Monday, December 10, 2007

Masculinity in Winter

I'm back! I had a harrowing weekend of computer shut-downs and malfunctions, but now I'm back online. My panic about the health of my computer is similar to the panics I feel when i begin to get ill. I only have health coverage for another 20 days, I only have computer coverage until June...after those run out I'm not sure what's going to happen. Hopefully I'll be employed with good pay by then but who knows?

While I was offline winter came to Minnesota...and with that the opportunity to put on as many layers as possible and to try not to freeze while waiting for the consistently late buses. My current winter jacket is a leather motorcycle-style jacket which if you look closely reveals how I am petite compared to most men. However, and this is something I recall as a woman, when you're worried that some dude in a leather jacket is standing too close to you you're not looking for signs that he might not be biologically male.* I constantly look behind myself as I walk home at night, I'm aware when someone is too close or is quickening their step...I'm very conscious of my own safety. Now, however, I am not only cognizant of my own safety I'm also becoming aware of changes I have to make in order to not be seen as a potential mugger or rapist. Last night I opened the door to my apartment building too quickly and startled the girl who had come in before. I smiled and said "I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to startle you" and showed her my keys to try and smooth things out.

Winter can be a good time for transmen, all of these layers hide what remains of our curves and bulk us to look more like the men we know we are. Often these reminders are simple like being "sirred" in a restaurant or on the bus, going into a men's room with no heads turning, standing in line and not feeling the inquiring eyes of the person behind me trying to figure out my sex. Others, what i was discussing above, are not so pleasant. At first, I'm a little bit happy because I associate the fear of bodies at night with a fear of men, and in the twisted passages of my brain that means I'm being gendered as male. But of course this also makes me very worried. i try to walk slower, to be aware of how close I am to other bodies, to never purposefully scare someone else walking home. It frightens me that so many despicable activities are associated with men. Beyond the seriousness of men's crimes against women, there is the space that men take up. The other night I was bullied into serving food after our kitchen was closed because of the way the man lurched over the counter space, raised his voice, and managed to take up space. It wasn't really that it was difficult to do, the problem was that the kitchen had closed and he thought that by physically intimidating me he could get whatever it was he wanted. And, well, he did.

I want people to see me as man, but i don't want to achieve this through violence and intimidation. There are non-scary aspects to masculinity, and a lot of these are shared with women, being a good man looks a lot like being a good woman, being a good person. If i refuse to use aggressive techniques, will I never be a man? I could live with never being a man more easily than being a supreme asshole who was without a doubt a man.

*OK, transmen, transwomen, cisexual women...everyone can be a potentially violent person and I don't mean to suggest that women-on-women crime doesn't happen or that trans people don't commit crimes too, but as a woman I remember thinking that I could probably fight of a similarly-sized woman, but not a man.

1 comment:

Aubrey said...

For some reason, this post gave me flashbacks of my co-ed combatives class at West Point. Specifically, the drills where a man was straddling me, and I had to buck and try to roll him over. I had some success, but a lot of failure, especially when paired up once with a football player.

It made me think I was weak, that if I ever had to fight a man, I'm better off running. But it felt so contradictory; I'm a military woman, I'm supposed to be strong, I chose to be different from the majority of my peers.

When I open my house door by myself, I look over my shoulder and quickly lock the door behind me. When I walk a parking lot at night by myself, I get creeped out.

And yet I'm supposed to be a soldier, someone capable of killing, someone who has a lot of responsibility for other people's lives on their shoulders.

I wonder if this feeling of weakness is the reason the Army only has about 15% women, and that many don't stay in to make it to the commanding ranks, like generals. I know many leave to start families, or to support their husbands' careers, because they feel they can't have both. But I wonder if it all goes back to this identity crisis and vulnerability.

Sorry, this had not much to do with your post, but it made me feel good to think about it!