Natalie Reed is rapidly becoming one of my favorite bloggers. She hits the nail on the head again. Excerpted from her blog:
Trans women were of course, as soon as we’d emerged in public consciousness, used as a sort of ultimate weapon in the fight to cast femininity and womanhood as merely a construct rather than an honest expression of self. We were exactly what the struggle to maintain patriarchal concepts of male and masculine as the “neutral” or “default” state needed at that moment. A group of women who appeared at first glance to be entirelysuperficial, cosmetic, artificial and constructed
For us, we do need to fight to be women. We need to work against the natural state of our bodies. But it is ONLY the bodies that we really seek to change (and even that isn’t a given), not our identities or selves, and the female traits that are expressed through the use of hormones already existed as natural potentials in our genetic structure. Media conceptualizations emphasise the surgical, prattle on as much as possible about breast implants and brow recontouring, discuss a dramatic process of changing into a new person, making it sound asmedically difficult and scientifically miraculous as they can, finally summing up this process of fabricating an artificial woman in the inevitable “before”/”after” comparison, in which they find the most stereotypically masculine picture of us as a child they can find to drive the home the degree to which modern science has managed to create this wholly new being.
What never receives focus is the degree to which this is for us a process that typically feels natural and like a relief, an unburdening of unnatural constraints… how the woman was not constructed, but already there. How transition is not about becoming a new person, but allowing yourself to stop hiding the person you already really were. What ends up on the cutting room floor are our discussions of how we fabricated and constructed an artificial male pose.
Yes. We constructed our masculinity. The masculinity was the disguise, the unnatural state, the artifice, thepose that we crafted. It, not the femme, was superficial and shallow. It was the aesthetic consideration we had to deliberate upon and mind the details. It was the face we put on in the morning. It was the mannerisms we choreographed. The clothes we carefully chose. The uncomfortable shoes.
An artifice of masculinity.
But in so far as trans women’s narratives are accepted, they are accepted in a manner in which they challenge cultural assumptions of gender as little as possible. Our existence is already a fundamental threat to basic assumptions of masculine preferentiality. Adding in the degree to which we threaten the assumption that masculinity is a natural state, that it’s not something learned, trained or affected with a particular aesthetic dictated by the whims of style, would just make us far, far too dangerous.
So instead we get used and out narratives and experiences misrepresented to drive home the point that there’s nothing real or valuable about the feminine. We get filmed in front of mirrors, putting on our make-up, squeezing into uncomfortable shoes, and griping about all the incredible effort and pain that goes into being femme. As though there were no effort or pain at all involved in being masculine.
The pain of wearing heels or plucking my eyebrows is fuck all compared to the pain of denying, suppressing and hating who I was while hiding behind a male mask for twelve years.
Part of me wonders if this plays into the way that butch or tomboy trans women are not acknowledged in mediaat all. I’m sure there are many, many layers to this erasure, but the fact that such women suggest that a female identity is not the same thing as a feminine identity, that gender expression, gender identity, sexual orientation and physical sex do not determine one another and can occur in any combination, and that it is possible to transition to being female with very little artifice or make-up involved, that transition can consist almost entirely of simply stripping away a masculine and male disguise, that is just something that could too easily bring the patriarchal/binary house of cards crashing to the ground.