Mike is an 18 year female to male transman. He is currently studying psychology at The Evergreen State College between making quilts. He someday aspires to be a social worker, and in the mean time, he wants to fix the fact that not everyone is born with an inherent right to be themselves.
Historically, gay men and lesbians have faced different types of oppression. The gay men have been treated as freaks and abnormal. When raids occurred in gay bars, it was usually men who were arrested. More gay men than lesbians have been assaulted for being who they were. The lesbians were culturally erased, thought not to exist or treated as sexual objects. An example of this dichotomy would be the characters on Glee. Kurt is very stereotypically gay and faces much more harassment than Santana. When Santana is outed, a few songs fix the problem and she moves on with her life. When Karofsky is outed, he attempts suicide from all of the bullying he faces. Kurt got several episodes on coming out, while Santana is lucky to get a few snatches here and there.
The opposite is true of transgender people. Transwomen are far more often assaulted and killed. The mainstream media uses transwomen as the butt of jokes, men in dresses or awful predators out to trap men. They face harassment, stares, and uncomfortable glances – a result of not being able to pass as well. They are seen as predators, much like gay men were and sometimes still are. Transmen, on the other hand, have almost no cultural visibility, although this has changed somewhat with Chaz Bono. They are ignored, perhaps because society tells them that they are unremarkable in their want to be men, because it is assumed that everyone wants to be a man. There is very little available to show that transmen exist at all, let alone what kind of people they must be.
This says something about the role that gender, and men in particular, play in society. Gay men are a challenge to gender roles, so they are seen as attackers and put down. Transwomen vary from the norm of defining their manhood by how many women they have had sex with, or can control in other ways. Lesbians are culturally erased because there are no men involved, and anything without men is seen as boring and unrelateable. Transwomen are the butt of jokes because it is seen as funny to not want to be a man any more. Men are thought to be so superior that they must be a little pitiful if they want to no longer be men and belong to the exclusive boy’s club. Transmen in particular may be perceived as a threat because if they can become men, then anyone can potentially become a man, and it isn’t such a big thing after all.
There is a little bit of an indulgent and patronizing attitude toward women in all of this. Women (as transmen are seen by some people) can have their flights of fancy and do what they want. They are allowed to sleep with other women, because it is seen as attractive, cute, and sometimes slightly immature. As long as they are staying pretty and attractive for men, it isn’t seen as a problem. Women can do just about whatever they want provided they are well groomed and attractive at all times. All of this allowance adds to the benevolent dictator image that men want to have over women, allowing them to go so far and no further.
Men on the other hand, are expected to uphold male values from a very young age. They have standards to live up to and an authority to protect. Instead of being seen as infantile, childlish, or cute, it is assumed that they should know better than to do anything that women do. All of the supposedly “female” behavior is seen as infantile and something that should be outgrown. If women are perpetual children, then boys in many ways don’t get too much of a chance to be children, because they are taught how to be men from an extraordinarily young age. They don’t get to experiment with who they want to be nearly as much.
Over all, the thing that men fear most of all is being treated like women. Gay men are a threat because they might make unwanted advances and could potentially have the physical strength to force the issue.
Transwomen face scorn because they WANT to be treated like women, and they can make men fear that they will all be treated like women because of this issue. This speaks to a great truth of our culture.
Women are put in danger, seen as sex objects, devalued, and men fear being them more than anything. The transgressors that get so brutally punished simply illuminate what is already there. Sexism and the
degradation of anything feminine is not a small deal. People lose their lives for trying to be who they are, and there is something inherently wrong with that. Something has got to change. People are
valuable, even if they are different or they form a small group of different people. Lives matter, and that in the end is the bottom line.