Friday, December 14, 2007

Exploring my Own Transphobia

After reading about a prisoner in the Oregon prison system that recently castrated herself by using her fingernails to severe her own testicles, and the awful comments I've seen related to the story I felt it important to explore my own transphobia in a post. So here we go....

The truth is that in my past I've been transphobic. I don't admit this joyfully. Dislike comes naturally within myself when I have any prejudice towards any one person or group. It's a yucky thing made worse by the very prejudice I've experienced by others. So I'm not proud of my past transphobia. But I also want to say that whenever a prejudice is realized, I look at it & explore it. Trying to find a way to love myself & accept my human fallibility, while improving my serenity & being of service to other folks.

In the mid 90's it seemed like I was meeting more and more female to male transitioning people. Though I had known many men who dressed in drag in the late 80's and then men who transitioned to women in the early 90's, FTM's we're new to my consciousness and blew up on my "I don't know about this" radar. When I say I was transphobic, I was actually particularly troubled by women transitioning to men.

The root of this dislike towards FTM's specifically was a false (however real it seemed at the time) sense of betrayal. That these folks no longer wanted to be women meant they wanted male privilege and were therefore anti-woman. That they wanted to join the oppressor instead of fighting with the oppressed. A male knowing deep inside she was female made sense. I rationalized that after all women are amazing and really who wouldn't want to have that connection to life. So one group of transitioning people I honored while the other group I vilified quietly in my head. Never did I make public statements about my prejudice as I knew better than to expose my anger toward anyone.

My anger came from sadness and ego. My sadness at misogyny and the confinement of women's freedom's over the years was understandable, but I had blamed the wrong target. FTM's were not responsible for sexism against women. Sure some FTM's have been sexist. But so have other folks who claimed to love and identify as women. I can't tell you how many sad scenes of violence erupted at a local lesbian bar back in the day, between supposed lovers. Even I have had some less than respectful behavior toward those of my own gender. Anyone can give crap to a woman. That indeed is genderless.

My ego though wanted to have an answer to that which I didn't yet grasp about trans folks. My ego decided that FTM's thought they were better than what womanhood represented. That they were better than me. I justified my ego by thinking that if brown people took pills & had surgery to become white they'd be obviously prejudiced so why should trans person's be any different?

Also is the fact that I'm most attracted to biological women who display what I consider to be masculine qualities. This added to my thinking that these men were wasting their gifts of natural sexiness to become men. Maybe I just wanted everyone I thought was hot to myself.

The journey away from rationalizations and justification came about 6 years ago when I had a coworker who was a transitioning male. He was of course at first subjected to my ridiculous ideas until I got to know him. It was as if a physical barrier to knowing someones heart started to lift. Now don't get me wrong here. I don't think knowing, befriending or even dating someone from a different minority group makes one automatically not prejudiced against that group. But being willing to get to know someone beyond our own silly ideas of them can be a start.

As this coworker became a friend I encountered more trans men and of course found each individual to be just that. Individual. As my mom would say- duh! My friend let me ask questions and like anyone else, did not speak for trans folks as a whole. Just his life and who he is and what we had in common, which was a lot. In fact he became less and less my "trans friend" and just a friend. He, to this day, I believe is one of those angels who walks the earth in human flesh. But that's besides the point.

I had to come to realize that transitioning is different for each person. That the trans experience is as vast in range as the queer experience. That each of us regardless of how our bodies look when were born are on a journey toward ourselves and each other. I had to learn that I needed to change my thinking. And thank goodness it did change. There have been some good people in my life, that have some different and similar experiences that we do & don't share.

I can't explain what motivates each transitioning/transitioned person. Some folks I've known simply felt deep inside they were inside a body that was the wrong gender. One friend took testosterone to simply enhance their already masculine identity but had no plans to ever get any type of surgery. Someone else I knew somehow thought his way into facial and body hair and even a receding hairline. He had not one hormone or alteration to his body by modern science. Yet his desire to be his true self alone made him more himself. A few friends have had chest surgery and not much else. Only one person I know has taken T (testosterone) and had upper and lower surgery. So the variety here is as great as the lovely shades of skin among the peoples of the world.

Today I'm grateful for the opportunity to transcend my own prejudice and have not just more tolerance but love for all of HP's people. Amen to that!
For more on trans issues read this great post by Holly about what being trans means to her.

1 comment:

Oregonian37 said...

Thank you for sharing this really well-articulated and enlightening journey that you have been on.