Being part female and being a feminist

8 03 2009

So here’s another ongoing funny thing in my life as a guy: the surprised reactions I get to my feminist statements. Both men and women are surprised when I denounce patriarchy and androcentrism, or when I talk about my training in feminist anthropology.

Those of them that know that I’m trans probably think it’s a natural result of me having lived as a woman. While living as a woman allowed me to be much more aware, at a visceral level, of the subtle kinds of sexism and misogyny that exist in my society, it doesn’t explain the whole picture. Indeed, many women that I know are not only *not* feminists, but they are against many aspects of feminism. And I’m not here to convert any of them or get into drawn out debates on the merits of feminism. So living as a female does NOT automatically lead a person to being a feminist.

In my case, what attracted me to feminist questionning and thought before I had even heard of feminist theory was my own gender questionning. As far back as I can remember, I questioned the gender norms. They pissed me off and I felt a need to break out of the mold that my society imposed on me. When I started studying anthropology, the cultural variation with regards to gender  helped confirm what I had always suspected: there is very little that is “natural” about the notions of masculinity and femininity that Western societies hold dear.

However, some people assume that transitionning to adopt a male identity and certain physical aspects of masculinity signifies that I believe in the legitimacy of those norms. These people don’t know me very well for, although I present a masculine appearance in my daily life through clothes and demeanour, I’m very well aware that I could legimately do this while maintaining a female social identity. Also, I take a great deal of pride in my female past and in the many elements of my person that remain and that are socially perceived as “feminine”.

No matter how “masculine” my appearance becomes, I will always see myself as a blend. Although Jacky is my public face, Nancy is always present as a guiding force. After all, SHE is the smart one, the one that struggled against a whole bunch of odds to get to where we are now, both professionally,  socially and spiritually. Rather than abandoning her, my sexual transition signifies a gift to her. She now gets to play around in idea and spirit land without having to worry about all the physical and material crap that embodied persons have to worry about. That’s all she ever really wanted.

In the meantime, base myself on her thoughts and experiences to continue to denounce sexism and androcentrism (that is, views of the world that are based on male perspective only) wherever I see it, just as I denounce other forms of discrimination and oppression.

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5 responses

8 03 2009
Shirley Anne

From what I read in your posts Jacky I get very much the impression that you do not like the idea of gender at all. I feel that you would prefer no absolutes but just variations on a single theme. Obviously this can never be. There must always be male and female. It is difficult for those who don’t think about such things or those who take the view that there can be no in between states to understand. There will always be to some degree variations in and of gender. The problem if there is one, only arises when a declaration of gender is required by those in authority. Then we see confusion in the minds of those who set out the rules, that is Society. To live in Society requires conforming or taking an active role in the effort to change the status quo. There being no other choices we just have to get on with things.

Shirley Anne x

8 03 2009
Jacky V.

Shirley Anne: This is the crux of major disagreements between you and I. I know of societies where there were “other” genders. It *is* possible. It’s also in nature. Humans create categories and the binary is obviously not enough for many many people in the world. In fact, I notice a growing number of people, especially in the generation following mine, that buck the system entirely.

And it’s not so much that I prefer variations on a single theme. I would just prefer that more and more people accept a spectrum rather than an absolute binary with two boxes. As we know, those boxes come with constellations of characteristics into which very few people naturally fall into.

As for conforming to society, if everyone always conformed in the West, trans people wouldn’t even have the rights that we have now. If no one would’ve fought for the recognition of transsexuality, for example, *we* would have to be doing it now OR confirming. Women would not have the right to vote or the educational and professional opportunities they have now. People paved the way for me and I’m willing to work to pave the way for future generations. That’s my choice and, all that being said, I’ve never had a problem with people who choose to conform. I know many people who are confortable in the binary and that’s fine if that is their *choice* and if they feel happy and comfortable there. But it needs to be a choice, not an imposition. Alas, I see it imposed on people all the time, including myself.

9 03 2009
Shirley Anne

Oh Jacky I think you misunderstood my post. I agree with you actually. There is a spectrum, there always was and I suppose will be. At each end of that spectrum is male and female and that won’t change unless the human race can procreate without it! How each of us fits into that spectrum is personal and our own decision. Whatever you say about the facts and reality of a spectrum it is in reality a departure from the way life was intended to be. Life needs to continue and that is through procreation whether self procreation or binary procreation. Human beings can only do it one way…LOL. So for us there has to be a binary system and anything outside of that, although ‘natural’ is in real terms not ‘normal’ to the basics. Again, do not misunderstand what I am saying here. I am NOT against the spectrum because it exsists and therefore I embrace it but it does not mean that I think it right. Sounds like I am contradicting myself here but I am not. My beliefs stem from my faith but in all things love guides me and so I accept, embrace and love the variety of life that occupies this world. All life is precious. Love

Shirley Anne x

9 03 2009
Jacky V.

OK, well that clarifies your position a bit. But I think that the existence of a spectrum in terms of gender identity and expression, with people at either end and a bunch in between and people having the freedom to express this, does not take anything away from human procreation. Not everyone procreates anyway, even among the gender-normative. I don’t see a relationship between the two issues.

I’m not saying that EVERYONE has to be gender non-normative, or outside the binary. It seems that a statistical majority of people are comfortable enough with it to not even question it, or to simply try to work to expand what qualifies as male or female, which I applaud. For example, it’s great that more males are getting in touch with their nurturing side and taking care of children and it’s great that more females are feeling empowered to work at traditionally masculine jobs. But for those who ARE uncomfortable with it, there need to be other options as there have been in so many societies before European colonisers meddled, such as many Native North American societies.

In any case, I’m glad that your heart is big enough to embrace variety, even when that variety contradicts your belief system. I know people who could learn from you, for sure. My own belief system, at least partially influenced by various forms of Native spirituality, celebrates the existence of other genders and my own “otherness” or “in between-ness” has strong spiritual roots.

18 03 2009
BT

Shirley:

When science allows us to procreate without men or women, then will the spectrum be natural?

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