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

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ain’t I a Woman?

The other day I pointed out Lynn Conway's website and photo to a friend for some reason. At first he thought she was cisgendered, and then he said something like, "She doesn't look trans." So I clicked on her Successful Transitions site, to kind of point out that she's not the only one, by a long shot. He thought just about everyone on the page looked like she was trans, and said, "Most of them would have a hard time finding someone who would put up with that."

Ouch.

My friend Tobi might call it "transmisogyny."

It's things like this that make me wish I were a lesbian. Women just don't seem to have that obsession with the physical bodies of their lovers – the personality, the inner beauty, seems more important than the physical. I know it's true for me. I sometimes feel quite attracted to guys who are not very physically attractive, because I like their personhood – their passion, their intellect, their generosity, humor, whatever. Characteristics other than physical beauty can be very sexy.

But apparently not to men. My friend is educated, liberal, accepting of gays, lesbians, and trans people. Yet his abhorrence of the idea of a man finding a woman like me attractive purely dripped from his words. And despite their obvious femininity, they all seemed like men to him. Any guy readers out there, does this resonate with you?

Why?

Many of these are beautiful women, with successful, interesting lives. Why should a man have to "put up with it" at all? Why can't men just see us for who we are? Why not celebrate it? Why this focus on birth gender?

What does it say about our culture, that the bodies of women are considered of so much more importance than their persons?

As Sojourner Truth might say, "And ain't I a woman?"

14 comments:

LL said...

The politics of gender, meaning the interaction between men and women, is often confusing and challenging. Adding a transgender element to that mix intensifies the situation. Or so it would seem to me.

anne said...

Hey girl,

Some of it depends on the age of the man and the imprinting. I've run across a number of men who just tell me right out that they imprinted on doll-like Asian women and I don't seem fem to them. Other men are swayed by the breast thing, and others by youth--on and on. Women are obsessed with physical beauty in a very different way--most of the girls I knew would only go out with guys with pretty eyes or long blond hair.

It takes a bit of awareness to go out with someone for their inner beauty, on all sides. Many gays I knew were totally obsessed with types and small butts, etc. The women I knew (all sorts) were more self-critical than men tend to be, but again, I lived with drop-dead gorgeous models in Hollywood who spent 2 hours in the bathroom every morning wailing about how ugly they were (men and women).

People ask me why I put up with my "crazy" hubbie, and the answer is fairly simple: to him I represent the perfect woman shape. He likes my brain, too. But for him I put up with thousands of guys who told me that I needed a bag over my head or a breast job or skin transplant or....

Hey, check out Max's blog at:

www.raelifin.com

I think you'll be really impressed with his politics in his article "facebbook and politics." He's definitely someone you should cultivate for your own blog--and definitely get his father to read your stuff--he's been involved with the community since the 80's and has some thoughtful comments, too.

I think you're cute! But I think health is more important than what type your body is.

hugs,
me

David Carrel said...

I think that as a general rule, men are more picky about how their woman looks. You are right, it is shallow, but I think that is just how we are made. Now for me, I went for both inner and outer beauty and I am very happy with what I got and what I get to put up with.

CrackerLilo said...

Not a very friendly comment from a friend. :-(

Unfortunately, I think men get messages that they "deserve" women who look a certain way, because after all, they are visual creatures. That'll shut out a lot of cisgendered women, too. I say any man who thinks that way is someone you don't want to "put up with."

I also wonder whether knowing the women on that site were transgendered colored his perceptions.

I have seen women be very shallow. I proudly display mancandy on my blog, and it's pretty obvious that I have a certain type. The only reason I don't display womancandy is because my wife doesn't like it, and since I love her inside and out, I don't want to hurt her. It's okay to think that the present begins with the box. The problem is confusing the box with the present itself.

"Transmisogyny" is a good word.

And, I dedicate a song to you.

Seda said...

LL,
I think you're right - across the board. (At least, on what you've said here! ;-) )

Anne,
Good observations. More below.

I did check out Max's site, haven't commented there yet. Be interesting to see what he has to say to my politics - I'm sure not libertarian!

David,
You're a lucky guy, though, and so is Sarah. That's so cool.

Lilo,
It does shut out a lot of cisgendered women. Also, I think his perceptions were very much colored by knowing they were trans. That is one of the most interesting things about it - he saw what he expected to see. Which is pretty much human nature. I see it all the time, and it goes pretty much across the board.

I like your analogy of the present and the box. That's it exactly. Some of us (cis and trans) just don't have pretty boxes. Oh, well.

Thanks for the song!

anne said...

Hey girl,

NO WAY any of the women on Lynn Conway's site look trans--NO WAY.

Your friend was hallucinating.

hugs
me

Andrew33 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew33 said...

Seda, I am Andrew 33. I co-host KOOK's Manifesto. I always enjoy your posts on Bunni's blog. I am a proud Christian and I never mind seeing the memoirs of the Apostles who through God's divine inspiration spread the message of our salvation during times that make our times seem like a resort vacation. That being said, I prefer the newer Biblical translations (which I study deeply for accuracy and bias as many of them are not translated properly.) With the newer translations it is possible for the translation to be far more accurate because of modern archaeology and the many texts that have been found in the last century. I noticed that you are using a King James Version which is not a bad translation but it takes an expert in history to understand many of the stories in it simply because it is written in what is basically a dead language. I use one for reference still so it's not like I have anything against it. Still this is a matter of semantics as your heart is in the right place as is mine and I am not telling you what translation to use by any means. You are doing a good thing and for that you should be commended. As for me and women, when I find the right one fine. How many women do you know that want to share the house with an Asian Leopard? While it is the smallest in the leopard family it is still a leopard and is my pet. I live not far from Miami, where almost every girl is "plastic" from head to toe. I find myself not being attracted to "model types" because every one I have interacted with has been full of herself. One problem for me is that I look 21 but am 36. I am too old for the ladies that look my age and look too young for ladies that are more appropriate agewise. Women come in all shapes and sizes and I don't care how attractive a girl is, if there is nothing upstairs, what is the point. I study history (especially Biblical and American), Meteorology, Hurricanes and Climatology, and politics. I don't have much to talk about with airheads as the subjects I like are mostly gibberish to them and people who talk alot but say nothing bore me very quickly. I find gays repulsive. I had a girlfriend once whose sister was supposedly gay, had a girlfriend but did not mind having a guy around too. I don't need to say anything else except that I had not embraced Christianity during the brief time I knew them and having seen that stuff personally it just grosses me out now. They lived in Miami and the folks down there are as self righteous as the folks in Hollywood. I had long blonde hair but I just cut it all off to go to DC. I don't want to look like a hippie at the protest march So I will march with short blonde hair. I really enjoy your posts as I said. Anytime you or your readers want to vent about politics, the blog I co-host (KOOK'S Manifesto) is the place for it. I have been engaged 3 times and each time I knew it was not the right one. As a believer in God I know that he has a plan for me and if or when a woman is to be involved, I will leave it up to him. How do I know God has a plan for me? Because as cat 4 Hurricane Ivan approached Pensacola Florida with 135 mph winds, I prayed for an entire day. I asked God if he had a plan for me, and if he did to let me survive the deadly oncoming storm and then show me what it is. The storm flattened every house on my street. My house only lost 3 shingles off the roof. (3 shingles?) Then after the storm, the first work that was available was clearing out destroyed homes. In the first one I worked on, I found a water damaged Bible. I took it home and spent a year reading it. Since then I have discovered that this blogging stuff is what I am to do. I don't know where this path will lead but I trust that as long as I do the right thing and help people whenever possible, everything else will be taken care of. Most of my Christian friends find this story inspirational so I figure since you inspire people with messages from God, I can share a similar story with you so that you will keep doing exactly what you are doing. You never know who it may help.

Seda said...

Thanks for the kind words, Andrew, and welcome to my blog. I wonder, though, if you realize I'm trans? I am the "T" in LGBT, and am an avowed ally of gays and lesbians in their fight for equality. I'm also a liberal supporter of President Obama, though I'm definitely disappointed in some of the stuff he's done since taking office, like running up the debt, maintaining "Don't Ask Don't Tell," defending DOMA and trying to pass a health care reform that is complicated and doesn't adequately address the real problems with the current system.

I use the KJV because it's the most poetic and beautiful. I'm glad you enjoy my comments on Bunni's blog. She's hurting, and I hope they bring her some peace.

Andrew33 said...

Do you realize that I fall under the description of "socially conservative Christian" and do not hate you. While I may not agree with everything that you are doing, I am not about telling people how to live. That is the thing I cannot get through many of my stubborn Christian friends' heads. If you want the government to go into another person's home and take them to jail for a personal choice like smoking pot, then don't get upset when that same government comes and takes you to jail for the personal choice to read a Bible. It is the act of treating people as you would be treated. It is also not the act of being the "final judge" which will be God. I can't tell you how to live your live, but I can treat you fairly as a fellow person. Contrary to what many are led to believe I as a Christian do not hate "gay" people. I have a lie and let live attitude, just don't try to take my freedoms away or I get very upset. I am not a perfect person by any means so who am I to "judge" you. I can decide for myself that I don't want to go down that road, but I can't hate you for doing so either. As someone from S.Florida who used to go to all the biggest nightclubs (on ecstasy and other VERY designer drugs) every night of the week, I am familiar with the community that you speak of. When I mentioned my ex and my experiences there, my statement that it grosses me out was not a "blanket" statement against others doing so, just that it is not for me. I hope you didn't read any further into it than that. So you see that we can be very different people on very different paths in life and not hate each other.

Seda said...

Andrew,
Oh, good. Then, aside from our political and religious beliefs, we are in perfect accord.

Andrew33 said...

I am a live and let live person. Also as I said, I grew up in S.Florida. The nightlife in Miami is a magnet for gay folks. While I never went t the "gay clubs," I went to all the "afterhours clubs" aka raves and the crowds were as diverse as you will find anywhere in the world. The closest thing I ever got to actually going to a "gay" club was "Firestones" in Orlando in 1993. Funny thing happened to my best friend at the time. He was on X (too much really) and he met a very attractive oriental girl and they took off to do their thing. The following day I asked him what happened with the oriental chick and he made me promise not to tell anyone this but he is in jail for life now so I don't care. She wasn't "exatly" a girl. He wouldn't go into more details than that but I believe she or he was transgender like you. The thing is, I had taken twice as much X as he had so had it been me, I probably would have done the same thing. When I asked him if "anything happened" he refused to answer which meant a yes. I didn't treat him any differently after that until he started smoking crack and that ended our friendship and for all practical purposes, his life as he is serving life with no parole for murder1. Now the person I had known for 6 years before that was the most mellow person you'd ever meet and in 3 months Crack Cocaine turned him into a murderer. He stabbed a dude 80 times. So you see even though I have mellowed with age, I have seen enough in my younger days to know how things are. On most issues that you advocate I believe are truly"states rights" issues. If California wants to legalize this or that, that's okay, just don't force people in other states who feel differently to do things your way, similarly other states should force their views on you. That was the original idea behind having states was to let different places be different and set their own rules. It's understanding that people from rural Tennessee want to live one way and people from NYC or LA want to live a different way. For instance, if California wants to legalize pot, fine, then people who feel that pot is their pursuit of happiness can go there from every state where it is banned and other places that don't want it won't have to deal with it. Now, this is far from the viewpoints of many of my fellow christians but I have also brought some around to my point of view. So if that is your philosophy then great. I wish more folks on both fringes of our political system would come to that viewpoint. There are many issues that i believe constitutionally should fall under "States' Rights" but history frowns on that term because 40 years ago it was used as an excuse to subjugate Black people which Constitutionally is not a State Right.

Anonymous said...

gender is something that is celebrated at birth. blue or pink, boy or girl is usually the first question asked of someone expecting.

we are expected, male and female, to have a well-defined knowledge and acceptance of our own gender at a young age.

perhaps this transfers over into adulthood. It would be difficult for me personally, a woman, to date a man who was once a woman. It would be hard for me to feel like I really knew that person very well. If they can and have changed their gender, what else about that person is inconsistent?

I don't know what it feels like to be dissatisfied with my gender. I've never wished to be a man. I assume that it is something that consumes you until you make the switch and feel comfortable in your own skin.

In any case, I don't agree with what your friend said, we are all people at heart and we all have a difficult time finding "someone who would put up with that". (that being our everyday flaws). Gender transitions are just another relationship issue to work through.
Love is love. And everyone should get to give and receive love on some level. at some point in time.

Fannie said...

I agree with Lilo, who said that some men think they "deserve" a certain type of woman (even if they themselves are not particularly conventionally attractive). I think women can be that way too, but I do think that men are moreso. It's too bad.

I also think that lesbians tend to be more accepting than men of physical difference and body types of all kinds, as many realize that the beauty industry sort of sets of this really unrealistic model of "beauty" for all women.

That being said, I think heterosexual men are less superficial about these things than many gay men are. Except for the bear community, LOL. I know many gay men and I've never felt as judged on my looks and clothes in my life as I have when I'm with them. How is it ever acceptable to give people unsolicited fashion critique?

Sorry, just ranting. I don't mean to perpetuate stereotypes, but I am speaking from experience.

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
Beloved's.
~Hafiz