I know my ideas on gender and feminism aren’t going to make everyone happy, but that’s OK. I come by my ideas honestly.
What do I mean by that?
On the first date with the man who would become my husband, he told me, “I like to wear women’s clothes. Is that going to be a problem?” O, denial. I decided he must be joking, so I laughed and said, “Of course not.”
Later that week, he reiterated it. “I like to wear women’s clothes. I am a crossdresser. But I don’t want to have a sex change or anything like that. Are you OK with that?” This time I took a few days to think it over. And what I decided was, I liked this man, and I was willing to give it a shot.
So with curiosity and trepidation, we set a date for him to dress en femme around me. At the appointed hour, he appeared wearing a long jean skirt I’d loaned him, a blouse, a wig and a lot of ill-advised make up. “Why?” I asked, just trying to make sense of the vision before me. “It just makes me comfortable,” he said. “You see, I’m just the same person.” Except, he wasn’t quite. Awkward silences followed.
Still, I was determined to get this right. I decided I was going to become the most supportive girlfriend, and then fiancée and then wife of all time. When I had some extra money and went clothes shopping, I’d make a point of picking up something for him, too. I got him an all-day pass to day spa for Valetines – something no one has ever given me. Holding his hand, we went to the wig shop together, and I sat with him as he tried several on. We went to support groups and drag shows and gay bars together. I stared down a butch lesbian in a bathroom who was itching for a fight because he wanted to use the toilet there.
I tried really hard to understand.
But there was a problem. Even though he said, “See, I’m just the same person in these clothes,” he wasn’t. The man I married was loud and vocal and never knew when to shut up. The man in the dress never said a peep and sat straight and stiff, looking uncomfortable and uptight and, frankly miserable. Whoever this person was, I couldn’t relate.
So I thought, if I can’t relate to him-as-her as woman-to-woman, I’ll try it man-to-woman. I began to crossdress, too. It was fun enough. I cut my hair short. I liked bracers and learned how to use hair gel, a condom and a tube sock to approximate a male bulge. I learned how to use an eyebrow pencil to give an approximation of 5 o’clock shadow on my upper lip. I observed how dressing differently led to carrying myself differently led to interacting with the world differently. And I was good. I got called sir. I never thought I was a man, or meant to be a man or any of that. I was having fun with costumes. And did it work? To a degree, it did. For me, anyway.
And we talked about gender theory. A lot. He explained how sex and gender are different things, and how one is between your legs and one is between your ears. Got it. I learned the difference between a transsexual and transvestite and crossdresser. I bought ethnographies to learn about “third sex” or transgender roles in places like Oman and India.
But here’s the thing. The more I learned about gender theory, the less sense a lot of it seemed to make. And over time, I became more and more critical of a lot of trans theory. And today, I think a lot of it is bunk. And I plan to explain why in subsequent posts.
For now, though, I want to spell out what I do and don’t believe.
I do believe that:
- Transgender people exist – that there are people who feel extremely uncomfortable in the gender role expected of them.
- That transgender people, and I’m including transsexual, crossdressers and transvestites here, all have a right to live without harassment and discrimination in employment and housing, to live free of bullying and to have respect.
- That reasonable accommodations should be made for transgender individuals in the public sphere.
However, I don’t believe that:
- Transwomen are the same as women, or transmen are the same as men.
- Transwomen have an automatic right to women-only spaces, or transmen to men-only spaces.
- Women should have to compromise on the issues they value to placate transwomen.
I know these views will anger some, and I don’t particularly relish that fact. But this is where I have arrived after more than15 years of not only considering these issues, but being a supportive spouse, attending support groups, research, discussion and even experiencing crossdressing myself and exploring my on gender identity. I’ve probably done more to support transpeople than most people who consider themselves allies and have done nothing more than like blog or Facebook posts.
Like I said, I’ll get into the reasons for my opinions in subsequent posts. For now, I just wanted to say that I earned the right to my opinions.