[personal profile] flexibeast
Note: Constructive discussion on this post is welcome, but any flamey comments will be piped to /dev/null.

Further to my last post, i have concerns regarding the way some people in the trans communities handle the issue of male privilege.

As i've written about previously, there is tremendous pressure on trans people to 'prove' that we're 'really' the gender(s) we say we are. Thus, it's no surprise that many trans people will state that they've identified as having that gender for as long as they can remember. But there are a number of trans women who will then claim that (a) since they've always identified as female, that they've basically never received male privilege; that, as a corollary, (b) trans men must have just as much male privilege as any cis guy; and that (c) trans men are in no position to discuss issues of male privilege.

i have major problems with all points.

To me, privilege is something that is given regardless of whether or not one actively works for it and whether one consciously accepts it. So, for example, when one is Anglo and looking to rent a home, and is competing for that property with an indigenous person, and one is chosen ahead of the indigenous people because the property owner believes that the indigenous person will trash the place, one has not asked to benefit from discrimination, but has anyway. That is white privilege. Similarly, i didn't ask, prior to transitioning, to be the one addressed by male mechanics when a former cis female partner of mine was getting her car repaired, but i was anyway. (i said something like, "Er, don't speak to me, it's her car." i don't know much about cars; having a gearstick between my legs on which i enjoy putting my hand doesn't somehow magically give me an interest and / or knowledge of cars.)

Thus, trans women are more likely than not to have been received male privilege and benefitted from it on many occasions prior to transitioning. It's also more likely than not that one's attitudes and behaviours will have been shaped by this - to greater or lesser degrees, depending on, amongst other things, the length of time one was read as male prior to transitioning.

This also means trans men are more likely than not to have not benefitted from male privilege, and indeed, to have suffered due to the male privilege system, prior to transitioning. And it means that whatever male privilege they may receive now, trans men are actually in an excellent position to point out and discuss issues involving male privilege.

Hence, i feel that all my partners have the right to raise concerns regarding attitudes and behaviours of mine that might be related to me having been read as male for many years and thus having been granted male privilege: not only my two cis female partners, but my trans male partner as well.

The problem, of course, is that some people use all this to deny that trans women can ever be speaking from a place other than that of male privilege, to cry "male privilege!" in an attempt to shut us down whenever we say something that doesn't fit dogmas, and to dismiss the complexity of our lives and experiences. However, i don't think it's fair or reasonable to address this problem by taking a position that itself dismisses the lives and experiences of trans guys. Nor do i think its fair or reasonable to both trans guys and cis women to claim that we trans women have never benefitted from male privilege, to their detriment, because we were somehow magically treated as women even whilst being read as male.

That's not to say that we trans women received all the privileges received by cis males: that would require us to have gladly taken on the attitudes and behaviours of cis males, which many of us were unable to do, sometimes / often at great cost (like how i was harrassed and roughed up for being a 'sissy'). And those trans women who worked hard and passed as cis males for a time probably had to do a lot of psychological damage to themselves in the process. But i refuse to place the difficulties i've faced in my life into a framework which denies the difficulties of others.

Privilege is not fixed temporally; it's continually created and modified through social and political processes, through individuals' interactions with each other and with other social and political processes. Yet, it can also persist in relative stable forms within both individuals and interactions for extended periods of time. i feel both of these things need to be recognised if we are to develop better understandings of the experiences, dynamics and politics of gender.

Date: 2010-02-07 01:53 (UTC)
From: [personal profile] radicalyffe


Date: 2012-04-09 08:09 (UTC)
From: [personal profile] aquaeri
This is most sensible thing I've ever read on the intersection of male privilege and trans-vs-cis experience. I'm adding you to my reading list.

(My own argument was that while it is no doubt distressing to, say, grow up knowing you are a girl while everyone treats you as a boy, that is not the same thing as growing up while everyone treats you as a girl.)


flexibeast: Baphomet (Default)

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