‘Realness’ as Reality

Posted by – July 13, 2011

‘Realness’ may be a ball contest category, but when it turns into a litmus test, it’s a bullying stick.

Tobi Hill Meyer has pulled together a list of what it means to be a “real” transsexual woman. Here are a few:

You’re not a real transsexual woman if you transitioned after 45 (or 35, or 25, or 18 depending on who you ask)
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you ascribe to feminist gender deconstruction theory
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you buy clothes in the men’s department
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you don’t have a GI/GID diagnosis or can’t afford the process to get one
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you are caught without makeup on
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you have facial or body hair that you don’t shave
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you have facial or body hair that you have to shave
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you don’t wear dresses and skirts all the time
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you never crossdressed before transitioning
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you have ever identified as a crossdresser
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you become sexually aroused while wearing women’s clothing
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you have sex with men
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you have sex with women
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you are not sexually available to men
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you have sex using a strap on
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you have sex
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you allow yourself to be seen naked before vaginoplasty or with anything others might consider a penis
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you have ever done sex work
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you haven’t considered suicide
You’re not a real transsexual woman unless your only alternative to transition is suicide
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you’re still attending Southern Comfort
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you didn’t keep up with your dilation
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you are not stealth
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you are stealth
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you’ve been to camp trans
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you perform as a drag king
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you have ever performed as a drag queen
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you ever pee standing up
You’re not a real transsexual woman if you play sports (no exceptions for being on the women’s rugby team, but maybe for softball)

She points out that most cis women wouldn’t pass these tests, even the ones that aren’t trans specific. One of the things I feel like I say over & over again is that all women, trans and non-trans, can fail the test called “woman”. Plenty of us do on a regular basis.  Obviously her comments come out of this whole transgender/transsexual argument, which tires me.

9 Comments on ‘Realness’ as Reality

  1. JennL says:

    Gee who has time to think up all these rules? My mum always said no one else can tell you who you are.

  2. natasha_ says:

    There seems to be an awful lot of hand wringing going on over this stuff. Rather than make up little lists to echo the “let’s all be nice to each other” mantra, perhaps it would be useful to look at the motivation behind people making exclusionary comments.

    People undermining my gender identity hurt me. Whether they’re my parents or haters or rad fem women or gay men or crossdressers doesn’t matter. People with no clue appropriating my labels does that. In lowering the bar so that some guy who dresses in frilly knickers can feel more legitimate, it hurts those who actually are more legitimate. You’re trying to take away my gender, to make my identity mere performance.

    From the outside looking in, transsexual and transgender people probably look quite similar. From the transgender perspective, transsexual people probably look pretty similar too. From the transsexual perspective though that simply isn’t so.

    Oh, and your spam filter drives me nuts, Helen. It flags any comment more than about a paragraph as spam. How am I supposed to articulate myself?

  3. helenboyd says:

    natasha, i’m working on it. the problem with removing spam filters is – well, you know what it is.

  4. JennL says:

    Natasha, you make a valid point here. The problem we face being trans is that an identity is almost invisible. All people face this same issue in some respect, you don’t know how it feels to be me. It takes getting to know a person through experience to get even a glimpse of who he/she is. So we have to hold back with the knee jerk reactions.

    Born male anatomically speaking, I always knew I was female gendered to considerable extent on the inside. Trying to fit in somewhere while trying very hard to conceal these feelings-intuitions was really not possible, other people saw me as different in some inexplicable way anyhow. At least a half a dozen times in adolescence (I still had not come out in any way) I had friends make remarks like “are you sure your not a girl?” or “you should have been born a woman” The remarks were all based on my innate responses to everyday occurrences, little tells that happen so quickly, there is no time to think.

    Being male bodied and not cross-dressing made it difficult to be seen by others that there’s this difference between me and other boys. This is objective confirmation of my identity in my opinion.

    I used to think there were big differences between gender queer, transgendered and transsexual people but not so much lately. It seems more like just differences in the choice of the way to express ones distinct identity. This could occur for many reasons.
    If you don’t express yourself outwardly in some way it’s ok but you can’t escape that other people will feel something’s out of sync. Just like a film running backwards.

  5. divadarya says:

    I tire of this discussion too;in fact it’s burned me out, quite frankly. I resent being marginalized by a group that’s already marginalized. I think this stuff is a sign of a kind of ghetto-fever that’s taken hold among MTF’s , and pretty much ONLY among MTF’s. I use the term “circular firing squad” and that’s exactly what it is.

    Are there creepy crossdressers? Met them. Are there gender-queerier-than-thou types who speak nothing but PoMo gibberish and think the main thing we should deal with is Palestinian rights? Know her. Are there women who think that there is such a thing as a “true transsexual” and that some who think they have an intersex condition known as “Harry Benjamin syndrome”? They post on Bilerico all the time and there’s at least one of them who thinks she’s also really African-American though born European. Are there happily transitioned women of all ages who live quiet, useful stealthy lives? God, I hope so.

    So, when suddenly I’m told I’m a “TG umbrella type” because of my path and life experience, my instinct is to get out of the sack of cats that are pointlessly fighting while society continues to victimize, and more often, ignore and marginalize them constantly.

    I really don’t get what they want, to be honest. I understand that a woman who is living quietly and seamlessly in society doesn’t want to be included with weekend women who post thirty pictures of themselves online afterward, but the truth is, some of us started out that way. I can even see some kind of TS means test, but then those TS’s will have the job of explaining that society in general, and in my opinion, society doesn’t care.
    There’s been a constant, agonized discussion among Gay men about this; “the nellies and drag queens are bringing us down; we have to be seen acting as straight as possible” Joe Sixpack in the USA only cares about one thing; do you have sex with dudes or with chicks? Conversation over.

    I guess if I’m a “TG umbrella type” as well as a “Late transitioner” and was at one point sexually aroused when I wore female clothing, that’s three strikes anyway. Have at it, girls, but I suspect you’ll just ultimately divide yourselves so many times as to be irrelevant.

    Stealth sounds good.

  6. natasha_ says:

    Helen wrote: “Obviously her comments come out of this whole transgender/transsexual argument, which tires me.”

    How so? I thought you would be one of the few cis people who would be able to understand the subtleties of the arguments. You’ve made comments before about “mow the lawn transsexuals” which made really good sense.

    This particular argument will never tire me. I could care less that queer people get along (which I assume is where you’re coming from). I’m defending my right to an identity, and ensuring that my identity doesn’t get subsumed by people who really have so little in common with me.

  7. helenboyd says:

    Natasha, that was a reference to Hill-Meyer’s post, the first line of which is: “Whenever I come upon part of the transgender vs transsexual arguments and fighting. . . ”

    & Yes, I entirely understand needing a clear identity that is distinguished from others – there’s a reason i don’t like being called cis, after all, & that’s that i’m mutliply gendered, somewhere between trans(gender) & cis(gender). (& after being put on spiro today i’m not feeling wholly cissexual, either, but that’s another story altogether.)

    What I don’t understand is adopting a broader term that includes people of my type & people who are lumped in with my type as a political alliance; I’ve also said in print that “trans people are my people” & thought of myself queer long before i understand what made me so.

    That’s the part that tires me. Some transsexual people don’t seem to understand that’s what it’s about – rights & visibility. What I also hate is people who decide that someone like Betty is somehow “not transsexual” because of debates like this; the right to self identity becomes a very steep & slick slope to telling other people who an & can’t be “one of them”. In some recent post a transsexual woman re-gendered Betty as “he” and called her a crossdresser.

    So that’s why, really, it tires me. Carefully delineating a category of human being, whether it’s “woman” or “academic” or “trans” means that someone decides who is one & who isn’t. Umbrella political alliances (“queer” “democrat” “transgender”) people choose to belong to or not.

  8. divadarya says:

    I agree with Helen on this. Not everyone makes their argument as logically and clearly as you, Natasha; I completely understand where you are coming from and why you feel that you don’t want to be lumped in with that guy online who posts photoshopped pictures of himself as a girl and a guy going on a date together(brrrrr…creepy).

    However, the argument always boils down to this; who decides if non-ops are transsexuals or not? This is usually the point in the argument where someone arguing against the term “transgender’ says “Well…obviously we aren’t talking about you.” There’s a line that needs to be drawn, though;isn’t that the whole point of this? I also know more than one TS of means who has hopped on the “Pink Express” and whose collars and cuffs totally match but are still deeply disturbed about who they really are.

    I think it also says a lot that FTM’s are having none of this discussion. I’m open to a solution but I don’t see one that won’t complicate things more unless it’s respecting the privacy of those who have already transitioned.

  9. JennL says:

    An interesting thread but my feelings are unchanged.

    There is more socially constructed difference between “trans”people and their “cis” gendered cousins than there is “real”or biologically dictated difference.

    A trans woman in stealth can be in an all anatomically male body or in a female “product of nature” type body. Her gender remains the same: her property alone. Visa versa in the case of FTM’s or anywhere in between.

    Only words people, only words..

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