Several months ago, I went on an online forum for trans folks (one that I didn’t have to sign up for to view). I did this back when I was wishy-washy with trans theory and wanted to hear from individuals themselves and understand their situations from a first-hand point of view. I found some stuff about gender being crappy, but going along with things because it’s easier. While understandable (been there!), it’s not exactly radical. Fair enough though. What I saw a lot of? Trans women claiming that they knew they were “really women” because their desires to present themselves and act matched up with stereotypical images of femininity. [Also, given that the absolute height of femininity also coincides with whiteness, the racial assimilationist aspects of transitioning from (non-white) man to woman (striving for white femininity) cannot be ignored. I’ll get to that more in another post some other time.]
One of the most obvious examples I saw of “I’m-a-woman-because-of-xyz-female-stereotypes” had to do with covering up one’s chest. This particular trans woman said that she always knew that she was a woman because, when getting out of the shower, she felt the need to wrap the towel up around her armpits rather than at her waist. Also, when in bed, she would pull the covers up over her chest. Dang if this isn’t just the spitting image of female characters in all romantic comedies from the beginning of time, right? Gotta keep the movie PG-13, so have the main female character show some skin but not too much skin. Female chests are vulgar, so cover those things up.
What this example shows is how false the idea of ‘innate gender’ or ‘brain gender’ is. This is so clearly a case of a male repeatedly viewing media images of women covering up their breasts in film, television, fuckin’ everywhere for his whole life, and then, because he feels like doing this too, interprets it to mean that he must be a woman. While this isn’t the only reason this person “feels like a woman” (and I don’t want to be unfair and claim that it is), what is this “feeling like a woman” save for a collection of images that a male “identifies” with in some way? How can he know what it is to be a woman, let alone a female-bodied person, if no one had ever treated him like that? Had legislatures vote on whether he can be forced to give birth in the result of a pregnancy? Had males yell at him on the street, commenting on his appearance and ‘fuckability’? Had other little boys act out pornographic scenes on him? Had his opinions downplayed or dismissed because he has a vagina? And on and on forever.
He doesn’t know anything of it. He can be sympathetic, he can try to understand. But when he’s so focused on becoming some-thing, he might forget that he’s not becoming some-THING, he’s trying to become a person, trying to achieve a status of less-than, of fuck object, of fetus incubator, of woman. The THINGS that make up being a woman, the THINGS that she wears, the THINGS that she has between her legs or on her chest. . . that is not what she is. A basic tenant of any feminism: females aren’t things. When you are trying to BE another person — especially a member of an oppressed group — what do you know except the THINGS that make that up? The THINGS that you see from the outside? Nothing. What you see is not what they are, and you only know who “they” are if you are them.
I didn’t used to think men transitioning to women was a “big deal” of any sort. I didn’t understand why some of my fellow radical feminist bloggers spent so much time on it. “Just leave trans folks alone.” But this isn’t about whether or not trans people are human (of course they are), and this isn’t about picking on other groups who, like females, are also harmed by males. It’s about male people defining what female people are. And that’s what males have done for-friggen-ever. And that’s a big deal.