Let me tell you what my childhood was like growing up. I was a timid, shy child who expressed no interest at all in other children until kindergarten. I did my own thing and played with dolls as much as with cars, played "house," and I played "teacher" because my mom was a teacher and I respected her for that, among other things. Yes, I had a strong male influence in my dad, but while he's straight and cis as they come, he never much cared for a lot of the traditional male roles; he was, I guess you could say, a cis male geek. Still is.
When I finally expressed an interest in my peers, I was rewarded for this by a bully tearing the tail off my favorite stuffed cat after school on the way home. In retrospect, he was probably feeling a confused mixture of feelings given that I have always been very androgynous; he perceived me as a boy, but some part of him recognized I was a girl, and he didn't know what to make of that. It probably didn't help, either, that I have always been able to read people like an open book; my memory of the incident is vague, but I remember seeing something in him and commenting on it. Probably trying to reassure him about some insecurity of his. So he bullied me. And my interest in my peers subsequently evaporated on the spot, at least for a while.
I ran into the same thing in the next town we moved to. Only this time, my "mutant power" (as I now call it) to read people like a book saw something different. I don't remember what I said or how this came about, but that particular bully I turned into a friend. We would later be lovers. Turns out he was gay and had the hots for me, probably misinterpreting my trans aura as an "effeminate gay guy" aura. I remember, when we did become lovers, that the idea of using my... thing... the way he used his on me felt wrong. Like, "that thing is for peeing" wrong. I mean, I knew there were other uses, as my parents were not the type to let a child of theirs go without the basic facts of life, but still, it felt wrong in a way I couldn't understand. Looking back, seeing that I enjoyed "catching," I think my reticence to "pitch" was early dysphoria. (Yes, I have dysphoria - oh gods yes I have dysphoria about so many things - but it is NOT necessary to have dysphoria in order to be trans.)
Looking back, the pattern of bullying I experienced was largely intimidation, emotional abuse, and "playing keep-away" by people who felt that they had to prove that they weren't "interested" in "the little freak," though they probably didn't understand their own motivations. The simple fact of the matter was, my very presence in school made the boys uncomfortable, because no matter how boyish I presented, I looked like a girl, and yet I identified, at the time, as a boy. And what was more, I didn't act like a boy. I was quiet, withdrawn, and gentle. While I had occasional whims to play stereotypical boy-type games, I still preferred "girl-type" activities, or activities perceived as gender neutral.
In middle school and high school, it got worse. Boys began having sexual desire for girls, and since I looked like a girl but identified as a boy, some part of them questioned their sexuality. Then some decided it was my fault for making them feel this way, and took out their anger on me.
In high school, the bullying became a strange mix of the old "to hell with the freak" stuff and sexual harassment. Which brings me to what prompted me to make this post... a post on Tumblr. Here is an excerpt:
I got catcalled and then got laughed at when I flipped them off. they pulled up beside me and I clutched my bag tighter, my hand going in for my keys and my mind going over how their noses would look if I smashed them in with my elbow.
As I read these words, I had a mild flashback to my high school career. I felt that way in high school. I had no idea, back then, that it was sexual harassment, despite knowing I was trans, I still presented male, and I thought that kind of thing only happened to people who were openly presenting as female. But looking back, I was wrong. It was sexual harassment. And every time some boy would make some snide, half-mocking comment about giving them a blow job or my liking it in the ass or whatnot, I would just get so scared I would clutch my books to my chest protectively. I was afraid they would attack me. I think a part of me subconsciously feared they would rape me. I just didn't realize any of this consciously at the time. All I knew was, I was afraid.
Just like cis women, I was this sex object. But since I presented male and had a penis, I was also an object of ridicule. A "faggot," a freak, an outsider. Gods only know what would have happened if I'd thought seriously about asking any of those boys, when we were alone in the hall sometime, if he was serious about these come-ons. Probably nothing good, as the tone was mostly malicious.
So yeah, I was getting catcalls, sexual harassment, and street harassment WHEN EVERYONE THOUGHT I WAS A MALE. Not just in school, either, but for years after school, while still in the closet about being transgender. I still get a sharp jab of panic every time car horns beep a certain way, because of it.
And of course the constant stream of people stage-whispering about me, being like "Is that a boy or a girl?" Which mostly vanished the moment I started presenting as female.
So yeah, I know what women go through, and not just in a sterile, "male feminist" way. I have LIVED IT. I am given some measure of protection by my height and my girth, but I HAVE LIVED IT. I still get catcalls, street harassment, etc. every week or two at least.
I will also add here, having nowhere better in the post to put it, that growing up I knew boys were allowed to go topless, but I absolutely refused to do so even in my own home except in the safety and solitude in my room. Even years before I had the faintest suspicion of being trans, my breasts were not something I ever bared, even before I got fat.
So when TERFs and others talk about "male socialization" of trans girls and trans women, I have no fucking clue how they can think that, because all attempts by society to socialize me male slid off me like water off a duck's back. Which, given how hard society tried, is like shrugging off a flash flood. What I internalized instead was the female socialization. Because my brain knew something I didn't.
Being trans is not a choice. The only choice is in choosing to accept it or not. If male socialization had the kind of effect that TERFs seem to think it does, there would not BE any trans women.
This was cross-posted from http://fayanora.dreamwidth.org/1239962.html
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