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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.