Mostly it is women who pay the price

Another excellent post from Diana at Neopythia.

I want to talk about something I find offensive and morally repugnant.  It is the notion that trans women, who have arrived at a gender critical position, or simply accept certain realities are self hating.  I know this is a popular meme.  It’s an easy rationalization for those who hold certain political ideologies, or those too consumed by irrational fear to think.  It is completely without merit and harmful [to] women and trans women alike.

I think I know what political ideologies she means, and I think I know of several people who hold them.

Literally nobody identifies as a terf*. It is a term which has moved far beyond whatever usefulness it once had, if it ever had any.  It is a slur thrown about indiscriminately to silence those certain people disagree with.  I wish it was just a twitter thing, confined to largely meaningless internet squabbling, but increasingly there are real world consequences. Mostly it is women who pay the price, but isn’t that usually the case? Anyway, I don’t even label myself a feminist. I wouldn’t presume to, though I ally myself with women to the extent I am able.

*Going forward where others would use “terf,” I will use “women” to illustrate just how ridiculous this is.

That’s something I’ve been wondering about a lot, especially over the past few weeks – the fact that mostly it’s women who pay the price. Why is that? Why is it women, and specifically feminist women, who get trashed and shunned and demonized over this issue? Why is so much fire and brimstone called down on women while men are left alone? Why is feminism the enemy? Why do so many women join in with this pattern? Why do so many feminist women join in with it? Why don’t they notice the gender imbalance and the bad effects on feminism?

The self hatred meme goes something like this: a trans woman regrets her transition and is consumed by self hatred. Devious women, always preying on the weak and disillusioned, pounce, exploiting this self hatred to turn them into token women. The newly minted tokens parrot all of the hateful rhetoric and work from the inside to bring down transwomen.  What the token gets out of this, I don’t know.

Aside from sounding like something out of a horror story, I hate all of the implications of this. It is puerile, delusional thinking.  It removes any personal agency from any individual transwoman and lays the blame squarely at the feet of women.

And laying the blame squarely at the feet of women is just the same old shit – the same old misogynist patriarchal shit. Why would trans women want to perpetuate that? It’s sort of like wanting to join a club so desperately that you fight with every single member before you join.

Nobody lured me.  Nobody preyed upon my weakness or insecurity.  I made the decision on my own. I chose to listen to women, really listen.  I read their words and witnessed their testimonials.  I read books and blogs that challenged the way I think, not just those that reinforced it.  I read these with a critical, but not defensive mind. I started to look honestly at who I am, about my past, and how the world shaped me.  For the first time I talked honestly with others, and myself. It wasn’t easy. Sometimes the truth is painful to confront.  But the truth is this: I was born male. I transitioned to live as a woman. I am legally and socially accepted even if I am still learning what that means and still struggling to bury my male socialization.

It’s supposed to be the height of terrible to say that trans women have had some male socialization…and yet in all other contexts we agree that gender socialization is pervasive and unavoidable, even for people who reject it at a conscious level. If that’s true…how can it be anything but true that trans women have had some male socialization?

If you listen to transwomen, you’ll hear how dangerous and poisonous testosterone is.  What you won’t hear is how dangerous masculinity is, except in purely descriptive terms such as dress.  Gender is insidious.  It shapes us from birth in unseen ways.  It can be toxic to the way we think, especially in how we view women.  Socialization is very difficult to unlearn. We are unaware the extent to which it permeates us. To believe [that because] we have transitioned, started to transition, or “feel like a woman” we are immune to our male socialized thinking is dangerous and delusional. While not immutable, it will forever be part of our experience.

Right? How could that not be true? Nobody is immune to socialization (unless raised by wolves).

Trans women share a venn diagram of experience with women. Our experiences overlap, but are not universal.  To use a poor analogy: Even if you live in another country for decades, you will never experience it in the same way as someone who is from there. You can learn the customs and the language, even pass as a native, but there remains a level of experiential knowledge which is unobtainable, and that’s ok.

I know this. I’ve spent a lot of time in the UK, I’ve lived there for extended periods, I’ve learned a lot of customs and idioms, but that’s not at all the same as being born and growing up there.

The dirty secret is that, far from hating myself, I’m happier now than I’ve ever been.  By accepting certain basic, biological truths, and accepting how much about “being a woman” I don’t know, and can never know, I’ve found peace.  I cannot tell you how liberating this is.  I never realized how much energy I spent maintaing the delusion until it was gone. I look back and am able to reconcile the person I was with the person I am.  I don’t have to pretend. I haven’t always been a woman.  I’m a transwoman, and I’m fine with that.

I hope soon things can shake out so that that will be the usual and available way of thinking about it.

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