Friday, October 10, 2008

Julie Bindel and My Childhood

So, when I saw Lisa and Sarah's posts on Julie Bindel I unsurprised that a cis* LG(b) group was endorsing a transphobe (cis* LGB groups have been fucking with us for a while--Sylvia Rivera experienced transphobia at the hands of many cis* gay groups), but I was surprised that Bindel actually talked a bit about trans* guys. Oh, it was the same-old shit about how we're r33lly butch lesbians, we can't hack being the targets of homophobia and misogyny, and we just want to conform to gender roles. Which amuses me, because at CT there was a ton of diversity in gender expression and gender identity; though as it was camping I personally wasn't acting all that glam--I didn't bring any of my fun clothes or my fuck-me boots or anything beyond a bit of eyeliner! ;_; Next year I'll definitely bring better outfits and glitter!

I also remembered Lisa and Cedar's posts on trans* women & trans* men and male privilege.

Ok, so I read Bindel's article and it led me on to think about my personal (lack of) experience with misogyny and lesbophobia and how I (speaking only for myself in this post) most definitely internalized far more femmephobia, transphobia, queer-male-homophobia, and male privilege.

Sure, I got a number of dolls and pink sparkley sweaters for birthdays and Christmases, but beyond that I really didn't experience any sexism.
Now, I'm not saying misogyny doesn't exist and that that everything is equal now, just that if I did experience any as a child it was eclipsed by other things.
For instance, the issue of shutting up vs. speaking out (and "taking up space"): I'd say that I internalized the idea that as a male my voice was important, yet I was still rather shy and this was exacerbated by my anxiety and the speech impediment I had growing up (I couldn't make many of the sounds used in English--R, G, Wh, to name a few that I remember). So while I do sometimes talk over people, for the most part I often can't get up the courage to speak--especially in big groups. This doesn't mean that I don't have male privilege, just that it is complicated by...I guess ableism (I think? I don't identify as a PWD, but I'm not sure what else that falls under).

Yeah, I was teased a lot.
Because of my speech, my intelligence, my general oddness, as well as (unintentionally) being a bit of a know-it-all and teachers pet. Never for being assumed to be a girl or a lesbian. When I was a teen I did get called faggot when walking down the street; but never dyke.

As a little boy I liked fairy princess dresses, playing with the girls, unicorns and kittens, and the like. Like many feminine boys, I grew to try to hide these interests.
It was fine for my sister to like them, but she was a girl; girls were supposed to like those sorts of things. But I shouldn't like "girly" things because...well, because. Now of course I see why I thought I shouldn't like "girly" things; internalized femmephobia, queerphobia, and a desire to be gender conforming (as a masculine boy).
So I tried to be more masculine; I failed, but I did try. Sports and Nascar sent me to sleep, but I could enjoy Piers Anthony and Clive Cussler novels and I shifted my primary interests to wolves and monsters from kittens and unicorns. But I still read a lot of Tamora Pierce and I still loved cats.
Later, in my tweens and teens I tried to make myself a girl. First I tried to be a tomboy and then a "girly-girl" and finally a geek girl. I tried all sorts of attitudes and female identities, but none of them worked. I did eventually figure out that I wasn't a girl and nothing I did would ever make me a girl or a woman. Though even now I sometimes think how much easier it would be to just give up and pretend again...I realize that I can never do that because I would kill myself-figuratively or literally.

While I wish I hadn't disassociated myself from my body and emotions during those times as a preteen, I am glad that I got back in touch with my fem side. After all, who knows if or when I would have gotten back in touch with sparkles and bells and eyeliner otherwise? ^.^ Thats when I stopped trying to make myself like girls more and started to acknowledge my interest in boys.
Yet it would have also been nice if I never severed my connection to my emotions so that I would have to spend years rebuilding it and relearning how to interpret and deal with emotions.
Honestly, that fucked me up more than any minor experience, now forgotten, with misogyny. And it had fuck all to do with misogyny. It was entirely caused by depression, bullying (for intelligence and oddness), internalized transphobia, loneliness, and denial of my trans*ism and maleness.
I am also amazed at how cold it is. I used to never feel the cold--I could run around barefoot in the snow no problem! Now, it seems like I am cold all the time (though my friends still think I am mostly immune to it).

And now onto the teenage years (though I did most of the fixing my emotions in my teens):
I got into a nice private school for high school; some anonymous teacher nominated me for a scholarship (I didn't get it, but I did get a lot of financial aid).
That school was alright on sexism, mostly just harmless or irritating stuff.
Like the Passage of Leadership Ceremony, where we were presented our class rings by a senior student or teacher, had all the "girls" dress in all white and receive a rose with our ring while the "boys" just had to wear a suit and they got a paperweight instead of a flower (used to be they got a pocketknife, but that was before Columbine). Mind you, I was already identifying as a guy by the time I was supposed to be in the ceremony, so I doubt it had any effect on my trans*ism.

Then first and sophomore years' single-sex classes, instead of empowering me in science and the classroom, only served to show me how I didn't belong with the girls. Not because they were more conventionally feminine, but because I really wasn't one of them. Not nearly like how my girl friends felt in those classes, what I felt was very different. I reread the Alanna books right about then; I didn't make the connection at the time, but I felt like her when she pretended to be a boy to become a knight. Only I was pretending to myself as well.
Again, this is where I tried to be "a different kind of girl"; I tried to be a geek, an otaku, a punk/goth, a nerd...
Finally I admitted to myself that I wasn't a girl and I started really researching trans*ism when I was about 16. By junior year (the year of the ring ceremony) I had started to tell a few friends that I wasn't a girl, was going almost completely by my nickname, and towards the middle of the year I realized that I was most definitely not genderqueer.
I had only thought I was genderqueer because obviously queer fem guys aren't real men. ^.^;;

I did slip back and try to be a butch sometime in junior year. I'd just seen my crush and close friend, who after I came out to him told me that he wasn't ready for a relationship (despite a whole lot of cuddling and kissing and hints towards a relationship), start dating--by receiving a hand job at a cast party when I was in the same room--my cis*girl friend. So for about a week I tried to be butch and a lesbian. It really didn't work and I'm glad no one knew I was trying--as I completely failed.

So, looking back, I see I internalized a lot of shit, but none of it as a girl/female/woman. I thought that I couldn't be feminine or queer, or show any "weakness", but I did that because I saw myself as a boy. And boys don't cry--which, I literally did stop myself from doing most of the time, long before I even thought about severing myself from my emotions.
I have a hard time putting everything into words that explain how, but I do see male privilege in myself.

This is why I say I was never a girl/woman/female. Why I say I never had female socialization or knew what it was like to grow up a girl under patriarchy. Why I say that plenty of trans* women do know what it is like to grow up girls in a patriarchy.
Because they really did grow up as girls and I really did not.


Jay said...

This makes a lot of sense to me. I also don't feel like I have experienced misogyny in any part of my life like a woman would, even when I was letting people think I was one. I minored in women's studies in college, and even as I was studying it and torturing myself about attempting to social transition to male--I never felt like I was in the category of people who I was studying. I've been trying to write a blog or livejournal post about how, when women-n-trans events try to include me because I (apparently) have suffered under patriarchy as a woman (at some point, again, apparently)--it's like, no, this is just not true and I'm not going to claim oppression that I didn't actually face.
I did face oppression while I was a man-trying-to-live-as-a-butch, so I can't feel certain enough to say I never was oppressed under sexism for being a butch-appearing-assumed-female person. It's complicated, though.

squirrel said...

I wish I hadn't disassociated myself from my body and emotions

I've only just recently really come to understand just how much I did this. I used to think that being distanced from my body and emotions was just a part of my personality, just the kind of person I was. In owning my gender issues I'm starting to get some of that back, and it's amazing and powerful.

This is a good post, and really interesting. I should write something about my own relationships with these issues. I've been trying to work it out and it might be helpful to write it out.

Drakyn said...

Jay, I pretty much socially transitioned as soon as I could, so I had no experience pretending to be an adult woman. My high school was fairly easy going too, so I never got any flack for looking butch-ish (short hair, etc).
My parents made fun of me for not shaving my legs, but I didn't have any of the societal backing that most women have in that situation. It was just my parents teasing me about it, not society.
but I do realize this isn't every trans* guy's experience (though I do think the lack of internalized BS is common).

Drakyn said...

Thanks Squirrel.
I think writing stuff out helps, at least it helps me. ^.^;;