There’s a lot of talk these days about privilege. Who has it, who doesn’t. Who shouldn’t have it. Who shouldn’t have different privilege because of this or that.
There’s a term we should discuss. TERF. Trans exclusionary radical feminist.
Girls that don’t like girls like me because I call myself a girl.
*Serious side eye*
One of the main arguments seems to be that Transgender females (that is biological men transitioning to females) aren’t female and shouldn’t be allotted the rights of a female. Or… privileges. And why? It seems, again, the reasoning is: they’ve enjoyed the rights and privileges of men so they shouldn’t be allowed to also acquire the rights and privileges of others.
Here’s the problem with that argument: if you’ve gotten a label slapped on you, you’ve lost privilege. Gay men lose the privilege of being a “straight white man” and no longer are thought of as “Strong” or “Outdoorsy” or “Masculine”. Pop culture depicts a lot of them as fey and dainty.
Lesbians lose being able to be thought of as “Demure” or “Soft”. Now they’re “Butch” or “Masculine” or “Lipsticky”. As if they’re no longer even really women. But they are. They just lose some rights to be thought of that way. Not by other lesbians or ‘people that get it.’ By the general population. By what we call ‘society’.
Now, some embrace this. They take the labels on. They wrap themselves in the label. It’s kind of a defense mechanism. And kind of cultural.
I eluded, in my last post, to posting a much more in-depth piece on ingroup dynamics, and this isn’t it… but it does play a role. The role that group-think plays in minority social structures is important and necessary for cohesion and community to develop. But it seems more often lingering or peripheral attitudes are being shunted away.
This is both natural and regrettable. It means that the experience of those that don’t fit perfectly into the ‘normal’ pile, don’t have as much of a voice. Add to that any other minority stigma and suddenly… mysteriously… they all but vanish. This works in the favor of the majority who do - more or less - fit in the bucket of normalcy. Those of us that have spilled out now linger, disparate and amorphous on the ground.
The point I’m here to make is that trans women never really get to be ‘one of the guys.’
At least, that’s my experience, anyway. I never ‘fit in’ with ordinary men. ‘The Guys’. And it wasn’t just that I was an outcast, I didn’t like them. I didn’t want to be around them. They made me uncomfortable. The way they talked about women bothered me. The way they taunted each other, invariably hurt me and bothered me. They weren’t even aware. Their behavior wasn’t even out of line, toward me, most of the time. It’s simply that men associate differently than women. Women have their own ways of hurting one another. Of assigning social order and dominance. Sometimes worse than men. But, if you’re a woman, it stings in a different way.
When men would make fun of me, they’d make fun of me for male things. And it didn’t make sense. If they insinuated my penis was too small, in the back on my head I’d often say things like “If only.” And then feign being injured by this. To try to fit in.
It didn’t ring true, to them or me.
If they punched my arm, I felt assaulted. They didn’t intend it that way… but that’s how I felt. The point I’m making is that by the time I could really choose to, around middle school, I didn’t spend time with boys. When I got into high school it was a long time before I made actual male friends. They were probably the least included boys in the school. Before that the social dynamics and arrangement of the schools I attended made associating with girls not just difficult but almost taboo. And worse, the boys often even said things like “Ew, girls!”
This isn’t to convince anyone that’s transphobic. Frankly, I don’t care to do that. Too much work. This is more to just generally put my thoughts on the subject down and move on. The larger projects I want to tackle mean that this subject is a bit of a stumbling block and I wanted to get it out of the way.
But, if there is one thing I could do to build a bridge, it’s this: before you apply a label to someone, try to consider what you might be taking from them or hiding behind that label.