Monday, February 28, 2011

Post Transition Gender Roles - One Trans Man's Perpective

Written by my good friend Julian...

Sometimes, I wonder if folks who have anti-trans prejudices or proclaim themselves against some sort of “trans ideology” have misconceptions as to what life is like for trans people in our post-coming-out genders. Particularly regarding trans men and trans male spectrum folks, some feminists of certain schools/waves will suggest that of course trans male people are uncomfortable as women, because all people assigned as female at birth are uncomfortable in the societal roles allowed to women.

Which, to an extent, is true enough. There are limited gender roles and gender expressions allowed to men and women in U.S. society (as well as others), and that sucks. It also sucks that there are presently only two widely-accepted gender possibilities, too. I’m in full agreement with that.

And I know a lot of women who are uncomfortable with the limitations society has artificially put on women—both non-trans women and trans women, as well as trans female spectrum people. I know very few, if any, trans people who don’t feel any gender-related constraints after transitioning. Transitioning isn’t the “get out of gender discomfort free” card that I think some people seem to believe it is.

Just because I’m a man and have chosen to come out as a man doesn’t mean I’m always comfortable with how society expects me to talk and walk and act as a man. I haven’t just been gender policed for failures to be a good “woman” but I’ve also been gender policed for failing to be a good man. I gesture with my hands a lot when I talk, sometimes in pretty effeminate ways. I talk softly and with the kind of vocal patterns stereotypically associated with women. I walk with a bit of a sway in my hips.

None of this bothers me, per se. I am what I am, and I like who I am (most of the time, anyways). But sometimes, it bothers others. I've been told that I can't call myself "pretty," 'cause men aren't supposed to be "pretty." I've been told what surgeries I need to make me "really" a man. I've been lectured on how ("real") men don't walk the way I walk and that I need to butch it up. I'm favored with, and expected to laugh at, a number of hoary old "the wimmenz, they're so crazy, amirite?" jokes.

And I find all of this frustrating! In ways probably not very dissimilar to the ways non-stereotypically-masculine men who aren't trans get gender policed.

But I’m still undeniably a man, and quite happily so. When I was forced into womanhood, the discomfort went far beyond discomfort with gender roles or with sexism; it was a very different animal. It’s hard to explain exactly how, but it was. I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin before, and now I am--or at least I would be if people would knock off the gender policing of my masculinity or lack thereof. So maybe it’s an internally-caused discomfort versus externally-caused discomfort kind of thing. I’m not entirely sure.

My point, though, is a point I think needs emphasizing: Trans people have as nuanced and complex relationships with our genders, gender roles, and gender expressions as do non-trans people. If not more so. We’re not dupes of the Patriarchy or Big Pharma or even Great Aunt Ethel; we’re people, living as honestly and as happily as we can manage.

Which, at heart, isn’t really that different from most everyone else.

(p.s. to any fellas reading this: Please knock off those creakily sexist "the wimmenz, they're so crazy, amirite?" jokes. I mean, really, guys.)


sophia said...

i hated having to listened to the sexist jokes and the objectification of all of the girls in the room. i felt like shouting at them that i'm a girl too and to knock it off. but i'm unable to get myself to be that confrontational.

now it's just the women who want to talk to me in the restroom. i don't think i'll ever be comfortable talking to a stranger who might feel offended by my presence if i don't meet their gender presentation expectations.

Anonymous said...


It's tough. A number of trans guys have told me that they'd like to push back against sexist comments, too, but are worried that doing so will make it more likely for them to be outed as trans. Kinda between a rock and a hard place.

And bathrooms are the worst for gender policing, and I think trans women have it especially bad as it seems to be more prevalent in women's restrooms. :( I've never once been harassed in any men's restrooms I've been in, but I have been harassed in women's restrooms.