As a trans woman, having my humanity denied, debated, or outright denigrated can be hard to tease apart from baseline cultural misogyny. It might even be a unique offshoot of it. Around the world women struggle to be heard, to be seen, to live.
We often to defer to men for safety, for advancement, for peace, even as we seethe inside. We see the ridiculousness of sometimes playing weak in order to be strong. We have to be hyper-competent to even be considered for promotion and are judged incompetent for slight mistakes. We walk away when we want to fight, choosing our battles in what seems like a hopeless war.
We are seen as sexual objects for men to use as they see fit and blend into the background when judged unattractive. We are viewed as safe receptacles for men to dump their feelings into like trash cans on the corner. We are the objects acted upon, not the verbing subjects.
But when we are strong, when we fight, when we disagree, when we exercise our own agency, we are treated as animals to be subjugated or put down. We are treated as children. We are told we can’t, we shouldn’t, that we ask for too much.
And trans women we are told we are less human than cis women, though we already struggle for our humanity on that front and trans women are women. We are treated as aberrations and more disposable than cis women because we are seen as failed men. And nothing draws the ire of men more than failed men because they fear them like they fear a contagion.
Failed men are fallen, defective humans in cultural milieus around the world. Women scorn them because they can no longer be their protectors from other men seeking to utilize them as objects. Other men use them as punching bags to bolster their masculinity. Sitting next to one, being seen with one, or sleeping with one bends back around to being seen as that singular inhuman object of ‘a pussy’.
Most trans women don’t even have that to fall back upon as one of the oldest appeasement methods of deflecting male aggression, which often further enrages them. Objects that don’t work as expected or sap cultural power are discarded, often violently.
So I re-affirm my humanity to myself over and over and over, just to live. It’s agitating for myself when being obviously ignored. It’s having to explain and justify myself over and over. It’s dealing with the emotions of exclusion, rejection, and loneliness. It’s struggling to value myself when so many others devalue me.
I do this by living my life when so many others want me dead at worst or invisible at best. I struggle with this and I know others do, too. When you’re bombarded by the world telling you that you don’t matter or that your relative uniqueness isn’t worth protecting, it can be hard to get motivated to get out of bed some days.
Pre-transition I read about trans women who rarely left the house. Most of these women were portrayed as vain beauties who had completed surgeries, including facial feminization, and felt they weren’t pretty enough to pass in public. It’s an easy narrative to believe because it fits nicely into the misogynistic trope of women being vain and the transmisogynistic trope of trans women putting passing above all else.
Now that I’m past the big hump of social transition, I wonder if the truth is closer to many (most?) of us simply feeling reluctant to leave the house out of an exhaustion of having to continually defend our humanity. I know I feel the seductive call of hiding away on many days and by dint of race and class, I have the privilege of doing so. Many others don’t.
It is much easier to be trans in public now than it was even ten years ago, but we still pay a psychic cost when visibly trans and experiencing subtle or overt discrimination or having things go sideways when we pass until we don’t.
There are no easy solutions here and many solutions are out of our hands. We can demand equality and respect, but until all women are equal and respected, we will be on the short end of the stick. We can tell the world what we need to feel valued, but until cis allies lobby and change the minds of other cis people, we will be denied our place with the rest of Homo sapiens sapiens.
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