink ranger.
I think the problem here is you’re conflating the childhood of a cisgendered boy who identifies as such and lives and acts as such through his childhood without issue or rejection and that of an, at the very least, gender nonconforming child who grows up and transitions into a transsexual woman. I always to a certain degree knew that I was not a boy. Therefore, i dested anything that I saw as boyish. And no, I’m not a trans woman who simply loves girly things and blah blah blah. I’m a trans woman that has always admired strong women who broke away from stereotypes and were powerful. I’ve always admired women who have the ability to outsmart and outdo men without exploiting themselves. Those are the figures that I modeled myself after as I matured into who I am today.
As I said earlier, there are plenty of trans women whom, I’m sure, have benefited from male privelege. If my boyfriend told me tomorrow that he wanted to transition there would be no denying that he would feel entitled and enabled to do so after years of experiencing the positives and the benefits from being a male in this world. i never experienced those things because for the most part they weren’t offered to me and in the few situations where they were I rejected them. Every trans woman’s situation is different. Some of us WERE in fact raised as girls. I know several trans women who went to middleschool and highschool as girls and some that were raised as women from a younger age. This does exist. Just because you havent heard of it or it’s not on the news doesn’t mean it doesnt/hasn’t happened. what do you say to those people then? What if someone was raised and completely socialized as a girl and that’s all they ever knew?
As I said earlier in other comments, I think that trans women and cis women will always be somewhat seperate but on a larger level, always associated. I can’t argue that I’m like you in every single way but I’m far far far more simliar to you than I am different from you.
I can honestly examine my life and say that i felt no benefit nor positives from being male. And no that’s not me sitting on my hands and ignoring whatever privelege that was given to me. I’m honestly examining my life and i’ve come up empty. Everything I’ve acomplished in life was acomplished because I encouraged myself to do them despite how many people doubted me. And most if not all of those accomplishments were done post transition. I challenge you to examine my life and really see how and where I have at all been able to do something that a woman couldn’t do because i was raised male. And no, i’m not asking for the experiences of your brothers or your son. I’m asking for mine.
Thanks, Kate(Kat). I assume that you are not “kattyblaque” and it’s just a coincidence that you are both 23 year old trans women commmenting on this thread, right? 🙂
What you’ve said is cool with me. I think sex-based BIID is real; I just think it should be normalized as “trans” and explained by the precense of an underlying, “gender identity.”
I agree, it probably does feel like when a trans person tells me that I have “cis privilege,” but it’s important to use the words “benefit” and “privilege” appropriately. In the context of political discussion– and this is one– we are talking about socio-structural benefits and privileges, not personal feelings. As a friend of mine recently said:
“Liberal ideology tells us that oppression comes from the expression of views which we dislike rather than from society being structured in a way that perpetuates some people maintaining power and privilege at the expense of other social sectors.”
Feminism is focused on anlaysis and discussion of how society is STRUCTURED and what maintains those structures because that is how oppression operates. And ending OPPRESSION is a political undertaking. This is ALWAYS about politics.
Tobysgirl, I’m confused and perplexed
So in your situation, your sister was told that she couldn’t go to college and she did.
In my situation, i was told I would never find happiness or acomplish much in my life because I’m transgender and I did despite that
But this is a result of male socialization? How does that completely register in your mind? Me and your sister both did the same exact thing. What does that say about your sister? Does it even say anything?
Why can’t we look at both situations and recognize that we both bucked our parents expectations and came out happier because we both ultimately pursued what we knew would make us happy and our lives more prosperous?
I feel like your argument loses weight when you highlight the fact that women are able to overcome the odds all the time. I think this would be a very different discussion if women were simply held prisoner by their parents expectations and there was no hope for going outside of those expectations. But women defy their parents expectation every day. Sure some don’t, but a lot do. Shouldn’t we be in the bussiness of encouraging that for everyone regardless of who they are?
kattyblaque, no one can erase your experiences, of course. At the same time, no one here is going to agree that:
Even JAZZ will be affected by the treatment she received in her early years or months AND the fact that all the adults around her know that she was born male. Please refer to the excerpt I put in a prior comment about how the TEACHERS found themselves treating students differently according to sex/gender. I’ve read similar accounts in different contexts where people THINK they are being gender-neutral but they aren’t. Socialization is not something you can escape or discard by sheer force of will; it simply doesn’t work that way. And further, trans girls and trans women CHOOSE to live as girls and women AFTER they gain a conscious (if incomplete) understanding of what “gender” means to the world. The rest of us never have that opportunity.
I am not arguing that these experiential differences are always monumental, but countering false equivalencies is what this post is ALL ABOUT. Difference may be meaningful, and when it is, we MUST be allowed to discuss it.
Haha yeah sorry about that, I usually use Kat online and Kate IRL just because that is how people have referred to me. I sent a LOT of emails at work today so I just typed Kate without thinking. Regardless call me whatever you’d like!
Anyways that’s actually a really odd coincidence that she and I are both 23, trans, names start with k, and posting in the same thread. The internet is really cool like that!
And I really do thank you for your understanding. Few people seem willing to truly listen to others and instead just repeat their preconceived notions. I really, really appreciate it, thank you. And I will continue doing my part in the trans community, deconstructing the concept of gender and challenging other trans women to do the same. I hope that our groups as a whole might see eye to eye someday, but I think I’ll probably be pretty old by the time it happens. If it does.
And I’m sorry I guess that is one I’ll have to think on more its hard for me to separate the notion of benefit and privilege, so thanks for giving me something to think about! That’s why I find these sites so interesting, I am a gigantic nerd and enjoy thinking in new ways haha.
But thank you again for talking to me! I really enjoy our conversations.
And I’m not going to disagree with that Elizabeth but this again brings us to the previous discussion we had about the otherside of this conversation and how it’s defined.
Can you really say that Jazz’s situation is one that is comparable to that of a boy who isn’t trans and never will be? Isn’t her situation effected by the fact that she is in the media and that people know that her situation is what it is and less about who she’d be independent of the media?
I’ve known several girls who spent their middle school highschool and college years as girls without anyone knowing that they were trans. If you’re going to argue that they have ‘male sociation” I think it’s important to define what that means for trans women. Because I think to say that trans children are treated with the same amount of advantage that boys are treated with is just rather inaccurate. And you have to conceed that. No one is going to turn to jazz and tell her that she is going to be able to truly benefit from being a man in this world because that’s not accurate. It may be convineient for people to say that because it makes the discussion easier but it’s just not accurate.
I’m very curious as to how everyone claiming that I’ve expereinces some sort of male sociation and benefit would define that for me and for other people who spent formative years as girls. Everything everyone has said thus far I can honestly say isn’t accurate for my particular situation. Additionally, there’s a whole other aspect of this conversation that has yet to be discussed: what about trans men? What about men whom were raised ‘as girls’? Conversations about transsexuality seem to exclusively be able the trans feminine and not about the trans masculine because I feel like there’s a great stigma placed on ‘men’ who want to give up their ‘male privlege’ to be a ‘disadvantaged class’. What do we have to say about the other side of the coin?
kattyblaque, CAREFULLY read what commenters write. I did not say my sister was told she couldn’t go to college. I said, we were all told we were expected to go to college. However, our interests were not respected, and unlike socialized males, we did not have whatever it takes to buck the dismissal of our interests. And I did not say I knew of women who defied their families’ expectations, I wrote of my friend’s BROTHER who defied his family’s expectations. When I think of all the women I’ve known, I can’t really think of any who defied their family’s expectations IF their family had expectations. (A minister I knew had been a mechanic in the air force, but there were no expectations of her in her family; she was basically abandoned and neglected.)
kattyblaque, again you attack instead of relying on the merits of your argument. Do you not see that your tactics are very male, and in themselves refute your claim that you were not socialized as male?
I am not placing myself on a pedestal. Also, I have only one brother. If you had read my words with a little more care you might have noticed that.
In my first comment to you above, I wrote that every woman has a story she can tell about privilege. I then gave a personal example– my example. I don’t see my life as exemplifying the oppression faced by all born women,. nor did I claim that. It is merely an example. As a first generation American, my story is different from some. Perhaps in some ways it is more extreme than that faced by women whose families have been in this country for generations, for people whose parents were fortunate enough to attend Ivy league colleges, etc. It’s probably a bit closer to the experience most women world wide experience– an open discounting of their abilities, instead of the tacit or unconscious discounting that occurs in upper middle class families.
Regardless, I have every right to refute your comments, simply because as someone not born as a woman, and as someone raised as a male through infancy, childhood and teen years you CANNOT have had the same experiences as those born women. The research backs me up. My many years teaching (and the research supporting gender differences in the classroom) back me up. Everything Hungerford has written and cited on these pages backs me up. And yes, my personal experiences growing up–where I was *told* the reason I was treated poorly was solely due to my sex– back me up. The fact that you don’t see your childhood that way does absolutely nothing to change that data.
Clearly you had a difficult childhood because you bucked the gender roles imposed on you because of your sex. You also chose a career that many Ivy-educated parents would abhor. How do you separate the effects of these two factors? I have no doubt that you reacted to your socialization, to your parents’ efforts to put you back in the gender box differently than many. But did your parents tell you they weren’t supporting your because you refused to get into the gender box, or is that your inference based on how you were treated? Regardless, you didn’t have the SAME societal structures in place that prevented you from seeking your path as have been put in the path of women, because you chose a career path, that while objectionable to your parents was nonetheless male-dominated. Yours isn’t the story of a person choosing a path that subjected them to subtle or not so subtle hazing, doors slammed in face, less help from teachers, etc, until you began presenting as a woman. Your story–an interesting story to be sure– is about a male child/teen rejecting gender roles. It is not that of a born woman. You have no personal experience of a female childhood, so you can’t say your male childhood socialization didn’t affect you. Clearly it did because you were aware that you were being gender non-conforming, that “acting like a boy” (as defined by our society) didn’t feel right to you. Like a young woman resisting gender roles, you pushed your way out of a box. But you were pushing out of a different box than women do. That difference is key.
You say that the field of animation is now open to women. That’s great! But then you say the men are moving up the ladder more quickly. How is that encouraging, exactly? Does the world need more entry level, dead end jobs for women? Aren’t there enough mommy-track jobs out there? How does this statement support your thesis?
In support of my thesis– that men and women continue to be treated differently, and that this difference begins in childhood– I know a couple who are both programmers/engineers– a relatively high-paying field for the science/math oriented. The wife is the only female engineer in her workplace, and fights hard to be listened to. The husband has 2 female coworkers out of 100. Progress, right? Women are breaking into that high paying career in droves! Well, not really. Oh, but you say that this is just another example and that reality is far different? Well, it’s still true that only 1 in 5 engineering graduates are women. And half of them leave the field. Which leaves 1 in 10 working engineers as women. I know many, many women who couldn’t deal with the male oriented engineering culture and lack of opportunities for them, based solely on their sex. The same is true for my field, science. The culture is still stacked against women, from childhood on. And since, age appears to be important to you, yes, many of these women are recent college graduates. More data here: http://studyofwork.com/files/2011/03/NSF_Women-Executive-Summary-0314.pdf
Finally, you write: “No one is going to turn to me and say that because I was raised male that I should then be able to pursue and fulfill roles that are given to men through male privielege. Just doesn’t work like that.” Who said that? What IS being said is that you were socialized differently, which leads you to see the world and to behave in a way that is different than born women, whether you are aware of it or not. Are you treated differently–like a woman– now that the world sees you as a woman? Of course. But the key word is “now.” Please leave the straw men out of this discussion.
But if your family expected you to go to college and you didn’t, isn’t that bucking your parent’s expectations?
I know too many women whom work in my industry (animation/illustration) to buy that the only men recieve ‘respect’ for their interests. Like I said in my previous comments, my class was mosty women. The school I went to was very prestigious and had a 9 percent acceptance rate and was very pricey. I have a hard time buying that so many women were able to go to my college without the support of their familes. Familes that i saw so often at events celebrating with them at their screenings.
Again, as I have constantly stated in these comments: our experiences are just that, our own. What you experienced as a woman in this world isn’t going to necessarily be the same as what another woman has experienced or all women that have been raised as girls. I think it’s rather incorrect to invalidate someone’s experiences based soley on your own. I would never attempt to invalidate yours, why invalidate mine?
I again ask what being ‘socialized as a male’ means for a trans woman. Just because your friends brother successfully became a cartoonist doesn’t mean that all men are able to have the same amount of freedoms. More people would be cartoonists if that were true. How many people do you know that wanted to be artists when they were young whom are now doctors and lawyers because that’s seen as a more steady job?
And again referring to my previous comments: I think that the geography has changed when it comes to the sort of things you’re discussing. I can say, with a degree of certainty that 30 years ago, hearing that the vast majorty of people in my program were women would have been unheard of. Especially since animation specifically is historically very sexist. But that isn’t the case now. When i worked for Fox there were female directors and female lead designers. It wasn’t at all uncommon or hard to find. Did all of these women “not have their interests respected” and not ” have whatever it takes to buck the dismissal of” their interests?
You’re applying a very broad brush across the lives of people who are not at all the same. That goes for both women and trans women. Things are changing and have been doing so. There’s a long way to go, sure, but to act like we still live in the 70s where women dont have their ‘interests respected’ is just pretty silly considering how the world has changed. Animation is a very risky industry for certain people and not everyone can cut it (most dont), but there are a lot of women thriving and working in my industry and while YES there is still sexism to overcome and old habbits to break it is getting better. The industry is more respected and it’s easier to perhaps support your daughter’s pursuit of animation than it perhaps was 40 years ago.
Gender is a social heirarchy with men having power over women. So moving from the privileged class to the oppressed class is a different KIND of movement than from the oppressed class to the privileged one. They are not simply 2 *equal* sides of the same coin. I’m not going to get into an entire analysis on transmen right now, but that’s the gist of it: as a POLITICAL matter (a socio-structural matter), females taking on male privilege by passing as men is of less concern to women than males trying to define “woman” as an essential essence of self that can be subjectively felt, not demonstrated. Naturalizing gender is a problem for women BECAUSE of how gender essentialism has been used to *justify* female oppression.
Now, about Jazz and transgirls who started in junior high with no one knowing they are male. Yup, it’s different. It’s not standard “boy” socialization and it’s not standard “girl” socialization. That’s fine. It’s not my job to articulate that or analyze it. I just know that it is NOT THE SAME as what women-socialized-as-girls from the moment the genitals of the child are visible. That’s the deal here: DIFFERENCE MATTERS.
This is a political discussion about social structures. As we analyze what someone like Jazz might mean to the big picture, it’s important to remember that “trans”-identified people do not constitute a discrete class of persons on which social structures are predicated with one class receiving preferential treatment at the expense of another. I touched on this in “A feminist critique of “cisgender”” when I argued that: “Cis” and “trans” do not describe discrete social classes from which political analysis can be extrapolated.
One’s IDENTITY is not the measure of her socialization, her oppression, or her treatment by others.
I was waiting for the ‘your tactics are very male” line. I”m honestly not going to go past that. I have been very open in this discussion. I have conceeded that my expereinces are not the exact same expereinces of that as a woman who was raised as a girl. I have conceeded that this article has truth in it. YET I continue to be attacked for having ‘male sociation” and being raised as a boy.
I think we’re at a stand still in this ‘discussion”. You’re never going to understand my life and my experiences and how people who’ve treated me for the vast majority of my life. You’re always going to bottomline with the idea that I am not only male, but a man. Someone whom despite of what has actually happened in my life has benefited from being a boy, and therefore a man.
There are always people whom exist in this world that will believe that I am a man and that’s that. I’ve discovered recently that it’s pretty silly to argue or even debate with these people. Why? Because at the end of the day these are nothing more than opinions. There are some great things in this article that highlight great points. But what’s lacking here is an understanding of who transsexual women are at large. You sit up and you look down at me and invalidate my experiences and instead say that your way of thinking is the only way and that regardless of anything that happens or anything that I say, you’re right and that’s that. I’m sorry but that to me sounds rather male and rather masculine. I’m simply attempting to add my perspective to this discussion. You may have spoken to one transsexual woman, maybe 2, maybe 3 maybe a 100, but you will never know us all and painting us with the same broad brush is purely dishonest and you’ve refused to acknowelge that, nor any of the points I’ve made whereas i’ve been able to expand my understanding and hear your positions.
i’m done with this. Know that your feelings about me and women like me will never change the realities of our lives. You can all sit around and discuss how much lesser than a trans woman is than you and how much we’ll always be men whom have benefited from male privilege an blah blah blah. But at the end of the day it’s simply going to be what it’s simply going to be. I WISH i would have benefited from male privlege in the same way that you wish you would have recieved the same treatment the men in your life had. I wish that people would prefer me over the next person and that my positions weren’t constantly invaldiated by people who know my gender status or simpy have only known me as a woman and judged me for that. I wish. At the end of the day all you can do is speculate, you’ll never actually know. Just as I’ll never actually know what it was like to be raised as woman in this world you’ll never know what it was like to be someone who didn’t fit into either box. You continue to reinforce the same things that oppressed you and thats very sad to me.
But either way, thanks for the conversation. This will be my last comment. And that’s for the few of you that have interacted with me in a frank, yet productive way. Thanks.
Not going to college was hardly bucking my family’s expectations. My father was dead, my mother became abusive, I was poor and left home at age 16. Bucking my family’s expectations would have meant finding a way to go to college with no adult help, including a place to live. Maybe if I had been socialized as a male, I would have expected to receive help from a college placement office. I had been thoroughly grounded not to expect anything from anyone. Having NO ONE to turn to doesn’t make me super sympathetic with someone not getting a car for their 16th birthday.
For those of you who have commented on the socialization issue,
If we can agree that there is a difference in socialization between trans women, and born women, but that the socialization of trans women is not exclusively positive, and may invite abuse which otherwise would not have occurred, had they been born women, but at the same time may have created additional opportunities where there would have been none, where do we go from there? What is the next step we need to take? Is it more discussion on what those differences are? Is it mere appreciation and respect for the fact that a difference exists and to move on to the bigger issues (deconstructing gender and all that)?
kattyblaque, no one here has attacked you. Stating facts is not the same as attacking, no matter how painful those facts may be. Additionally, there is a huge difference between a person and his or her ideas and opinions. This blog exists to talk critically about the idea of gender, to state and defend opinions about gender using evidence where ever possible. That is what is being done here, period. It’s sad that you can’t recognize this.
kattyblaque, (if you’re still reading):
I can only speak for myself, but not only do *I* not think that trans women are lesser than women, I’m pretty certain that isn’t the position of this post’s author, nor of the commenters on this post.
In regard to your statement: “Just as I’ll never actually know what it was like to be raised as woman in this world you’ll never know what it was like to be someone who didn’t fit into either box.”
One can be raised as a woman in this world and still ‘know what it is like to be someone who didn’t fit into either box’. These experiences are not mutually exclusive.
Kat, I can certainly see that the socialization of a boy who considers himself a girl is not exclusively positive. I don’t know of any feminists who think male socialization — without gender role questioning — is exclusively positive. Male socialization is horrible and frightening; males learn that one can either learn to be an aggressive bully or the target of aggressive bullying. That, of course, does not mean that males are not raised with a sense of privilege, a sense of entitlement. I would like to hear Elizabeth’s take on the next step, but for me someone just acknowledging that they will always be a biological male (or female) no matter what they do, no matter how they feel, is very important, followed by an increasing consciousness of gender and the harm it does.
Thank you for your response. I think I may have been unclear, I’m not saying I considered myself a girl as a child, and that is exactly the problem. I knew I wasn’t a girl, wasn’t female, and for whatever reason that was very difficult to understand and painful to confront. I spent my formative years trying to find a way to earn the right to be considered a girl, but knowing full well, after maybe 6 or 8, that only an act of god would suffice in making me female (coincidentally why I gave up on religion.) Knowing that I am male is exactly the problem, it is the reason for the feelings of depression and so on. If I didn’t know I was male I wouldn’t have transitioned, if I didn’t know there was a difference between the physical reality of what I was compared with the physical reality of what I wanted to be there would have been no need obviously. Much like if it were a matter of gender I could merely perform the role I desire, regardless of my sex, and it wouldn’t matter.
While it is true I may have been raised in an environment that breeds those thing (my parents sent me to an all boys private school to ‘man me up’) I don’t think it necessarily means that that is copied in my person. Were there points in my life, when I was trying to live up to my parents image of myself that I would have acted like that? Without any doubt in the world, though that is true of nearly every person. I think that once I have truly begun to realize what matters in my life, what I needed to do to be happy, and what needs to change about the world that I don’t think that those words could be used to describe me.
The reason, for people in my position, not necessarily transgender people but those labeled transsexual by society, in admitting that we are male is that it is the root of the majority of problems in our lives. That one simple fact is what caused enough disturbance in my life to ostracize me from my family, cause abuse in my youth, and ruin my life until I addressed it. To call me male, while not in and of itself offensive, is extremely hurtful, because if I could have only one thing in my life, I would be that that is not the case. You absolutely have the right to do so, that isn’t what I’m saying, I have no right to dictate your speech, but it does hurt to be reminded of it, to be considered the one and only thing you never wanted to be, and have spent your whole life trying to escape. But I know full well that you understand that feeling. I know in this world that most women will have felt the exact same way, I’m not trying to say I’m special, just to relate the feeling in a way that you know. Beyond that it is your choice to do as you desire. If you need to call and consider me male that is your right and I won’t ever try to stop you.
I don’t seek to draw any resources or attention from female issues. I would never want to do anything that hurts another person. Especially in this case where those people are uniquely abused and are at the same time fighting in a way that benefits me. I simply would like to live my life, the best I can, in the only way I know that makes me happy. That is my only goal. Frankly I want people to stop talking about trans issues all together, I want them to go away and for me to just do in my own life what I need to, without public focus or scrutiny. I’m not, nor should I be, however in a position to effect what others find important to discuss.
I guess my issue is that I want to live a quiet normal life, but because of the way I was born that is impossible. Another feeling I’m sure most of you relate to.
Anyways, sorry for the long winded post, I just wanted to make clear my feelings. I too am very interested in seeing what Elizabeth has to say on what should be done next, and wait for her reply.
Kat, I did not mean that I think it’s important that I or anyone else call you male, but that on some level, however painful it may be, you know you are a biological male despite what you have described as a successful transition. I truly hope you can someday just come to accept what is and what you are, both internally and externally. You are so young! For all of society’s crap about aging, one of the super things about getting older is growing more and more acceptant of oneself if one works at it.
I cannot know what it is like to feel absolutely estranged from one’s biological sex. I have never wanted to be male for one second despite my femaleness and subsequent gross medical negligence causing me enormous physical pain and suffering. I wish for you only the best, and know exactly what you mean by a quiet, normal life, but life always seems to have a way of tossing one about. I wish I could know you personally, you seem like a very interesting young person.
thank you for being so understanding, I genuinely appreciate it. It seems something a lot of people don’t make time for. And I know, I do know that I will always be male. Any technology to change that won’t be available until I am very old so I do face that reality, every day. Some days it makes it difficult to be motivated, even where I am now in my life. But with what I’ve done I generally am able to put it out of my mind by doing everything I could have to make myself happy. And that’s really all anyone can do.
I think some day I will be more at peace with the fact, I really do. Once things have settled down for me and I’ve lived as close to the life I’ve wanted that I can, I think I will be much more at peace with the way I was made to live. Though I know a part of me will always regret not having been born female.
And I hope it does work that way as I grow older, to be honest I’m fairly interested in what kind of person I will turn out to be haha.
Thank you, it really means a lot to me that despite our potential ideological groups that you can be so understand and even wish me well. It really does make me very happy and hopeful that someday society might not be so aggressively, violently, confrontational about absolutely everything. If you wish for the same quiet peace that I do, then I can do nothing but hope you can attain it too 🙂
You’re very kind and understanding and know a lot about the world that I hope to learn, admittedly I’m a little embarrassed by all the compliments haha it is definitely not what I am used to. And though I assume we live far away and may not know each other in person you can feel free to email me, or instant message, Skype, which ever you prefer! I have really enjoyed talking with you, and that goes for everyone in the comments section as well!
For privacy reasons this is an email I’ve only used for online games, but I’d be happy to hand out something more personal or a Skype from there. Feel free to message me whenever! Being young means my email is never more than 3 feet from me haha. (Nexesn13@gmail.com)
[…] picture of crossdressing- If transwomen are women, then what does being a woman mean? You cannot claim to be a certain objective thing based only on your subjective feelings, […]
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Through various dyes, injections and supplements some white people have temporarily or permanently changed their skin color darker to appear to be of black African descent. Can you imagine the brouhaha that would result if a movement arose of hundreds and thousands of such individuals who changed their race, even on govt forms? Or would their “white privilege” suddenly make it OK for them to start being “black”? And what if they just did it temporarily as they felt it in the mood, would that make them black? Or would the fact that half of blacks are male give their objections credibility that such objections by females just do not have? Haven’t seen that issue in trans discussions so far, though doubtless someone has discussed it somewhere.
Hi, interested feminist. It is a FASCINATING question, isn’t it? This is one of those ELEPHANTS in the room that trans advocates will not address.
Lierre Keith and others have used this analogy many times, always to the tune of frantic accusations of transphobia!! And racism!! Without any explanation for why the analogy doesn’t work, just that she’s an AWFUL PERSON for even daring to ask the question.
Now, granted, sex and race are VERY different. But in this case, the problem presented is similar enough to function as an instructive allegory…but hmmm, I’ve NEVER heard a rational explanation for why it’s ok in the context of sex/gender, but it’s TABOO for a white to person wear black face or to adopt certain behaviors associated with “black” culture (see racial criticism faced by Miley Cyrus for twerking. Twerking!! Could she NOT be TRANS BLACK? And why not??).
I occasssionally HINT at this problem, but it seems to go over the heads of pro-trans people. I’m not sure if it is purposeful avoidance of hard questions or true stupidity.
I’m going to be very unpopular now, but I think the attacks on “cultural appropriation” are mostly hogwash. And on blackface, too.
This opinion might be linked to me being in Ireland, which tends to encourage appropriation and make money from it. Everyone is Irish on St.Paddy’s day, etc.
Or to me liking jazz and classical rock music, which simply would not exist if white-skinned people did not “appropriate” music styles originally developed by black-skinned people.
Or to me liking to participate amateur theatre and live action role playing games, where it is common practice to play someone you are not. Yes I did play a woman a few times – an Orcish one, in greenface, imitating many women friends who playmen. (Of course most of us, including me, are not nearly as good as the Japanese Kabuki or Takarazuka, it’s just amateurs having fun together). Anyway, other times I also played a king, a military journalist, a Red Commissar, and a major of the Finnish army. I am neither of these things, but that is what theatrical settings (whether professional or amateur) are about – playing someone who is NOT you. And I do not see why playing someone black would be an exception.
Some white people playing black people used their expression to mock black people, so let’s prohibit that action? Yes, and some actresses in the past were prostitutes, which is why the church was, for a very long time, against theatre as such. If one prohibition does not make sense, the other doesn’t, either.
Copyrighting culture destroys culture. Whether it is corporate copyright or group copyright does not matter. Let copyright have its day in fickle commercial stuff, though I would limit it compared to the current regime. But when immediate commerce is not involved, let all be free to view, propagate, and imitate. From the days of Homer (and that’s the Greek poet, not Simpson) imitation was how human culture developed. Including imitation of other groups, nations, etc.
On, and race on *government* forms? And not self-identified, too? In this century?! What next, a government phrenological assessment? Really – does that sort of stuff still exist in the US? Even in Russia, with all its imperfections in human rights, the census only has self-identified “ethnic group” (they always got a few who listed themselves as elves or hobbits; last time around they tried to limit it to a list, but then some people just pick the funny sounding small peoples – and the census takers *can not* argue with the choice).
Cultural appropriation is tricky analysis.
The point here is about “authenticity.” One does not usually claim to be an “authentic” native american by donning a certain kind of headress. By the same token, a male putting on a dress does not make him an “authentic” woman. Appropriation of cultural artifacts for sports team promotion or costuming is one analysis. Appropriation of IDENTITY/social classification is another.
EDIT: Appropriation “up” in social classifications versus “down” are also different social analyses. SIGNIFICANTLY.
Well yes, that particular comment was about cultural artifacts. And, in fact, much valuable culture has been created through appropriation “up” on social classifications – including “white” big band jazz and classical rock. I value these way too much to care about political correctness.
As for Miley Cyrus I could not even find the “racial” criticism – found the feminist one instead from Sinead O’Connor (you’ll like that one a lot). But funnily the one to defend her was Paul McCartney, who was, in his younger days, one of those “appropriating” rock.
As for someone wanting to be black outside of cultural artefacts, I would just see it in the same cosmetic vein as changing hair colour or, more extravagantly, using coloured contact lenses. All common things. Skin colour is a cosmetic thing, an aspect of body appearance; social classification based on it was entirely unfounded. Changing it is at present not in vogue, probably because of safety issues – otherwise streets would be full of blue after the Avatar movie and, honestly, no one would listen to inevitable complaints that blue looks too much like black in bad lighting.
The problem with “transracial” is simply that race does not exist. It is only a name for an arbitrary classification. There is a Japanese animation series that explores a fantasy world where a similar rigid classification would be based on eye colour. (“Ai no Kusabi”; involves sadism and generally not recommended, but that one idea is great). This is why I was unpleasantly surprised by the mentioning of government forms involving race. I really hope they are just meaningless, unenforceable self-identification checkboxes for statistics, like those existing in both Russia and Ireland!
Sex, on the other hand, does exist, which results in the entire discussion.
I am very amused by what I presume are white men (here and elsewhere) saying race does not exist. They are absolutely right, of course, there is no such thing as race, but IN THE REAL WORLD people are subject to horrible abuse and oppression due to their perceived “race.” Social classification based on race has not ended and should not be referred to in the past tense. I am utterly flabbergasted by white liberal men talking about how Jim Crow has ended and everything’s looking up when millions of African-American men are in prison or on parole, which translates into: no access to public housing, no food stamps, no access to loans for education, no voting rights, etc. I have never known a black person who objected to white people listening to jazz or blues, but I can imagine the offense they would feel at a white person saying he just knows, in his heart of hearts, that he’s really African-American.
Being European and not having even set foot on American soil, I can not comment on justice or otherwise of American courts and juries. You might be right, they might be inappropriately giving custodial sentences based on perceived “race” (a statistical review of cases would give a better picture). If they are, that means they are indeed operating under the dangerous delusion that “race” exists (so that someone of another “race” might be more dangerous or something). And the only real motive I would see for cricitizing a “transracial identity” is that it perpetuates the same dangerous delusion.
Here in Ireland, the same delusion at least once worked in a somewhat different way, when a Nigerian man was acquitted after causing the death of a child by a DIY circumcision. http://www.rte.ie/news/2005/1007/68368-igbinediono/ the judge instructed the jury not to rely on “white western values”, as if the right to life has any link to “race”. (But, on some thought, not sure it is all too different. It seems to mean the life of a black child is less valuable. The same man might be convicted if he killed a white child).
Re jazz and blues, I was not on just about listening to them, but rather about playing them. White jazz bands apparently started as “cultural appropriation”; the same can be said about classic rock (definitely heard it about Elvis). I maintain there was exactly nothing wrong with Elvis or Glenn Miller on this issue.
It is not simply a matter of American courts and juries. The War on Drugs was a concerted effort on the part of the federal government to deny people of color rights they had recently gained; the Supreme Court has basically gutted the Fourth Amendment and refuses to look at cases brought on the basis of racial discrimination. You can racially discriminate in these United States as long as your policies of discrimination are not written down. And there are plenty of statistics available to support these assertions; please read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, so we can end this discussion on Elizabeth’s website.
A transracial identity is offensive for the very same reason that a transgender identity is: As a person with white privilege, no matter that I prefer black culture (the only American culture in Tennessee Williams’s view) or that I have implicit bias in favor of African-Americans, I DO NOT KNOW WHAT IT IS LIKE TO GROW UP BLACK IN AMERICA, TO LIVE AS A BLACK PERSON IN AMERICA (though I’m smart enough to know it’s often horrifying), and appropriating a black identity is the very definition of disgusting and outrageous.
I can’t really comment on American issues, but I think an international comparison could be a part of the analysis. Here in Ireland, drug gang-infested areas do exist but the people living in the worst are generally white-skinned, Irish-born, most of them of majority Gaelic background. These areas were built as social housing, so open rentals there are not available, thus immigrants don’t move in; and the only black-skinned people are African immigrants and their descendants. Yet, people from these areas often ARE seen as an “under-caste”; address discrimination in jobs is a very real thing! And these people belong to the ethnic majority. Moreover it seems that the 80s were a time when this sort of thing increased greatly in both the States and Ireland.
It might be quite revealing to look into the similarities and differences between American and Irish situations. I don’t have the data or skill. Wonder if Ms Alexander could come over for a wee bit of craic.
I can’t respond to the last paragraph as for me the very idea of a colour identity trans or not, is way hard to understand. I probably don’t have the tools as I did not ever visit the States.
All I insist on are two things, both applicable globally, whatever the social issues in a particular country. First, that “race” does not belong on government forms, and if it by any chance is there then it should be a meaningless self-identification with no objective verification; and depending on the circumstances I could write all sorts of things in it, simply as a means of protest. And second – that “appropriation” of cultural artefacts is a normal part of development of culture, that no one (apart from a very narrow definition of copyright) owns a dance or a melody or a clothjng style, and that trying to censor such cultural exchange is harmful even if some people do feel offended.
The (sub)cultures I tend to prefer – classic rock, Irish trad and Japanese anime/manga – thrive on exchange. Might have to do with all of them having developed as countercultures before hitting the mainstream?
Completely off topic, but I have no other way of contacting Tobysgirl so I hope Elizabeth will be forgiving.
Tobysgirl, would you have a source on the Tennessee Williams reference? “The only American culture” sounds, on the surface, rather arrogant (if any culture can be called that it would be Native American – provided one could even see it as *one* culture between the rather diverse communities). But the context might change everything and Google was of no help.
Thanks so much for your blog. Didn’t realize this kind of info was out there. The concerns you articulate are very much organically experienced and discussed among the lesbians I know. How do you suggest that I respond to (usually young) lesbians who earnestly and uncritically want to be inclusive and accepting of trans women as lesbians? In my experience, they’re usually well-meaning. How do I talk to them about how this hurts women without immediately being labeled as “transphobic?”
No source on the Williams’s quote. My husband was a professionally trained actor and Williams is one of his favorite playwrights. He probably heard him say it in an interview with Dick Cavett or somebody. What he meant is that all of what we think of as American culture is rooted in African-American culture.
Why don’t you try taking some of the implicit bias tests? I thought I was being totally neutral in my racial attitudes and turned out to have a strong implicit bias in favor of African-Americans. Sadly, many African-Americans have an implicit bias in favor of European-Americans.
Well my heroes are mostly female because they’ve had to break free and work so hard.
Not to say that I don’t admire some men because there are good ones out there.
I’ve read this blog and many good points have been made from all perspectives. I don’t believe that there is only one right answer to any of these matters. I myself am a tran-swoman because that is who I am. I was not born a female, but I was not born a male either. I’ve dealt with many hardships because of that fact. I won’t let ANYONE say that I am less than. I define myself, not others. I don’t care who tries, they will fail. There is no one to blame, no one who can tell any of us the “why”. I am blessed by those who accept me and have said goodbye to those who don’t. I respect the women who have earned their goals despite social messaging, in fact they light the way for those like me. I am made the way I am made and as a result I am pretty damn strong. It’s not easy to stand up and be who I am but I choose to not quit. For every female born who stood up to be counted I am grateful beyond measure. For every male who stood up with them, I am grateful. Women matter, that is how it is. Let the light shine.
I’ve got to say, it’s been lovely trawling around this blog. Obviously this is a sensitive issue for many, having recently had a brush with it myself. In very simple language, I am in the position of being a young woman who has never liked ‘girl things’ at all, but rather ‘boy things’, and still does. Over the years this has been building up to confusion, an idea that somehow I am wrong. I don’t like/do girl things, so perhaps I am not a girl. However my biology is female so I am clearly not a boy. I ended up in a place where I resented females for trying to pull me into being something I didn’t want to be, while resenting males for being all the things I couldn’t be because of my sex and not letting me join them. I wondered, for a while, if I was indeed a male mind trapped inside a female body. It was only when I began looking into what qualifies a person to be transgender that I realised most if not all of those qualifications were cultural rather than biological. The penny dropped. I didn’t fit in the box of ‘being a girl’, but that wasn’t because I was not a girl – it was because the society around me had built the box too small. (I won’t say there is no box because men and women do have some differences – mainly that women are better at being pregnant than men, and men are better at making women pregnant than other women!). In reality the newly named ‘woman box’ is far larger than I had given it credit for. You can fill it with water and swim laps in this box. You can take a two month cruise and visit the women living on the other side of this box. Likewise the ‘man box’ is bigger too, and can safely contain enjoying the feeling of wearing a skirt or appreciating the colour pink. Most of what I had assumed were ‘girl things’ or ‘boy things’ were in fact, just ‘things’. Things we both can like. And therefore things men and women can do alongside each other without worrying about how people see us or how we see ourselves.
Of course, having sorted this out, I wonder how many other people – particularly feminists and astute women, have fallen into the same hole as I almost did, and assumed they were transgendered when in fact they were simply complex, multi-faceted people, and therefore bigger than the box society tried to shove them into.
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The analogy about race has nothing to do with the topic of transsexuals. It is apples and oranges. Sex and race are two different things. Sure, they have many similarities, as do apples and oranges, but at the end of the day, apples are apples and oranges are oranges.
I think I happened upon KattyBlaque on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/TransDIYer
I agree .i was born a woman but i am tri-sexual woman.Who attracted to all forms of a woman including trans sexual women and men.hey whayever makes you happy in life 🙂
This is why I’d say “real women” and “trans women” because there is a difference. This is similar to the situation in which you have black people that say we are all mixed when it comes to biracial identity politics. What they don’t understand is that what makes a biracial person and a black person different is that one grew up with a parent of a completely different race from them meaning they had a whole new layer of experiences to trudge through besides the usual black politics.
[…] (I say ‘trans women’ for trans women. But trans women are women, you say. Please see here for more on that. ) t seems pretty obviously to me that females are not privileged in any society […]
I would like to point out that the picture that is being used is of a drag queen Not of a Transgender woman. Elizabeth Hungerford or whoever wrote this I get the reference you were trying to make but. For a large number of people who still don’t know the difference between drag queens, Crossdresser & Transgender women that picture to them can be very confusing and misleading. I did enjoy reading what you had to say. As a Transgender woman myself seeing anything that has to to with Trans issue having drag queens or crossdresser tied into it to try to make a point really irritates me. Next time you do write something about Trans people can you Please use an image that is directly related to Transgender category and not one of the other once that gets perceived as Trans.
I’d add that on both ends of that chart, you can also write ‘Surgery.’
To clarify – all forms of genital cutting are part of this enforcement of breeding roles. Patriarchy attacks the vulva and prepuce because their purpose is self-pleasuring. It’s one of natural selection’s defense mechanisms against us getting too smart to breed.
(sorry for double posting!)
[…] Original em: https://sexnotgender.com/2013/09/23/if-transwomen-are-women-then-what-does-being-a-woman-mean/ […]
I wanted to say how much I have enjoyed reading your posts on this site today. I got slammed last night, and defriended, by an acquaintance who works with transgenders. He took a great deal of offense when I stated that Caitlyn Jenner is an XY male chromosome transgender person who has chosen to express his feminine side, and Jenner is coming at his transition from quite a point of male privilege. But…that Jenner does not get into the XX female chromosome “raised as female from birth club”, because there is more to being a woman than surgery, pills, classes, and, nail polish and clothes. It did not go over well. There was a bit more to the conversation than that, but I learned last night that I have “cis privilege”, that I am “a transsexist” and that I am a “terf”. (I’ll take “tef”, I guess. I’m not very radical.) I had never heard any of those words yesterday.
I have some questions for you.
(1) Have you had a chance to read Elinor Burkett’s article in the NY Times, “What Makes a Woman?” (http://nyti.ms/1dlF2pY). And, if so, would you like to share your thoughts and opinions? It reflects my own thoughts and what I have heard privately from women over the past 2 weeks. I work at a liberal public university, and the women with whom I spoke do not relate to Jenner, but are cautious about speaking out. The comments section of the article were also interesting to me. Many, many women were/are saying, “thank you” to Elinor for articulating what they were thinking and sharing privately, but not stating publicly.
(2) What do you think of the comparison some people are making between Rachel Dolezal and Caitlyn Jenner? I.e., if you accept the latter, why criticize the former? My former acquaintance says there is not comparison. I am of the view that Jenner’s highly sexist and stereotypical take on being a “woman” is blackface for those of us who are “cis gender privileged”. 🙂 But otherwise, no, there is not a comparison, they are different (racial identity and gender identity). Do you have any thoughts you would like to share?
I have enjoyed seeing the rational level of discussion on your blog. My acquaintance last night had an emotional response that attacked me personally, and he did not discuss the ideas at all. It was eye opening.
I struggle with the reality of transwomen, transmysogyny and all related terms and existences and acceptance of such here’s why:
Growing up as a cis female, I was constantly barraged with the whats and whatfors of being a “woman” (watch your manners, your pussy, your cleavage, your hemline, your virginity) – this included my observing my younger, weaker, less intelligent brother (and many other males in my family) be highly favored by adults, parents, teachers, etc – simply because they were assigned “male” at birth.
Entering adolescence I was forced to endure endless unwanted fondling, touching, kissing, you name if from numerous boys my age who would chase, run down, corner, and attack me and my cis friends for their burgeoning sexual conquest counts. Boys who were never chastised for being “boys” while we (birth-assigned females) were reminded constantly to be mind our manners, hemlines and pussies.
As an adult cis female, I’d been ignored, stonewalled, ripped off, even attacked and beaten by male police and one crazy boyfriend; and throughout this life of mine, I’d watch nearly every man around me being excused for their behaviors, however exaggerated, however slight, encouraged to continue it, the worse the better, and introduce new and ridiculously woman-hating behaviors – cultivated and enforced by many men in society (and here I am referencing the USA)
This sorry behavior included many of my gay male AND trans women acquaintances – who often concluded loudly that pussy smells like rotten fish, who would want that?; cis women are only good for keeping house and making sandwiches; we (cis women) are unstable, crazy, weak, pathetic, in need of a beating or some dick; if it bleeds for days and isn’t dead you can’t trust it; etc, etc, any number of cis female misogynist statements – and this by men who I actually thought may feel marginalized enough to have some common ground with women.
I have now made a career working in a male-dominated field whereupon I get to witness the birth-assigned males in their natural habitat, doing what they have been coached to do since birth; the crazy thing for me is that I didn’t always do this – I used to work in an nearly. completely female dominated industry and would see birth assigned women doing what they’d been cultivated to do; and seeing this cultural, environmental influence on all of us – I am especially intolerant of transwomen who engage birth-assigned women using the exact same birth-assigned male actions, talk, misogyny, etc. And so many of them do!
While I am ready to listen and learn more about transwomen and their experiences, I really feel like transwomen need to check their environmental/cultural/socially established male privilege at the door and maybe, just maybe see what those of us birth-assigned, cis women do/think/say instead of bowling over us like cis men, for once!
I’m just wondering how do these views apply to the trans girls who at the age of 2 or as soon as they are able to talk in some cases continually and incessantly tell their parents that they are girls even though they were assigned male at birth? Then go on to transition at age 4 or 5 because their parents can see it and know that they don’t have a son, but rather a girl with a penis. I really applaud parents who have the courage to not be in denial and who let their kids be themselves. Worst case scenario they go back to being a boy and that’s why puberty blockers are used until the teen is certain this is for them. Anyway they basically live their entire lives as girls and then women with the exception of the first 4 to 5 years. What are your thoughts on that? Are these trans women once they grow up not real women? Considering that pretty much their whole life they have been living, going to school, socializing, interacting with the world as female, and socialized as girls/women. As an example, is Jazz Jennings not a real woman? She told her Mom at that the age of 2 that she knew she was female and at 5 started to transition and started kindergarten as a girl at 6 I believe it was. Would you still hold the same views for these trans girls that they aren’t real women? From what I’ve been reading of the brain research that has been done on gender identity, it does seem to not only be vindicating what trans men and women have been saying about our brains, but also that gender identity exists on a spectrum and depending on how far you are one way or the other on the spectrum has to do with feeling like cliche of having a girl brain in a boys body or vice a versa. However, it being a spectrum and not an either or still leaves lots of room for everyone in between. I’ve experienced gender dysphoria being a trans woman and it sucks and it’s very much real. Hormone therapy has made my mind feel so much more at peace, happy, able to feel, and the best way to put it is that it makes me feel right and comfortable for the first time in my entire life. I really feel that if the brains didn’t have some kind of gender identity then I wouldn’t have felt like crap when puberty started and my brain was exposed to higher amounts of testosterone, then felt so much better upon starting estrogen. Pre-pubescent children whether male or female have similar levels of hormones meaning pre-pubescent children male and female both have similar levels of testosterone and estrogen, and even though I knew I didn’t feel male I was still praying to God every night to make me a girl by age 6. The gender dysphoria got 100x worse once I hit puberty and my mind became flooded with testosterone. I believe that more studies should be done comparing the brains of self identifying trans girls and boys, but working with children is difficult. I say this because that’s the only true way to see a brain that hasn’t been changed by hormones.
[…] transman who has attacked women for wanting to use the word “woman.” It reminded me of Elizabeth Hungerford’s brilliant three points about “if transwomen are women” and I decided to adapt […]
Women have been fighting for equality for a very long time men have always taken from women. Women have to fight for their freedom their choices Exedra and now we have to fight for gender too. guys what are you going to steal from us women next. Or so long men have said women don’t have the same rights as men but now we’re good enough to steal our gender identity from
[…] Traduction de l’anglais, version originale ici […]
I grew up in the jehovah witnesses and was forced to pay attention and study it since I was just five. We had to explain to teachers and classmates why we didn’t celebrate birthdays, easter rabbits,halloween and christmas. On Saturdays we went door to door preaching the good news against our will. We had to attend “church” three times a week for a total of 6 hours. Our clothes were hand me downs. Women in my family have all the power and men do all the work while women do the bossing around. Girls are told how great they are and that their needs are important. Boys are told to shut up and don’t cry. So sorry but your historical argument that women have it harder is ridiculous. Men had to go die for their country and didn’t have the right to vote. It sucked for everyone. SO sick of this men vs woman bullshit gender war. Get over yourself. I do what i gotta do and so should you.
Trans seems to be a wholly unique experience from people for whom the idea of questioning their identification with their biological sex has never occurred. Although I don’t agree with the politics of equating female-transitioned or female-presenting biological males as THE SAME as being born female and never questioning it, we must move past wholesale invalidation of the trans experience as being essentially ill-founded, if we are to come to any understanding of the significance of the trans experience and how to adjust society and legislation accordingly.
To assert that all or even most female-identifying trans people have benefited from male conditioning is also, I believe, in error. If there is one thing I can say as a cis male having benefited greatly from male conditioning, is that it IS possible to lose a lot of the benefits of male socialization by failing to conform to male gender roles. It’s certainly not the same as being raised female, not whatsoever, but failing to establish a firm foothold in the masculine dynamic can have far-reaching effects. To be regarded as “queer”, it’s to fall into a category that parents, teachers, etc. don’t know what to do with. “Do I treat them as a boy when they don’t act like one?” People look at you askance, question your motives, and regard you as inferior. But not in the same structured way as sexist culture treats women. It’s more fear-based, more sporadic, more chaotic and ad hoc.
Society doesn’t have a structured way of dealing with trans people, or for people who fail to fit their gender roles. Sometimes they are celebrated, regarded as pioneers (men dressed in wigs, makeup, platform shoes and lipstick during the glam rock era), sometimes they are seen as garbage, as mentally ill, confused detritus. But it sure isn’t the same as being a CIS boy.
In my opinion, we should create space for trans and queer people, not by necessarily validating their essential identification with another sex/gender, but also not by dismissing it completely. No, identifying as trans-woman doesn’t make you magically female. But it DEFINITELY makes you something other that what most people are, and that thing is not as simple as “mentally ill”. It exists because of restrictive and sexist society that forces people into roles that limit their true desires and potential, and the human mind forms barriers and routes around these cultural blockages. Hence feminism, hence queerness, hence trans identity. It’s time we open our eyes to what feminist and queer culture is reacting to and accept that a natural antibody has formed in response to the cultural sickness of sexist and oppressive culture.
One of the reasons transwomen will always feel capable of climbing in the world without restriction has a lot to do with the fact that they have not been socialized into “motherhood”. Transwomen, while they may have been raised in other aspects like girls, they are not raised to prepare to leave career behind for the sake of being a mother. Even barren women from the time before the reached adulthood and found out they were barren, were prepared for their coming motherhood and pregnancy. In fact, most of all gender restriction stems from the ideology that women will become mothers and what comes with that is getting them sexually prepared for it. How has society done this? By telling women to focus on their looks so they can make good wives, by telling women to be softer and kinder so that they can be the nurturing “good” mother that society expects of them, by telling them to settle for less because once they get pregnant they will have to leave, breast feed, and take care of the baby at home.
These expectations do not fall on boys. Transwomen as they are still biologically male do not have to experience this, and so society does not hold them back from achieving. What you don’t realize is that everything was made in this world on the basis of biological sex.
I’m going to stress this again: Motherhood is what has a lot to do with why gender oppression that has been placed on women. You see, its one thing to defy parents on the basis of doing what parents feel will not make you successful. You’ve defied you parents expectations, despite the fact that your parents didn’t think the job was going to be a good one. This is different from the nature of woman’s defiance. Most women who go for careers are defying the ideology that they must be at home mothers and provide for the babies and children. Most men go through what you’ve been through; their parents do not think they are successful unless they go for jobs that will pay them a lot. Most women, however, while they are not always deterred from working, are usually encouraged to leave upon pregnancy and to settle for the sake of being a “stay at home mom”. This majorly affects how women view success and their confidence level. This is also why gender was placed on women…so that they can be good enough sexual partners, ready for motherhood. Biology was not placed because of gender, gender was placed because of biology. Unfortunately gender is very narrow, leaving women for only one role and that is motherhood. And sadly gender in some respects is unrealistic.
This is why your experience is more masculine than feminine. You don’t have the same sex negative conditioning that women have and you never will. You have a very different issue and that comes from wanting to the body to feel complete with your neuroplastic identity, which was formed by a different sort of conditioning. You were raised as a girl in the sense that people saw you as a girl on the outside and may have treated you as such. But in your mind you know that if a guy said you were only good for giving birth and making babies, you’d know that’s not true because you never have to worry about what you would have to do should this happen. Even a barren women worries about this. Women with hysterectomy have usually already had children and so have still gone through what most women have as far as socialization. But you will never have to experience that, which means you will always be sure of what your role in life will be. You were not socialized to prepare for your gender role. You chose to fit a role that you relate to in your mind. But you never will have to fit that gender role to survive socially. You’re choosing to fit it to survive socially, for the sake of your own feelings and emotions. Most women do not conform to gender for the sake of their own feelings and emotions, but rather for the sake of what everyone else is saying they need and expect of them. Do you not understand this?
Note: I recognize that gender dysphoria is a very tough condition. I recognize that it causes a person to believe they should have been born one way because their mind is relating to the experience of the opposite. However, this experience is only based on a perception of women, not the reality of woman’s socialization. What a little boy who has gender dysphoria is seeing is that he is like his mother and sisters and all other women….but this is not the reality. He is identifying with what he sees them doing and the way he sees them acting. He is even identifying with the way they look and possibly believing that he will look like them one day. He is saying when I grow up I want to be Xena or the pink ranger (just like you), only to find out as he grows up that he is actually going to be the opposite.
A woman however, even a transman, even before transitioning, is experiencing something much different from gender dysphoria. They are being prepared for their eventualities of wife and womanhood. YOU were not being prepared for it. And so, for you, you are privileged, because in actuality the sky was the limit for you. In your mind, despite the fact that you had gender dysphoria, you may have never felt that the moment you got married or had children that all your dreams were over. In fact, you were never raised or groomed that marriage was the only way you would survive socially as a woman. “Cis”-women, as you call them, are going through this everyday and women-to-man transmen have felt this growing up as well. You will never be socialized into this. The only experiences you have come from the fact that you have chosen to be seen as a woman, while most women have not chosen to be seen this way.
Most cis women do not identify with being woman. They identify with being of the female sex physically. But they do not see woman as apart of their identity as a person/human being mentally. Who they identify with mentally and emotionally is as the person they have evolved to become.
The dangerous part with trans people is that they encourage the idea that they are women emotionally and mentally, and some have even said they are born this way. Some will even say that gender is based on biology! When trans people say this, it is detrimental to a feminist and egalitarian cause…even a masculinist cause. It perpetuates the idea that gender is something we are born with and so we must conform in every way we can, even if it means changing our bodies and/or personalities to fit this mold. It is encouraging conformity into oppressive and unrealistic molds. The term cis is definitely a step further in gender oppression, not a step towards progression.