NOT Women who Became Men

Julia Serano’s Trans-Misogyny Primer mentions in its first paragraph that, “…Those on the male-to-female (MTF) or trans female/feminine (TF) spectrum generally receive the overwhelming majority of societal fascination, consternation and demonization. In contrast, those on the female-to-male (FTM) or trans male/masculine (TM) spectrum have until very recently remained largely invisible and under-theorized.” She goes on to say that this is “not merely a result of transphobia, but is better described as trans-misogyny.” In other words, people are obsessed with MTFs because they appear to them to be men who are willingly putting on the guise of the weaker sex, while FTM go virtually unnoticed because it is more acceptable to be a masculine woman than a feminine man.

This transphobia and trans-misogyny is difficult for any non-gender-conforming person to deal with, but for people like Jamison Green it presents a unique sort of problem. Green is a trans man who is passing – and therefore has the ability to blend into the cis population without comment – but chooses to be out about his trans identity. He gives talks for students about trans identity and is an advocate for FTM acceptance. Because of the erasure of FTM narratives it is very difficult for him to be out in this way, and because of widespread transmisogyny it is almost impossible for him to be seen as a man after he tells his story. Instead he is seen as a woman who became a man and he is searched for telling signs of “who he used to be,” even if he now looks exactly like a cis man should.

It is difficult for Patrick Califia for a very different reason. Califia did not transition until he was in his 40s, and says that his socialization as a woman makes him reluctant to call himself a man. Instead, he calls himself FTM or transgendered. He admits to “not wanting to be female, but not having much enthusiasm for the only other option our society offers.” But he also admits he feels relief now that he has transitioned. Because of the binaristic nature of gender in our society, and because it is preferable if they do not overlap too much, it is hard for Califia to find a place to fit in.

Califia later says, “Perhaps transition will be an ironic experience for me, and I will discover that I remain the same person, having changed only my physical appearance.” (p.463) This sentiment is echoed when Green says FTMs are “men who were born with female bodies, not ‘women who became men.’” (p.500) These two people talk about two different kinds of erasure: the erasure of FTMs and the erasure of anything that does not fit the binary. What they have in common is a belief that they know who they are no matter what society believes them to be.

-Caitlyn Smallwood

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