The question is not whether trans women are “real,” but what is the real motivation behind defining some women as “real?”
March 23, 2017
One of my facebook friends posted some article on how to be an ally to trans people. Something about the article rubbed me the wrong way, but I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what — so I asked my friend why she’d posted the article. Did you find this article helpful when interacting with the trans people in your life?
She told me she didn’t know any trans people, but wanted to make clear that she was a safe person to talk to about trans issues. As it happened, she actually did know a trans person, she just didn’t know that person was trans. Apparently her method of broadcasting her “trans-safety” via facebook shares was not effective. This friend has always to me represented, like, something that is deeply wrong with liberal culture. The desire to be open minded simply for the sake of being open minded, not because you have come up against a situation that requires it, seems fairly toxic. Additionally, the belief that by dealing with something in the abstract, that by reading enough articles about it, you’ll be equipped to deal with it in real life, seems woefully misguided.
I have a few trans friends, and at times I have behaved problematically towards them. I’m not proud of it; I’m just trying to be honest. You can’t learn how to interact with people via facebook articles. You can’t get to the point where you’re this flawless ally without being a fucked up ally first. And, to get real with you, I try to be a good ally, but I still got trans women on the internet telling me how transmisogynist my writing is, so clearly I still got some shit to work on.
But, despite my problematic bigotry, a surprising number of trans people have forgiven me my issues and opened up to me about their feelings and thoughts on gender. Which, is actually a little weird in some ways.
Truth be told, early on some of my feelings on trans issues were a little TERFish. I remember talking to one of my old friends about feminism, and she said something like “a lot of feminists want to abolish gender, and I really, really don’t want to abolish gender.” She was a trans woman, and she didn’t want to abolish gender because she liked being a woman.
But… I was sort of one of those feminists who wanted to abolish gender! I was into math and science, the sports I liked were fighting sports (wrestling and jiu jitsu) and I had just suffered for a long, long time to do the things I wanted to do as a woman. And, for some chick to be like “omg, all this girly shit IS GREAT — LET’S KEEP DOING GIRLY SHIT” was very threatening to me initially. It triggered an almost instinctual panic: is some of my autonomy going to get lost if I fully embrace the trans movement?
Yet, despite my fears, I liked my friend and I saw how important this was to her, so I just rolled with it. I certainly fucked up a few times, but whenever I did, it was always accidental. Nowadays, I fuck up less because I just think of her as a woman. A quirky woman, possibly a morally questionable woman, definitely a loud woman, but mostly just a woman who is not substantially different from my other female friends.