By people who don’t know anything about trans, I’m often assumed to be trans myself. I like to joke that is the very rare trans woman who would cut her hair as short as I do. Most trans women with voices as deep as mine would figure out how to raise their pitch. But it’s these signs of my gender variance that cause people to think I’m trans – the signs of my own masculinity.
What surprises me often is when I clarify that I’m not – if and when I do, which isn’t often anymore – is when someone asks me if it bothers me when people assume I’m trans. It’s such an odd thing to ask an advocate: if I thought trans people were less than, why would I be doing this work? I remember being asked a similar question when I was assumed to be/asked if I was a dyke, which I also found baffling. What’s insulting about people thinking you’re a lesbian? What’s insulting about someone assuming you’re trans? Either you believe all our humanities are equal or they aren’t, right? Shoot, I feel more often like I’ve been assumed to be of sterner stuff than I am, because I haven’t struggled with the kind of discrimination lesbians or trans women face (even if my own gender variance has caused some in my own life).
I know I am far from More Radical Than Thou when I say I hate the term cis, but one of the reasons I hate it is because it reifies, in my opinion, that I was declared a gender that is (theoretically) in congruence with my gender presentation and that other women were not. In the same way that MTF reifies a woman’s former maleness, cis disappears my own masculinity in a way I find both insulting and problematic. The thing is, I am still most turned on by Hirschfeld’s Theory of Intermediaries, where he posits that “male” and “female,” “man” and “woman,” are only ideals – not to be aspired to, but ideals more like Plato’s Forms. That is, they’re ideas, which all of us express in different ways, none of us perfectly. He tosses out the idea of dimorphism – the binary – entirely, which, as Kate Bornstein and now Lisa Harney have noted, MTF & FTM reiterate.
That said, I do feel the need to point out that I do think cissexual privilege exists & is a problem. That’s kind of exactly what I’m talking about, really. Do keep in mind that I wound up a feminist when I realized people actually thought I was different/less than because I was a woman, as in: Really? Are you shitting me? Do I really have to prove my humanity? The idea was so entirely unbelievable to me; it never occurred to me that someone could be stupid enough to believe something like that, & I feel the same way about people who can’t see trans people’s obvious equality/humanity.
So I will continue to insist that recognizing difference between types of women is only important when it’s specifically important, and not otherwise. I am done with using “trans” in front of any person’s identity because goddamn if I want anyone putting “woman” or “female” in front of mine.
(I’m dedicating this post to my dad because it’s his 82nd birthday and, who, when we came out to him about Betty’s transness, said “Don’t let anyone treat you like a 2nd class citizen.” And well – yeah. Exactly.)