To all the women out there, I have bad news for you.
It’s worse than you think.
A lot worse.
For many people, living as a woman means dealing with downplayed expectations, casual sexist remarks and the assumption that our worth was primarily based on attractiveness.
I remember countless times where I was fearful of raising my tone because I would hate to look “unprofessional” or even be dismissed as premenstrual.
Heck, there were times I even dismissed myself for such reasons.
Little things, like messy hair or foul language, were sore spots that needed to be fixed. And whenever I worked for a male employer, there was a unique tone that was saved just for me and the other women in our workplace – describable as a soft tone that you would use to speak to children with.
For countless women and feminine-presenting individuals, experiences like this become a lifelong journey through a hell of gaslighting and mixed signals.
But when I transitioned, there was a nearly immediate shift.
You see, trans men have a pretty unique perspective when it comes to the way that genders are treated.
Because testosterone is an aggressive hormone that results in sharpened jaws, raised hairlines, facial hair, lower voices and a top heavy figure, many trans men find that after a certain point they are completely read as male. Sometimes it only takes a few months for strangers to exclusively use “sir” when speaking to you.
At that point, something strange begins. People begin to listen, no matter how messy your hair is. Your work is based entirely on your work, and if you’re frustrated at someone else, they blame themselves – instead of you.
A very notable experience I had was the first time at my current job that I lost my temper on a colleague over the phone. Before I transitioned, this would have gotten me reprimanded, and they might have even hung up on me.
Instead, they apologized and promised an immediate resolution.
I remember hanging up the phone in utter awe. They hadn’t told me to calm down; they simply listened to what I was shouting between curse words.
But besides listening to you, something else happens.
You’re welcomed into discussions you never imagined existed.
The way men talk when women walk away is so much worse than I ever imagined. I would suddenly hear bosses comment on the size of other employee’s chests, my neighbors joke about gripping the women at the college next door, or even hear groups of men with kind personalities privately joke about attacking women.
A pretty good example is one of my favorite businesses, which I’ve been going to since long before I transitioned. The burly old man running the business promised quality and profession, and I always enjoyed his fairly harmless personality. Sprouting a goatee didn’t stop me from relying on his services.
Maybe it was just the kind of guy he was, but I was never really questioned about my gradual shift into a new body. He continued to treat me the same as always, like any of his other faithful customers.
But the day I knew I was one of the guys was the day he began to laugh with another customer in front of me about “selling his wife” to “buy a hot eighteen-year-old.”
The thought that quips like this seem funny or appropriate to men in any context, never mind how frequent it is, a horrific testament to how ingrained the cisgender male population’s agenda of female oppression has grown.
There are other changes that trans men experience, for example the random intimacy of a hug from your best friend becomes a thing of the past. I’m not a psychologist, but I can say from my own experience that stark male expectations to reject intimacy only adds to the ease with which men are able to brush off the potential of women in society.
From what I’ve seen, as men are forced to live aggressive lives free of touch or emotion, women are converted into ‘accessories’ that are meant to fill in the gaps that men can’t fill themselves – even if it’s exclusively through a sexual context. The more men in our society continue to fight in a never ending competition to prove who is the most masculine, the more women will struggle to prove they don’t exist only to fill in for a man’s ‘secret’ desires.
I remember wanting to speak up to that business owner at the time, but as a trans person I also feared that doing so would reveal I was trans and possibly even make me a target to aggression.
Fortunately or not, I’ve had plenty of practice since then.
If women were incapable, then how would you explain my transition not just from female to male, but from a lightly reprimanded employee with low expectations to the bold voiced Director leading an entire wing of a newspaper?
It’s time for women to have respect, and for far more men to join me in calling out sexist behavior when it happens. We can’t expect women to carry this fight alone, especially not when they’re dismissed every time they leave the room.
There’s no shame in feminism.
In a society where aggression and sexism dominates, nobody wins. And take it from a trans guy… that’s exactly the society we live in right now.