I am a Woman. You are a Trans Woman. And That Distinction Matters.

So I thought for a while about whether I wanted to post this. I am a cis-man and recognize that my voice is not terribly relevant to the conversation. As such I will make every effort to be mindful of my privilege in this post. Feel free not to respond if you don’t want to have this talk with a man (that’s totally understandable, I won’t be offended.)

While I have thoughts on an number of issues appearing here, the vast majority are issues where my perspective is irrelevant. I’m not a woman, I’ll never be a woman and I will never understand a woman’s experiences.

First off I would like to say I’m sorry you have received so much abuse. No one deserves death/rape threats for any reason. All that being said I do want to mention some stuff about where I do have lived experience; 1. Cis-privilege (which I have) and 2. allyship (I am an ally and as a queer person of color I have a number of folks trying to be allies to me)

  1. I call myself a cis man, because I see it as a way of acknowledging my privilege. Lots of people who are also men experience a number of difficulties that are often invisible to me. It’s important to me, to refer to my gender in a way that acknowledges the struggles of others. Being aware and open about having male privilege is also a part of this. You can and should call yourself whatever you want, however I’ve seen from a number of comments that you don’t by into the concept of privilege by way of being cis, so I thought it might be helpful to mention some examples of privileges I’ve experienced that are shared by most cis people. I’ll do my best to avoid examples that also demonstrate male privilege (I can walk the streets at night alone without fear of harassment), for obvious reasons.

A. My gender identity is never questioned by others. My presentation gets questioned all the damn time. However there is a big difference between questioning how “manly” I am (the answer is not at all) and someone asking “Are you really a man?”, which has never happened.

B. What my genitalia involves is never a public matter. I could have more/less than the expected number of testicles. But no one gives a shit, and never has a complete stranger asked me about exactly what is going on in my pants. Conversely trans people are routinely expected to tell the general public whether or not they’ve received surgery on their lower regions. Laverne Cox was literally asked this on a talk show.

C. I can reasonably expect to be referred to by my preferred pronouns in the vast majority of social situations.

D. There are laws in every state in the US which would prevent me from facing discrimination in regards to employment, housing and medical care.

E. I am never expected to disclose personal feelings or trauma relating to my genitalia before dating someone (note that dating does not equal sex). I’m a survivor. Sex with other men can trigger all sorts of shit for me. Panic attacks in the bedroom suck. Which is why I talk to people about it before we have sex. Not before we date, mostly because for me dating is a process that often involves figuring out if my partner is “safe”. There’s a pretty common expectation that people have to disclose being trans before dating someone. Despite the fact that, that disclosure is often met with violence and that many trans people using the dating process in the same way I do (albeit for different reasons, although some probably have the same reason + other stuff)

F. One more for the NB folks. I can reasonably expect that most public places will have a bathroom set aside specifically for my gender identity.

Tried to keep male privilege out of that list. If I failed to do so, I’d be happy to make corrections.

2. Allyship. No one has to be an ally. Everyone can live their life however they like. However if a person wants to be an ally, there are a few things that it is important to bear in mind, which I’m not seeing here.

A. Being an ally, means still being an ally when the group you are allied to isn’t around. I appreciate that you respect pronouns and trans folks right to live as their identified gender. Quite a number of the commenters on this article DO NOT. Scrolling through comments I’ve seen multiple people describe trans identity as a mental disorder. Yes, gender dysphoria is in the DSM. No, it is not the same as being trans. Lots of trans people (although not all) don’t have dysphoria BECAUSE they have transitioned, meaning the diagnostic term no longer applies. I’ve seen you reply to people who are with you, and reply to people’s support. I have not seen you call out a single person for being legitimately transphobic, in the comments. Allowing people to say transphobic shit because they are agreeing with a point you make is transphobic itself, in the same way it is sexist for me to not confront my male friends about cat-calling.

B. Being an ally shouldn’t stop because X number of people from a group were abusive. It is literally impossible for 100% of any group to act in any way. Is it useful for me not to support women’s rights because numerous woman told me I couldn’t be raped because I have a penis? No, of course not. If your expectation is that you’ll support a group when all of its members are supportive, then you’ll never support anyone ever. If some trans woman being genuinely shitty to you prevents you from fighting for their rights, the rights of all the trans woman who have been supportive, all the trans women you’ve never interacted with all trans men, all non-binary people and all people with fluid genders then maybe fighting for those rights was never really important to you.

To be clear, I’m not saying you shouldn’t voice your opinion or call out people who are abusing you (everyone acting abusively should get called out regardless of demographics). But being an ally is hard, and its supposed to be hard. Please have feelings about it and express them. But being an ally means that you keep fighting while you do that.