Gonna be another one of my rants~ so we’ll see where this goes. Also note that this is all my personal experience, and if it’s similar to yours that’s great, but if not then that’s okay too.
Basically I’ve noticed how a bunch of people want to say CAMAB trans people have experienced male…
Whenever I talk about my early life, I talk about how my penmanship has always been “girly” because my impulse at the time was to imitate the girls in my class. When it was playtime, I tried joining the girls and being told by the teacher that boys intimidate them and this was when boys and girls got to play separately. (Imagine the impact that has on someone when they’re told they’re intimidating just for trying to play with others) I have always found the “roughousing” violence and “friendly” teasing to be too much. I was told to “toughen up” and “get a thicker skin” by teachers instead of having their support in curtailing it.
My gestures, my choice of words, my impulse to touch people … I was taught all of it was wrong because boys don’t do that. Not only do boys not do that, but when they do it carries an undeniable, unwelcome sexual component. When talking to girls it was “gross” and when talking to boys it was “what are you, gay?”
The most revelatory thing was the anonymity of the internet. Online I have been female for the past 17 years and the language and expressions I use are colored by others seeing me through the female lens. No one questions my sexuality for smiling, or offering a *hug*, or discussing feelings as if (big shock) they matter.
I internalized the socialization for females. I modeled my behavior on the women I saw, not the men. I found men to be cruel to one another, intimidating, and unpredictable. I understood women. I still don’t understand men or why they do what they do. Learning to be a guy was like learning a foreign language that I will never be fluent in. (I had to learn assertiveness in sex, even. My instinct has always been to wait for pursuit. It always resulted in two people waiting for the other to make the move.)
Transition became about unlearning those things that I learned that let me “pass” as a typical guy. Before, people described me as aloof, stoic, or cold. I was anything but! Yet, every impulse I had needed to be censored and passed through the “is this too feminine?” filter before I spoke or acted. Replies in conversation came a few seconds after they should (It gave me this Jedi-like pensive quality, but it was very distancing emotionally). Physical reactions were awkward and jerky; people described them as “forced.”
Now, my interactions with others are more fluid, more straightforward, more natural than they were before. I don’t filter it so conversations simply flow better. I am who I have always been, but I have the confidence of knowing that the right lens is being used to interpret my expression.
So, you know what? If there’s anything that remains from being “socialized as male” it is only the best parts: learning to be appropriately assertive even when every instinct is telling me to politely back down; learning the self-confidence needed to, yes, expect the respect I deserve when I am speaking on a subject I have expertise on; and even learning not to rely on violence but still gain first-hand knowledge of what I am capable of when I need to defend myself.
I can’t tell you how many images of female strength or women held up as feminist role models fit that description: assertive, self-confident, and capable of defending herself. How can anyone calling themselves a feminist decry that as “residual male privilege” or the simply the vestiges of male socialization? Is this not exactly what we have been trying to teach girls for the last thirty years? That they are just as capable, just as worthy of respect, and just as tough as any guy?
On what planet is it appropriate to expect trans women to be demure, submissive, and “ladylike”? Is it about creating an inaccessible notion of womanhood? Or is it about ensuring that trans women will never speak out against transmisogyny and challenge the new generation of strong, assertive, confident cis women?