Sometimes, looking at things from a sideways angle is helpful...

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Rape Culture and Transition

Despite transitioning quite early, I encountered misogyny nonetheless; from reduced expectations of me because I was seen to be a “woman”, to cat-calls from moving cars at dusk, to comments that were meant to be complimentary, and instead made me uncomfortable with how visible, and how vulnerable I was. I know what it felt like to be that vulnerable, walking home at night holding my breath, trying to decide whether I wanted to be near the kerb, so men behind bushes couldn’t grab me, or near the bushes, so men in slow cars couldn’t grab me. I was told not to walk outside after dark alone, told what to wear, what not to wear, told, essentially, not to risk encouraging men. I heard all this, and I tried to obey it, not really realising the responsibility it placed on me, instead of on men, not realising that it wasn’t my job not to be raped, it was men’s job not to rape. I internalised this.

Then I started T, and my voice broke. Suddenly, I was being seen, not as a high voiced, camp gay man, but as your standard, cardboard cut out, cissexual, cisgendered, heterosexual man. I stayed inside my bubble of queer and / or feminist friends. Until today, when I had the training day for a job working for a betting agency.

At that job, I saw the other side of it, and I’m ten times more terrified of men now, even whilst being perceived as one. I talked to guys who seemed perfectly nice, who assumed I was a straight cis man, much like themselves, and who assumed that I was more than willing to get involved in conversation about women in the group. They expected me to talk about their bodies, their sexual tastes, what I’d like to do to them, what I’d like them to do to me, they assumed I’d use the same words as them, and they assumed I’d feel the same as them. I tried to challenge this. I tried to say “don’t you see why that’s fucked up?” and got read as gay, and hence instantly dismissed -  I couldn’t possibly have a valid opinion on women. This was the first time I’ve been seen as a *part* of this subgenre of men and it was truly fucking terrifying, to realise how these guys were really acting, when there were no women present, to realise that guys I’d thought were nice and personable were actually like this.

It’s fucked me up. Yes, I know I’m centering my feelings, when as a man, I need to be looking at feelings of all the women that are in this stuation. Yes, I know that I’m whining about how much misogyny upset me as a man. I’m going to discuss it anyway, because for me, as a trans man, it has had a different effect to the effect it has on many cis men - it’s touched on my past. I’ve seen how vicious it really is, it’s made me realise what people were probably thinking when they made throwaway comments to me, back when I lived as female.

I’ve become the oppressor. I’ve become the type of man that people look at with fear, the type of man that could be that misogynistic douchebag. The type of man that people see that way, and I’ve done that just by becoming visible as a man. This culture disgusts me. I want to get “FEMINIST” tattoed on my forehead, so people see that I don’t want to be a part of it. I’m struggling enough to navigate male privilege, without being blindsided with this aspect of it, and everything it’s brought up for me. I feel dirty, fuck I feel filthy for even being a part of a society that enables and encourages this type of discussion, for being a man in a society that does that.

I don’t want to be a man, if my presence will terrify women, I don’t want to be that kind of person, I feel like a small child throwing toys out of a pram “I don’t want my privilege”, and I wish that this social baggage didn’t come with having the right body, because like it or not, due to my upbringing, I’m seeing it through different eyes, most probably, to men who don’t have my upbringing, both with regards to having been brought up seen as female, and having been raped myself, by a man who played into this culture intensely. I don’t know what to do with these feelings, except express them.

Considering all this background to this side of ‘presented masculinity’ that I’ve only now encountered, how can people say that trans women, who were ‘socialised as men’ apparantly, have no right to be afraid walking the streets at night? I’ve lived in both of these worlds, and it’s only now that I truly see the depths of violence inherent in rape culture. It’s part of the ‘radfem’ view that trans women, socialised as men, wouldn’t be afraid, because radfems see trans women AS men. I don’t, and nor do most men. They see trans women as people they can degrade, much like any other women they encounter, only with the additional level of their history. I caught the tip of that culture today, and only the very very tip. How can people not be scared? I’m scared.

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