How I became feminist after becoming male.

Photo by Etta.
~   Photo by Etta.
This is the text I read out at Zsa Zsa Zine on march 8th.

On this “international women’s and women-identified-gendersoup” day it may seem out of place for someone like me to speak out. To put it simple: I really did live life as a girl and a woman completely, and in full immersion until the age of 33, since then I’ve been able to present as male and be totally invisible in public space in this new skin, this facade of calm gentlemen rationality.
Evidently I am a transman of a peculiar persuasion: I will never claim I was never a woman.

My wish would be that, besides international women’s day, in future there will be a widely promoted international day of feminism, so this opens up the day to male and male-presenting allies who acknowledge women’s struggles (and male struggles) and at the same time open up men’s eyes to the possibility that, even though you might have a lot of testosterone, there’s really no need to use this as an excuse for all sorts of horny behaviour.
Since that big day of ‘feminism-4-all’ is not the case yet, let me start off by reading to you this tiny excerpt from Julia Serano’s “Whipping Girl – a transsexual woman on sexism and the scapegoating of femininity” (2007).

See? It’s very short, so don’t be frightened. She says:

The idea that all anti-trans discrimination arises from the fact that, as transgender people, we “transgress binary gender norms” does not resonate completely with my personal experiences. As a somewhat eccentric kid, I was given plenty of leeway to opt out of boys’ activities and to cultivate an androgynous appearance and persona. I was sometimes teased for being different, for being an atypical or unmasculine boy, but it was nothing compared to the venom that was reserved for those boys who acted downright feminine. And now, as an out transsexual woman, I find that those who wish to ridicule or dismiss me do not simply take me to the task for the fact that I fail to conform to gender norms – instead, more often than not, they mock my FEMININITY.
From the perspective of an occasional gender bender or someone on the female-to-male spectrum, it might seem like binary gender norms are at the core of all anti-trans discrimination. But most of the anti-trans sentiment that I have had to deal with as a transsexual woman is probably better discribed as MISOGYNY.

I agree with Julia Serano: being on the ‘woman’ spectrum of things is a lot more troublesome than living and being perceived as male.
I could give you tons of examples on how a week is full of tiny gender moments, like when I call a random company with a complaint now and how they immediately listen to me, which was not the case when I was female. Ofcourse in this example people will say: “that’s not a gender thing, it’s just because you’re more at ease with yourself so you’re more convincing now then when you were still a girl!” Well, let me tell you: I have NEVER been at ease with myself and I am not expecting this to miraculously change any time soon… This is not dramatic in any way, it’s just that my entire being is full of road-blocks; don’t worry about it.

Anyway, I’d like to end this with something that happened last week. I could have taken an example from every week because yes, as I said: little weird gender moments happen a lot. Like yesterday, when I was sitting in the public library and reading Julia Serano’s book. Some guy, who took a chair besides me, said the following odd phrase to me “You’re reading a book about girls! Excellent!” and triumphantly he gave me the thumbs up. I really have no idea what he meant with that (did he think it was a book about dating or perhaps a kinky book? Because of the title “Whipping Girl”?) I just looked at him oddly and fiercely annoyed. He blushed and went away.

Let’s get back to last week. It was midday and I was standing in front of a gay bar with an acquaintance. I wish to present this situation as a case without proof. (See scene representation).

Gender-scene representation

Picture the gay bar here (G), the sidewalk here and here (S), me here (A) and my female companion here (B). We were talking when we were interrupted by a youngsters yell (coming from the red arrow’s direction) “hey sir! hey sir!” he walked right past my friend and asked me “will you please buy me some whiskey in that store there if I give you money?” I immediately said “No.” He asked “why not?” while twisting his feet insecurely. I replied “because I don’t want to, that’s enough reason” he quickly left and crossed the street (again passing my lady comrade) towards two bearded gay guys (C) and asked them the same question. I was stunned and surprised and so was my companion. I said “why didn’t he ask YOU? He just passed you without even considering you. Is it because you’re a woman??” Yes, this must have been the case. I guess: if you don’t grow hairy crap on your face, you’re probably incapable of A: having money or B: spending money or C: dealing with money. I felt the urge to shout at the kid “why don’t you ask HER? You have a lot to learn little boy!” but if I would have done that I would have sounded like an old patriarch and I don’t want that…

So you see. Before transitioning I was not a feminist. I simply did not notice all the micro aggressions, but now I see them every day and my eyeballs drop out of my sockets on a once-a-week basis.
The moral of this story is: only if you grow hairy crap on your face, you will be awarded with emancipation.

Thanks for listening.

– Jiro Ghianni – © 2014.

Jiro Ghianni is a Dutch genderqueer transman, of Rotterdam descent, currently living and studying webdevelopment in Amsterdam. Jiros’ pronoun is ‘it.’ It initiated TranScreen, blogs about gay cruising for transmen and publishes The Bosoms’ webcomics.

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