Male and female people, cis and otherwise, can make lists of things that are less available to them in social life because of gender. For the folks perceived as male, these may include things like the opportunity to nurture relationships and the ability to be with children without being viewed as likely child molesters; and for the folks perceived as female, things such as being regarded as likely leaders, being taken seriously and followed when they speak with authority. The sense of being excluded from these things unfairly is considered legitimate, and to rejoice in having gained access to them anyway, whether by transitioning or by other means, can be high-fived as a well-deserved trumphant celebration.
But when people who were not originally designated as female celebrate being perceived as sexy? That often gets seen as trivial fluff.
In discussions with cis women who spend a lot of their time analyzing what the rigidity of sex roles deprives people of, I encounter some of that. "Oh, seriously, that's something you think you'd enjoy? Honestly, it's very tiresome and annoying, and most women wish it would just go away".
It's one of the most interesting "grass looks greener on the other side of the fence" perceptions. Talk to a bunch of cis hetero males and they'll often emphasize the power that comes from being the wanted component in a partnership. "Whether you've got a company that everyone wants to work for, or you're a really skilled expert that all the companies want to hire, if you're the one that everyone else wants, you get to call the shots, you know? Or let's say you're a famous movie producer, and all the actors want to be cast in your movies. But you also get that if you're the actor that everyone wants to get to play starring roles in their movie, right? So how can women not be experiencing that as power? I think it would be wonderful".
The envied women say it feels like always being a gazelle or an impala on the veldt with tigers constantly trying to take you down and prey on you. The never-ending harassment, the pushiness of the sexual pickup attempts, the constant reminder of the possibility of sexual coercion, none of that makes them feel like they're the ones in control of the situation. "And when you add in the way you're so often just seen as sex on feet, that you get reduced to this and the rest of who you are and what you're doing doesn't count, hell no, we don't feel like we have the power, not the way you make it sound".
So when it comes to transgender women (or other feminine-spectrum identifying folks originally designated male), when we indicate that we want more of that kind of experience in our lives, or we post our "hey check me out, how do I look?" selfies as part of our introductory posts on Facebook, we are sometimes made to feel like we're airheads. TransBarbies whose most important social-political concern is the chance to be whistled at.
I sometimes feel like responding, "Look, you can't have it both ways. Entire theories of women's oppression have been formulated that revolve around the notion that males fear their own craving for the female body and for that reason set out to control women. Well, if sex objectification is a central issue for female people's experience of gender, you shouldn't trivialize a similar centralization of the same topic when people in the male situation examine the workings of gender".
Trans women may not regard themselves as ever having been male, but they started off barred from a range of women's experience and women's existence, so they still have the experience of staring at this phenomenon from the outside. Being deprived of it.
I personally am one of the odd gender-variant folks whose identity is subsumed in the "Q" rather than the "T" of LGBTQIA. I am not a transitioner and I don't present as female; I neither pass nor seek to pass. That puts me on a somewhat different trajectory in approaching this issue. I'm perhaps more inclined to emphasize the priorities in life that make me one of the girls and not one of the boys, and the tastes in movies and books, porn and erotica, and nuances of behavior, as ways in which who I am is femme, the self that I am is a person who is one of the gals and not one of the guys. I can't strike a pose and display my feminine appearance and say "See?" Not because I don't have a feminine appearance, but because to see it requires a mental translation that most people aren't equipped to make; it's discernable to people who can abstract the feminine as a way of being in the world and then apply it as a style to the physically male body without finding any conflict or discrepancy in that.
My own sexual orientation is not towards male folks, and that probably worked against me developing any particular interest in having the appearance of a female person (the existence of lesbians not being sufficient to offset that). Instead I found myself pining for a visit to a world where the dynamics were inverted. To be sought after, to live in a world where the people to whom I'm attracted might seek me.
More analytically, I already knew how to want. But since I'd always considered myself to be one of the girls, therefore an equal to them, for me to want meant also wanting to be wanted in return, mutually, and reciprocally. And to not want sexual access doled out as a reward or favor or earned on merit. That's unappealing. A gal needs to be craved a bit, prized and cherished.
You're secluded in quarantine, and all the performances and events have been cancelled, so it's a good time to read a book!
My book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, has been published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves.
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