Different Ways To Be A Woman

Photo by Rayne's Avante-Garde
Article By E.S. Wynn

I have heard (and read) the argument that transwomen are a threat to feminism. The argument is that transgender individuals who are female inside (regardless of any other aspect of their physical form) aren't really women, and that we actually weaken feminism because so many of us engage with our femininity by embracing existing feminine stereotypes to a degree that far outstrips the "average" woman, reinforcing a bad standard and making it harder for "real" women to hold onto their power. In short, the view is that people like me damage feminism, especially when we wear dresses, makeup and work hard to pass as women. We reinforce an unrealistic feminine stereotype and do so out of mental illness and/or jealousy of the traits and bodies and power of “real” women.

Nothing could be further from the truth. What TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist) people fail to realize is that, just as AFAB (Assigned Female At Birth) women come in many, many different varieties and forms, AMAB (Assigned Male At Birth) women are not all clones of one another, nor does it damage feminism when any kind of woman wears makeup, pink clothing, dresses or embraces any kind of “feminine stereotype.” It's actually transphobic and sexist to assume that all transwomen choose to embrace oppressive feminine beauty standards by default (it also objectifies us and puts us all into a box, which isn't cool either) or to assume that embracing those standards is damaging to feminism. Feminism, at its core, is about freedom. It's about fighting for women to be seen as completely equal to men (this helps men too. See my article on feminism here: [link]) which means, among other things, women wearing whatever they want. Looking down on women who choose to be housewives or artists (instead of joining the holy grail STEM fields) and on AMAB women (who can't even go around bare-chested after having top surgery) doesn't help anyone. It's oppressive, and it's just as bad as the viewpoints and actions of people who would keep women out of the STEM fields. If you're going to fight for the rights of a group of people (or all people, depending on how you view feminism) then you can't just push aside and marginalize certain individuals within that group, especially with reactionary politics. If you say that you stand for equal rights, then stand for equality. Don't hold up scientists while poo-pooing homemakers. Don't hold up artists while sneering down at business executives. Don't glorify bio-born women while grinding transwomen under your heel.

AMAB individuals identifying as female (and transitioning to female) isn't about jealousy or power. It isn't about mental illness. It's about gender dysphoria. It's about knowing who you are inside and that identity being at odds with the body around you. It's a life-long and constant battle to accept oneself and to be accepted by others that should be simple and easy. Bottom line: if someone identifies as female, then they are female. What's the harm in accepting that? Does any good come of denying it? Of saying “sorry, you were born with a penis. You need to go be a man,” or “sorry, you like pink and have a hard time with math, you need to change.” Let people be people. Let women be women. Some women (AFAB, AMAB and otherwise) embrace the “feminine stereotypes” so hard they practically fart pink glitter and craft glue. Some women dress in suits and butch their hair. Some women bounce all over the spectrum, mixing elements and ideas and ways of being in highly individual ways that both embrace and deny stereotypes about what it means to be a woman. Joan Jett is a woman. Ruby Rose is a woman. Mae Jemison, Sally Ride and Sam Crisoforetti are women. Jane Goodall, Margaret Mead and Meave Leakey are all women, and so are other historic greats like Mother Theresa, Marilyn Monroe and every flapper or puritan girl who ever walked this Earth. Women come in endless hues, shapes and forms. We aren't all scientists. We aren't all girly-girls. We weren't all born female. We're individuals, each and every one of us completely unique. For anyone, male, female or otherwise to say that any group of people must adhere to the fashion, etiquette, biology or social standards of a particular stereotype (or be excluded from that group entirely) is ludicrous.

If you have a story about your own experience with gender dysphoria or have some useful tips that you’ve used to manage it in the past that you’d like to share with the readers of this blog, please feel free to contact me through the contact form here: [link] Make sure you have javascript enabled or the form will just display a blank page. If you’d like to share your experiences living as a trans person (or your experiences of living with someone who identifies as trans) drop me a line through the aforementioned contact form. I’d love to hear from you, and I’d love to share your perspective with our readers. Thank you!

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The Folly of Self Hatred

Photo by Rayne's Avante-Garde
Article By E.S. Wynn

If I had a dollar for every time I've thought damn, I wish I could just wake up tomorrow as a woman, I’d probably be a billionaire. For as long as I have been alive, I have battled with gender dysphoria, and let me tell you, it has been a battle. It’s been hard (at times) but it has also tested me, like a nemesis that just will not leave me alone no matter how often we tango. In some ways, I have come to love my dysphoria, for without it, I would not exist as I am, would not be so driven to create or realize my inner woman through artistic expression. Gender dysphoria is the whetstone that has honed the sword of the valkyrie within me, and though it is a constant source of unease and discomfort, it is also familiar. It is a part of my existence that I have chosen to accept and turn into a tool, instead of allowing myself to become a victim of it.

For those who are unfamiliar with gender dysphoria and how it works, check out my earlier article here: [link]. In another later article, I offer some ideas on how to cope with gender dysphoria [link] because I recognize how hard it can be to deal with and how bad it can get. Living with gender dysphoria can lead to a person hating their physical body, and can easily manifest as suicidal urges if a person feels trapped and unable to accept or change their physical form. While I am totally, 100% supportive of people making whatever changes they feel are right for realizing their highest vision of themselves, I am not in support of suicide or self-mutilation. Choosing to change one's body to make it more comfortable (with piercings, tattoos, hormones, top surgery, gender reassignment surgery, etc.) can be a creative and positive approach toward any kind of discomfort or dysphoria centering on the physical body, but self-hatred, cutting and suicide are destructive and short-sighted ways of dealing with difficulties experienced in the short term. No matter how dark things get, there is always a bright side to life, if you're willing to fight through to it. I've been through some pretty dark stuff in my life as well. I've stared down the barrel of some pretty potent suicidal urges, and I've denied them, pushed through and fought back to the light again. I can testify that it does, indeed, get better. It takes time. It takes fight, but you can do it. We're all strong enough to do it.

As I have said previously, I have lived with gender dysphoria for my entire life. I've never really been one to hate my body, and maybe that comes from being so prone to deep depressions that I've developed a mindset where I'm perpetually looking for the good in every situation, the reasons to be grateful and optimistic about the future, no matter how dark things get. I don't really see the point of hating my body, or of fighting with it when it works so well just as it is. Yeah, it’s male, but as far as male bodies go, I could have done a lot worse, I think. It has done me no wrong. It isn't at fault (it's as stuck with this arrangement as I am, if you think about it.) It's functional, practical, and it gets me where I need to go. To make a car analogy (I’m only peripherally into cars, so bear with me) it’s like inheriting a really good, low-mileage van, but feeling like what you really want to drive is a sports car. Say you can’t have a sports car (for whatever reason,) but what you can do is modify your van until it feels more like a sports car. With money, time, diligence and purpose, you can cut down your van, reshape parts of it and repaint it until it passes for a sports car, until in every way that counts, it is basically a sports car, but it won’t be the same as driving a sports car that’s always been a sports car, with sports car benefits and sports car drawbacks.

That’s kind of how I feel about “driving” this body. It's optimistic ambivalence. It’s a van. It’s not the sports car I wanted, and chances are that no matter how much I modify it, it will still look and handle like a van. There's no way to install a working womb or rearrange the body so it's a foot shorter, and these are things that are important to me, that I'd want if I were to start living as a woman. I can't roll back the clock and pull the chromosomal strings that would make me completely female right out of the factory, that would erase all the living and learning that has happened while I've been wearing the meat of a male. I've got a van, and it runs. It's not the sports car I wanted, but I could have done a lot worse.

Given this pattern of thought, I see that I have two options. I can hate the van and wish for a sports car (or work toward making this van pass as a sports car) or I can just learn to love (or accept) the van. Vans aren’t all that bad. They have their advantages. They have elements that I can be grateful for. I may never be completely comfortable driving this van, but I can find reasons and ways to accept it, even enjoy it or celebrate what I can do with it. I can go out in the sun and show my bare chest to the world without issue. I may miss being able to get away with having hair down to my ass (like I did in college,) but when I get out of the shower on a summer morning and brush the cool water out of my bristle-short hair, I'm grateful for the simplicity and efficiency of it, for the lack of judgments and weird looks and "when are you going to grow your hair out?" questions I would get if I had been born female and chose to adopt a shorter look. I'm grateful for the money I get to spend on hobbies and adventures that I would feel compelled to spend on makeup if I'd been born female. To give up the cons of driving a van would be to give up the pros as well, and after thirty-three years, even despite the dysphoria, this van feels familiar enough. It works.

I don't want anyone to think that my way of living, my choice or my outlook on life is right for everyone. Transgender is a spectrum, and within that spectrum, there are a million different ways of being and of relating to one’s own body. There’s nothing wrong with feeling uncomfortable in your body (I do), and it can be incredibly empowering to modify it in various ways to make it more comfortable, more in line with how you feel inside, but please don’t hate the meat you’re in. It’s not your spirit, your consciousness, but it is a part of you. It’s been yours since you were born in this life. It’s not perfect, but it has its advantages, and should be treated with respect. Whether you choose to celebrate it or not is up to you entirely, I only ask that you try not to hate on it any. It’s doing the best it can. It’s carried you this far in your life and should be respected for that. Modify it how you want, be who you want to be, reach for your highest self and save the hate. Turn your anger into drive, into optimism, into the fire you need to rise. Believe in who you will become given enough fight and time. Life is a journey. You'll get where you want to be, and your body is one of the tools that will get you there, if you're willing to work with it.

If you have a story about your own experiences as a trans individual or would like to be interviewed so that you can share your perspectives as a trans person with the readers of this blog, please feel free to contact me through the contact form here: [link]. Make sure you have javascript enabled or the form will just display a blank page. I’d love to hear from you, and I’d love to share your perspective with our readers. Thank you!

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