I went to a trans guy meeting last night and we somehow got on the topic of how the only men speaking up for the trans male community are people who don’t represent the majority of trans men. As in, genderfluid people, people attempting to crush the patriarchy or eliminate gender roles, men that enjoy the idea of exploiting their own female parts for novelty or shock value. Just to name a few.
A young guy told us he stopped going to a support group on his college campus because a number of people were attempting to force him into the idea of gender-fluidty. He attempted to explain to them he was not genderfluid, he was male, and they called him a misogynist. They told him not being open to the idea of embracing some of his “womanhood” from time to time made him sexist.
Another guy said that in a different group when he introduced himself by his chosen name and preferred pronouns they told him, “well we don’t like to put labels on things here, so we’re not going to call you that.” As if his name was a label. His pronouns were a label. His gender, a label. They were implying his gender was a choice that they could decide to embrace or ignore it as a “label”.
We all spoke about the number of times someone in the LGBT community told us to, “fight the binary” as if that was an option. People who transition to throw a wrench in the works of society’s gender standards do exist, but for those of us who don’t fit in that category being non-binary isn’t an option. The same way you wouldn’t tell a cis guy to “fight the binary,” people shouldn’t assume that just because a trans man was born with a female body they are anymore prepared to stand in the middle of two genders just to throw off proposed gender roles.
Furthermore, how does allowing these people to speak for us, and educate the ignorant populous, benefit us? Understandably so, the majority of us, don’t want to talk about it. We just want to be recognized as men and move on with our lives. Every person we meet doesn’t need to know our life story. They don’t need to know our background. We don’t have to be an open book and force trans-education on unsuspecting strangers. So we stay quiet. We go on living. When we hear about people who are “proud” to be transsexual standing on a soapbox and telling the world that “this is the transsexual experience” and getting it all wrong… letting people think all these things that for the mass of us just simply aren’t true… what do we do?
For the most part, we sit back and say, “Don’t speak for me, you’re getting it all wrong.” Then do nothing. We don’t speak up for ourselves. We avoid the topic because we don’t want to answer the questions they are going to ask. We don’t need people thinking about how we have sex, what are birth names were, or what’s in our pants/under our shirts. So we say nothing. We go on allowing the people willing to talk, speak on our behalf… because the alternative is outting ourselves and putting ourselves in a position to be asked these questions on a constant basis.
I’m not suggesting we do this. Collectively in that meeting we all sort of shrugged our shoulders and dropped our heads down. It’s our fault we are viewed as we are and yet, we have no direct plans to change it aside from telling the people giving out the wrong information to give it a rest.
Case in point, our meeting was observed by a college professor writing a book about different LGBT support groups. She had no idea that trans men were not part of the lesbian community, that some of them were gay men, or that we could live as stealth. She thought we were all just hardcore butch lesbians, who liked women so much we thought we were men, and told everyone we met (including our employers) that we were transsexual. She literally thought that for the rest of our lives we would tell people during job interviews, “please respect my pronouns” and that it would be impossible for us to hold real jobs because of this “decision”.
Don’t get me wrong, she was super nice about it, and she acknowledged that she was highly misinformed. But that is the problem. She gained all her assumptions from the media and from people who were willing to talk her ear off about it. None of who, she admitted, were anything like the guys in the room. She described them as happily androgynous and more hung up on pronouns than their physical bodies. Most told her they were happy with their anatomy but displeased with the way their assigned-gender was expected to behave in society. We all sort of scowled and tried to explain the medical condition versus snowflake concept to her. I think we sort of blew her mind, but by the end of it, she thanked us (with an exasperated smile on her face) and said she hoped to talk with us again at the next meeting. She said she knew she still had a lot to learn before she could even attempt to write about trans men.
She came to us, and in that safe space, we were able to disclose truths we wouldn’t normally offer the world. We don’t go to random people to describe our individual journeys in detail. We talk amongst ourselves and lend each other support. We don’t exit the calm we have achieved in our separate lives. We don’t thrust ourselves into the spotlight and proudly exclaim that we were born with female parts.
And like I said, I’m not suggesting that we should, but what do we do to fix the current situation? Why are the only people being recognized while speaking up about who we are the people who probably need to take a step back? Meanwhile, the guys who actually know what they are talking about are keeping their cards close to their chest- or- if they are willing to write/speak about true experiences, they are overshadowed by a more sensationalized (and often inaccurate) narrative.
It’s these misconceptions about trans people that have created the 51 “gender options” on Facebook. Because “transgender” is a gender now. It’s this misinformation that makes people assume “Boys Don’t Cry” is a film about lesbians. It’s the reason that when a gay trans man comes out as transsexual they are told they should, “just stay a woman” because they like men and it will be “easier” for them. Or that they can’t possibly be male, because they are attracted to men.
For some of us, from the safety of our stealth lives, do these things impact us directly? No, probably not, not anymore. Our battle is physical, not social. But for all the men who will come after us and fight these misconceptions- do we have a responsibility to them to be more vocal about our experiences? Or should we all continue to heave that collect heavy sigh every time we hear someone tell the media transsexualism is about fighting gender normality, and go about our day?