Go read this.
I don’t agree with Asher that all cis-women who appreciate trans-men’s “female” experience reveal “epic amounts of transmisogyny“. Each relationship* negotiates gender role construction differently (especially cis-trans relationships). Communication and the permission to make mistakes are important aspects of building trust and checking boundaries. Respect cannot be under-rated.
But having said that, there are too many invaluable ideas packed into Asher’s rich post to ignore. So here are some of the ideas that I found especially useful.
1. Trans-men are not socially conditioned as women.
For many women, the idea that there are men out there who have access to “special womanly knowledge” (periods! breasts!) is an exciting and radical idea. But unfortunately, these ideas are neither radical nor exciting—in fact they are rooted in seeking validation from patriarchy. A patriarchy that routinely sexualizes women and reduces them to their “time of the month”.
My everyday reality tells me that it takes more than shared knowledge of sanitary napkins to understand me or my experiences.
It doesn’t help that too many queer friendly feminists, straight women who love FTMs and some trans-men perpetuate this idea.
Which is why this is a breath of fresh air.
[...] this idea that I “know what women go through” totally erases what it is that I went through.[...] Yeah, I grew up in a sexist society that hated who it thought I was. But it also embraced parts of who I knew myself to me. I had a sense of entitlement to cling to at the worst of times that no woman could have had. You can’t expect a trans person to experience life, childhood, gender or trauma like a cis person.
Asher usefully deconstructs accepted ideas of gendered social conditioning of trans-people. In fact, he takes it one step further by detailing ways in which he was gender conditioned — as a gay man. Not to get all Judith Butler, but it’s a pretty great example of ways in which we are constantly building and negotiating “gender”.
2. Rape survivors don’t always respond in ways that make sense in a Lifetime network movie.
There is no wrong or right or normal way for a sexual violence survivor to respond to their experiences. To label a behavior as “unhealthy” is a well-intentioned (though patronizing) form of victim-shaming. What is healthy would be handing control of their own healing back to survivors, and to support them in whichever path they choose.
Healthy is no shaming, no judging. Let’s begin there, everything else comes later.
3. While all experiences of sexual violence differ, it is particularly important not to conflate how a woman might experience rape and how a trans-man might experience rape.
[...] Just as my body is not a female body or a woman’s body, my trauma is not a woman’s trauma. It is my trauma and I am a man. I am a young, effeminate, queer trans man who was raped multiple times. And yes, the man who raped me thought I was a woman. But the way he saw me is not how I saw myself. Pardon me for thinking that how I see and saw myself is more relevant to my experience than how my fucking rapist saw me. [...] So no, I did not experience rape as a woman even though I experienced a pregnancy scare (among other complications) afterwards. I experienced rape as a man. I experienced rape as the defeat of my masculinity, as the removal of my maleness – as my fucking castration. [...]
Given the alarming levels of violence in transgender communities [pdf-download], more understanding on how to respond to violence in the community is immeasurably useful. Asher’s revealing narratives about his own experiences help us all avoid well-intentioned, but harmful responses.
It is always crucial to try and understand the victim’s perspective (whether a friend, family, partner, or total stranger). And within this framework, it is also useful to clarify our own biases in order to avoid the possibility of further traumatizing a rape victim.
I cannot imagine a worthier reason to take a second look at our prejudices and in doing so, checking our privileges.
*Refers to intimate relationships, not random people or even friends.