Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Double Standard

Transwomen of my generation, and particularly my subculture (rural Wyoming) grew up with a poisonous double standard. Among my peers, girls who were tomboys were respected. Boys who liked girl things were 'sissies,' treated with the ultimate in contempt, and subject to merciless ridicule.

I can't speak for how that double standard affected transboys, or cisgirls or boys. I never shared their experience. Yet I suspect that the girls I grew up with felt that double standard sharply.

I do know, though, that for me, it was incredibly painful. I learned very young to be deeply ashamed of who I was, and I desperately struggled to hide that person. It came out occasionally in unsuspecting ways – I still remember, early in grade school, being ridiculed for 'throwing like a girl.' I didn't know that's what I was doing; I was just throwing normally. Following my nature. I watched boys throw and learned to throw like them, and practiced for hours throwing rocks to get it right.

Adolescence was pure hell. I hear all the time from cisgendered folks that adolescence was just as bad for them, that it's hard on everyone. Sure it's hard on everyone. But I don't believe it was – is – as tough for cisgendered folks as it is for transpeople. Particularly transwomen of my age. I hid my self, even from myself; created a front to show the world – a three-dimensional cartoon of a boy – and lived in desperate loneliness. Somewhere around the age of 15 or 16 I just shut down emotionally, went into denial, and started drinking and doing drugs. I did everything I could to prove I was a man. Prove it to others, and prove it to myself. I fooled everyone else pretty easily (I had the perfect disguise), but, unable to successfully prove it to myself, I lived in an emotional vacuum – isolated, invisible and ashamed in a prison of my own making. It took 14 years to stop burying my emotions in alcohol, and another 12 years after that, in the company of an incredible and beautiful woman, before the epiphany that I was okay – that I really was a girl – a woman – and I didn't have to pretend to be somebody I'm not. I didn't have to live in pain and isolation. I started to love myself, and so didn't need to lie to get the love of others.

Twenty-six years is a long time to live in purgatory.

And I can't help but wonder how much of that is a direct result of the double standard in which I grew up. The cruel, destructive double standard that says that boys are better than girls.

It ain't true. I know. I'm a woman. And I'm a man, too. I've seen both sides. I've seen the brutal and the venal, the love and gentleness. Man and woman are two sides of the same coin, and neither is better or worse than the other. Even those of us who live on the edge of the coin – transpeople – are no better or worse.

And society will go far in reducing pain and violence for everyone when everyone is finally accepted at equal value, regardless of their gender.


David Carrel said...

A very educating post. Thanks for that.

Seda said...

You're welcome.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our