Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Zero To Femininty In One Year

There's one issue we transwomen must come to grips with just before we begin our transitions.

We have to realize that we must go from whatever rudimentary knowledge of femininity we still have that wasn't suppressed out of us by our attempted masculine upbringings to an almost encyclopedic age appropriate knowledge of everything we should know as women.

Oh yeah, unlike our biosisters, we don't have the luxury of time to get to learn it, we have to do it in a year. While we're doing that, we're being reviled by almost everyone around us in society from disapproving family members to fundamentalist religion adherents and people who hate us enough to violently erase us from this plane of existence.

Being transgender is serious business and even if I'd had the opportunity to look into my future and see how my life was going to turn out, the only regret I have about it is that I didn't do it sooner.

Yeah, sometimes it's aggravating as hell. I get my feelings hurt from time to time. Every time I run into a narrow minded jerk or a person wallowing in unenlightened ignorance, I have to remind myself of the blessings that I have of having family and friends who love me and value the fact I'm in their lives.

So how do you go from zero to femininity? Practice, practice, practice and lots of learning and observation. Getting in touch with your spiritual and emotional side. Having biowomen school you on some of the points and lessons they learned growing up. Figuring out what type of woman you want to project to the world and working endlessly to become that finer specimen of womanhood.

And also realizing that society sees you differently. You are considered a target if you are attractive. If you're African American, even if you are beautiful, you're considered 'ugly' and 'unpretty'. You are considered less intelligent.

You also have a heightened risk not only to have potentially fatal physical violence and sexual assault visited upon you, you also have a heightened risk for breast cancer thrown into the mix as well.

But despite all that, the feeling of peace that I have every day I wake up because I did transition is one money can't buy. I know that despite the title of this post, femininity is a lifelong learning process that I enjoy learning something new about every day.

I absolutely revel in being me and living on this side of the gender fence, even if the first year of it can be chaotic.

6 comments:

ginasf said...

As usual, a lovely post! But... I am curious as to what you mean by "femininity"? That's a pretty loaded term for women's behavior and I'm not terribly sure I'm comfortable with it.

Go Go Jo Jo said...

an almost encyclopedic age appropriate knowledge of everything we should know as women.

I am pretty sure I don't know a 1/10th of what is supposed to be in that encyclopedia. Which is funny because I randomly love extremely "femme" stuff like painting my nails and wearing stilettos. I recognize that as one of the privileges of beng cisgendered though. I've rarely* feel like I have to prove my gender.

(I say rarely because I remember the moment when I consciously decided to femme myself up for college because I was tired of being verbally and non-verbally told that I wasn't a real black women.)

I barely know how to put on mascara now (and really screw eyeliner because I've already blinded myself too many times) and its taken me years. I cannot fathom trying to learn that stuff (particularly the kind of matinance that goes into being "respectable"--as if we all didn't deserve it-- woman of color) in a year.

And while I do believe that gender norms are cogs of systemic sexist oppression--I am more and more aware (as I have no attempted to enter the workforce as a wage laborer) of how important being able to pass as feminine is for both bio and trans women. I think the impetus behind the ignorant, hateful, and all too often violent responses might be different in either case but the ultimate goal is the same--trying to tell women exactly who and how they should be.

femininity is a lifelong learning process that I enjoy learning something new about every day. I dig this statement even though i'm miscontextualizing (made up word!) you on purpose because i think that femininity can simply mean what makes a woman a woman is a lifelong learning process. Part of the process I believe is us all learning and becoming comfortable with whatever kind of women we choose to be and loving that freedom in each other.

Erin said...

I always have to laugh when someone says "this is SRS BSNS". On a more serious note...

Figuring out what type of woman you want to project to the world and working endlessly to become that finer specimen of womanhood.

^^this. It seems to me that so many transpeople seem to go in with the idea that they can just go in with the societal sterotype and survive. What they and many trans-haters miss is that it's not about matching an ideal. It's about being yourself. If you deny who you are, you'll just end up unhappy.

I know I drove my wife nuts with questions, and I'm still learning, 2 years in to being full time.

Gina: Considering that I am held to societies understanding of femininity in order to pass and not be harassed on a daily basis, it doesn't matter quite so much if it's a loaded term. As hinted above, I'm far from toeing the line on the femme side of things, but I use what I'm comfortable with to build the image of who I am and what I want to present to the world.

I'd say it's more of a collections of appearance expectations, behavior expectations, and interpersonal expectations that add up to the societal ideal. To be feminine doesn't mean that you have to meet all of those things, just enough of them to be recognized as such.

ginasf said...

Thanks GGJJ and Erin! Yes, it's a pity 'femininity' comes with so much baggage (Julia Serano discusses this way better than I ever could). It has even more baggage for transwomen, where we're gender reactionaries if we embrace some traditional notion of femininity and 'men' if we don't. Moreover, I find cis-society often expects us, as people who've transitioned, to embrace the most entrenched/oldschool version of 'femininity' in a pathetic (and usually considered futile) attempt to validate our views of ourselves as women. As a result, sometimes that term "femininity" can feel like a trap!

Monica Roberts said...

Gina,
I don't look at femininity as a trap. I'm looking at it from my AA filtered prism that saw multifaceted women around me working, taking care of their families, going to church, hanging with their sistahfrioends, and living their lives.

But the reality of being a transowman as Jo Jo pointed out is that we ALWAYS have to 'prove' our gender identity.

It's tougher for a Black transwoman because my sisters can wear some clothes and hair ;)

Monica Roberts said...

Gina,
I don't look at femininity as a trap. I'm looking at it from my AA filtered prism that saw multifaceted women around me working, taking care of their families, going to church, hanging with their sistahfrioends, and living their lives.

But the reality of being a transowman as Jo Jo pointed out is that we ALWAYS have to 'prove' our gender identity.

It's tougher for a Black transwoman because my sisters can wear some clothes and hair ;)