This is the reason that when people start talking about feminism, I feel the urge to get up and leave the room. I don’t have a problem with feminism itself. What I DO have a problem with is when feminism pretends to be everything for everyone.
I want to try and put words to something that I have an intense amount of anger about and which I want to get out on a page as a means of unpacking.
If you’re LGBT and you’ve watched stuff on YouTube, you will have come across at least a handful of incredibly ignorant homophobic or transphobic comments. Sometimes these are violent in tone, but other times they are more subtle… condescending. It’s that later kind I want to talk about because sometimes that kind makes me more disgusted than the outright hate.
This post is about a specific comment that I saw one day under a video made by a lesbian woman. The comment was a response to something I said under the video in defense of trans guys. I was trying to make a distinction between butch lesbians and trans guys, because it is obvious that some people still can’t tell the difference.
The woman’s comment did not in any way or form acknowledge what I was saying. In fact, it didn’t even acknowledge that I even had a voice. Basically, she was saying that transgender people were people with “internalized sexism” or “internalized homophobia” and that this was the reason they go for medical transition. She said that she works with women who have regretted transitioning and that there always seemed to be “internalized sexism” going on.
I responded to her back and fourth a couple of times. But after a certain point, I had to tear myself away from the conversation because it was so one-sided that I might as well have been talking to a stone wall. I don’t believe in one-way discussions, and I don’t believe that matters of personal Identity are up for debate. So I stopped responding.
This incident stayed with me and even years later it occasionally plays back in my head. I wish I never saw her comment because it’s the kind of thing that makes a person hate humanity. It makes me wonder how many more people walk around the world thinking that transgenderism is “self-hate” or medical transition is “mutilation”. Nowhere in this “conversation” did she even recognize that I have my own perspective; it was calm, self-assured condescension from start to finish.
I stopped responding because I’m smart enough to know that the person who gets the last word is not always right. She got the last word, but I didn’t bother reading her last reply because I didn’t want to continue that loop of bullshit. The incident left me with an unpleasant memory that plays back like a trauma in my head at random times, simply because people don’t forget the feeling of being belittled easily.
Cis female experience is NOT my narrative. My dreams and fantasies have been consistently and even stereotypically “hetero male” since I was a kid. What I’m attracted to and what I identity with have always existed in two separate boxes in my head.
I read this line in a book once:
“Models of understanding are ways of seeing a thing–not the thing itself”
Extremist feminism doesn’t seem to get this.
Do those who de-transition exist? Yes. Are there people who have internalized sexism? Yes. Are there people who transition purely for privilege? Yes. That still doesn’t mean that all who say they are Trans are like this.
My narrative was NEVER the cis female narrative.
How do I put this simply? When I was a kid, I wanted to grow a penis. When I was a teenager, I wanted to grow a penis. When I was in my early 20s, I wanted to grow a penis. Even now, in my late 20s, I still want a penis. And even on my deathbed someday, I will hope that in the afterlife I will finally be a guy.
That’s not confusion. That’s called consistency. It’s called knowing what I want.
That was the way it always was—long before I knew the words “queer” or “trans” or “cis” or “feminism” or “lesbian”—long before I knew my sexual orientation even. It was my #1 dream as a kid and always will be, regardless of whether I can ever make it come true or not. As I said before, the only thing that holds me back is the lack of a magical and painless way to make that dream come true.
Seeing that kind of transphobic garbage that is so wholly disconnected from my actual experience… I don’t even have the words for the disgust I felt. And it was even more traumatic because this was at a time when I was getting ready for top surgery.
This kind of extremist feminism damages the psyche of those who are not cis. It is a true abuse of power when one person feels they can silence another person in full confidence that society will back them up in their oppressive behaviour. It’s a sign not only of the power-hungry nature of some individuals, but also of the corruption in a society… the fact that society hasn’t developed enough to protect the rights of an Individual because they cause an inconvenient disturbance in the neatly constructed dominant narratives. It’s a sign that some people are being given undue power over others’ lives and bodies.
I definitely don’t have “internalized homophobia” because for a time I was perfectly willing to use the label for queer female, even if I didn’t feel any resonance with it.
As for “internalized sexism,” it’s complicated. It’s very hard to talk about something like gender dysphoria with full honesty without coming off like I have some kind of sexism going on. But the word that I wholeheartedly reject is the word “internalized.“ That word starts with the assumption that my true self is Cis. It’s not. It never has been. It’s one thing for someone to claim that trans people have some level of sexism but to claim it is “internalized” is yet another kind of invalidation.
You can’t have “internalized” hate about something you never identified with IN THE FIRST PLACE.
I wondered for the longest time why my journey didn’t feel like it ended when I came out as bi and then gay and then non-binary. It was only after watching (binary) trans men talk about their experiences that I really TRULY felt I understood myself. Even when I came out as “gay” it was reluctantly and I never thought to myself “I want to be someone’s “girlfriend.” When people looked at my relationship, I wanted it to be obvious that I was the guy in the relationship. I still remember looking for a lesbian couple that actually reflected what I wanted (to be the GUY in the relationship) and I saw a couple online that I identified with because one of them behaved more like the masculine one. Fast-forward several years, and that same person came out as TRANS male! It didn’t surprise me at all.
People can talk down to me, they can talk around me, they can talk about me but one thing I will never allow them to do—and which they can never do—is talk FOR me.
That’s what that woman in the YouTube comment was trying to do in that moment. She was trying to talk FOR me. And that’s why I felt such strong emotions and that’s why that interaction still makes me want to punch someone. Nothing in the world feels more dehumanizing that the feeling of someone taking an eraser and erasing your whole life just so they can make sense out of you for their own purposes.
I felt erased in that moment. How do you tell a condescending, arrogant stranger that when you were a kid you used to watch TV shows and wish with pained longing that you were the male characters, every time? That you felt extreme discomfort when being around girls your age because the stuff they talked about didn’t make any sense to you? And you didn’t care because you wanted to be with the guys instead… not in a sexual way, but in a “bro” way. How do you convey that for the longest time, you were a loner because you didn’t fit anywhere and that even years after coming out these scars still haunt you?
The ridiculous accusation of wanting privilege only makes me roll my eyes. Of course a cis woman wouldn’t possibly be able to understand why else someone would want to BE a guy! Their very brains are different. If you can’t see the worth of basic male experiences (brotherhood, fatherhood, boyfriend, husband, etc) then your head doesn’t work like a guy’s head. If “want of privilege” is the only reason you can imagine wanting to be a guy, you are not a guy on the inside. You are not binary transgender and you are likely to regret medical transition. But don’t ever apply that to me. I’m not the same.
Do these people think that cis straight women know how cis lesbian minds work? No. They don’t. And yet, they accept lesbian women all the same. There should be NO reason why lesbian women or straight women can’t do the same for trans guys.
When someone feels the need to overwrite another person’s identity, it’s usually because of some kind of deep insecurity of their own. If people really believed in gender equality, then it shouldn’t matter if someone wanted to jump from one gender group into the other. It would not affect anything. Obsessing over other people’s gender transitions is what true obsession with privilege looks like. That’s what socially sanctioned narcissism looks like.
The only surgery I had was top surgery. It’s been about 3 years since then, and I can tell anyone with full confidence that “Regret” is not a word that would even be in the vocabulary I would use to describe the good it did for my mental health. It was like something extinguished a deep rage that was centered on my chest area. Eternal Gratitude is the only thing I feel, towards the surgeon that gave me that release and empowerment.
I had to force myself to write this post because it meant reliving a memory I’d rather throw into the trash. I just hope that someday there will be cis people out there that can see that kind of interaction clearly for what it was: one person abusing their social privilege and power over another. I hope that someday society will develop enough to look at that kind of abusive person with the same disgust that I feel, and to see that some models of understanding are flawed and only serve one group.
It’s incredibly easy to pick on minorities and to make up all kinds of fictions about them, because in a society full of ignorance, whose is going to stop you? All throughout history minorities have been considered mentally ill for being different, and each time society developed enough to see how wrong their assumptions were. What’s sick and sad is that even after all that, people are still doing this in one form or other. That’s what makes it unforgivable. With that much history to look back on and learn from, to do it again in another form is unforgivable.
As for accusations of “self-hate,” there’s nothing more self-loving than standing up against a whole group of self-entitled people and rejecting their assumptions in defense of one’s truth.
The “Realness” of my experience is something only I and others like me can know. Whatever fiction someone tries to put on top of my reality ultimately does not erase that reality. Transphobic people and the fictions they make up to make sense out of something they don’t even seem to want to understand—those fictions are not my narrative.