I have like, a shit ton of guy friends. Not sure exactly why, because I’ve always considered myself better at being friends with girls, but now that I think about it, most of the “girls” I befriend end up realizing somewhere mid-friendship that they’re trans, and abruptly become my bro (which is pretty cool, because I get all their old clothes most of the time. Score.) There was a point in my life where I was actively trying to attain more girl friends, but I’ve since come to realize that I’m just drawn to masculine energy, regardless of the gender attached.
However, the downside of being non-binary and being friends with a whole lot of guys from different walks of life is that I encounter so much casual sexism directed at women. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not friends with a bunch of douchebags or something. I have pretty great taste in people, if I do say so myself. However, I’ve been in groups of trans men, where the discussion turns to how they knew they were men because they’re so brave, strong, capable of manly things, etc, etc. Having grown up an avid tomboy, I identify with these things a little bit; I wanted to play baseball, camp outside, I chopped off all my hair when I was nine, to the horror of my mother. When it comes up among trans men, though, I’m instantly reminded of all the tomboys I know. The women with unconventional interests and hobbies, with short hair or a masculine attitude; they’re still women, regardless of these “manly” habits, but they’ve faced all kind of criticism for those behaviors. Can’t women be strong, brave, sportsy, and butch without being…well, men?
Now, that might sound like a really particular, unique kind of issue, but bear with me. With the continued exposure of trans celebs, we find ourselves in a time where more and more people are learning that transgender is a thing. Which, I gotta admit, is pretty damn cool for people who might have otherwise just wondered what was “wrong” with them all their lives. However, with the prevalence of transition stories, I’ve heard more and more trans men and women start making assertions that any person who’s gender non-conforming is a trans man or woman still in denial. Butch lesbians, for instance, are often mistaken for young trans men, such as a friend of mine who’s happily female (and gay), but wears a lot of cargo shorts. I’ve seen the argument “Well, if they want to look like and behave like men so much, why don’t they just call themselves men?”
A lot of that, I know, stems from a sense of insecurity; if someone’s life journey can look so similar to a trans man’s journey, only to have them be cis, that’s got to feel a little invalidating (and it brings up the argument that if that person is content in being a masculine woman, why couldn’t this trans man be that content? Why did he have to get surgeries, change his name, or lose friends and family? Why endure all of that hardship?) And it also brings up a bit of visual confusion; I’m sure we all try not to stereotype, but it’s always a bit exciting when you think you see someone who’s also trans. I always get super excited to meet new trans people, just because it’s a unique struggle and it’s the fucking best to know someone who shares some of that experience. I’ve also made the blunder of assuming someone is trans (This is that moment where I should kick young me and remind them to ASK pronouns before assuming!) But the beauty of having such an array of gender presentations and roles is that we don’t have to personally understand someone’s journey, and we certainly don’t have to match up with anyone else.
When these kinds of discussions happen, I’m generally the only non-man in the room, however, so it puts me in an interesting spot. People generally expect me to stay neutral, since I’m neither, but I’m pretty quick to jump in. Normally with some snide remark like “aw shit, I like those things, am I a man now?” which serves as a pretty good reality check for the dudes I hang out with. However, in the wrong company, I find myself shoehorned into being a women’s advocate, a role I would normally enjoy, but it comes at the cost of my own gender. There’s just this idea that since they’re men, they’re even further away from being women than I am, so I’m the next best thing to discuss women with. Again, mildly awkward, but generally, I’ll bite.
It comes down to something like this: are we defining our genders by the things we do and the things we like? As a trans man, are you taking a toxic idea, like science being a male pursuit, and using it to “prove” your manliness? That you were secretly a dude all along? Does your high school “phase” of being a baby butch lesbian make you assume that other butch lesbians are just on their way to realizing their “real” gender?
Basically, what it comes down to, is that a lot of trans men seek to transition without challenging any of the restrictive gender roles that they hated growing up. And that’s totally normal, because it takes a lot of introspection to realize that you’re doing that (I had to question myself on that front when I started identifying as NB) and it doesn’t make anyone a bad person. It’s so easy to fall into that way of thinking, especially when so many people challenge your gender as a trans person. I just hope transgender becomes something as boring as describing yourself as a pisces. You know, like “Okay, that’s nice Gregg, but that’s some pretty useless information because I don’t care about that stuff.” That way, no one will have to feel like they have to cling to a certain role to prove themselves. Oh, and then I can enjoy my gaggle of guy friends without having to call out sexism so much. Maybe.