We’ve spoken at length about how sex and gender are not the same thing. This is an important to make when discussing how sexual orientation plays out in situations that involve transgender people and how feminism, though a tool used to fight oppression of women has evolved to exclude the very women it tries to protect.
The discussions around transness that happened last week and the ones that have happened before them, spanning all the way back to the Stone Wall riots seem centered on transsexual women. There is a reason for this; because of the way the patriarchy is set up, transwomen are guilty of a double crime, being women and ‘wilfully’ forsaking masculinity and its entitlements. So transwomen have had to fight for their lives in very public ways that transmen perhaps have not had to.
But perhaps transmen have not been as visible in the fight for gender equality, (even though in the last decade social media has enabled them find avenues) to express their unique experiences is because, much like transwomen being excluded from conventional feminist circles for being ‘anthithetical’ to the very doctrine of modern feminist safe spaces (a ‘man’ finding a way into spaces reserved exclusively for women); transmen are ‘antithetical’ to the defense transwomen offer when questioned about their identity as women, forsaking the illusion of male privilege for a chance to be who they truly are; persecution and all.
The current discussion around transness doesnt answer this; gender is performed, not genetic, and women trans or not become so as they perform their gender in concert with or in defiance of current norms. Therefore is a gender legitimized if it falls into the categorized already demonized by the oppressed group seeking equity?
If we agree that a transwoman’s childhood as a man, complete with its accompanying privileges, however short, does not influence her life as a woman; does that mean the same when the scenario is reversed?
Does a transman’s childhood as a girl pre-transition have any import to how they perform gender as their post transition selves? As a transman gets progressively better at performing masculinity in his journey to become his true gender; does his previous experiences as a woman become suddenly inviolate? Does a transman become the enemy if he can fully integrate and ‘pass’ as a cis-male?
I do not have the answers, but perhaps its time these questions were asked.
NB: to pass, is to perform a gender or sexual orientation so convincingly that your true nature is hidden from everyone.