I don’t think that when I began to live full-time as a woman–as myself–it was for me as dramatic an adjustment as it is for some of my transgender sisters who had been able to successfully pass as masculine guys, sometimes almost to the point of being caricatures of masculinity.
I have met transgender women, some of them stunningly feminine, who were once Golden Glove boxers, marshal arts enthusiasts with advanced “belts,” real cowboys, Marines, and fighter pilots. I was one of those who never wanted to and in any case never could have pulled off such macho overcompensation.
I did learn to somewhat suppress my natural behavior for short periods in order to impersonate a guy. I was terrible at it. I’m easily intimidated and too eager to please, physically delicate, and prone to feminine body language that tended to bleed through whenever I was too tired or too distracted to suppress it. Growing up surrounded by real boys, I might as well have worn a target on my back.
Adolescent males and many allegedly adult men find people like me to be entertaining chew toys. I spent my adolescence being ridiculed and bullied almost every day. Words like “faggot,” “queer,” “fairy,” and “sissy,” were terms I heard at least as often as I heard my dead name. I lived in constant fear knowing that at any time to amuse themselves my peers might gather to shove me around, trip me, hit me, take my possessions, and always to laugh and laugh and laugh at my helplessness and terror.
My father regarded me with open shame and embarrassment. I know why queer and trans kids kill themselves.
In a therapy session once, in a moment that chilled me to my core, I suddenly realized that one of my cruelest tormentors was getting off sexually on what he was doing to me. Arousal was in his face, a face I saw for decades in nightmares, but at the time those memories were formed I was far too innocent to understand.
Violence and fear and men are all facets of the same thing in my emotional landscape.
So now I move through the world as a woman, that is, as who I have always been, following my natural inclinations and blending in with the other women you may meet at the mall or in an office or at the supermarket or in the audience at a theater or going for a jog in the park. Most cisgender people would be amazed if they realized how often they pass or speak with a member of my tribe.
Even more than before, because so many men have only contempt for women and believe that they have the God-given right to do with us as they wish, that, like both my cisgender and transgender sisters, I automatically scan spaces I enter for threats and try to assess the risk posed by the men I encounter.
I have had leering men come on to me in parking lots and stores. I have had men on social media message me with crude and offensive sexual remarks and send me unsolicited pictures of their genitals, a symbolic act of sexual aggression, cyber rape if you will. I have a few times run on dark, almost-empty streets while trying to appear that I was not running from men who terrified me.
I carry pepper spray in my purse and hope to God that I will never need it.
So am I surprised by the number of women–in one high-profile case two transgender women were victimized by a cisgender actor playing at being (and being lauded for his courage!) a trans woman on a cable show–speaking publicly about how they have been sexually preyed upon by creepy men?
No. What does surprise me is that anyone is surprised.
The image here was lifted from a New York Times piece entitled “The Women I’m Thankful for,” by Jennifer Weiner that was published on 21 November 2017.