Monday, October 22, 2007

Men, Women, and Me

I am trying to remember that I am now able to use male pronouns.

I respond to people calling me "boy/boi" and "he", I turn around when someone calls out "sir". I view myself as a transman. However, in my head, as I tell myself stories or plan out a conversation I still use "she" and "her". I wonder if, after years of pretending to be female, I have removed myself so far from these pronouns that they cease to make a difference. But my friends using "she" still hurts so much that this can't be the case. I wonder if, like making counseling appointments, I postpone changing my pronouns because I fear the inevitable rejection in conversation or looks. I don't want to talk to people about my genitalia or therapy. I just want male pronouns.

The above is different than trying to remember that I am male. I remember that at all times, just as i remember that I am white, I am queer, I went to college. These are parts of my identity of which I never need to be reminded.* I do have to remind myself that the way i look when I am unbound and casual is different than the way I feel. I am shocked to see breasts or hips in the mirror. I still blush when women walk into my restroom. I am confused when I see myself treated differently than my male co-workers. When i see my female co-workers being patronized or mistreated I am not confused, I can recognize the sexism they are facing. I step in and tell the patrons they need to respect my co-workers and threaten to kick them out if they continue to act in a sexist and misogynistic manner. That said...I am still alarmed when men and women treat me as a female server. Don't they know I'm male? They should be making sex jokes with me, not staring at my chest.

What I'm afraid of with this series of revelations is that I will forget my feminism when i am read as male on a consistent basis. Currently I exist in an androgynous/gay male/butch lesbian stream of identification where I am constantly aware of how women are treated. Before, back in high school, I was upset because I didn't want to be treated as someone incompetent, someone biologically less intelligent and less capable. Now I am upset because I want to be treated "as a man" which implies that I think men and women should be treated differently. The idea that my anger comes from being seen as a woman and not from the mistreatment of women in a sexist society is very upsetting. In my moments of logic I understand that this anger is, in itself, sexist. In my moments of being feminized though I view my anger as justified because of transphobia. I should be angry about transphobia, but that shouldn't diminish or replace any anger about sexism.

I wish I had a pithy way to wrap this entry up. Some exercise regime I could follow that would allow me to rid myself of any sexist feelings or thoughts. Perhaps this explains the irritation and eventual withdrawal of my male friends on classes about feminism. There isn't anything men can do that will necessarily make them feminists, it's a constant process of checking oneself. I will probably never be treated as "just a man", I will never be "just a man" but when I am read as male or as a transman I have an obligation to retain a feminist consciousness. I am exhausted thinking of spending my life checking myself, but the intrinsic privilege in that statement, that I should want to be a man and then shy away at the responsibilities of feminist men, that is repulsive. How I will manage a feminist consciousness will probably take me the rest of my life.

*well, except for being white. I try to remember that all the time but no one forces me to remember that, and there are times when I forget. I am lucky enough to have good anti-racist white friends and politically involved friends of color who are willing to call me out on white shit. I'd say it's a 70/30 split of when I'm conscious of being white...and when I forget.

Edit: I have been reading Bi Any Other Name because it is important for me to read bisexual narratives and because my partner is bi-identified. One essay is written by a feminist bisexual man who helped to start NOMAS, the National Organization for Men Against Sexism...I remember them from readings at college and I think they could have some answers.

1 comment:

cat said...

I agree that it can be easy to forget one's privileges. Even if you (the general you) were the target of discriminatory/oppressive shit until some point of your life, when it stops (because you changed) you eventually simply get used to being treated okay. Where there was pressure once, there is no emptyness now that you could feel. There's just nothing. At least that's my theory why it's such hard work to remember one's privileges (especially when there's no one very visibly right next to us who is very obviously treated worse).

But isn't wanting to remember male privilege similar to consciously remembering that you're white? Won't you have friends who'd call you on sexist shit? I.e. don't you already have some skills to handle the task of realizing/remembering your privileges?

That said, I'd be interested to read if you found anything helpful in the book/group you mentioned!