I was asked by the author to read, “He Dresses, She Slacks: Transgender Sex Roles” an article written by blogger WeaverGrace at http://www.WeaverGrace.com it is a thought provoking article and I suggest you all take a look because this post, while self-contained, is a direct response to many of the questions she asks in said article.
Now first, a disclaimer, WeaverGrace blogs the right way, with sources to back up her thought provoking questions. I, on the other hand, choose to blog from my phone. I have no clue why this is, I just do. I have a very good memory for statistics and research, but I rarely back my posts up with actual links to sources. Part of the reason is it is an annoyance to do the proper formatting and whatnot with my iPhone. Part of the reason is this is my blog, dammit and I will blog as I please, thanks. If you do want any links to supplemental information, ask and you shall receive. I blog from a personal perspective not from the perspective of a researcher or a journalist but I do not pull (most) of my facts out of my ass.
This post will be formatted as a question and answer session. WeaverGrace’s questions first, then my answers from my trans perspective.
* If we didn’t have rigid sex roles, what might be a reason for being transgender?
This question seems to suggest that trans folk like me, choose to be trans. Now, keep in mind, while I don’t particularly like the terms, “Transgender” or, “Transsexual”, I am in reality, transsexual, which is a specific type of transgendered person. I am actively transitioning from male to female both physically and legally… hence transSEXUAL.
Now, I understand, the question is intended like a utopian thought, much like John Lennon asking us to imagine there’s no Heaven, or Hell. Imagine there is no gender. It’s easy if you try…
Well, gender or not, there still is sex. I was born XY (male) yet my brain runs much better on XX loving hormones. Without the concept of gender, I suspect I would still be trans, because it is not my desire just to dress, and socialize as female in gender. It is a physical and mental need to operate on female fuel in spite of my dastardly Y chromosome.
The fact that we do have rigid sex roles, paves the way for transvestism, as well as drag kings and queens but transsexualism is a step beyond just conforming to a role. Transsexualism involves having a brain that operates like the brain of the opposite sex. Really. And here is one of those places where a good blogger would post a link to a study showing that trans folk have brains that are built more like the brain of the sex they are transitioning towards. My go to example: Females tend to have enhanced social capacity systems in their brains, and better, more efficient interaction pathways between right and left hemispheres, which can aid in things such as multitasking. Men, because their hemispheres do not interact as much, tend to have an easier time focusing on any given single task.
* A bunch of questions about the differences of male and female social roles.
I will just touch upon this subject because it is not specifically trans related.
In the animal kingdom in general, although I am thinking primarily mammalian here, males and females tend to have different social roles. Non human animals just do not have their own historic texts, and gender roles, at least it seems that way. Human history, and the historic concept of gender tends to place more value over males than females. This likely originates from physical strength. Males are stronger. The strongest traditionally get to write the history. Prehistoric humans it seems, tended to place equal value on the sexes and often, they placed extra value on trans folk, because trans folk could more clearly understand both sides of the spectrum and what lies between.
Female animals are usually better equipped mentally and physically, to care for the young. Female coloration is often more muted, in part, to camouflage while nesting with and training the young.
Males animals, frequently have more physical strength, and are far more colorful. The need to camouflage is less when one frequently only has to care for himself while hunting for food, and colors also are helpful to attract a mate. Yes, in the animal kingdom, females not males frequently decide who will be their mate.
In modern human society, several of these primal urges based on old, animalistic sex roles, do govern what men and women choose to do with their time.
* Who is more conspicuous: a transgender male or a transgender female?
The one who is noticed the most.
Digging deeper, I would venture to say female to male trans folk have a slightly easier time blending in. Smaller stature plays a part, as they are just less likely to STAND OUT. Also, Western society often enough, places more value on men than women, so it is not as illogical to a cis (non trans) person to consider why a woman may wish to become male or present as male.
* Why is female clothing more colorful?
It isn’t always. Burkas, anyone?
Fun fact: Almost every single type of Western female apparel was first made for men, with some key exceptions being the bra and the g string. Why more colorful? As I said, men are more colorful than women, and women therefore, have evolved to be more keen to coloration partly, in order to choose a mate. Perhaps this is why women enjoy shopping for colorful clothes and wearing makeup, because they naturally find color more attractive than males. The irony is, for the most part, men do not care nearly as much about a female’s color choices.
* Where misogyny exists, why would transgender women exist?
The term, “Transgender woman” can be confusing, although it is easy to glean what is meant by this question. That said, I was a transgender man for 37 years. That does not mean I transitioned to being male. It just means I am transgender, and society knew me as male.
The question is a good one. Why would anyone wish to be, “Demoted” from male to female?
I will answer that question with a question of my own: Why would ANY woman not wish to be male?
* Why might a (trans person) exhibit extreme characteristics of their gender?
This in part, goes back to the question about which trans people are the most noticeable. It is quite likely you have not noticed many trans people, simply because they blended in. It is common, therefore, to think all trans people stand out. They do not.
Those that do, often lack practice, still have their beard shadow, are not on hormones, retain their male posture and mannerisms and/or overcompensate for lost time by dressing obviously and sometimes obnoxiously younger than their actual age. Just because I was born with the brain of a woman, does not mean I know how to blend into society as a woman. In a lot of ways, I am like a young teenager. Have you seen how teens dress and wear makeup? It takes time and practice to learn and mature within these social constructs.
* Men cat call and brawl. Girls giggle and cry. Are these expectations taken to the extreme?
Sometimes they are.
Testosterone is proven to lead to aggression. Estrogen in turn is proven to improve emotional and empathic expression. This again, goes back to the mammalian sex roles of the male hunter/fighter and the female nurturer/teacher.
* Why is it hard for men to be attracted to trans women?
In my case, I should ask why is it hard for this trans woman to be attracted to men?
Trans women deny much of their masculinity, and that simply does not compute to many males. There are men who are quite attracted to trans women. The porn stats for trans websites may surprise you. They are quite popular and I doubt it is just women who visit them. It is not as socially accepted though for men to be attracted to trans women as it is for men to be attracted to other men, not in Western society. Go figure…
* What kinds of challenges do (trans) people face when going through puberty? How is this different for people who don’t fit the cultural stereotypes?
Ethnic minorities do not become more of an ethnic minority during puberty. I however, became a man during puberty. Damage was done. My beard grew, my voice dropped, the shape of my face changed… etc. Male puberty greatly complicated my chances for a successful transition. It also, really hammered home the fact that I was not born female. Plus, in my case, it attracted me sexually to women meaning I became extra compelled to fixate on them. Attracted but not wired to pursue. Imagine my most honest potential come on lines, “Hey there, I uh, really like you and I also kinda’ really want to be you. Wanna’ go out?” This may help to explain why I remained a virgin until 25.
* Are men as expressive with their voices as women?
Generally, no. They tend to use a more limited vocabulary as well. Women are hardwired to communicate with words, tone and gesture.
* Why would a heterosexual trans woman like her masculine body? Why would a heterosexual trans man like his feminine body? What’s the difference between having a certain sex’s body, and being a certain gender?
One reason I like(d) my male body? Strength. Another? Peeing whilst standing.
The difference between sex and gender? Sex is physical. Gender is conceptual. If I feel female, that is a gender thing. If I, from a distance, see a man, that is gender related because I just think I see a man, I do not check between the legs or anything. Sex is ultimately chromosomal.
Thank you, WeaverGrace for the inspiring post. It is a delightful challenge to get to answer some new questions. Please continue being curious. Do not be a stranger!
Thank you readers!