Being a Trans Male Feminist, Part One of Many

I am supposed to be writing about whatever I am most motivated to write about. I keep almost writing about my issues with being a trans man in the world of feminism, and then panicking. The whole point of this exercise is that I have to publish something now, and I keep writing a few sentences and thinking, “there’s no way this is going to be ready before bed.” Then I write a few more, and think, “no, this really isn’t ready,” delete it and move on.

But the time limit is just an excuse, because I’ve also been doing this for years, with longer pieces. By “not ready” I actually mean “someone is going to respond to this, not with firm but constructive and good-faith criticism, but actual vitriol and mean-spirited disgust. I can’t really deal with that right now.”

I get the vitriol. A lot of women are in a space where they have been repeatedly hurt by men, and also conditioned by society to prioritize male ego over their own mental health. One strategy that many of them use is to hurt male feelings, until they cease to feel guilty about it.

The trouble with that is that, well, it’s a horrible thing to do. Also, it subtly reinforces sexism.

Part of misogyny is the idea that women are “the weak sex,” and in contrast men are strong. Men need to prove that by refusing to acknowledge when they’ve been hurt. This sexism disempowers women, but it also dehumanizes men. Straight privilege and white privilege exist without dehumanizing or harming straight or white people in any way.* Male privilege comes with snares. You buy into it for the power it offers, and suddenly find that half the things that make life worth living are forbidden in the contract. Apathetic abuse of men plays directly into that system.

And it’s hard for me to talk about that, because often the response is a repeat of that abuse, and it affects me personally in the way that, say, anger from a Black person about race doesn’t. For example, I recently posted something body positive about men on Tumblr. I got an anonymous message that said, “men are hideous, why ru lying?”

I didn’t want that statement to affect me, but I’m still thinking about it. My original body positive post was a response to a longstanding message I got that men aren’t allowed to be attractive, and that beauty is the sole purvey of women. That message gave me a lot of pain when I transitioned, and I’m still working through it. It’s a message that damaged my partner. It’s something men struggle to bring up with each other, and when they do they break down and cry. They sob from the bottom of their hearts, because it’s a wound that is deep and vicious and they aren’t allowed to talk about.

And the worst part of receiving that bit of anonymous hate mail wasn’t the message itself. It was the knowledge that the sender had a cadre of people who would cheer them on, while still feeling like they could call themselves activists. They could play directly into gendered notions of beauty, which harm both men and women, and still call themselves feminists. I don’t care about the cheering and support. Bullies find their crews of like-minded assholes. I care about the fact that so many allies of mine, in the fight for gender equality, don’t see the hypocrisy in upholding half the imbalance.

*I want to explain the differences in more detail, but I’ll have to put a pin in that.

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