The Oppressions and Privileges Afforded Me

So, what I’m going for is this:

Pronouns: female or male
Name: male
Top parts: traditional male
Bottom parts: traditional female

And this makes for some interesting cultural intersections, namely those of the privileges afforded and oppressions determined by my gender.

Likely, and depending on the environment, I will be “mistaken” as either male or female*.  But I don’t correct pronouns, I correct attitudes.  Meaning, I don’t mind being called either pronoun, but when people see me from behind, call me “sir” then over emphatically apologize when I face them and turn out to be a girl, well, I make sure they understand I like both pronouns.  No embarrassing displays of multiple apologies in the grocery aisle are necessary.

Right now I get female pronouns a disporportinate amount of the time, and would prefer more of my “maleness” to come through, and top surgery I think will likely correct some of that for me.  The flip side is that it will occasionally confuse the general public.  I am neither alarmed by nor concerned with that confusion.  For example, I will continue to use the women’s bathroom, and am sure I will get little resistance there: no one makes much eye contact in the bathroom, and last I checked, there are tons of flat chested women in the world.  It’s not like I’m going in there with my strap-on at full mast.

Before we get into a discussion of my trans identity and how I navigate the world, a small disclaimerOf course, the following comments are mostly generalizations, but they are also examples of specific instances I have found myself in over and over again throughout the course of my butch-identifiying life.  I am speaking about cultural stereotypes, cultural norms, and how my trans identity works within these pre-existing parameters.  I am happy to receive your comments and engage in a discussion about my experiences, but do understand I know not all men are violent, in fact very few of them are, and not all women are weak, and of course very few of them are.  But this culture we are in, this media that propagates it, would have us believe these things, would have us reproduce these stereotypes.  I am not defending them, of course, I am just responding to them and examining how I have navigated them throughout my life.

Let’s look at the privelages afforded a butch female that a male-IDed person lacks:
-I can make comment on other women’s appearances with general impunity.
-I am not seen as a potential threat.  Meaning, if a woman walking alone on a street at night was walking toward me, she would probably not cross the street.  If I were a man walking down that same lonely street, she might be moved to cross to the other side.
-Running my mouth (e.g. talking shit in a way that would get a man suspended for making his female co-workers uncomfortable)
-Public displays of weakness (e.g. crying and then getting sympathy when a man would get disgust)
-Public displays of anger (e.g. yelling or using fowl language in a situation where a man likely would be perceived as dangerous)

Yes, I can, for the most part, say whatever I like and see little or no repercussions for those remarks.  Unfortunately this is because women are, at a broad cultural level, seen as weak and not taken seriously. I am crass, and loud, and women find it sometimes annoying, sometimes entertaining.  In fact, my mouth has gotten me more than one date.  Men are not threatened by me (not only am I female bodied, but I am a small one, a daunting 5’4″) and usually they enjoy my foul mouth: it allows them to hear aloud what they (sometimes) think and cannot say without being perceived as threatening.

But what about the gay thing?

Yes, so I can’t get married, and I can be discriminated against, and I am the target of homophobia.  But I do live in Massachusetts, not, say, Tennessee, and so I don’t feel particularly discriminated against on a daily basis.

But what about the girl thing?

Yes, I do identify as female, or something close to it, so I don’t get paid as much as my male counterparts, and I am seen as inferior.  But again, I don’t feel that discrimination during practical encounters, and have always been female, so if it’s there, and surely it is, then it’s just what I refer to as “life.”

What’s weird is this: in situations when I am perceived as male, I will be receiving some invisible privileges: I will be treated differently, I will be given the benefit of being seen as male, and I will be a white male at that.  In situations when I am perceived as female, I will really notice no difference, it’s what I’m used to, but when I am seen as something other, something confusing, as transgender, that is where it will get well, rowdy?  Tense?  I don’t know, I couldn’t know yet.  

I did want to raise the issue now, wanted to lay some foundational groundwork for some new experiences.  I want to be able to investigate them when they happen, and so recognizing the potentiality for some interesting interactions, some new privileges and oppressions, is what this post is about.

The thing is that once I have top surgery, I will have to consider how the world is reading my (new) gender, and might have to alter my approach.  I might be seen as more male, that is, after all, the point–right?  I might have to go a bit easy on the crass comments, might have to, well, girl** it up a bit.  I don’t want to appear unduly aggressive and I don’t want to alienate my peers.

I am curious if anyone reading this has some examples of their own status shifting in the public sphere through their gender evolution…

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

* Once, at a diner in New Haven, I was called a “boy girl” and that has been, by far, my favorite gender descriptor.

**Be a bit more considerate of other’s feelings and opinions.

6 thoughts on “The Oppressions and Privileges Afforded Me

  1. Hey there,

    In response to your question about shifting status due to gender presentation – YES. And it’s honestly scary in so many ways. I’ve gone from a visibly gender-non-conforming, female bodied, queer to, being perceived as a heterosexual male (even though that’s not how I identify). I’ve seen so many instances of privilege that, prior to top surgery or T, I would not have experienced. Not only is it strange, but it’s utterly frustrating and depressing at times. It isn’t every day, but it does happen, and it’s something I wish someone had prepared me for. Anyway, best of luck!

    Cheers – Mason

  2. Howdy Mason!

    Thanks for the response. i wonder, what are some of those instances of privilege? What was most upsetting about the experience to you? Is it that the privilege exists? Or is it something more specific, more telling than the mere dichotomy?

    I wonder if this shifting privilege is something that we can be prepared for–how might you prepare someone for it?

    Sorry if I’m asking too many questions–this is just really fascinating to me.


  3. When I worked at Jewel in 2008, I had buzzed my hair completely off. Customers would see me from the back and call out sir and then freak out when they saw me from the front and say sorry way too many times.

    I have noticed that people treat me very differently when my hair is buzzed vs. when it is long. When it was buzzed people allowed me to be strong and work, and lift things. I wasn’t treated like a delicate flower. My hair is long for the first time in a long time and I am so tired of being treated like a princess! I tried to volunteer at the farmers market, loading and unloading the trucks and every man said “o, I got it!” and grabbed the boxes from me. I stopped volunteering because no one let me do anything.

    What an interesting post Eli!

    Kim G.

  4. Thanks for stopping by Kim!

    Yeah, I get frustrated too when guys at work will do things for me as though I can’t possibly lift boxes i have been lifting for longer than they have been working at our job. Although, there is one guy that I trained about 5 months ago and he has all along treated me like an equal, dare I say, another man. I really appreciate it, and feel that he respects me and values my opinion. Funny, I didn’t notice that respect missing until it arrived.

  5. Pingback: He Asked for It « My Life with Tits

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