Gender identity and social roles

“I wanted to be a boy when I was a child, too. Boys got to do all the cool things.” I’ve lost count of how many times I have heard this statement, or something like it, from women when I try to explain how I’ve wanted to be a boy since childhood. I didn’t want to be a boy because I thought there were things I couldn’t do as a girl. I believed I could do anything I put my mind to doing. In fact, the only thing I couldn’t do that I really wanted was join the boy scouts and that might not have been as much of an issue if it hadn’t been for the fact that they kept sending me invitations. Apparently they thought that every child named Jamie was a boy.

Since beginning my transition, I have often shied away from looking at the social aspects of transitioning. I think a lot of this is because of the accusations that were hurled at me early on that I only wanted to transition so that I could gain male privilege. I knew that my decision to transition had nothing to do with any gain in social status that I might attain and everything to do with how I felt about living in my body. But I have been afraid that any acknowledgement of the fact that I need to be seen as a man by others would somehow make my need to transition seem less valid. I am a man, though, and because of that I need to be seen as a man.

The need to feel validated in our identity by society is not a trans specific issue. It is an issue that applies to everyone equally.  It just happens that for people who have a body that conforms to their gender identity, there is no difficulty in attaining social validation of their sex.  Because there is no effort in gaining this acceptance, it can often be taken for granted. When a person has never had to question their own gender, it can be easy to believe that there is no such thing as an innate gender identity. It becomes invisible to them. All they see are the different roles men and women are given in society, and so they believe it is society that creates a person’s gender identity. This is a commonly held belief in radical feminist circles, and it is this ideology that gives rise to the lie that FtM trans men transition to gain male privilege due to a deeply internalized misogyny. These radfems see FtM men as women who actively participate  in their own victimization and oppression. Of course this argument can’t be applied to MtF trans women, so a different lie is created, claiming that their transitions are an erotic assault of male privilege trying to assert dominance over women’s bodies and women’s spaces. Thus the claim is made that all trans people are merely reinforcing the patriarchal structure and the oppression of women.

It is absurd to even suggest that a person would go through all of the pain of transition in some feeble attempt to gain greater social status or access spaces reserved for people of the opposite gender. Trans people merely want the chance to be acknowledged for who we are instead of always being seen as the mismatch of biology that we were given at birth. To claim that we make this transition for anything other than our own survival completely erases every trans persons lived experience and relegates our very existence to an assault on humanity itself.


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4 responses to “Gender identity and social roles”

  1. Zack says :

    Keep writing brother! You do a great job of putting down and giving me a place to send people to read how I feel.

  2. NavelgazingMidwife says :

    My first thought, reading, was “Who the heck thinks transmen get ANY privilege, male or otherwise?” And then thought of the stealth guys and thought maybe they do… who am I to know or not, right? But, the journey seems so fraught with pain and difficulties, that *doing* the deed specifically for male privilege seems absurd. And not discounting the great and wonderful aspects some/many/all guys experience, but if *everything* was fantastic, I’d get the trip to transland. It isn’t, however. Is it?

    • abeardedgnome says :

      Stealth transmen can get male privilege, but I can’t imagine going through a transition to do so. My therapist told me transitions for this reason would not be allowed anyway. The medical community does do quite a bit to try to ensure that a person does not transition for reasons other than actually being trans. I also think that a lot of the people who try to make absurd claims about why someone transitions don’t know the process very well. It’s not like deciding what hairstyle or wardrobe you want next year. It is a lifetime commitment. No one is going to make a commitment like this on a whim. Latest estimates I have seen are that less than 3 percent of people regret the transition or transition back. Of that 3 percent, most of the regret is due to social issues (transphobia), not because the person didn’t believe themselves to be trans.

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