Monday, April 30, 2007

Genetic Women and Transwomen: Can We Be Friends? Part 2

TransGriot Note: After the original May TransGriot column got sent to my editor I discovered a few e-mails from both sides of the debate that it was too late for me to add to the article after my deadline. The other problem I ran into was having to edit some very interesting and well thought out responses in order to fit it into my column's word limit. So in this post I'm going to continue the discussion.

photo-transwoman violinist and singer Tona Brown

All the panelists are African-American and ranged in age from 25-55. They are residents of East Coast and Midwestern US cities. The transwomen in terms of transition time range from a few months to 20 plus years.

In addition to transwomen Joann, Traci, Lexi and Angelica and biowomen Audrea and Jazz from the May TransGriot column, Part 2 will add the comments of blogger Jackie to the mix along with transwoman Tia.

I tried to keep as much of the flava of the original e-mail responses as possible but some editing was done for the sake of clarity.

The Questions

1. TransGriot: What do we transwomen need to bring to the table to make friendships between us and genetic women work successfully?

First of all I am glad to see this being addressed. I will try not to be too wordy.

Although I know it's important for transwomen to have their own community, I absolutely feel they should be understood and included as women, period. I think we would both be stronger for it.

One of the problems is Transgender visibility. After transition many transwomen disappear into stealth mode. I certainly understand that. But it's damaging, when the only supposedly Transgender people visible are on the Maury Povich or Jerry Springer show. I hate that. So one thing transwomen can do is be out there in the world honestly. Interact with biowomen but do it honestly. Many non trans people don't know the difference between RuPaul doing her drag thing and a Transgender woman working in an office.

Remember that biowomen never think of gender, they don't have to. So the thing transwomen need to get across to biowomen is that the thing that makes you a woman is the same for both. It's not genitalia but how you are wired. If you are wired in your mind, spirit and psyche as a female there is nothing that will change that. Then find common ground we all have as women, our similar challenges and triumphs. Be open to friendships.

OK,OK ......seriously...... Assuming we’re talkin’ bout a friendly capacity and not romantic.

Trans women need to bring nothing...Just themselves...Most of the Trans women I have meet personally are pretty decent people... some are not quite sane ...But that’s ok neither am I

I think many Transwomen have a lot of emotional baggage which puts a lot of people off.. We can be overly critical and too quick to judge...and times this can be rough to deal with...even for me and I am well aware of all the reasons behind it.. Transwomen can be very guarded when it
comes to dealing with people outside of our community...some is justifiable some is not. In either case for a person, GG in particular who does not know a person is trans guarded behavior comes off to them as the TG acting flaky.. My thinking is that if many Transwomen could figure out how to not bring all that bad attitude to the table when we meeting genetic women for the first time things may work out a lot better..

I feel that communication and honesty are important parts of any friendship; regardless of the friends' appearances or backgrounds. Personally, I feel that transwomen and genetic women are the same essentially, and they should all be treated, as such. Some women may feel threatened or resentment towards transwomen, but those feelings are based on fear and ignorance. These things have no place in a true friendship.

What has worked for me so far has been not being forceful about being included in whatever activities or conversations are going on. I usually wait until an offer to join is extended. I don’t try to take over anything that’s being discussed. I tend to start off by listening first and then finding areas where I can make a comment or two. I think that this has caused them to feel comfortable around me and include me in whatever’s going on. It’s resulted in being invited to lunch every day, shopping trips, parties, dinners, picture sharing and trips to Virginia Beach & Puerto Rico. It’s only taken a short time to feel included.

I would think that you should just be you. Be open and honest about yourselves and who & what you are. But this does not mean that you have to bend over backwards. To fit just because you were not born a genetic women.

2. TransGriot: What do genetic women need to do to make it work?

I think genetic women should just be open to getting to knowing transwomen.

I think many need to learn the truth about what we Transgendered Women are and are not. It’s time to let a lot those old misconceptions about us go. It seems that a lot of our Genetic counterparts are a still very far behind the times in this respect. Some Bio women look at Transwomen as being some kind of threat to their femininity and they get very resentful to any and all Transwomen, especially one who can put herself together better than she can. This bugs the hell out of some Biowomen because it makes them feel that they have some how been neglecting themselves and that’s when we called a whole bunch of "Fake Bitches" by you and stuff. This sort of stuff needs to stop because it's not right on so many levels when you have to make some one else feel bad in order to make yourself feel good.

Understand that a transwoman is a woman. Not a man dressed as a woman. Not a man who chose to become a woman. Interact with transwomen as we would any woman but, appreciate the journey any transwoman must have had. Be open and don't stereotype.

I feel that if genetic women educated themselves more thoroughly about transwomen and the trans lifestyle, they would be much less likely to enter friendships or relationships with transwomen with stigmas and fear in their hearts. Being a transwoman is not so different from being a genetic woman, as far as feelings are concerned. If more genetic women realized this, this would not be in question.

Patience and understanding that I haven’t been at this as long as you have and will make some mistakes. But, don’t assume I am a total novice or that I don’t understand “any” of what your saying or feeling. In fact, don’t assume anything. Just treat me as any other woman but know that I may ask a question that you’ve known since you were a teenager.

3. TransGriot: What in your opinion are the mistakes that both parties make that create barriers to forming healthy friendships and what can be done to avoid them?

The mistakes we as transwomen make are “demanding” to be included in women’s social groups without first being invited and then being disruptive and argumentative when we get there and also not learning to communicate and socialize as women.

The mistakes biowomen make would be seeing us as “men in women’s clothing” and not understanding what it really means to be “trans”.

Transwomen be honest. People don't like to be fooled. Of course it is an individual choice to reveal (and when to reveal) one's background information but it is difficult to form healthy friendships not based on honesty.

For biowomen, be respectful. Do not ask stupid, invasive personal questions. Respect gender presentation. Regardless of where a transwoman may be in her transition, pre-op, post-op or no-op respect her, get to know her.

Education, education, education. The more one knows, the less likely it is for us to make harsh comments, and see people for who they truly are. People. Everyone is different. So, if we all try to make less assumptions about a particular type of woman (trans or genetic), the more likely it is for us all to get along. I think a lot of mistakes are made when there's a bias or self-righteousness on either side; which can cause rifts on either side.

The barriers might be for the genetic women not feeling that transwomen are real women because they were not born in a woman's body. As for the transwomen I would think it would be just trying to be accepted as a woman. Said to say but we do not know much about trans gender people as a whole. The more we know the better we can understand each other and get along.

We both do not give each other due respect. We TGs and GGs go in attack mode when in each others company...ready to rip into each other head off as soon as something get said that’s the slightest bit out of line. Nobody want a friends like that.

What can be done on our part? We need develop a thicker skin and not be so rough on GG's .. We need to learn that not every GG in the world is not out to dog us because we are not "real women" as the saying goes ...Some just don't know and others may be just stuck on stupid ...but that should not be held against all have to deal with each on a individual basis...Some just need time to get used to the notion that you are a woman...others never will get it...It’s like i wrote earlier "Some Women don't Like other women period Trans or Bio

I also think there is not enough positive Transwomen of color who are open about being Trans....It is getting a lot better mind you but I think we as Black TGs still have a long way to go. A big part of being trans is wanting to fit in or to blend with other women and to go unnoticed... But on the down side all this covert stuff is that it’s counter productive and ends up hurting more that it helps...How can you ask people to understand who and what a Transgenderd woman is if no one really knows one personally? The only one most folks know bout is the Tranny Hooker on the corner...Therefore she is by default represents for all of us to that community.

Because in most cases she is the only Trans woman any body knows about...No one knows that the big ole tall lady across the street was born a male....Nah, she couldn’t be a TRANS she’s so sweet and everybody loves her. Unfortunately the big ole tall lady choose to be in Deep Stealth and allow the misconception about Transwomen to persist which ultimately pushed the next Transwoman into even Deeper Stealth yet.

At some point this cycle has to be broken. My thinking is that that only way we are going to break it is to give more folks outside the TG community a chance to get to know us by living and working around Transwomen of color who are positive, proud of being a Transwoman and are not afraid to stand up and be recognized as such.

The discussion continues with Part 3


Jackie said...

Thanks for these posts, Monica. I certainly learned some things from these responses. Tia's point that many Trans women may not have lived as female that long...not experiencing growing up phases as the gender they feel they are. Something we should remember.

It's good that more young people are recognized and transitioning younger now. Wouldn't it be wonderful for Transgender girls to learn to relate to other girls, as girls? Start with the kids in diminishing the stigma and learning to relate to each other.

I think it's important also that we bio women not stereotype trans journeys. I have learned that each Transgender person feels differently about their bodies and their Transness. So don't make blanket assumptions. And that goes both ways. Thanks again Monica.

Monica Roberts said...

Thank you for your insightful comments as well.

I had a lot of fun putting this togther. It almost has the feel as if we were all in one room having this discussion.

I'll probably have to come up with another topic for y'all to ponder