The Man Card
For the longest time there had been stories about a Mysterious “Black American Express Card.” Until the late 90’s it was in fact just a myth. Looking to capitalize on the hype that the myth had already instilled within the modern lexicon, American Express decided to make this fiction a reality. Today the hyper-rich might be offered an invitation to carry what’s now officially called the “American Express Centurion Card.”
Possession of the Centurion card has a plethora of perks; the most noteworthy of which is an undefined spending limit. But in reality, the card is less about what it can do, and more about what it represents; an elite bragging right. It’s a safe bet that once an individual has obtained such a level of status, they’d be thought the fool for ever giving it up. In this vein we see the similarities between the Black AMEX credit card, and the metaphorical one that men get handed as their birthright.
I doubt that most men really think they exist in a world of privilege, but maybe that’s because they don’t want to admit that they know they have such privilege. To do so would only drill home an uncouth level of arrogance that would be framed as vile and disgusting.
When attending one of my first Transgender support groups, the group leader spoke of pushback from men regarding her transition. She attributed this resistance, hatred, aggression, and violence to the fact that men can’t come to terms with why one of their own would effectively burn their “Man Card.”
It stands to reason that Cisgender men are compelled to attack those of us who transition to women because they believe that communially something is lost when one of us defects (so to speak). They see this as affecting their own personal privilege, when in reality it only affects the privilege of the transitioning individual.
Then there’s this bizarre gender hatred for anyone perceived as male who dare to feminize themselves. I say it’s bizarre because it rarely happens in reverse. Women do not attack those they perceive as female for taking on a more masculine appearance. Or if they do, it happens so infrequently that it’s not as noteworthy as the attacks against Transgender women.
There are a couple facets to this that I think are more complex than directed rage over a forsaken “man card.”
The first point of contention likely stems from the confusion that one’s transition creates within insecure cisgender heterosexual (Cishet) men. While it’s true some of us don’t transition glamorously (self-included); many still do. This creates confusion in Cishet males that they incorrectly interpret as an attraction to a man when they know they are actually heterosexual. They fail to realize (or care) that a Transgender woman is presenting as a woman, and that having an attraction to that presentation does not equal an attraction to a man. Unfortunately within that failure, the male is prone to aggression because he feels his heterosexual identity has been somehow threatened by an attraction to a Trans woman.
It needs to be said — for the sake of such fragile men — that Trans women do not want to “trick” you. We’d rather be seen as human beings and not judged on the sum of our parts. But if you are so threatened by the possibility of encountering anatomy that you know you are incompatible with, all you need to do is put out the vibe. Just go ahead and say a few transphobic things early on. This will let us know we don’t want to be alone in a dark room with you before learning just how upset you can become. We’d rather understand your position before we end up a statistic.
Look, I get it; you want us all to go around and broadcast our Transness. After all, it would really take the guesswork out of the dating game and just make it easier on you, wouldn’t it? I mean, at least then you don’t have to worry about developing any kind of human connection with another human being only to realize that compatibility requires a heart, and not just just a specific sex organ. Heaven forbid you learn to love a person as a person.
So if that’s what the fragile male ego needs, why don’t we just enter every room and proclaim, “I’m Trans!” After all, it’s their feelings that come first, amirite?
In an ideal world, yea we would save those fragile men the burden of accidently falling for us. Unfortunately, the “I’m Trans” proclamation can immediately and directly lead into harassment, assault, rape, and even murder. So, I’m sorry to say it, but when it comes down to accidently getting friendly with transphobic people, we keep mum about our gender identity because we don’t want to escalate a situation that doesn’t need to get out of hand.
This is exactly why many of us aren’t waving a flag. While I personally stand for visibility, I will never discourage anyone who acts in a manner that’s intended to maintain their safety. Decent men, should feel the same. They should realize that, just as cisgender women experience oppression, so too do Transgender women. I would encourage those men to stand up for anyone they see being oppressed, lest they become complicit by means of inaction.
Understand that our silence about our Trans status is not trickery, it’s a safety measure. Avoiding the consequence of that safety measure is simply a matter of showing your true colors. Speak up about your transphobia, and rest easy, because we will not want anything to do with you; you’ll be spared all the triggering feels you’d get by falling for us.
The second point of contention that Cishet men may have is the perception that Transwomen shift the power of the existing patriarchy.
It’s not hard to see that men throughout time have been threatened by the notion of women gaining position of power. Ever since women were condemned for eating the forbidden fruit, we have been considered “less-than.” It’s abhorrent that women whom are responsible for bringing about all human life upon this planet are so horrifically stigmatized and devalued.
Of course there are a million shades of oppression when it comes to where women stand in the world.
In the past we’ve seen women oppressed and abused by various religions; invoking “God’s will” has long been a scheme designed to keep women from ever being seen as equals with men. We’ve seen this in examples such as;
— Husbands who beat their wives for the sake of keeping them under control.
— Terrorists attack girls attempting to better themselves through education.
— Rape victims are stoned to death .
— Underage Marriage is utilized as a means of hiding sexual assault (often from members in a faith community).
Even as the rules loosen up within those faiths, there are men within those belief structures still clinging to oppression of anyone perceived as feminine. For them it is sin that a “man” should abdicate their station to become what the men in those faiths deem as “less-than.”
For those men, there is a fundamental disconnect from respecting women who give these men power by virtue of birth. I dare say the mere fact that women have the ability to produce life is the very reason that men have opted to oppress Cisgender women for millenia. That’s an incredible power that they do not possess, and therefore it leaves them with an inferiority complex. As it often goes with those who feel such inferiority, they take the position of being a bully. Consequently, there is almost certainly parity between those who would treat a cisgender woman as less-than, and those who would treat a Transgender woman in kind.
The fragility of the male ego is further threatened by the perception that one of their own has chosen to live as the more oppressed gender.
Being a man is clearly so awesome, that no one should ever desire to be anything different. And maybe it’s taken as such an offense because Transwomen drop so low in social status that we likely fall beneath whatever society considers the most marginalized racial minority. We gain absolutely no status through transition, and we do not diminish or devalue the status of Cisgender women when we do.
And so it is noteworthy to point out that by burning one’s “Man Card,” only to assume a position within society that is one of the lowest caste positions, it becomes evident that there are in-fact people who under no circumstances are men; regardless of their anatomy. No one would go from being the apex predator to being the most vulnerable of the prey unless this is who they truly believed they were supposed to be.
A card, not unlike the coveted Black AMEX card, is not a permission slip for unchecked behaviour. To say I burned my “Man Card” is to say that it was something I wanted to begin with. But just as I have the ability to be fiscally responsible, I too can find respect for all the minorities that are disparaged by men who are too scared to see those individuals as equals.
Perhaps then it is that fear that makes them “men” to begin with. For if they did not fear those who transitioned, would they not simply be content to let us live happy, healthy, and unobstructed lives? Why does the happiness of others create a desire to promote misery from some men? If this is what it means to be a “man,” then it’s a descriptor I never want to be associated with anyway. I feel nothing but pity for those who believe that by virtue of being a man they are given providence to diminish those who are not like them.
Kira Wertz (she/her) is a Transgender woman who openly identifies as pansexual and polyamorous. She is a top writer in LGBTQ for Medium, Editor of The Transition Transmission, and Professional Truck Driver. Kira is a strong advocate for Transgender rights, especially the rights of Transgender youth. She is a public speaker, a panelist, and can often be found helping her local Transgender community. You can connect with Kira on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.