Uncritical Trans* Masculinity – Recent conversations

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QueerIcon-Newsletter1x1“We must begin to understand that a revolution entails not only the willingness to lay our lives on the firing line and get killed. In some ways, this is an easy commitment to make. To DIE for the revolution is a one-shot deal; but to LIVE for the revolution means taking on the more difficult commitment of changing our day-to-day life patterns.” – Frances Beale

Over the weekend I was speaking to a new friend of mine whom I have known for a few weeks. He is a Chicano transman, has been on testosterone for five years, and is 26-years-old right now.

He told me that he is not interested in being part of queer circles and that he does not want queerness to be part of his sexual, romantic, and social relationships (even though he also stated he feels safer in queer circles). While it is possible for a transgender person to not necessarily be queer and reproduce all of the same gendered power relations as cis people, it concerned me that he was essentially telling me that queerness invalidates his manhood and therefore, he did not want to be associated with it.

This is not an uncommon belief in the transman community. I have spoken (and argued) with dozens of transmen about this; there is certainly an insecurity that they will always be confined to queer social and sexual circles as a result of being trans*. This insecurity is understandable in the context of straight-identified people typically conflating bodies with gender – which the trans* person does not want to feel rejected as a result of this. However, this insecurity, in practice, translates to sentiments of anti-queerness and a desire to consume and create submissive women in order to validate their masculinity. This form of masculinity seeks women that are also uncritical of their own gender and (sub)consciously participate in perpetuating the same patriarchal dynamics men privilege and that feminism is critical of.

I think this behavior in the trans male community is what radical feminism is very critical of – that these trans guys just want all the perks of male privilege. But the problem with that analysis is the assumption that male privilege CREATES transmaleness and not that maleness exists as its own category without expansion and redefinition and that female-bodied individuals can identify as a man. I think that this correlation with this particular dominating and oppressive behavior as manhood is internalized by many transmen and they perpetuate it in an attempt to assert the authenticity of their gender identity. I think this is where my friend is stuck – that queerness is hampering the authenticity of his gender identity because otherwise, what does it even mean to be a man in this society?

You do not have to be anti-woman to be a man (not so much personal beliefs and ideology but the actual practices of your manhood). This is why I believe that new forms and expressions of masculinity are crucial for men, and that men, both cis and trans, need to be very critical of what informs their masculinity and if their masculinity requires anti-woman behavior in order to be a “real” man.

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