Last night I attended one of the support group meetings sponsored by the transgender community where I live. Fortunately I wasn’t running last night’s meeting. When you are in that role, you are supposed to affect a degree of emotional detachment, even when what someone is saying is upsetting you or driving you up the wall.
I detonated last night.
We had a large group show up, close to 20 people. Ages ranged from those barely out of their teens to a couple of trans folks in Medicare country; from someone who had transitioned back about the time John Lennon was assassinated to a couple of individuals who hadn’t quite worked up enough courage to make those first terrifying phone calls about getting medical/psych appointments and who had never before reached out to the community or even knowingly had a conversation with another trans person; from trans punk-rock chicks in black to tastefully attired older trans ladies who attend chamber music concerts.
If that description surprises anyone cisgender reading this, let me assure you that we transgender people vary as much among ourselves as you do.
The way the meetings work is that we sit in a large circle. We go around the circle and offer everyone an opportunity to talk about what is happening in their lives or to seek information or advice from peers.
Last night two middle-aged trans women who were in the early stages of transition said things indicating that they felt deeply ashamed of their femininity. It was clear to me that they had internalized the misogyny that is a foundational element of American society. While the first one was speaking, I managed to hold my tongue, even though hearing hateful misogynist nonsense being parroted by one of us was making me twitch.
Then the second of the self-hating trans women had her turn. Among other things, she kept talking about the need to turn back into a guy anytime she needed to assert herself or to–she didn’t quite put it this way, but it was clearly what she meant–do anything that required intelligence.
And she went on in this vein for several minutes.
Suddenly I heard an angry voice: mine.
“Femininity does not mean weak! Femininity does not mean incompetent! Femininity does not mean helpless! I am as femme as anyone in this room, and I assure you that I am not weak or stupid!”
My God, did I just say that?
I saw some of the younger trans women grinning at me. Someone had to say what I said, and I guess I am someone.
I had never before realized how passionately feminist I am.
Hear me roar!
(The photo is a picture of women in France in 1935 demanding the right to vote. According to Wikimedia, it is in public domain.)