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VickySGV

Perfect "illusion": femininity as armor and the problem of "passing" for transgender women

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VickySGV

Quick warning one "bad word" is quoted in this article to illustrate one obstacle Trans* women face.  The major interview subjects here are IRL friends of mine and some of the nicest people you can meet.

https://mic.com/articles/154794/perfect-illusion-femininity-as-armor-and-the-problem-of-passing-for-transgender-women#.xJyFNFVXK

This general topic is one that can generate heated debate in some parts of the TG tribe so please make any responses with the idea someone may disagree with you.

 

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Dev

I hadn't thought of it in precisely those terms, but "femininity as armor" is a good way of putting it.  Also worth calling out from this article is the fact that everyone is the judge of how well we pass, which tends to be frustrating (how's that for an understatement?) at best.  The whole world's a critic, and they all have different tastes.

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tracy_j

Lots of interesting angles there!

Although luckily I have few issues when out I must admit that I have far fewer strange looks and stifled grins if I am dressed fully female than when I am indeterminate.

I do understand the 'feminity is armour' but another thing I find though is that it is easy to overdo the femininity

Tracy

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Carolyn Marie

It is a very interesting article, Vicky.  But I take issue with a lot of it.   I think it is filled with over-simplifications and hyperbole, as well as questionable logic and "facts."  Take this, for example:

"The correlation between the rise in violence against trans women and their increasing visibility is clear: With people more aware than ever of trans women, trans women who are not "passable" are more easily identifiable, and therefore in more danger than ever before."

No evidence of such a correlation is given, other than that this year the number of homicides of trans women is up, which might be a trend, or might just as well be an aberration.  The correlation that I've seen over the years I've been looking at this issue is the correlation of homicides to "risky" behavior.  That hasn't changed this year.

Then there is this:

"The reality of daily life for trans women is that their womanhood is challenged, mocked, invalidated and destroyed based on their presentation. Some women see complete submersion into cis-normative standards of feminine beauty as the only way to stay safe, whether from the pain of misgendering or the very real threat of violence and murder..."

Really, all of that is going to happen to you if you don't present as ultra femme and beautiful?  I say "baloney!"  I am anything but beautiful, I dress in jeans and a blouse, don't wear much makeup, almost never wear heels, my walk is anything but ladylike, my nails are short, and my "figure" is non-existent.  But through some apparent miracle, I have never been challenged, mocked, invalidated, destroyed or felt in physical jeopardy.  What is WRONG with me?

Now before you get all worked up, I do not mean to imply that those things don't happen to anyone else, or that is isn't a concern.  But to suggest that it happens to all of us, frequently, and that we should all be afraid every time we leave the house, or feel obligated to spend $20 K on FFS to avoid this fate worse than death, is just nonsense.  Caitlyn Jenner is welcome to her doctored face and expensive wardrobe; I don't need it to feel either safe or happy.

So, IMHO, Ms. Dommu is entitled to her opinion, but I don't share most of it.

Carolyn Marie

 

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Briana

I found this to be interesting and yes, written with some drama and overstatement or hyperbole.  I just took it as an editorial opinion piece.  I noticed the author's  info at the end and the author doesn't indicate that they are a writer or journalist.  There are a few things like you Carolyn that I take exception to, and a few things that made me think like the statements regarding the claimed differences between older and younger trans women and the alleged rift between gay men and trans women.  And some things definitely got a  "really???" along with an eye roll. 

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MarcieMarie12

I think the big thing to take away is that we are all different. I definitely don't view passing as an armor for me, but for me passing is about lessening my dysphoria.

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Alejandra

I think this editorial is a good example of why trans* acceptance is so difficult for the general population.  For one thing the rather pedantic and condescending tone, hectoring everyone into some homogenous belief system is not only annoying, it is down right offensive.  Is it not reasonable to ask, just why we must accept the points made by the author as gospel truth?

The other problem that I see is that the universal inclusiveness of the trans* mantra makes it nearly impossible for a reasonable person to understand just what it is that we are being asked, (told) to accept.

1 hour ago, MarcieMarie12 said:

the big thing to take away is that we are all different

Just who is the ubiquitous "we"?  Does this "we" include week-end warriors who dress 'for the fun of it' two nights per month?  Are these the trans women of whom we speak?

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MarcieMarie12
1 hour ago, Alejandra said:

Just who is the ubiquitous "we"?  Does this "we" include week-end warriors who dress 'for the fun of it' two nights per month?  Are these the trans women of whom we speak?

Yes it would for some. Some cross-dressers I know have lives like that, where their other life responsibilities prevent them from dressing more often. It also might be that is all they need to be happy with themselves. They have no intention of starting HRT or hormones. But we all come to our decision how best to transition of if to transition based on own personal feelings and life experiences. I don't really think it is a big ask to ask someone to just respect someone.

I do not think of a cross-dresser not on HRT and gets out once a month as a level 1 trans and a transwoman who has had GCS is the perfect 10. We are all transgender, it is a yes/no thing, not a contest to see who gets the highest score with GCS being the point winner. One of the things I like about Laura's is that is welcomes and supports all who fall under the transgender umbrella (and those questioning).

Hugs,

Marcie

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MaryEllen

Just so there's no misunderstanding. Laura's Playground treats all from the occasional cross dresser to post-op men or women with equal respect. No one is to be looked down upon. Anyone who disparages any one group with disrespect will be facing discipline.

MaryEllen

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Guest

One of the statements in that article kinda caught my attention because it's something that has been on my mind quite a bit.

"Maybe I'm feeling Butch One day and Femme the next"

This is the type of thing that popped into my head months ago and has been bouncing around in there ever since. It's something that I needed to learn early on and something that most all not only need to learn but also need to remember. I know a lot of trans women that feel they have to be ultra femme and transmen that feel they have to be ultra masculine. This isn't the case, simply be yourself. 

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Guest noeleena

Hi,

wonder sometimes if some people with in some groups I,v been a member for  some  time   how they  get on this elitist   thinking that some are better than other,s  because they have had surgerys and on hormones ,

and are more feminine  and go all out to pass like women , yet they forget some of us females don't pass as feminine some of us don't look that pretty ether, for that matter,  yet we are born female , oh that does not matter , we don't  pass so are discounted as women, when you,v been on the brunt end of that  you know what its like,

Really it came down to they are so maleish in their attitude they cant see passed themselves  and they wont to be like women

So do we get into who,s the real woman = female here,=  becomes a joke , I cant be bothered with them any more,

I know way trans people are not accepted as true  because a few have made issue,s that were not there in the first place so have gone over board to demand their rights above  others and the sad thing is they wont more rights than those of us who are female , pity  they did not read what our women went through in the  1890,s to 1920,s  maybe had they seen that , though I doubt they would take it on board because they have their own agender,

I don't belive its getting better as all this could have been  so comes down to  being a woman is far more involved than clothes makeup adornments shoe,s and looks , its about  who you are as a person who you are when around others and how you interact   in  what do you show of your self  the real you or is that hidden   , being open is  what makes  and allows other to get to know you and see  are you to be trusted  can be relied on be there when needed and put others before your self  oh dear this is so much of being a woman ,  for some your attitude needs to change to be ... well... just a woman really . is that to much to ask,  for some seems so.

 

heres a ?  .....  because I,m a female - woman  for some of those trans  people I could not interact with them  I had nothing in common their thinking was different  there was nothing there that I could see being female in one family the sister and brother  thought it was the same and I talked at length to find out what  was missing , yes womens clothes were worn and that was it.  to me it was more about being a dresser,  and the sister would be the same,

So being a woman means your thinking is it as a woman or still maleish and in attitude,  now heres one that some will disagree with , your past are you open about it , or do you or have made up a story that would be more inkeeping of a normal womans life, , I,v heard a few and I don't belive a word what they say its all lie,s,  they live a lie and act a lie, why whats there to lose  nothing other than  when your friends find out you,ll be shown the door.

 

|The wording of being true to your self  .... really does only mean that , nothing more and  really nothing ..less ,

is that to hard to accept ,  if it does then  , why play a game of lie,s,  any way a few thought,s  worth thinking about,

 

...noeleena...

 

 

o

 

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kóri

For me the question was never "What does it take to be a woman?"  I mean, I don't think the question makes much sense -- or perhaps I disagree with the underlying assumptions. I am female and that's always been the case, but that didn't prevent the world and often myself from misgendering me.  For me, it's the misgendering that was at the root of my dysphoria.  So the question was always, "What does it take to be consistently and unreservedly gendered female?" 

The answer to that question is not hyperfemininity.  Because, in truth, most women are not hyperfeminine.  And even hyperfeminine women will be stepping out of the shower, or crawling out of bed, without the accoutrements of femininity, and yet they'll still be properly gendered. 

So that's what I went for, and that's what I've gotten.

It took a lot of work.  Electrolysis, facial surgery, and an incredible amount of vocal training.  Hormones, vaginoplasty, breast augmentation.  Growing my hair out.  But that's only the half of it.  The rest is cultural.  Wearing clothes similar to my generational cohort. Being empathic. Being responsive to social expectations -- which doesn't always mean adhering to them, because most women break them, but just about everyone is aware of what those expectations are and what the consequences are to follow them or not (so, like, I don't wear makeup, and it's something I have to answer for).  And, ironically, it took not coming out.  Oh sure, coming out at the beginning of transition got me a lot of female gendering, but not always, not consistently, and certainly not out in the day-to-day public.  No, the best female gendering I get is with people I've only met after transition (except for a few deeply impressive women of transition) and whom I've never told to gender me otherwise. 

Obviously, this flies in the face of what the article is suggesting.  I mean, obviously there are all kinds of women in the world, and women who aren't pretty, who are downright homely, still get gendered female, with no more problems with "safety" than any other woman has to deal with being immersed in a rape culture.  So to conflate "beauty" with "female" for reasons of "safety" is definitely a mistake. 

Gender is constructed first from the observation of embodiment, which is then socially mediated.  The initial observation is automatic and subconscious; this is something people don't really think about.

So, I'm really not sure I agree with "visibility" as a movement, at least as an all-encompassing movement.  I'm completely sympathetic to anyone who identifies first and foremost as trans, and I'm all for making visibility something that's completely socially acceptable, for not everyone has the resources or inclination to do what it takes to elicit female gendering consistently and automatically from everyone else.  Well, I'd kind of like Drucker (and her interviewer, Dommu) to extend the same courtesy to those who identify primarily on the binary.  Statements like "willful denial" are pretty inflammatory.  And like, if I'm dating a guy and he makes it clear he wants me to carry my child, my reaction isn't "this person doesn't know who I am" as Drucker puts it, my reaction is, "This person knows exactly who I am, except for my personal tragedy of being infertile."  (Though now, having turned 50, my reaction would be, "Holy crap, he thinks I'm still in my 30s!") 

I think it's perfectly acceptable to consider "trans" as a permanent identity, or a transitory one.  If we're going to embrace identity politics (and I think we should) then all identities have to be embraced, even cis-normative ones adopted by people who transitioned and since moved on with our lives. 

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MadameShinko

Personally I'm proud to be non-binary. Wouldn't want to be anything else.

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Cindy Truheart

I haven't read all of the comments here, but I did read the article. It's late, running out of time before I turn back into Cinderella the scullion!

I feel this pressure to be ultra femme already. Sure I can pass without makeup in this rural, hick town. But I doubt I will be able to in an area that sees more transgender people in it! But it is safety to me! Especially someone like me! I still can't be alone in the same room with a man who knows my secret for fear of being assaulted! Someone I've known and trusted as a close friend for a decade who has fully accepted me for being transgender! Mine is an irrational fear brought on by abuse and bullies as a child, but how many of us have the same issues?

One of the first things I plan to look in to is FFS after we sell our house. Luckily my wife is behind me in this. Passing is important to me. But what is more important is being safe. Passing = Safe. Sure this article may be blowing things out of proportion for most of us. But that isn't to say that some of us didn't read it and totally identify with it....

....I've also gone hog wild on voice therapy training CD's (not them, the discs!) ;)

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Guest
17 hours ago, Cindy Truheart said:

I haven't read all of the comments here, but I did read the article. It's late, running out of time before I turn back into Cinderella the scullion!

I feel this pressure to be ultra femme already. Sure I can pass without makeup in this rural, hick town. But I doubt I will be able to in an area that sees more transgender people in it! But it is safety to me! Especially someone like me! I still can't be alone in the same room with a man who knows my secret for fear of being assaulted! Someone I've known and trusted as a close friend for a decade who has fully accepted me for being transgender! Mine is an irrational fear brought on by abuse and bullies as a child, but how many of us have the same issues?

One of the first things I plan to look in to is FFS after we sell our house. Luckily my wife is behind me in this. Passing is important to me. But what is more important is being safe. Passing = Safe. Sure this article may be blowing things out of proportion for most of us. But that isn't to say that some of us didn't read it and totally identify with it....

....I've also gone hog wild on voice therapy training CD's (not them, the discs!) ;)

Hon, I only wanted to say that I don't think this fear is irrational. 

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VickySGV
On 2/20/2017 at 7:48 PM, Cindy Truheart said:

Sure I can pass without makeup in this rural, hick town. But I doubt I will be able to in an area that sees more transgender people in it! But it is safety to me! Especially someone like me!

I actually live in the Los Angeles area, and while I have MANY Trans* friends in the area (including an Admin here at Laura's), because of the sheer number of people here it is in fact safer for us though we may feel like we stand out like a sore thumb.  This post I made a couple of years ago here is something to think about in regard to your wariness of what could happen here. 

http://www.lauras-playground.com/forums/topic/43991-public-vs-picture/

We are still less than six tenths of one percent of the people that are here.  Where you are, you could actually be a higher percentage of the people in your community. 

People, even here, know me by my character as we get to know each other and not by my perfectly female passability and beauty. (Both myths.)  Sure, I have had my share of "chasers" in the past and I was wary of them myself.  I actually had more problems when I was nervous.  Confidence to me is the greater armor I have today as I look in a mirror and say "This is ME!!"  I understand your reaction to prior totally undeserved abuse, I have been there too.  Confidence in myself has opened up, but it has taken time.

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Briana

Cindy, I hear and understand what you are saying.  I found this comment from the article interesting:  "Is passing even an issue anymore if we simply stop taking the test?"  I would say yes...as long as that test is still being administered by the majority of others.  Cause sometimes your safety DOES depend on it.  Sometimes  your career will depend on it.  Sometimes your housing will depend on it.  Sad, but still a reality of the world we live in.

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MarcieMarie12

Sometimes our dysphoria demands it too. 

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Charlize

I certainly have a desire to "pass" for many reasons.  Safety is one but as Marcie mentions above it is helpful in self acceptance.  If someone spends time looking or knows already i'm sure i will never pass but just being able to walk down the street and not have everyone stare is wonderful armor for everyday life.  I'm fortunate to live on the coast so there is more acceptance.  My small town and community has been great.  I'm a non issue at this point.  As soon as i climb into my van and cross the country that armor unfortunately becomes critical to safety.  This may change in the future but at this point being trans* isn't acceptable to a great many people so i keep my head down and enjoy the freedom i do have.

 

Hugs,

 

Charlize

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tracy_j

I find that I have to be a bit careful in other areas as where I live is fairly safe, at least in daylight hours but some of the bigger cities in the UK can be far more dangerous. I can confidently go out here with usually only the odd look whereas in some places I have been clocked instantly. Interestingly though it is not always obvious who or where the dangerous people are. With work, where I was obviously feminine, I had no issues whatsoever with anyone in the rough areas of places like Leicester (a much larger city than Lincoln).

I don't think I pass well if I look objectively, but am so used to being dressed and effectively living as such that I don't think about it that much. That is why I need to be careful, but there again - so does a woman!

Tracy

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MadameShinko

Ironically, I am the exact opposite in that I want to stand out.  I think of myself when I think of the me I want to be, and as one of my therapist says because I even have an unique way of showing the thumbs up sign and grow only my pimy fingernail out that there is nothing I do to be someone else as I am all that I can be.  So the only thing I can be is a flawed human being that is in the process of growing and that is all I want to be.  I want to be me and that is it.

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Guest noeleena

  Hi .

Cindy

I know what abuse is like been on the brunt of it I know what its like to be not pretty or sexy, I also know what its like working in the male world and the male talk and for a female to be in that for years it degrades you its a put down and you feel as cheap as dirt from the gutter, live with it for 50 years it effects you your scared for life , point you made being in a room alone with a male, more so if that male wonts sex ,

Im okay im a fighter and can defend myself so I,m not bothered .

I know what that's like as well , this is life in a female world I still have concerns about finding a mate learning about what males expect and wont from a woman this is very scary I,m not sure I,m ready for that, I would like a male relastionship and being  a 69 year old women is very different ,

Even being a female its still not a walk in the park , I talk with my female friends and that is such a help and to know they are there,

Female perspective in a real life living it every day .

...noeleena...

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Jani423
48 minutes ago, viviennemichelle said:

quotes"I look like a man in a dress" there are lots of women in the world that look like that.

Viviennemichelle if you look around as you have, we see there are far more women that lean towards masculine looks than what we believe.   

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MadameShinko

So it's not the end of the world if people don't like you. I guess that is true because I have found I am happier when I don't demand that everyone like me.

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