Transphobia comes in all shapes and forms, including those that hide under the guise of faux positivity. Trans men often face being seen as soft and effeminate despite our appearances or personalities, but solely based in the fact we are trans. Those projecting this concept usually do so without negative intent, but do not realize that it is still inherently problematic.
Where does this stereotype come from? Unfortunately, many people subconsciously still don’t view trans men as “real men” and ascribe feminine attributes to us. They assume that all trans men are androgynous or feminine despite the many forms of transition available (or just the fact that we are all unique). There are trans men that are tall, muscular, hairy, and overall masculine and still get mainly referred to as “small” and “adorable”. Sometimes this is even before someone has seen them, but has just heard that they’re trans. The view of the person shifts from a “man” to something else entirely once the fact that they’re transgender gets brought into play.
I’ve met many queer cis women who claimed that they would never date men unless they were a trans, assuming (often subconsciously) that trans men are just the “lite” version of men. Or that somehow they would avoid the issues they disliked in men by dating trans men. This is incorrect and problematic on many levels. Assuming that trans men are less misogynistic or less forceful with gender roles because we’ve been socialized as women isn’t necessarily true. I’ve met some extremely toxic trans men. And presuming that trans men can’t be toxic (or are somehow inherently less toxic) may seem like a complement but is actually harmful. This enforces cissexism that trans people are less authentic or real than cis people.
On the other side of the spectrum, cis gay men can also fetishize and belittle us while honestly thinking they’re being complementary. Cis queer men often reject the idea of dating or sleeping with trans men while the ones who are interested can be interested for the wrong reasons. They assume all trans men are effeminate, exclusive bottoms and seek us out because they believe it would be an exotic experience. They refer to us as “second holes” or “p*ssy bois”, and when we get offended they’re left shocked. They believe they were paying us a compliment by just giving us the time of day.
As a trans man who has experienced being both fetishized and infantilized, it has definitely affected my socialization in more ways than one. At first I was okay with, and even embraced it. The idea that I was getting support was so overwhelming, I felt impartial to the kind of support it was. But the more I became of aware of it, the more I tried to prove society wrong.
I still struggle with toxic masculinity at times, but I am now much more aware of it. When I was first coming out of the closet and attempting to “prove” myself as a “real man” I, unfortunately, did fall into presenting my masculinity in a toxic way. I felt like society either viewed me as a woman or as an effeminate “man” and that I had to show them otherwise. Obviously this is wrong, no one has to prove their gender identity, and being an effeminate man (either trans or cis) is completely valid, but I still have trouble at times with it. Let me emphasize that there is nothing wrong with being an effeminate trans man (or a masculine trans woman for that matter). It is the stereotype that we need to be one that is the problem.