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.

Gender norms and pets

This past week a couple of seemingly unrelated things happened to make me wonder how everyone genders (or doesn’t gender) their pets.  One of my friends is trying to adopt a puppy and my section of the power grid decided to take an extended vacation.  Normally I wouldn’t bother mentioning either of these, but because I was bored and had nothing to do except try not to set my apartment on fire with an over-abundance of emergency candles I decided to head out and explore my new neighbourhood (just moved, for those of you who don’t read the Tumblog).

One of the stores I found was one of those trendy, posh dog stores.  The kind that caters to fashionable types with lap dogs in purses.  I like dogs (who doesn’t like cuddly animals?) and thought I’d stop in to see if there was anything I could get for my friend’s potential pup.  Not like a new puppy owner can ever have too many chew toys or balls to chase.

I was absolutely floored by how much of what was sold was gendered.  Pink, furry dog collars with “Diva” and “Princess” written on them in script.  Red plaid collars with “Butch” or “Killer” in block capitals.  Now, I suppose you could make a case for a pink, furry “Diva” collar being for gay men and the red plaid “Butch” ones for lesbians, but I don’t think that’s really what the manufacturers had in mind.

I hit up Target later to stock up on more candles and a camp stove and decided to see what their pet section looked like.  More gendered collars, toys, beds, clothes, etc.  Maybe it’s just me, but when I had dogs I never really put them in gender specific things.  Hell, they didn’t even have gender specific names.  So is this a new trend or is it something that’s been going on forever and I just didn’t notice?  Do you guys get gender specific accessories for your pets?  Anyone out there with a boy dog and Diva collar?