The ongoing #MeToo moment, and the recent crest of the wave in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings has me musing. As much as I’d like to rant here about the travesty of the clearly lying (even if he didn’t ever touch Dr. Ford, there’s lies everywhere) Brett Kavanaugh being not yet kicked to the curb, you’ve probably already read dozens of eloquent commentaries on that valid point. Rather, I’d like to dig a bit deeper not just into his potential confirmation but the intersection of the larger subject and trans people, particularly trans women. About Kavanaugh I will only say that it is beyond nauseating that the political power wielded by the Pharisee minority will likely cement in place a majority of the court willing to suppress our equality for a generation or more in the name of performative religious rules – and that cement comes in the form of a man manifestly at odds with the expectations of those rules.
No what is on my mind is the complex mental evolution I’ve gone through over the course of my transition as it relates to how men interact with women. This was going on apart from #MeToo but the newly open conversation about sexual demands placed by males upon females, and the consequences of those expectations, shines a different sort of light on that thought process.
Since I came out, I have defined my sexuality as “heterosexual, but making an exception” which is to say that were I single, my desire would be to be romantically partnered with a man, if at all (which, “at all” seemed quite unlikely anyway) but being in an existing marriage which had been rewarding for both of us, i had no desire to be apart from my wife. Still don’t. But I quickly realized that that “heterosexual” inclination was not exactly or even mostly physical. I was not “lusting” physically either way, but rather my self-understanding was that my satisfaction would best be found in being the female in the relationship with all the gender-stereotypes that came with that role. To be clear, I do not advocate gender role stereotypes as a “norm” to be imposed on anyone individually or collectively, but just as I am most happy with my presentation when I am “girly” yet do not at all suggest that all women or all trans women ought be expected to be thus, even so my view is “you do your womanhood any way you want to, but I personally enjoy a high degree of gender role conformity in the way I do it.”
In the early days a fellow-traveler to that type of thinking was the unmistakable reality that I found much needed affirmation of my femininity in the attention of random males. I was a complete surprised the first time a man was unmistakeably flirting with me but it also brought me unspeakable joy. Not because he was young and hm (though he was – a mystery I have yet to solve) but because he seemingly had no clue that I was trans. The reality of this attitude was, though, that I not only had no objection when a man spoke or behaved in a way that was objectively over-the-line of respectful behavior, but I quite enjoyed it. It was, for me, much needed affirmation during a period when my confide was quite low (and if you are not confident, you are much more likely to get clocked). Also, during those days, the future of the marriage was very much uncertain as my wife was in open warfare with the idea that I was trans and conflict was often and severe so there was no affirmation there at all.
But in recent years, as it has become easier to see a path forward together, I have come to recognize that while it is still nice to be flirted with, affirming to not be clocked, I have evolved beyond the emotional need for that attention that is so desperate that it gives a pass to men behaving badly. Not so long ago, I was shopping and two separate men, older than I but not geriatric, expressed interest – one much more respectfully than the other and for maybe the first time, I had a clear emotional preference for the one who was carefully NOT over the line, whereas before i would file it under “all attention is desirable.”
I do not make a point of telling a #MeToo story, although some of the experience I’ve had certainly qualify as harassment none have ever put their hands on me, but I have evolved to the place now where I can say of myself that I deserve the respect, from men and from myself, to not be so needy that even crude, uninvited attention is still desirable. I’m sure that my own experience is not typical, nor particularly atypical, but maybe it is illustrative of a point that trans people are both – in various ways – party to and alien from the sociological realities encapsulated by #MeToo. Nothing can ever be simple, right?
Photo by Andra Mihali