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Trananarchism on Misogyny, Rape and Socializing of Transmen

January 9, 2012

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.
4 Comments leave one →
  1. Nico permalink
    January 17, 2012 2:23 pm

    I love it when cis people write about trans people because it gives me this bright little window into how they actually see us. For example, I think it’s very telling that when Asher unpacks the transmisogyny behind the “shared girlhood” meme, your response as a cis person is “No, it’s not transmisogynistic!”, followed by some extremely vague words about respect and romantic relationships… neither of which had anything to do with Asher’s original premise

    It’s also interesting that ‘woman’ is an unmarked category in this post (although you’re clearly referencing cis women, not trans ones) and ‘trans man’ gets hyphenated (like black-man, gay-man, blind-man, etc.)

  2. January 17, 2012 5:48 pm

    You know what I dislike? When people make assumptions about me and my experiences based on “hypenations”. It’s also obvious to me that you did not read past the first paragraph, which I also find just annoying.

    I do disagree with Asher that its “transmisogynistic!” (I am allowed to do this). I think the meme that “transmen are socialized as women” has other root causes which I go on to explain (part of living in the patriarchy). And I do think that every relationship is different and gender constructed differently (In fact, I have a lot to say about this — but I wanted this post to be about Asher’s post).

    You seem to completely gloss over the fact that I say that one of the most important things that Asher says is that “transmen are NOT conditioned as women”. Sheez.

    And no it’s not at all interesting that woman is “unmarked” and transmen is hyphenated. I hyphenate fairly randomly in my writing. Ridiculous.

  3. April 22, 2012 4:57 pm

    Yeah, actually, it is messed up that woman (when you mean cis woman) is unmarked and that you write “transman” or “trans-man.” Trans is an adjective, man is a noun. It’s two words. Putting them together as one word or with a hyphen is othering. This has been written about really extensively. It has nothing to do with your intent, which is obviously positive, but it’s still messed up.

    You are of course allowed to disagree with me that transmisogyny is the sole root of cis women wanting to relate trans men’s experiences to their own. I think your point about seeking validation from the patriarchy is really interesting. However you have to look at the flip side of the assumption that trans men know what cis women go through in some special way, which is that trans women do not. That is transmisogyny. Transmisogyny always exists wherever trans men are being held up as special, unique or important. Trans women are always demonized where trans men are lionized because the inverse of any positive assumption about trans men is a negative assumption about trans women. (Interestingly any negative assumption about trans men has an even more negative correllary for trans women.)

    Thanks for blogging about this, though. That post is really important to me and doesn’t get nearly as much attention as some of my other work which I feel less strongly about.

  4. April 23, 2012 3:32 am

    HI –
    Re: Cis woman being transmisogynist — I am not really invested in arguing that cis women are *not* displaying transmisogyny. (I felt the need to get that point out of the way and it looks like it was just a distraction instead.) I don’t really agree that all of them do — I think there’s lot more happening and I think it’s complicated. Especially for cis women who develop relationships with trans men. I think when straight, heteronormative cis women fall in love with trans men (I believe this happens roughly 100x/per second or something) — it does not always come with a perfectly formed understanding of transgender politics or even understanding. How this lack of awareness gets played is really different in each relationship. Sometimes it’s transmisogynist, while other times it’s not — these things get negotiated within each relationship. While being appreciated for one’s “conditioning as a woman” might be loathsome to one trans man; it will be built into the identity of another. These complications matter.

    Re: Cis woman vs. Woman — this point is taken. And I agree. It is weird, and I didn’t even realize I was doing it. Even though, I think about it quite a bit, I don’t write enough about trans politics and sometimes miss covertly transphobic use of language.

    Re: Hyphenations — I tire of identity politics quickly (and I say this with an awareness of my cis gendered privilege). But I tire of English-Language-centered-grammar-related identity politics even faster (and I say this as someone who was introduced to transgender politics NOT via English-speaking trans people). At some point, Western English-speaking activists took over queer language — and a realization that this is not the position from which everyone operates — is important.

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