Recently I got a message from a woman who took issue with me speaking on feminist topics in other forums. I dealt with it the same way I deal with all the other messages that say I’m not a “real woman” and that I should kill myself or just be male (a different way of saying the same thing) — I deleted it.
So I can’t quote from the author directly. But paraphrasing broadly, she felt that since I had the option of just washing my face and taking off my wig and putting on boy clothes and being accepted as a man, that my loss of male privilege was illusory and I was therefore unqualified to speak on matters of female oppression.
Let’s put aside the fact that I don’t wear a wig (except for photo shoots and costume parties), I usually don’t wear much make-up, and some of the changes to my physiology due to hormone therapy aren’t easily reversible. Even so, I could probably dress in male drag, cut or pull back my hair, grow back my eyebrows and pass as male.
But… here’s the thing. Almost ANY woman can do that. It’s not insanely hard. The voice is a bit difficult to get right, less due to pitch than to intonation and cadence and sound production, but those are all learned, and with a little coaching they can be changed. A woman with particularly feminine features will read as a particularly pretty boy, but she’ll pass casual examination, and with practice, anything short of expert detection. There are cases dating back to antiquity of women passing as men for months, years or even a lifetime, in pursuit of various goals.
So why don’t more women do it? If men have the power and privilege, should we not all just be men and claim that privilege for ourselves?
Spoiler alert: the answer is “no”. We shouldn’t have to disguise who we really are in order to stand on an equal footing with men.
My transition was not from a man to a woman. My transition was from a woman designated male at birth, struggling to fit that arbitrary designation with results ranging from mixed to catastrophic. I was no better at it than any other woman posing as a man, and considerably worse than some. I didn’t become me by pretending to be something I’m not. I became me when I stopped pretending.
As a person who was presumed to be male for half a century, and now is not, I believe my perspective on the dynamics of gender privilege and oppression may be of some modest value to discussions on the topic. I won’t willingly be silenced, marginalized or dismissed by any man… nor any woman… nor, for that matter, any person of any gender identity.
But if anybody still wants me to just shut up and let “real women” talk, I can do another fifty paragraphs on cis-gender privilege. In the immortal words of Arlo Guthrie, “I’m not proud… or tired.”