Transsexuals on Sexism of All Stripes

 Posted by on 16 February 2004 at 9:27 pm  Uncategorized
Feb 162004

I never would have thought of asking transsexuals about the differences in their treatment by others as men versus as women. But these comments, sent to OurBlogFatherWhoArtInHeaven, were really fascinating.

In response to your wondering about the experiences of transsexuals and the treatment we’ve experienced living as each sex, I thought I’d quickly share some of mine. In essence, it’s a very mixed bag either way. By way of background, I’m 30 years old, a health insurance actuary, politically centrist with strong libertarian sympathies, and thoroughly bourgeoise. I changed sexes, from male to female, five years ago, and live in San Francisco. Of course, I’m excluding the approximately two years in which I was obviously a transsexual and was treated as such from my comments below, which reflect only my subjective experience.

On the “men have it worse” side:

- I agree with the commenter of Jarvis’s. Since I’ve changed, I seem to represent much less of a potential threat to people, both male and female, and people trust me more easily. The air of suspicion really was not noticeable until it was gone, as is the case for many of these issues.

- People are generally nicer and more considerate of me now, and seem to be much more sparing of my feelings, even to the point of telling obvious lies. This is in addition to the obvious typical male chivalry things like opening doors and the like, which, I’m happy to report, is still quite common even in San Francisco. People will actually go out of their way to be gratuitously kind, which was certainly not the case beforehand.

- People are far, far less likely to accuse, or (as far as I can tell) believe in actual wrongdoing or malfeasance on my part now. The flip side of this, as a I mention below, is a strongly increased tendency to assume that I’m incompetent.

On the “women have it worse” side:

- As I said above, people’s apparent estimation of my intelligence has dropped significantly, despite the fact that I’m quite certain the quality and coherence of my thoughts (not to mention my professional qualifications!) have improved greatly since transition. This isn’t total and complete; if I have an absolute knock-down argument, people will eventually believe it, but only after much expenditure of effort on my part. If I *don’t* have a knock-down argument, people are far less likely to trust my intelligence and judgement than they had been. This tendency is rather uneven; I’ve noticed it most strongly in older people (over, say, 50), and in certain religious groups (the usual suspects:
conservative Christians and Muslims of all stripes).

- While normal citizens now view me as less of a threat, and therefore as a better person, it is true that criminals now also view me as less of a threat, and consequently, as a better target. I’ve managed to stay out of trouble in this regard, but it’s much more of a concern these days.

- When I am genuinely angry or upset about something, or even when I disagree with a colleague on a factual or logical point, there is a far greater tendency among the general populace to attribute it to some one-off hormonal effect, or to it being “that time of the month.” Since, as a transsexual, I do not menstruate, I find this latter belief extremely amusing, as I’m sure you can imagine.

Overall, I’m much (much!) happier as a woman, but I think that has little to nothing do with a fundamental societal preference for one over the other and everything to do with the fact that I’m a male-to-female transsexual. I can’t really say that either men or women have an overwhelming advantage in societal treatment these days, at least not that I’ve noticed.

Sheesh, based on these considerations alone, I’d definitely rather be a man. However, I don’t think Paul is all that interested in switching teams. ;-)

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