July 14, 2018
The other day I was reflecting on the fact that for 46 years while I was presenting “male” I held a certain amount of privilege. Not white privilege, which I whole-heartedly acknowledge exists, and which I’ve witnessed first-hand. I’m talking about the privilege that exists between male versus female.
When I was younger I used to watch a black and white television show called Our Gang, later known as The Little Rascals. It aired from the 1920s thru the 1940s and featured a young group of kids and their adventures. In one episode the boys establish the He-Man Women-Haters Club. It was a cute plot device and I would jokingly flash their club sign, a hand brought up to the chin with fingers extended and wiggling, almost like a comedy beard fiercely waving in the wind, to some of my friends over the years. It was one of those things you do or did, like a catch phrase or goofy hand shake. But the fact is that I’m no longer entitled to that club, to be in the “boys club.” I mean, I’m really fine with that, but I never realized the unspoken privilege of being a male.
In a week and a half I will have completed my first year living as a women. In that year I’ve experienced some of the less savory aspects of attitudes, spoken and unspoken, toward the female gender. I’ve been whistled at from a passing car. I’ve been followed closely from behind at the grocery store, a little too closely. I’ve received a d*ck pic through social media. I’ve been looked up and down by men like I’m being graded by the USDA. There was one occasion when I accompanied my wife to a conference where she was the keynote speaker. I was wearing a very pretty black and white polka-dotted dress that admittedly showed a little leg. While walking through the large conference center hallway toward her presentation room I observed several men eyeing my legs and not one of them ever looked up at my face. Sure it was a little flattering and a bit affirming that I was perceived as a female, but also very revealing to me as to one of the things that women routinely experience.
You know, while living as Tom I guess I just never had to feel like I was in danger too often. Or have to assess any situation I was entering whether it be a conversation, meeting a new person, or where to walk, or park my car. I’m acutely aware now of the change in some people’s body language and demeanor toward me, at least now that I am an “out” and transitioning transgender woman and no longer a “man.”. In some circumstances I’m no longer engaged in conversation the way I used to be. And in some I’m not even “allowed” into the conversation. Is it because I’m now seen as a woman or a transgender person? Often I find that I am left standing to wait until I am addressed or until I perceive that it is appropriate for me to speak. That’s fu**ed up! My thoughts and ideas are just as brilliant and valuable as they were before I was Tiff, possibly even more so now that I have had the chance to exist in both gender roles.
Honestly and sincerely I’d like to say to all of the cis-gender women that I’m sorry if I have ever “mansplained”, or talked over you, or didn’t acknowledge you. When the #metoo movement began and many women started speaking out about there experiences I had pause for reflection as to whether or not I had ever been inappropriate as a male. I asked my wife and several of my very close female friends if they had ever recalled instances of my doing so. They’ve all assured me that to their knowledge I never had. I wonder if it’s because I never really felt like a male so I never acted that way. I also think that my Dad was a good role model and teacher for how to act toward another person, not just the opposite gender.
It’s been an eye-opener during this Freshman year as a woman. I do feel fortunate to be transitioning during this empowering time for gender expression and gender-fluidity. There’s a great bond not only within the groups of L, G, B, T, etc… but also between them. Knowing that someone has your back even if you don’t know them is a pretty awesome thing. It’s like being a card carrying member of an exclusive group with millions of friends that you’ve yet to meet.
It’s not like I always feel like this powerful female or empowered trans-woman though. I certainly don’t feel like a male, but there are days when I don’t feel like I belong anywhere. Like I don’t exist as a man or woman, or even gender non-binary. But, that’s a rabbit hole that I don’t let myself fall down. It’s too dark and full of snares. But I do struggle daily with my identity. I’ve been assured that I outwardly appear female, something that is very important to me. Not all transgender people want to “pass” but I do! It’s important to me. There are days when I look in the mirror or see my reflection while passing a window and think, “I look good! I look feminine.” But most days have me wondering if everyone I meet views me as a male. It’s all a journey.
Perhaps that journey of transitioning physically and legally from male to female is just one aspect of the journey and not the entirety of it. I have been under the impression that once I’m done, I’m “done.” That after gender affirmation surgery I’ll be a woman. But I think the journey that I’m on, that we’re all on, to find ourselves, transcends self-discovery at the gender level. For those of us open to it, I guess we’re all still figuring out who we are as a people. The greatest hope is that one day everyone can be enlightened to themselves and to those around us regardless of gender. And that maybe then none of us will be made to stand waiting to be accepted into the conversation.