From the outside you may think the LGBTQIQQAZX! community is one big rolling pride parade – leather daddies walking arm in arm with lesbian moms singing kum bai ya with gendervariant folks of all types perpetually covered in glitter. A shining spectacle of acceptance visible from space and blinding astronauts with the glare of a trillion sequins.
Well. Its not
exactly like that.
Another thing you may not know – I really hate being queer. A lot.
These are related. Let me explain.
Since I was very small, kindergarten aged or younger, I had a feeling that I was born wrong. Something terrible had happened and I should have been a boy. I would lay awake at night and think about it. These thoughts would lead to others, like ‘well, why wasn’t I born a rabbit? what is consciousness?’ It was pretty easy for me to detach and ask these questions since I didn’t feel particularly attached to my earthly manifestation.
Fast forward MANY years, and here we are in the middle of alphabet soup. Its ok now, right? Its ok – you can be a real boy! Well, kind of. I mean, you missed out on an entire childhood, upbringing, socialization, friendships, networking, and career opportunities you would have had if you were born a boy but don’t worry, the minute you change your name and turn yourself into a testosterone pin cushion you will magically have Male Privilege™ and the queer community will hate you.
Wait, what? I thought queer was home for people like me? A space for me to get support as an Assigned Female At Birth (AFAB) person who lived in the world as a female for my entire adult life. Ive been a woman in tech. Ive experienced men not taking me seriously, staring at my (former!) breasts while discussing business, not getting promoted, having my medical concerns ignored.
Now Im trying to figure how the hell to operate in a world Ive never experienced. Asking my cismale friends what the bathroom rules are. Being afraid Ill be raped in the mens room should someone discover I’m trans and decide to show me what a “real man” is like, as has been done to many of those who walked this path before me. Having no clue what the social ‘rules’ are with men, how to be heard as a man among other men (apparently talk louder than the other mens? Unsure).
No, the answer is no. There is no support for me among ‘queers’ and neither is there any in the cishet (cisgendered, heterosexual) world.
I am currently a women owned small business, a designation I received last year based on the gender marker on my driver’s license. This designation recognizes the disadvantage Ive been at throughout my professional career as a person who used the ladies room. This designation gives me a better shot at getting government contracts. Its also worth noting that many cis men make their wives the head of the business to cash in on this designation.
Since my gender marker has now changed I will have to relinquish this designation and the economic opportunities it would have had for my new business. Thats it. Nothing has changed about my professional background, network, sales funnel.. The magical Male Privilege™ hasn’t worked for me but since I legally am Male now its assumed I no longer am at the economic disadvantage I was last year.
Kind of bullshit, don’t you think?
In a similar way, because I now identify and speak as a transman the queer community decides that my Male Privilege™, gained in year 35 of my 36 year life span, means that I am one of the evil menz of the world. Cismen have certainly done a lot of bad towards women throughout history, that I do not deny. But being treated as the same given 1. Aforementioned lack of being born, raised, or in any way perceived as a man my entire life and 2. Present lack of being read as male, ever, even by people seeing my naked post op chest is complete bullshit. Yet that is what I get to experience as a member of the queer community.
Here are some choice phrases aimed at transmen from recent discussions about the NC HB2 bill. NOT at the NC state legislature, mind you, but transmen. Yep. Transmen are the real enemy here, not the guys passing the laws. This is the queer community for you
“avoid men(cis and trans) entirely.”
“Men can be so fucking clueless. This is true of trans men as well as cis men. So goddamn clueless and arrogant.”
“Trans guys in women’s bathrooms, handing out cards, taking selfies, etc: you are making this bathroom bills situation way worse than it already is. ”
(Note – this person goes on to defend TRANSWOMEN doing the SAME THING in MENS bathrooms, which makes things dangerous for transmen, particularly those like me that dont read as male)
“Please, for once, step BACK and listen to women.” – like how I lived my life for 35 years?
This is how I am viewed by much of the queer community. At the same time I am told of how hard life is for other queers and that I should shut my mouth because I have Male Privilege™.
I was recently asked to provide feedback on a trans character for a screenplay. The writer went on to tell me how he wanted to showcase a transwoman character since there is a lack of representation of trans women narratives in film and tv. It was evident that trans men werent even a thought in this persons mind when he considered writing a trans character, since he was rather flustered when I tried to explain why I couldn’t help him.
Its true, more representation of trans women, especially trans women of color, would be great. But you know, Laverne Cox is a main character in the long running series Orange Is The New Black, Transparent is focused on a TRANSWOMAN, Janet Mock is practically a household name. The Danish Girl, Sense8… Transwomen have given keynotes at tech conferences, the senior LGBT Liason to the Whitehouse is a Transwoman. The majority of the people in a trans professional group I belong to? Transwomen. And GOOD! I am glad that transwomen are prospering, being depicted as humans with agency, and lifted up. I am not of the “oppression olympics” mentality.
So – where are the shows and films about transmen? Where were the transmen on HRC NY’s recent transgender career panel? Where are the transmen speaking at tech conferences? Where were the transmen on the recent LGBTQIA panel at SXSW? Where are the transmen that are not 1. Chaz Bono or 2. Being mooned over for their post op cisnormative upper bodies? The answer is no where. They are nowhere. Because our experiences are ignored, erased, and shouted down by the queer community. Please prove me wrong, I would love to find other transmen working in tech, leading prosperous lives, talking about dealing with being a trans man, being treated as humans with agency on popular TV shows.
Interesting, eh? Walking in the world as a female my body was objectified, much like it still is as a trans man. My voice was silenced by those shouting it down, and it continues to be so now. But what about Male Privilege™ ?
For me Male Privilege™ looks like sobbing in my partner’s arms after one too many networking sessions where I was questioned about my gender, told that i dont look like a man, and humiliated by people who purported to be helping me as I ambled about like a baby deer in headlights trying to start a business. Male Privilege™ looks like being told that my 17 year tech career living as a female doesnt mean anything to Lesbians who Tech or Grace Hopper and other Women in Tech organizations that used to lend support to me. That they refuse to acknowledge and support people like me.
It looks like me walking on eggshells in every meeting and conversation waiting for the pitchforks – from the queers or the straights, or maybe both.
Mostly it means lots of feelings of not wanting to go on. I still wish I had been born a boy. Sometimes the only reason I feel glad about my queerness is my wonderful partner and the relief of not living in a world that didnt work for me. I do not choose to be queer, nor would I, if I had a choice.
Ive only every wanted what any other human wants – to be accepted and loved for who I am.
I am fortunate. I have family and friends, straight and queer, who are supportive, but still I struggle every day to keep going. I fear for young trans masculine kids and those who are just coming out like I did at an older age. There is no support network for transmen. Many I have talked to have opted out of the queer community for the reasons I mention above and quietly struggle alone.
Imagine if a young trans boy came across the comments I posted above. “Men can be so fucking clueless. This is true of trans men as well as cis men. So goddamn clueless and arrogant.” Imagine if all this young boy ever saw of people like him was shirtless, ripped, post op transmen. Not businessmen. Not actors. Not TV reporters. Not government officials. Not technology professionals.
Please help us. Lift up the stories of transmen. Call out queer misandry and hypocrisy. Know that TRANSGENDER means transMEN too. So many times people look at me sideways because they think transgender means only MTF transwomen. If someone claims their event or organization is TRANS inclusive make sure they welcome transmen, because otherwise they are not trans inclusive. Include transmen in your networks and help them find jobs.
Learn about transmen. For instance, transmen have historically lived at an economic disadvantage owing to their former lives as female assigned. You can read about it in Jamison Green’s Becoming A Visible Man. That and other great books on FTMs & trans masculinity are on this list and also this one