A friend who prefers to be anon wrote this on FB a few days ago, and I thought it was important. In the midst of all the ooh la la about I Am Cait – which is doing some good, I think – there are a lot of people having conversations about transness more openly, and for those of us who are trans or who are partners to trans people – we get to hear a lot of them second-hand.
And a lot of what people say can hurt, and I’m sure a lot of us are reeling with this kind of stuff, so to say: you are not alone. Take care of yourself.
Conversation overhead at the next desk over (& some thoughts):
Person 1: Caitlyn Jenner, you know, I can get him wanting to be a woman…
Person 2: I always thought he looked like a woman.
Person 3: He is super feminine, too.
Person 1: Right?! I can see him dressing like a woman, but I don’t get wanting to keep dating women.
Person 3: Yeah, that doesn’t make any sense to me. Why become a woman if you’re still going to be attracted to women?
Person 2: As long as he still has his you-know-what, I guess? But then…
The conversation continued for a while; these are three folks in a different office who are always very friendly to me. This brief instance illustrates some experiences that trans people know too well and that I am often both privy to and shielded from (until/unless I disclose) because of what I look like. (I often find myself in situations where the cis people talking have no idea I’m trans and expect me to agree with them or validate them – and it always makes me wonder if they would have started talking to/with/around me at all if they “knew”):
1. Cisgender people of all stripes (this includes, sadly, many cis folks who aim/claim to be allies) feel authorized to scrutinize and weigh in on trans peoples’ narratives and bodies, and to describe trans people however they (cis people) please. In this convo, eg, using the pronoun “he” despite talking about someone – Caitlyn – who identifies as a woman, & framing Jenner’s femininity as fascinating or worthy of note (show me any woman ever on the cover of Vanity Fair who wasn’t femmed up? why is Caitlyn’s femininity more interesting than cis femininity? <– there is a long, pathologizing history of this vis a vis trans women). The implications of this Cisgender Commentary are more extreme for some trans people than others; but I can attest that this impacts all of us to some degree.
2. There are still many widespread misunderstandings and assumptions about gender / embodiment / sexuality and the relationship among the three. There is something many cisgender people find truly mind-blowing about those of us who are or have been fluid across boundaries of gender & sexuality (in all directions). These misunderstandings and confusions are often directed at or expressed about TGNC individuals (trans & gender non-conforming) in the form of anxiety. TGNC people become, really, used by straight, cis people to help them wrap their minds around the complexity of ALL of our genders and sexualities – and then we are tossed aside (still seen as the *real* misfits) once the cis person has figured out what they wanted/needed to know or discover about themselves. This happens more often, and more intensely and with higher stakes, to some trans people than others.
3. Personal note: I have become remarkably (eerily!) desensitized to everyday gender assumptions, body policing, and trans-related microaggressions – or at least to my own emotional response to them. It wasn’t until writing this down that I realized how many emotions I was just tamping down. We are saturated with gender; our society is truly obsessed with it. If I were to record every single gender-related instant over the course of the day, between bathroom selection and “sir”s and “he”s/”she”s and gendered jokes and locker rooms and how others interact with me and haircuts, the number would be extremely high. So, like many folks with gender non-conforming experience (though we experience these issues to varying degrees and in various contexts), instead of waiting for the world to change to be more inclusive of TGNC people I’ve adapted to try my best not to let these constant reminders alienate me.
My wife commented: I feel like I’m so encased in protective carbonite at this point, I barely hear the dog-whistles, the micro-agressions, the idiocy, the ignorance, and sometimes the hate.
Don’t get me wrong, I pass (still) and that makes a huge difference (mostly). I know it shields me. But as trans-issues become brighter under the media spotlight and I see people I know on TV and hear people talk earnestly about it (mostly in ignorance but I’ll take the earnestness)… I just want to put another layer of carbonite on.
I can’t be the only person who transitioned years and years ago who thinks this, right?
And I added: I realized people wanted to ask me (often wildly inappropriate) questions, which is kind of how I became who I am. Because I never wanted, still don’t want, any earnest-but-otherwise-good-but clueless cis person to ask them if they’re sure they’re not crazy, about their genitals, to comment on how they might pass better, or the rest. I love you all. It’s been a rough couple of months, & while I want to believe Cait has started a conversation, the blowback feels pretty menacing right now.
So how are you, my lovely readers, dealing with all of this?