It’s Not All About The Gay
February 2, 2007
I Ain’t Got No-Body
February 11, 2007

I’ve Got The Power!

But it’s for the reasons I provided there that in my view females (women born female who have lived all of their lives as girls and women) cannot “discriminate” against transpersons. They can be nasty and mean. They can be unkind and assholish. But they can’t “discriminate”– because discrimination is a function of power, and females/women (born female who have lived all of their lives as girls/women), in fact have not, and do not, enjoy sex privilege with respect to transpersons. They may enjoy race privilege/class privilege/non-disabled privilege/privilege based on being heterosexual instead of lesbian/thin privilege, but they don’t enjoy sex privilege. –Women’s Space/The Margins

Reading that made me search out this: The Male Privilege Checklist. I think Heart’s assertion that women born women (wbw) don’t have power over transwomen is patently absurd. Isn’t power hierarchical? If it is, I believe wbw do have power over trans-women. If I had to do a WBW Checklist, I’d include:

1. The odds of me being hired for a job, when competing against trans-women applicants, are probably skewed in my favor.

2. If I am incarcerated my odds of being raped are low.

*edit*

3. I am less likely than a transwoman to face being raped, beaten, murdered, ridiculed, harassed, taunted, threatened, abused by a domestic partner, fired from my job, or expelled from my home. – Sabrina

4) I am less likely than a transperson to be ostracized by my family and peers for expressing gender in ways that feel comfortable to me. – StacyMI’ll add em as they come to me but what would you include on this list?

  • Interesting post, Marti, I think the title “I’ve got the power!” is perfect. You have had the power of both experiences, of seeing both your male and female sides manifest outwardly. There are advantages and disadvantages to this, I’m sure. Like StacyM said, “You’ve got some tricks up your sleeve”.

    But, at the same time, you are right on about the likelihood of being abused, fired, or mistreated by others because you defy gender norms, which tends to piss people off because you aren’t fitting into their neat little box. Although, I am a WBW, I’ve always lived my life outside of the mainstream. There is a price “outsiders” pay when they stray from tradition.

    My uncle used to say, “Sally S, you know, society punishes those who don’t follow the established pattern”, as some sort of warning when I started to do my own thing. Those that operate outside of societal norms will always be tormented, made fun of, and abused by others for simply having the audacity to be who they are. (I experienced quite a bit of this myself in high school, as I was viewed as a threat because I would not conform.)

    But, here’s how I feel about it….. The strong core of a self-contained person cannot be eroded by the judgments, insults, and the pettiness of others. Those who live in the outskirts of society are living far more ferociously than those who don’t.

    We are in a unique position to act as guides to those who prefer to color within the lines because eventually everyone, through experience, will be forced out of their comfort zone. And not only that, we are top-notch shape shifters, able to transmute and change ourselves at will, and I believe this quality has been a major factor in humanity’s ability to evolve and survive.

    We are the ones taking the risks, going where others fear to go, and it’s no surprise that they are horrified by it. These people have no idea how to conceptualize or empathize with another’s experience, so I don’t want them prowling around in my world anyway. Leave the hard work to those of us who have the balls/ovaries to do it because that’s where the real power is.

    ~Ms. Sally S.

  • Interesting post, Marti, I think the title “I’ve got the power!” is perfect. You have had the power of both experiences, of seeing both your male and female sides manifest outwardly. There are advantages and disadvantages to this, I’m sure. Like StacyM said, “You’ve got some tricks up your sleeve”.

    But, at the same time, you are right on about the likelihood of being abused, fired, or mistreated by others because you defy gender norms, which tends to piss people off because you aren’t fitting into their neat little box. Although, I am a WBW, I’ve always lived my life outside of the mainstream. There is a price “outsiders” pay when they stray from tradition.

    My uncle used to say, “Sally S, you know, society punishes those who don’t follow the established pattern”, as some sort of warning when I started to do my own thing. Those that operate outside of societal norms will always be tormented, made fun of, and abused by others for simply having the audacity to be who they are. (I experienced quite a bit of this myself in high school, as I was viewed as a threat because I would not conform.)

    But, here’s how I feel about it….. The strong core of a self-contained person cannot be eroded by the judgments, insults, and the pettiness of others. Those who live in the outskirts of society are living far more ferociously than those who don’t.

    We are in a unique position to act as guides to those who prefer to color within the lines because eventually everyone, through experience, will be forced out of their comfort zone. And not only that, we are top-notch shape shifters, able to transmute and change ourselves at will, and I believe this quality has been a major factor in humanity’s ability to evolve and survive.

    We are the ones taking the risks, going where others fear to go, and it’s no surprise that they are horrified by it. These people have no idea how to conceptualize or empathize with another’s experience, so I don’t want them prowling around in my world anyway. Leave the hard work to those of us who have the balls/ovaries to do it because that’s where the real power is.

    ~Ms. Sally S.

  • StacyM

    (Sorry for the long, serial posts.)

    I just thought of something tangentially related. Recently, at Alas A Blog, there was a comment thread that critiqued transgender people as reinforcing the gender binary by transitioning. In actual practice, this is not necessarily the case. Transpeople can carry with them certain traits and behaviors which are often less commonly found among members of the gender they transition to. For transwomen, some of those traits and behaviors are an outgrowth of male privilege. In my case, I am a woman working in the IT world, I don’t shy away from lifting heavy objects, and I have little fear of traveling alone. Am I not, on some level, helping to destabilize people’s notions of female and male behavior by doing these things? I am certainly not the only transperson who carries nontraditional behavior into the gender they transition to. There are many, many others.

    This seems to be one of those catch-22 situations that marginalized people often find themselves in the middle of. On one hand, you have transwomen being criticized for carrying non-traditional behaviors into transition that are a vestige of male privilege and defy people’s notions of how women should behave. On the other hand, you have transpeople being criticized for reinforcing the gender binary by transitioning.

    So which is it? Do transwomen not belong among other women because we defy the characteristics and behaviors commonly associated with women? Or, should we be criticized as unwitting dupes of the patriarchy because we supposedly embrace the characteristics and behaviors commonly associated with women?

  • StacyM

    (Sorry for the long, serial posts.)

    I just thought of something tangentially related. Recently, at Alas A Blog, there was a comment thread that critiqued transgender people as reinforcing the gender binary by transitioning. In actual practice, this is not necessarily the case. Transpeople can carry with them certain traits and behaviors which are often less commonly found among members of the gender they transition to. For transwomen, some of those traits and behaviors are an outgrowth of male privilege. In my case, I am a woman working in the IT world, I don’t shy away from lifting heavy objects, and I have little fear of traveling alone. Am I not, on some level, helping to destabilize people’s notions of female and male behavior by doing these things? I am certainly not the only transperson who carries nontraditional behavior into the gender they transition to. There are many, many others.

    This seems to be one of those catch-22 situations that marginalized people often find themselves in the middle of. On one hand, you have transwomen being criticized for carrying non-traditional behaviors into transition that are a vestige of male privilege and defy people’s notions of how women should behave. On the other hand, you have transpeople being criticized for reinforcing the gender binary by transitioning.

    So which is it? Do transwomen not belong among other women because we defy the characteristics and behaviors commonly associated with women? Or, should we be criticized as unwitting dupes of the patriarchy because we supposedly embrace the characteristics and behaviors commonly associated with women?

  • StacyM

    Sabrina, I suppose the short answer is, “Because I lived as a boy at some point, I have a few tricks up my sleeve, but in the long run, I do not think I am better off than cisgender people… male or female.” 🙂

  • StacyM

    Sabrina, I suppose the short answer is, “Because I lived as a boy at some point, I have a few tricks up my sleeve, but in the long run, I do not think I am better off than cisgender people… male or female.” 🙂

  • StacyM

    4) I am less likely than a transperson to be ostracized by my family and peers for expressing gender in ways that feel comfortable to me.

    (That intersects a little bit with #3.)

    In answer to Sabrina’s question, there are some effects of male privilege that I enjoy, post-transition.

    I suspect that because of my socialization as a boy I became interested in vocations of a technical nature. These vocations tend to pay more than vocations that girls are socialized into seeing as “legitimate” vocations for women.

    The irony behind this is the severe potential for employment discrimination that all transgender people face. Plus, I face a fair amount of discrimination as a woman working in a technical field. So, you’ve got trans and sexist oppression working against the residual effects of male oppression.

    I might also point out that my choice of avocation is most likely a function of race and class privilege—two axes of privilege that people can experience regardless of the sex that is assigned at birth. I am white and do not face employment and educational discrimination based upon race or ethnicity. Plus, my parents were working class, but economically comfortable, thus making college far more economically feasible for me than it was for others.

    I suspect that I have a slightly higher degree of confidence in my body than many women. I was not socialized into thinking that I couldn’t lift heavy objects because I am female. Plus, I have the memory of having had male levels of upper body strength. Also, I have the advantage of being 5’9″.

    I usually travel alone on road trips and vacations and I take great pleasure in this. Many people have observed how unusual it is for a woman to travel alone. Many of my female peers have expressed fear at traveling alone. While I am in as much danger as any other woman who travels alone, I suspect that my willingness to do so is a residual effect of the freedom of movement that I once enjoyed as a male. At one time during my life, I moved through this society without the fear of sexual assault.

    However, when you contrast the elevated levels of confidence in one’s body and freedom of movement against the emotional damage incurred by the kind of social ostracism that a gender variant person experiences from childhood onward, I’m not exactly certain that the average transwoman comes out ahead in the race. Severe depression and low self-esteem are among the effects that many transgender people have to contend with throughout their lives.

    So, do transwomen experience male privilege at some point during their lives? Yes, I believe that many do… to a degree. Although, it must be pointed out the effects of this privilege are deeply attenuated by the effects of being gender variant—something that cisgender males generally do not experience. It should also be pointed out that cisgender males generally do not live a portion of their lives coping with the effects of sexist oppression. Anyone who has spent a portion of hir life as a women or girl experiences sexist oppression, regardless of whether they are cisgender or transgender.

    The effects of male privilege for a male-born transgender person are mitigated by the effects of trans oppression both pre and post transition and the effects of sexist oppression post-transition. The effects of post-transition male privilege for a female-born transgender person are mitigated by the effects of trans oppression both pre and post transition and the effects of sexist oppression pre-transition.

    The kind of discrimination that transpeople experience is often brutal and deeply damaging on an emotional level. It is also brutal in the degree of physical violence that transgender people experience as children and adults. Cisgender people generally do not experience this kind of discrimination. That implies privilege on the part of cisgender people. This also implies the existence of an axis of oppression along which cisgender people have a degree of power that transgender people do not.

    Some people insist that this axis of oppression does not exist, or somehow deserves less attention than other axes of oppression. Heart and her ilk tend to be guilty of this and as other folks have said in other blogs, the kind of feminism that they practice is incapable of recognizing the complex ways in which sexist oppression interacts with other forms of oppression and privilege. It’s a huge blind spot that leads her and others into making outrageous claims of immunity from expressing anti-trans bigotry (as well as a few other forms of bigotry).

  • StacyM

    4) I am less likely than a transperson to be ostracized by my family and peers for expressing gender in ways that feel comfortable to me.

    (That intersects a little bit with #3.)

    In answer to Sabrina’s question, there are some effects of male privilege that I enjoy, post-transition.

    I suspect that because of my socialization as a boy I became interested in vocations of a technical nature. These vocations tend to pay more than vocations that girls are socialized into seeing as “legitimate” vocations for women.

    The irony behind this is the severe potential for employment discrimination that all transgender people face. Plus, I face a fair amount of discrimination as a woman working in a technical field. So, you’ve got trans and sexist oppression working against the residual effects of male oppression.

    I might also point out that my choice of avocation is most likely a function of race and class privilege—two axes of privilege that people can experience regardless of the sex that is assigned at birth. I am white and do not face employment and educational discrimination based upon race or ethnicity. Plus, my parents were working class, but economically comfortable, thus making college far more economically feasible for me than it was for others.

    I suspect that I have a slightly higher degree of confidence in my body than many women. I was not socialized into thinking that I couldn’t lift heavy objects because I am female. Plus, I have the memory of having had male levels of upper body strength. Also, I have the advantage of being 5’9″.

    I usually travel alone on road trips and vacations and I take great pleasure in this. Many people have observed how unusual it is for a woman to travel alone. Many of my female peers have expressed fear at traveling alone. While I am in as much danger as any other woman who travels alone, I suspect that my willingness to do so is a residual effect of the freedom of movement that I once enjoyed as a male. At one time during my life, I moved through this society without the fear of sexual assault.

    However, when you contrast the elevated levels of confidence in one’s body and freedom of movement against the emotional damage incurred by the kind of social ostracism that a gender variant person experiences from childhood onward, I’m not exactly certain that the average transwoman comes out ahead in the race. Severe depression and low self-esteem are among the effects that many transgender people have to contend with throughout their lives.

    So, do transwomen experience male privilege at some point during their lives? Yes, I believe that many do… to a degree. Although, it must be pointed out the effects of this privilege are deeply attenuated by the effects of being gender variant—something that cisgender males generally do not experience. It should also be pointed out that cisgender males generally do not live a portion of their lives coping with the effects of sexist oppression. Anyone who has spent a portion of hir life as a women or girl experiences sexist oppression, regardless of whether they are cisgender or transgender.

    The effects of male privilege for a male-born transgender person are mitigated by the effects of trans oppression both pre and post transition and the effects of sexist oppression post-transition. The effects of post-transition male privilege for a female-born transgender person are mitigated by the effects of trans oppression both pre and post transition and the effects of sexist oppression pre-transition.

    The kind of discrimination that transpeople experience is often brutal and deeply damaging on an emotional level. It is also brutal in the degree of physical violence that transgender people experience as children and adults. Cisgender people generally do not experience this kind of discrimination. That implies privilege on the part of cisgender people. This also implies the existence of an axis of oppression along which cisgender people have a degree of power that transgender people do not.

    Some people insist that this axis of oppression does not exist, or somehow deserves less attention than other axes of oppression. Heart and her ilk tend to be guilty of this and as other folks have said in other blogs, the kind of feminism that they practice is incapable of recognizing the complex ways in which sexist oppression interacts with other forms of oppression and privilege. It’s a huge blind spot that leads her and others into making outrageous claims of immunity from expressing anti-trans bigotry (as well as a few other forms of bigotry).

  • The other question i’d have, regarding the topic of the original post, is where transgendered rape or DV survivors are supposed to turn for help. Generally speaking, we cannot expect sympathetic help from shelters and support groups set up on a gender-binary model and rooted in a gender-essentialist, “men are abusers and women are victims” mindset.

    The DV group i work with, which specifically serves the LBT community (gay men have a DV agency in this area too) has strained relations with the local rape crisis center because of this. People working to end violence and rape should not be at odds! Yet they are, because of gender essentialism.

    I want to add, also, that the real idea behind the privilege checklist is that ideally someone should be using it as a way to examine their own privilege. A while ago i set out to list the ways in which transpeople have privilege over those who are not transgendered. Well, i came up with zip. If anyone transgendered has any thoughts on that, on how they are better off than their cisgendered neighbors, please let me know.

  • The other question i’d have, regarding the topic of the original post, is where transgendered rape or DV survivors are supposed to turn for help. Generally speaking, we cannot expect sympathetic help from shelters and support groups set up on a gender-binary model and rooted in a gender-essentialist, “men are abusers and women are victims” mindset.

    The DV group i work with, which specifically serves the LBT community (gay men have a DV agency in this area too) has strained relations with the local rape crisis center because of this. People working to end violence and rape should not be at odds! Yet they are, because of gender essentialism.

    I want to add, also, that the real idea behind the privilege checklist is that ideally someone should be using it as a way to examine their own privilege. A while ago i set out to list the ways in which transpeople have privilege over those who are not transgendered. Well, i came up with zip. If anyone transgendered has any thoughts on that, on how they are better off than their cisgendered neighbors, please let me know.

  • 3. I am less likely than a transwoman to face being raped, beaten, murdered, ridiculed, harassed, taunted, threatened, abused by a domestic partner, fired from my job, or expelled from my home.

  • 3. I am less likely than a transwoman to face being raped, beaten, murdered, ridiculed, harassed, taunted, threatened, abused by a domestic partner, fired from my job, or expelled from my home.