The Transition Transmission: Let’s talk about objectification
Within a matter of days of coming out to my old Facebook friends I received a strange comment by way of Facebook messenger.
The person who sent this message isn’t a friend, not even an acquaintance on the peripheral of my whole existence. My Facebook page was mostly private, and I wasn’t keen on publicly broadcasting my being Trans. I have my suspicions about how this person found out I was Trans, but this entry isn’t about outing a leak within my social structure, it’s about the audacity of the question.
There is a common courtesy that cis people don’t ever take stock of; people never feel the need to question what they have in their underpants. So what I must conclude from this is that people subconsciously equate the value they place on you based upon an assumption about your genitals.
This leads one to wonder, if you are a Transman whom someone realizes doesn’t have a penis, do they then immediately treat you like you have no male privilege? The flip side of that would mean that a Transwoman would retain privilege if it becomes known that she’s got a penis; but we know this isn’t true. If anyone suspects a Transwoman as not having had “the surgery” they are more likely going to be treated like a freak. Women might be less threatened, but that body part may prevent them from seeing you as a woman. And men will either want to reject you completely or they’ll fetishize you. It’s a no win situation.
This notion that anyone who doesn’t even have a chance at existing in your romantic space has a right to knowing what only intimate partners should know is baffling to me. Moreover there is a less obvious but still strange fixation on “how we do it.” Again, if we’re not interested in having a relationship why is it anyone’s business? I certainly don’t hangout with couples whom are friends (or family) and try to imagine them having sex, I thought this was a common decency but apparently some people weren’t raised right.
Having had this situation arise from what should have been a safe space (my private Facebook) among my friends was fairly awkward for me. It tells me that the general rule that one should never out a Trans person was either ignored or not understood. Since I can never really assume that this rule will ever be respected 100% of the time, I now exist with the preconceived notion that I have already been outed to everyone. At least this way I shouldn’t be caught off guard.
Since we’re all different in our approach to transition, and how we relate romanticly are different, I can really only speak for myself. I do not owe anyone an explanation about my body parts. The relative body part, with regard to my gender, is my brain; it has always been wired female. Sure, I presented as a male for nearly 40 years before transitioning, but that caused me great distress. My incongruence with my actual body parts will continue to cause me distress, and the public’s fixation on this does nothing to alleviate this stress. Just as they set limitations on what they will accept as female, so too have I. So… Yes, someday if I ever have an ability to pay for it, all the parts are going to match up with my gender identity.
The old school term for Transgender was Transsexual, and I will always take issue with this word. It implies that sexuality changes. Because some Trans people seemingly switch their attraction to a different gender post transition, the general public may think that transition has changed their sexuality. I would argue that what’s really happened is that since the construct which held that person's sexuality has been shattered, they then feel capable of being intimate with those they previously considered off-limits. This isn’t a change in sexuality, it’s an reveal of their actual sexuality.
In previous entries I spoke of trying to convince myself I was gay, but that it didn’t feel right. I was unable to imagine myself as a man with a man. But I am capable of seeing myself as a woman with a man. That being said, any attraction I have to men is extremely limited; I’d say it probably is 1–5% of my sexual interest. I have always been predominantly interested in woman. For me I think that’s because people are often attracted to those who have qualities they would like to see within themselves. Women are caring, nurturing, tender, gentile, and beautiful; all traits I would like to exhibit myself.
Since I came out, I suppose my definition of my sexuality has changed only slightly, but I still believe it’s a fair reflection of the way I’ve always been. I was able to admit to myself and my wife years back that I felt bisexual, but today I would redefine it as pansexual. It’s not a big distinction if all you do is consider gender as a binary. For me it has nothing to do with gender at all. Being with someone whose personality brings you joy is the best way I can describe it. In this moment you become acutely aware that sexuality is so much less about a configuration of body parts, but simply a love of a person’s essence. My wife firmly fills this void in my life, and I don’t believe that the nature of my changing body should change this. I fell in love with her essence, and so long as she’s in love with mine, we’re going to be great.
So for those, who wonder how Trans people “do it”, we simply learn to love people for people. This is such beautiful a thing that I am almost saddened to think that others apply genital conditions to their significant other. Do they not recognize that through the course of their lives our bodies may fail us? Having a static love of a person’s body is just a failed tact. But loving the essence of a person is about as pure a love as we can ever experience. Love does not require sexualization, and again it’s bothersome when outside individuals feel a need to understand the mechanics of a Trans relationship. Perhaps they have never really loved anyone, and perhaps they don’t even love themselves. Coming out has brought me to a point of self love that I think has sculpted my understand of how our love relates to others.
One simply cannot have a conversation about these aspects of objectification without mentioning it in it’s worst form; sexual objectification. Living as a male, I can admit to having existed on the creepy side of this. One can be wired for woman, but testosterone does have a certain control over a libido; I am only now acutely aware of just how much control. It’s certainly an apt cliché that men are led around by their dicks, I know I was. I remember feeling powerless over such urges and the shame that always came in the wake of those urges.
Since transitioning I get my fair share of looks, and a few odd interactions have occurred. On some level I assume this has to do with people trying to sort out the “is it a man or a woman” question. But I am certain that there are those who view me through the lens of objectification. They either see a woman and are sexualizing me, or they see a Transwoman and are sexualizing me as a fetish.
Make no mistake about it, I am extremely unsettled by these thoughts. What’s disconcerting for me is that as a man, I never really observed this behaviour; probably because I was the creeper in those situations. As a woman, I catch it in my peripheral and my first reaction is disgust which quickly switches to fear; fear that escalates if the physical distance begins to shrink between me and this perceived threat. I guess technically I was “hit on” once at a gas station; from this, I realize I had never considered how unsafe a woman is made to feel when rejecting advances. It’s a strange new sensation for me, and I have to realize that this is the reality that every woman has had to deal with their whole lives.
Of course there’s a secondary stress with regard to this objectification which stems from being Trans. Transwomen challenge the heteronormative nature of the male psyche. If a man finds themselves attracted to a transwoman, but later concludes that woman was assigned male at birth there is an increased likelihood that the man will react violently. This is largely derived from that person’s internalized homophobia. Most people refuse to realize that being wired female makes us female, and an attraction to a transwoman is equal to an attraction to a woman. In 2016 there were 27 Transwomen murdered, and currently there have been 16 murders in 2017. When Transwomen become victims, their attackers often go well beyond typical levels of violence. This fact often leaves me in a more heightened state, and it absolutely reminds me that objectification for me is so much more frightening than I could ever have imagined.
Going from fearless male to fearful woman is an odd twist to transition that I hadn’t considered. Not that it changes what I know had to happen. It simply adds more stress to my day-to-day existence. I certainly hope that one day Trans people don’t have to worry that the price of living as themselves is dying for being themselves. Until that day happens, I will continue to be myself. No amount of fear or objectification will prevent me from that.
Nevertheless, she persisted…
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