I understand the desire of women to transition. My dirty secret is that I have felt it too.
May 11, 2012
It deserves to be widely read and warrants its own post. From Lesley213:
I am a radical feminist and a lesbian. I hate the Trans project and how men invade women and lesbian space because they are “really women” or “really lesbians”. I hate the inherent misogyny in the Trans position.
And yet at an individual level I understand the desire of women to transition. My dirty secret is that I have felt it too.
I was not the typical tomboy as a child that many lesbians profess to be. I played with dolls, played happily with other girls and embarassingly for my mother with her feminist ideas, refused to wear trousers as I found skirts more comfortable. This all changed when I hit puberty. Although I was happy to get my periods and see my body become that of a woman, I found the social aspects of puberty very hard.
Suddenly all the girls seemed to only be talking about hair, makeup, clothes and how to get a boyfriend. I had no interest in any of this and felt like a real outsider. I began from 12 to hang around with boys and had a boyfriend from 12 and boys who were friends. I felt like I could fit in more with boys. There was no talk of make up, clothes or getting boyfriends. I look physically at this time, what would have been characterised as a “nerd”. Sensible haircut, jeans (skirts were no longer appealing when I was supposed to wear uncomfortable court shoes and shave my legs), t shirts and jumpers.
It is also at this time I developed my alter ego – Stuart. In all my daydreams I was Stuart. He grew up with me and I day dreamed about my life as a teenage boy and then a man. Of course like all daydreams, Stuart was more popular and better looking than my real female self, but he didn’t always have an easy time in my daydreams. However, crucially he didn’t experience any of the everyday sexism that I found so hard to take as a young teenage women. Every woman reading this will know what I mean by this. Stuart was a big part of my life until literally a year ago when he just vanished from my day dreams. At the time I didn’t understand why, but I think now that I was beginning to understand a year ago at some level that Stuart was a device to deal with my anger around everyday sexism – a sort of, what if daydream.
I have never talked about any of this in real life as I am deeply ashamed of this, so apologies if all of this seems really disjointed and poorly thought out. Its hard to put something into words for the first time.
But the truth is I think if in my early teenage years I had been presented with the discourse of Trans to explain my feelings, I could have easily transitioned.
I have read radical feminists talking about FtoT hating their female bodies and hating their female themselves. Of course at a fundamental level, undergoing cosmetic surgery is a self hating procedure to undergo. But I never hated my female body, beyond the usual insecurities of any teenage girl and young woman. I don’t know if those who actually transition feel differently, but I have always liked having breasts and a female body. But the things that did make me think I would rather be a man were simply that life would have been easier. I wouldn’t have had to deal with all the everyday sexism that as a teenage girl made me so angry. I wouldn’t have had to deal with on an everyday basis
– sexist teachers who treated girls and boys differently
– my parents who in spite of what they professed did treat my brother better. Yes we both had equal chores for example, but whereas he rarely did them, I was made to do mine
– judgements and pressures from other girls that I largely ignored, to wear make up, prettify myself, etc
– pressure to behave in a certain way now that I was a teenage girl, rather than just behave as myself
– casual judgements from men on whether I was attractive or not
I could go on and on, but you all know what I mean. I basically wanted to go back to being treated as an individual and not be faced with being treated as a lesser being with all the pressure to conform to being an acceptable teenage girl and then women.
So what stopped me framing these feelings as “really being a man inside”.
1. I think first of all the Trans project was pretty much in its infancy when I was young and at my most vulnerable. And certainly FtoT was largely unheard of, everyone in the media was MtoT. I was born in 1969 to give this context. As I was a younger adult, anything I read on FtoT made it clear that the surgical solutions around creating a penis were pretty rudimentary as well – and basically I didn’t want to be a freak – someone who in the surface looked like a man but had no penis or a pretty poor substitute for one.
2. I knew I wasn’t a man and that it was not really possible to become a man. If it had been, I would have been much more tempted.
3. Feminism – although I have only come to radical feminism in the last few years along with an understanding of the Trans project, I did have enough of an understanding of feminism as a teenager to recognise that my feelings were really about, as I would have expressed it then, the sexist society I was growing up in, rather than about my own individual feelings and “gender identity”.
4. I have the intelligence and self awareness to analyse and challenge my own internal feelings. Many women, including those who might be much more academically intelligent than myself, often have what I would see as quite a low understanding of their own feelings and behaviour. I generally do understand why am I doing something, even if it is for shameful reasons.
I do think I might have been influenced to go down the transition route if I had been surrounded both by the discourse and by individuals who were telling me that my feelings were really because I was a man underneath and that it was perfectly possible to change my body to that of a man’s.
I also do understand FtoT who then access lesbian space. I have had so much support, good times, a feeling of being accepted and generally nurtured in lesbian space. By nurtured and accepted I don’t mean in a support group type of way. I simply mean being allowed to be myself and accepted for that – a simple thing, but it has felt very powerful. If I had transitioned I suspect I would be wanting to access lesbian only space. it is literally about trying to get the best of both worlds.
I am not butch and so the lesbian discourse around being butch rather than being trans has never appealed to me. All I have ever wanted was to be myself. It terrifies me how the Trans discourse is now being sold to teenage girls and women as a solution to internal and societal conflicts. And it angers me that feminists are silencing objections to the Trans discourse as Transphobia.