The Secret World of Alex Mack (or how media made my childhood easier)

When I was growing up there was this show called The Secret World of Alex Mack.  It was a tween-oriented series centred around a girl (Alex Mack) who was accidentally covered in this industrial goop and developed weird powers.  Like most shows of the time, the target audience was gender neutral and included an opposite-gender best friend.  Every time someone asks me how it is I had very few problems with gender growing up I point to this show because it’s such a perfect example of the slightly odd period of the mid-90s I grew up in.

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Note that Alex wasn’t meant to be a tomboy, she’s an average girl in a suburban town.  Who happened to dress not that differently from me.

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Alex got girlier as she got older, but particularly early on the girly girls were portrayed as slightly different from ‘normal’.

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It wasn’t just Alex Mack either, most of the media I grew up on featured boys and girls that weren’t that different from each other.  See: the abundance of flannel even on the very much teenage girls Angela Chase and Rayanne Graff from My So-Called Life, particularly when contrasted with Sharon Cherski, Angela’s childhood friend.

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Back to Sherwood and The Adventures of Shirley Holmes were also favourites of mine, but they weren’t nearly as popular and are therefore difficult to find images for.  Are You Afraid of the Dark? always featured at least one tween girl in a backwards ball cap and ripped jeans.

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The thing I think a lot of people forget is that the late 90s US was still very much inspired by grunge.  Teen and tween clothes were largely baggy, shapeless, and hobo-like.  It’s not something I enjoy now, but as a child it meant that there was no pressure to dress like a Spice Girl because no girls dressed like that.  It wasn’t until I was in the latter half of high school that the fashion influences of pop music really started hitting California.  Before that girls may have wanted to look like Britney Spears, but no school and very few parents would have allowed it even assuming they could find the clothes.

In contrast, most of the kids I know now watch things like The Haunted Hathaways

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Or Good Luck Charlie

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Or A.N.T. Farm

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Even shows like Liv and Maddie feature a tomboy who would have been considered girly when I was growing up.

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I can’t imagine being a little trans guy right now.  All of the girls on TV and in movies seem to be these perfectly coiffed, slender beauties who need some sort of frill or pastel to be fully dressed.  Yeah, I probably would’ve realised sooner if this is what I had to go off of, but I also would have been miserable for many years because there is no way I could have come out to my parents.

Edit: Apologies to any visitors out there using screen readers.  I switched the alt tags from descriptives to cut down on the number of parents emailing me because Precious got to a site talking about transsexuals and homos and god only knows what else via an image search for whatever kiddie show they like.  The images are, in order, an Alex Mack S1 promo, Alex and Ray, Alex and a more girly girl from the show, Angela and Rayanne from My So-Called Life, Sharon Cherski from the same show, one of the girls from Are You Afraid of the Dark, and promo shots for The Haunted Hathaways, Good Luck Charlie, A.N.T. Farm, and Liv and Maddie.

Fun, if not particularly polite way to deal with butch lesbians insisting on assuming you’re one of them

My salon does quite a bit of promoting for Pride.  It’s good for business and I think we only have one straight staffer so it’s kind of a big thing for us.  Which means that today I was manning our booth while wearing Kurt’s ‘Born This Way’ shirt.

Apparently having ‘LIKES BOYS’ in giant letters across my torso was not enough to deter the lesbians.  Every couple of minutes one of them would come up to me and talk about how great it is to see a lesbian in hairdressing.  (It’s not really, I know at least as many lesbian hairdressers as I do gay men.)  Normally I’m very polite about this.  I’m used to educating and this sort of thing happens to all the cis guys in my family too so I don’t consider it a big deal.

Today I got frustrated.  When a woman (who looked strikingly like Chaz Bono when he first came out) came up to me wearing a ‘dip me in honey and throw me to the lesbians’ and talking about how inspiring I was I immediately started calling her ‘sir’.  Repeatedly.  Even after she corrected me.  I did that over and over and over again until finally one woman got frustrated and asked why I assumed she was a man.

“Why did you assume I’m a woman?”

She didn’t really have an answer for that.

Just because you’re a man does not mean you need to be a douche

Something I’ve been noticing as I make friends with younger guys: there’s a horrible trend of coming out, passing, and suddenly becoming the world’s biggest pain in the ass.

I’ve seen some sweet, polite, well mannered, privilege checking guys turn into people I never want to see, let alone be associated with.  It’s more than a bit sickening.  Particularly since I know you’re all capable of more.

This is everyone’s reality check.  I know that passing means suddenly you’re allowed — and even expected — to buy into a ton of negative behaviours.  I know that it can sometimes be tricky navigating what is and isn’t considered ‘normal’ for a guy.  That doesn’t mean you should accept all of it.

Stop taking up two seats on the bus just because you can.  If you can fit in one seat you should sit in one seat.  It’s only polite.  Stop reacting to everything with physical violence.  Not only does it show a complete lack of brain power, it’s going to get you in some serious trouble if you mess with the wrong guy.  Stop forgetting the table manners I know your parents taught you.  No one wants to see your half-masticated food.  It’s gross.  Stop laughing when the guys around you tell a sexist/homophobic joke.  I don’t care if it means you don’t fit in, you don’t need to be playing into oppression.  You’re better than that.  And for god’s sake, just because you can scratch yourself in public doesn’t mean you should.  If your hand is down your pants I’m going to assume you’re playing with yourself and in most places that’s a crime.

I know, it’s awesome that you now have license to be a disgusting slob of a caveman.  That doesn’t mean you should.  For one thing, most people — man, woman, or otherwise — don’t want to date a caveman.  For another, it’s going to create bad habits that are difficult to break when you need to act like a gentleman for something like a job interview.  Think about it for a second.  Do you want to be the tool on ‘Tool Academy’?  I know I don’t.  I laugh at those guys.  I don’t know how the hell they’re still getting laid.  So cut the crap and grow up.

“But you have female socialisation!”

I cannot begin to explain how much I loathe statements like that.  They’re most often said by women trying to explain why they prefer trans guys to cis guys so I don’t really have to deal with them, but when I do…very little pisses me off faster.

Why?  Because there is so much wrong in that one simple sentence that I’m not entirely sure where to start.  It assumes that all women have some magical girlhood experience.  It assumes that the little girl in a rich, white New York family is socialised the same way as a Latina in the LA ghetto.  It ignores that socialisation differs based on time, location, socio-economic class, race, religion, and a whole host of other factors.  It implies that trans women will never be “real” women because they’re missing this mystical childhood socialisation.

Beyond that, it gives trans guys way too much credit.  It says that we must instinctively understand and agree with issues like rape culture because we were raised as girls.  I’m trans and I gotta say, half of what people talk about when they mention rape culture never once occurred to me.  I’m not automatically a better feminist because of my genitalia.

It could be said that I missed everything because I socially transitioned myself so young.  I can believe that.  I’m not the only one with these problems though.  Ask a group of trans guys about their upbringings and you’ll get a mixed bag of answers.  Some will say they 100% were socialised as girls and they understand what that means.  Others will say gender wasn’t an issue in their upbringing because they were treated the same way as cis guy relatives.  Others will say they were socialised largely as a boy by accident.  Still others will have a range of answers somewhere in between.

Being trans does not make me a more enlightened breed of guy.  In fact, being trans has often worked against my ability to understand feminism.  It took a very long time for me to be able to understand that just because I didn’t experience a certain aspect of being seen as a girl doesn’t mean no woman has.  It took even longer for me to recognise my own internalised misogyny and start to work through it.  I’m sure I still have issues I haven’t noticed yet.  So please stop acting like I’m magic.  I’m not.  I’m just as capable of being a jerk as any other guy.

Sexual attraction to trans men

I’m going to tell everyone a little story.  It’s a short story, but the point of it is rather important.

About a year ago I met this guy.  Maybe 5’3″, very slight build, higher than average voice, effeminate in a somewhat unusual way, and pretty as hell.  I’ve rarely met women prettier than this guy, he’s the classic androgynous pretty boy type.  A bit too pretty for my usual tastes actually, but we started talking and hit it off great.

Well, we start talking and hanging out more and I start learning more about him.  Turns out he’s one of the few guys I know who will call out anti-feminist crap.  He has a ton of lesbian friends.  He knows more about women’s health than I do.  After a while I start realising that he has almost every single trans guy “marker” there is.

I am thrilled.  I’d gone through a series of bad transphobic rejections and was in serious need of an ego boost.  I figure this guy’s cute, we get along well, and it’s starting to look like he’s trans too so I have one less thing to worry about.

Then I take him to one of my kick boxing lessons.  We’re in the locker room getting showered and changed after and I catch a glimpse of his crotch.  Guy isn’t trans.  Not by a long shot (no pun intended).  He turned out to be trans-friendly, but is definitely not trans himself.  Luckily, I noticed before making an ass out of myself.

Point of the story is that even trans people can make baseless assumptions about another person’s genitalia.  I know that there’s no fail proof way of knowing what’s in a person’s pants unless I ask, but I did it anyway.  Why?  Because parts of the community (trans people and allies both) insist that it’s possible to have a sexual attraction to trans people — which implies that you can spot a trans person before they’re unclothed.

The truth is that there’s a difference between being androgynous or visibly gender non-conforming and being trans.  Do they often go together?  Yeah, especially for early transition people or those who identify outside the gender binary.  That doesn’t mean that they’re automatic trans indicators though.  In reality there are androgynous and gender non-conforming cis people just as there are ‘invisible’ trans people.  You never really know so it’s best not to assume.

10 Moments that really WEREN’T clues

I already did a post on the times that I probably should’ve known something was up, but I feel like it’s important for people to realise that even those of us who did have a lot of “classic” trans traits also often had some moments that weren’t so “typical boy”.

When I decided that my name was Anastasia. Emphasis on the ‘STAH’, not ‘stay’. I was adamant that people pronounce it properly. I was in preschool and hated my name with a passion, but Anastasia sounded just different enough to work. I was also a pretentious little brat who probably needed to be brought down a peg or two.

Which is why no one was too horribly surprised when I sent in photos of myself to John Robert Powers without telling anyone when I was six. It never went anywhere because unsolicited headshots in envelopes addressed in crayon (pink with sparkles and unicorn stickers so that it stood out) don’t tend to be taken very seriously. Ended up being my parents’ favourite “awww, she’s so cute!” story for years though.

I also loved my dance lessons. Sure, I refused a tutu and danced all male roles, but you could not make me miss a class. I had to be drugged to keep me from sneaking out when I caught chicken pox, that’s how obsessed I was. (Funny part is, I’m not a natural dancer. I can do ballet, but get me in a club and I start looking like Mark Cohen.)

When I wasn’t dancing I could generally be found playing with pretty dresses and tiaras. I loved dress up. Sometimes I was a fireman, but often I was Belle or Aurora or Jasmine. I was the kid with no siblings close to my own age (the closest one is college aged now) so when I was at home I had to be able to entertain myself. That generally meant dress up and other imaginary games.

Even outside of dress up, I adored books with strong heroines like Nancy Drew and Jo from Little Women. I was always a reader and while I did like my high fantasy and old mythology (English and Irish folklore being favourites), I was still a sucker for anything where the girl kicked everyone’s ass. Heck, I still read American Girl books whenever they come out with a new character.

I didn’t change all that much after I started going to school as a boy either. I still wore pink and purple (more purple than pink) and painted my nails. This wasn’t considered a weird thing for boys at my school, I was actually one of the more tame ones because my light up high tops didn’t have pink laces, only white glitter.

Speaking of nail polish, I had an entire collection of fun colours. Other kids my age collected My Little Pony or action figures, I had a bathroom cabinet full of nail polish. Mostly various shades of blue, but also a lot of silver, gold, and clear with glitter. I’d change the colour every night when I decided what I was going to wear the next day so that it’d match.

I was also obsessive about my hair (and eventually skincare). When I was seven I made up a chart and staged an experiment to figure out which brand and type of hair product worked best for me. As I got older and puberty made my skin rebel I repeated that for different skincare routines. Cleanser, toner, exfoliating scrubs, masks, moisturisers…my medicine cabinet still looks like a diva exploded.

Actually, looking back I realise that quite a few of my “girly” habits revolved around being image obsessed. I would spend hours picking out the perfect outfit. Always something that a baby Kurt Hummel or (for those of you older than 15) Simon Doonan would wear, but I didn’t figure that out until I was older. One of the biggest reasons I couldn’t handle the classic passing tips was that I hated looking like a slob. Even in my tomboy days I insisted on making sure colours coordinated and patterns didn’t clash. I was wearing horribly oversized shirts and jeans, but damned if I was going to make things worse by pairing chartreuse with violet or some other nonsense.

Any or all of these in a little boy would’ve been clues to possible future sexuality (and very much scorned by my macho-man relatives). However, I was considered a little girl. This meant I was behaving much as expected. Yes, I socially transitioned myself. Yes, I refused to admit that I was considered a girl until freaking high school. My family didn’t know that though. To them I was a safe enough balance between tomboy and appropriately girly.

Which is one of the biggest problems with using childhood and past gender expression as a guideline for transition: most of us don’t fit one category or the other. Especially those of us who are effeminate guys, so much of what would be considered rather queen-y in a little boy is perfectly acceptable for a little girl. There are some minor differences in how it’s expressed, but rarely anything that can be quantified.

How young is too young?

As I’m sure all of us “old timers” have noticed, kids are coming out at younger and younger ages.  I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing, the sooner a kid can be themself the less trauma they’ll have to deal with later.  However, I do wonder whether or not some of the very young kids (say, six and under) are capable of expressing themselves well enough to have their needs met.

How do you know if a kid is trans or just gender variant?  At what point do you decide that social transition is less risky than aiming for some sort of middle ground?  I don’t know that there are any good answers to these questions other than “if the kid is hurting themself something needs to change.”  Not all kids are the self-harm type though, in fact they seem to be the exception.  So how do you know if your daughter who likes boy clothes and calls herself David is trans or not?

I worry that more liberal parents are taking almost too liberal of a stance on trans kids.  I worry that we’re taking kids and forcing them into yet another box that they may or may not fit in.  What happens if you socially transition little David and then he’s too scared to tell you he’s not really a boy, just a little girl who likes trucks?  Young kids are so easily swayed, especially when it comes to things like gender.  They’re little, their brains can’t accurately grasp the subject at hand so how can they possibly answer what is very much an adult question?

I wish parents could see that they have more options than just transition or repression.  Particularly with the youngest kids, they’re still so fluid in their identities it seems almost cruel to box them in.  What is so wrong about just allowing kids to be kids for a while?  Save the big gender questions for when they’re a bit older, when they can at least see more to it than wearing dresses or ties.  I know there’s pressure to make kids conform once they hit school age, but that’s what adults are for.  We’re meant to help guide kids to understanding and accepting differences, not force everyone to pick a box.  Let Susie wear the ‘boy’ uniform and Danny play with dolls, they’re not hurting anyone.

I fully support and accept the idea of older kids transitioning, but with these tiny ones I wonder.  It seems that rather than becoming more open to the idea of gender variance we’re simply finding another way to diagnose and treat it.  As an effeminate man, I can’t support that.  What happens when a parent finally ends up with a kid like me?  Sure, I’m trans, but I also don’t fit most people’s idea of what a ‘man’ is very well.  I did a lot of the classic FtM things like insisting on boy-ish clothes and not having girl friends, but I was also a little swish-stick.  I worry that this new class of parents is enforcing gender stereotypes in ways they’re not aware of.

Some more musings on brotherhood and man-only organisations

The “Downsides to being seen as a man” post has received quite a bit more attention than I was expecting, most of it good.  However, I feel like I may have failed to explain a few areas as well as I could have.  One of the big ones has to do with male/man-only organisations.  More than a few people have said that all non-women-only organisations are for men by default, something that I think needs to be looked at.

Yes, most organisations are run by men.  However, there is a distinct difference between something be run by a man and something being for men.  Just as there is sisterhood, there is brotherhood.  Unfortunately, there are very few areas for men to experience brotherhood, particularly straight men.  If you’re not big into frats and/or can’t get into a Masons lodge you’re left with religious organisations and maybe recreational sports teams (depending on whether or not your area has progressed to mixed-gender teams).  What’s a straight, atheist, geek guy to do?  Women have social organisations devoted solely to the experience of being a woman and how that brings them together.  Men don’t.

What’s more, there’s often a certain amount of anger at the idea that men might need men-only groups.  It’s as if people believe that the simple act of men getting together is going to cause a return to the 1950s.  I first noticed this a few years ago when I was converting to Judaism, the (cis-woman, as far as I know) rabbi was openly hostile to the men who had been to an orthodox shul and said they enjoyed the male bonding experience.  This same woman hosted women-only Torah studies and organised the yearly women-specific Shabbat service, but was less than thrilled when my synagogue at the time started up a men’s group.  It makes absolutely no sense.

Now, I’m not saying there should be only men’s and women’s groups.  I love my woman friends, I’m much closer to them than I am most of my guy friends (particularly the straight guys).  However, there are times that it’s just nice to be with only guys.  Trans, cis, gay, straight, bi, whatever.  There’s just something a little different about not having women around.  It can’t really be all that surprising to anyone, particularly women who love their women’s groups.

Even when there are groups of only gay guys, not having women around brings the stress levels down a bit.  For all we try to act like men are insensitive animals who don’t care about anyone, most guys do change their behaviour around women.  Sometimes it’s subconscious, often it’s an attempt to make sure the women in question are comfortable.  Either way, having women around changes the dynamic.

Hell, let’s say none of that was true.  Would it matter?  Why can’t guys just want to hang out with guys?  There’s nothing wrong with men and women having their separate spaces.  There’s not even any reason we have to limit it to men and women, let’s also have bigender, agender, genderqueer, and whatever other gender variation we can come up with groups (along with the ‘everyone’ ones, obviously).  As long as we all recognise that no group is inherently better than the other there’s nothing wrong with splitting up every now and then.

Downsides to being seen as a man

I’m sure everyone knows the problems associated with being trans.  We’ve all heard horror stories, I don’t think there’s a trans person out there who’s managed to transition without some sort of crap being thrown their way, and even if by some miracle you do, there’s always someone else who can share their trauma.

What’s not often talked about are the problems associated with being seen as a man in society.  With apologies to the non-US readers, I’m going to focus on society here because it’s what I have the most experience with.

  1. There are no organisations that specifically work to protect men’s rights.  In most ways I have no problems with this, the organisations that exist to protect women and minority rights were formed because society at the time was walking all over them.  However, I do think it’s important for guys to realise that they’re no longer going to have access to political and legal teams designed especially for them unless their issues are GLBT or race related.
  2. Very few people believe that domestic abuse, rape, or sexual assault can be perpetrated against men.  I see this far more often than I like to think about, a man will call the police because his partner (male or female, I’ve witnessed both) is assaulting him and the police act like nothing is wrong.  Men can be victims, there’s not some magical bubble that protects us.
  3. If a man is abused there are virtually no areas for him to seek support.  Men are not allowed in the vast majority of rape/sexual assault survivor support groups.  There are no shelters specifically for battered men.  Programmes for survivors of domestic abuse almost universally do not accept men.  If a man does seek help for abuse or rape he is generally considered to be weak and something less than a “real” man.  Prison rape is considered a joke rather than a real problem that needs to be solved.  Gay men in particular have to deal with society believing they somehow “asked” to be raped.
  4. There are no men-only academic/professional organisations. Like the first one, I don’t consider this to be much of a real problem.  I just wanted to make sure people recognised that once they start passing there aren’t going to be any more bonding experiences like at the Society of Women Physicians conference.  Brotherhood experiences are largely limited to fraternities, G/B/FtM groups, some religious organisations, and more conservative orders like the Elks Lodge.  Even those can be hard to find depending on your area.
  5. Men — particularly gay men — are seen as potential paedophiles. I like kids, before I came out I was an active volunteer for local youth groups and a very popular babysitter.  That stopped as soon as I started passing.  I can no longer smile at a child without people glaring at me as if I were fondling myself.  Every single one of my father friends has at least one story of how random women will try to stop their children from going to them.  Men cannot volunteer with children (even if they have one) without having people question their motives.
  6. Men are considered automatic threats. This is one I know of more from other people than myself.  I’m not a threatening person, too small and flaming.  Other people, however, have expressed concern about women and children assuming they’re someone to be afraid of.  For god only knows what reason, we have it drilled into us that men always have the potential to explode.  I hear this far more often from my (visibly) non-white friends and guys who dress in punk, goth, or hip hop styles so there are likely racial and cultural tones to it as well.  I’d say definitely, but that whole anecdata =/= data thing has been drilled into me pretty well.
  7. Brotherhood experiences are generally seen as unimportant and anti-feminist. I like all-male areas.  I enjoy being part of a group of guys without all the hassle that comes with adding women to a group.  I grew up in male-centric circles, it’s just something that I got used to.  Unfortunately, any time an event tries to exclude women without some religious or sexual-orientation related reason it’s seen as a threat.  Women can have women-only events all the time without many problems, but we haven’t quite figured out the men’s side to that yet.
  8. Everyone expects you to be able to lift heavy things. I am a very small person.  Most women are larger than I am.  Yet for some reason when I was working retail everyone thought I could lift giant, heavy boxes.  It was amazing, people who thought I was a girl would help me lift boxes of tissue paper, but if they thought I was a guy they’d expect me to be able to carry entertainment systems that weighed more than me.  Even now in salons, I’m expected to move around boxes of product far more often than any of the women.  I don’t know why people assume that all men can lift things regardless of how big they are, but they do.
  9. There has not been a men’s-lib movement.  Like a lot of other things on this list, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing.  We’ve never needed a men’s liberation movement, men are already pretty well set.  However, there are some social changes that came out of the women’s lib movement that guys could still use.  Increased gender expression options, ability to be a stay-at-home dad without being seen as a freak, that sort of thing.  More and more women are trying to tie issues like that into the feminist movement and while I appreciate the effort, it has the rather nasty implication that all men’s problems centre around women’s problems.  Not really the “we’re all equal” message that I prefer.
  10. There’s a small subset of people who will insist on trying to make you feel bad for being a guy. This is a particular brand of radical feminist that I absolutely cannot stand.  They’re rare, but fucking loud.  These are the women who gave rise to the term “man-hating lesbian”.  They think all trans men are traitors, all trans women are infiltrators, all straight women are pawns, all straight men are violent beasts, and all gay men are rabid misogynists.  They are not happy people to be around.  If you encounter one I suggest quickly heading for the nearest exit.  Do NOT try to engage them in debate, it will only hurt your head.

Really being a guy isn’t so bad.  You don’t get random guys catcalling you as you walk down the street, no one cares if you’re having a bad hair day, you can be grumpy without everyone insisting you’re PMSing, it’s a pretty sweet deal.  There are just a few things that can take a bit of adjusting to if you’re not used to them.

Guest Post: Sexism Exists!!!! Thoughts and solace from a gay trans man.

Ever since I was a little trans boy living as a girl, I’ve felt the need to protect the girls and women in my life from those who are abusive.  Perhaps it was my childhood environment that led to this – I grew up in a dirt-poor, “white-trash” household with a distant mother, a sister who was sexually abused, and an estranged father.  I didn’t know love, affection, respect, boundaries, discipline, and feminism.  Life was hard and women were treated the worst.

Lucky for me, I was a very strong “girl” – I could beat any boy in the class at arm wrestling, sprinting or basically anything to do with strength.  I was very rough and tumble and was often referred to as a tomboy because I was so dominant and refused to wear dresses.  I don’t bring this up to brag, in fact, I hated standing out that much, regardless of how much I actually used my talents.  You see, I am a gentle soul – I am very sensitive, highly anxious, and slightly autistic.  I’m also extremely protective of what I hold dear – perhaps a reaction to my childhood – which directs my attention toward people who get treated unfairly, usually women  I’ve never fit in myself, so when I see injustice, I feel the need to stop it.

When I was young, my version of stopping injustice involved beating the perpetrator up.  Sure, I wouldn’t recommend it, but at the time, it seemed appropriate.  If the boys decided it was “Friday Flip Up Day”, in which they hassled the girls who were wearing skirts, I patrolled the area where my friends were hanging out at recess.  This is not an exaggeration.  My first fight involved me punching a boy who tried to kiss my friend on the cheek and then chased her when she refused – this was in 1st grade.  At recess I stood guard always making sure that my friends didn’t have to worry about what they boys were up to.  For my work, I was rewarded with loyal friends and boys who hated me for humiliating them.  To me, it was a fair trade-off and I continued until I could no longer fend the boys off (about sixth grade).  [I would like to point out that I was never officially punished. In fact, many of my teachers thought it was awesome.]

To this day, I abhor sexism and the insidious ways that it keeps women and girls in their place and elevates men who don’t deserve the praise.  I became an official feminist in college, although it never became my field of study (I prefer math and science), but I definitely dabbled and had friends who were also ardent feminists.  They taught me a lot of what they learned in classes and I appreciated the knowledge.  This knowledge led me to all sorts of places and perhaps the most important – accepting my transsexuality.  When I came out to my friends, I was under the erroneous assumption that they would accept it as well, but I was wrong.  They didn’t understand, they refused to talk about feminism anymore, they called me a traitor, they stopped calling.  I felt betrayed, cast away, discarded.    Often I wondered how much is due to the underlying anti-trans sentiments of some feminist arguments or to the ingrained transphobia in our culture.  Most of me, though, no longer cared, as I had lost everything that was dear to me for speaking my truth.  My world felt twisted and upside-down – it didn’t make any sense.  How could something that felt so right for so long, suddenly make me feel like a monster when I had done nothing wrong?

What I can see now that I couldn’t see then is that both sides felt betrayed.  We all lost innocence about feminism that day or at-least were faced with the limitations of feminism.  As someone who was assigned female and was forced to live the life of a straight woman for 20 years, I do have insight into how women are treated.  But I maintain that I will never know what its like to actually *be* a woman.  I never was one.  I just looked like one – an impostor, a fake, a doppelganger.  My friends believed that I was a woman, so when I told them that I really wasn’t one, they thought I was denying my womanhood and implying that manhood was much better.  They thought I was buying into the patriarchy and believed that to be a woman was one of the worst things you could be.  This is very far from the actual truth of why I transitioned and their assumption that my motivation was flawed led to all sorts of recriminations.  I transitioned because my mind says male and my body said female.  I wanted them to match and for that I have been called a traitor, an impostor, a liar, a chauvinist pig, a tool of the patriarchy, etc.  It took me a long time to come to terms with the accusations I faced from my feminist friends.  A part of me agreed with them and felt extreme guilt that my decision to transition could make me just as bad as the boys who harassed my friends as a child.  I didn’t want to be like them.  I didn’t want to be that guy who thinks they are better than women solely because they’ve been trained to think that way.  I was also aware that gaining male privilege can make trans men become sexist jerks.  I vowed to not become that kind of man.

I’ve been living my life as I’d always wished for 8 years now.  I am an effeminate gay trans men who loves the company of women.  It took me a long time, but I have finally come to terms with the limitations of feminism and understand that my former friends did the best they could do with the information they had, as did I.  Neither side won or lost.  I still fight against sexism and believe that women need their spaces away from men.  I’m somewhat of an outsider now, but I like to look in to see how strong and powerful women can be and just happy that slowly things are getting better.  I know that I can’t give them the male privilege that I’ve gained, but I can still watch out for their safety.  I can still stand up for them when they need it.  I can still be their friend and listen when they need an ear.  I still care and no matter how hard they push me away, I will always be there.

In closing, If you’re a trans man reading this, please take this to heart.  Let your former life guide you, but know that you are not betraying anyone by transitioning and living your life to the fullest.  By the power vested in me you are now absolved of all guilt you are feeling.  Just one thing before you to take the plunge — don’t forget about the sisters you left behind.

Kian has been living as a gay transman for most of his 20s.  Nerdy, quirky and fey, he often spends his time thinking and writing about gay and trans politics.  He loves to learn and cook and looks for hairy men who do the same.

Requisite disclaimer: All opinions expressed in guest posts are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of NotAiden.