In a constant state of transition

Reading the personal accounts of Green and Califa in addition to Serano’s definition of trans-misogyny allows us to consider a wide variety of trans* experience and embodiment.  The narrative heard over and other of a pre-transition, debilitating lifestyle, a transitioning period (including hormones, surgical procedures, and/or the practice of gendered social habits), and, lastly, living the rest of one’s life in the seemingly “correct” body, forces onlookers to see trans* embodiment as a temporary point in life.  In this way, a person inhabits one type of body, transitions, and inhabits another body.  With this, the common expectation is drawn that trans* experience includes is the erasure of one’s “previous” being.  This not only creates a horrific reality for those unable to “pass” and fully function in society as either male or female due to economic status, bodily limitations, and surgical willingness, but also creates a nearly impossible way of life for those seeking the trans* category as a life-long process and identification.

According to Julia Serano, trans* women are particularly vulnerable to social ridicule and misogynistic behavior.  This is not something that Green and Califa discuss in their accounts to maleness, but they do point out the issue of androgyny the discomfort that genderqueer individuals bring when moving through social spaces.  That is to say, whether one seeks masculine or feminine recognition, they are forced to decide between passing fully as a male or fully as a female in order to avoid social injustices and constant misgendering.  As Green and Califa both attest, they have a unique and specialized understanding of life that comes having experienced several different forms of being.  However, in each phase of their lives, Green and Califa have been trans* beings and this allows for yet another unique position.  So why is there such a force to renounce one’s trans*ness and adopt a fully male or female mode of living?  The reality of disappearing into a world of “maleness” or “femaleness” rather than a world of trans*ness is that important issues like trans-misogyny fall away with the erasure of life previous to and during transition.

Tranarchism, a term I am sure many of you are familiar with, is a term used to describe the radical sociopolitical movement that calls for gender anarchy.  One of several sites promoting current trans* topics of controversy and, specifically, trans-feminine matters is Tranarchism.com/.  Though highly controversial due to its main contributor, Asher Bauer, the blog has become a popular resource for news, opinion, and upcoming events.  With popular posts like “Not Your Mom’s Trans 101” and “Anarchy 101,” with site offers unusual perspective for those seeking to learn more about the tranarchism movement and what it means to abandon one’s conflicting, yet powerful, identities.

-Elizabeth Nash

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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

Androgyny Should be Okay

In the readings, I noticed a lot of ambivalence surrounding the subjects of gender, passing, and transitioning.  The main idea that Julia Serano suggested in her “Trans-misogyny primer,” that trans female spectrum people have it harder as stereotypically feminine characteristics seem to be deemed inferior, got me looking on Reddit for trans feminine specific news.

I found this article about a “First Lingerie Line for Transgender Women”:  http://www.lingerietalk.com/2012/03/26/lingerie-news/were-done-hiding-a-first-lingerie-line-for-transgendered-women.html

Throughout the article you can find examples of trans-misogyny reflective of our culture.  For instance, the co-founder of the line states, “Speaking from personal experience, I found no products that specifically cater to transgender women.  There are some things for cross-dressers and drag queens, but they’re all sexually exploitative.”

It is sad to state, but this doesn’t surprise me.  It’s no shock to see that this is the first line of lingerie with some degree of class, given the cultural image of drag queens present in our culture.  I almost talked about a clip from Anger Management of Woody Harrelson playing as Galaxia, the transsexual female prostitute, for this blog assignment, but instead I’ll just make a mention of it.  In the scene, numerous transsexual women are portrayed as being prostitutes with crazy hair and makeup, Galaxia is clearly a joke character with an overly flamboyant voice and behavior that flashes Adam Sandler for fun.  Sadly this is an image that the media often portrays of trans women.

But this article also got me thinking along the points of Jamison Green’s article, “Look!  No, Don’t!”  The women in the pictures advertising the lingerie are extremely feminine in appearance and clearly passable.  His argument that as a trans person becomes more “successful” as portraying their supposed gender as policed by culture, the trans community becomes more invisible rang through to me while reading this article.  He argues that as a trans person, one often becomes even more gender-policed and androgyny is seen as a sort of failure.

I think it is good to give people options, as this lingerie line clearly does, but as most things do, it has its drawbacks of continuing the polarity of genders.  Despite this downfall, it does bring attention to trans women as being regular people and not freaks or prostitutes as well.  I think it would be awesome if our culture could recognize gender as being fluid, and that androgyny is perhaps more natural than hyper-femininity or masculinity.  We need more options, more acceptance, and people to generally feel that they can be themselves without feeling that they are being policed by societal restrictions.

-Chrissy Goss