What the fuck is this?
Here I go, arguing with people who are more important than me and really wouldn’t care what I thought even if they saw this…
A trans writer and editor who writes about trans issues for the Independent wrote a piece that is so unbelievably wrong-headed that I’m having trouble determining if it’s satire or not. Because… um.
“Male-to-female transgender people rely on props like clothes, shoes, make-up and hairstyles to create the gender identity they want to portray to the world because most of the time their bodies alone are unable to do that. There are a few lucky ones who don’t have to do a thing to put across a female persona, but most trans women have to work hard at it.
The danger for trans women is that if wearing what are traditionally women’s clothes becomes the norm for men too, then trans women will no longer be able to rely on these props to help them display a female gender identity – and for many, that could be a serious problem.”
Okay, first of all, if “wearing a dress is the only way I can tell the world I’m female” is your biggest trans problem, I fucking envy you. But I’m also really exhausted with the notion that the only trans people who exist or matter are trans women. So, my first response was honestly the least helpful, but here goes:
Oh, fuck off. As a trans man who is always wearing masculine-coded clothing, most of which comes from the dude’s section, join the crowd. I sometimes “pass” (regardless of if I bind my breasts, which is interesting) but that has literally nothing to do with clothing and everything to do with male pattern balding and six years of testosterone. Because, it turns out, the “masculine” clothing is coded as “mostly unisex” or “more powerful” so people don’t expect ONLY MEN to wear them.
There’s literally no way in which my clothing signals “actually male,” because feminism has at least done a decent job of letting women choose between feminine clothing or more masculine options. Hooray.
Also, I am trans? But I’m trans male? But I also would be fine cross-dressing now that I’ve divorced clothing from my gender ID? SO if I am trans, but not female, but might want to wear a dress, but don’t necessarily ID as a crossdresser am I or am I not harming trans people? This feels like one of those obnoxious logic puzzles.
MORE IMPORTANTLY, however:
There is literally no way in which “cis men might wear feminine clothing, ruining the gender-specific nature of that gender uniform” is a bad thing for the majority of trans women.
Let’s imagine that this somehow manages to usher in a world in which cis men merrily wear feminine clothing without feeling the need to violently defend their fragile masculinity.
That could mean…
Trans women who are not out yet could experiment with wearing more traditionally feminine clothing without necessarily being outed for doing so.
Children assigned male at birth would be more free to experiment with how they want to present themselves to the rest of the world.
Trans women who don’t “pass” would be physically safer in public.
Maybe it would push us more in the direction of “the body parts that are or are not underneath said clothing are 100% none of your fucking business.”
Fewer transmisogynist jokes that center around what different genders are allowed to wear.
I could go on.
“But trans people should be aware that well-known faces like Jaden Smith are starting to encroach on our territory. They’re starting to wear the trans uniform without actually stating that they are transgender, and they’re claiming it for themselves under the guise of gender-neutral fashion. All of which begs the question: where does that leave us?”
Much better off in almost every way.
That said, I do want to address “encroaching” because there are legitimate concerns that come out of that arena. I admit it concerns me, too, since I still see a ton of fiction about trans/non-binary people primarily written or created by cis people, and I have that gut worry that there’s something of a creative gold-rush going on with our stories to be used and then discarded once we’re boring again.
Encroaching on transgender territory is doing things like, making sure that the only people who play trans men are cis women, and the only people who play trans women are cis men. Encroaching is doing things like making an entire film about a trans woman and not bothering to pay the trans consultants.
That linked piece is basically a discussion of how some aspects of trans-ness are worth money now, so capitalism is merrily mining that for all it’s worth. No surprise there, same shit, different minority.
A cynical side-eye at a major brand and a celebrity joining forces to mess with the gender binary is not out of line. But…
The other thing about getting pissy about people who have not declared themselves to be trans dressing in ways we identify with trans people is that it’s relying on making the exact assumptions we have been fighting against.
- Not all trans people are, can be, or want to be out. Period. This is the biggest problem I have with the notion that trans experiences are being co-opted, because in a lot of cases, we’re just assuming that the person we’re talking about is cis and has never questioned things. If someone is trans and feels like that is a private part of their history or identity, then it’s none of your god-damned business.
- Jesus fucking hell, don’t police other people’s gender identities just to shore up your own. I mean, seriously? This is the huge problem that gets in the way of trans people being respected. Cis people don’t like hearing that gender is fluid, that gender doesn’t match what is assigned at birth in all cases, because the question then becomes “how do I prove that I’M a man/woman?”
- Trans people shouldn’t be the only people who get to experiment with their gender and how they’d like to be perceived. I am all for normalizing the notion of gender fluidity, and people actually thinking about their genders, rather than just going with what they’ve been told unless it’s too painful to do so.
- THERE IS NO FUCKING TRANS UNIFORM.
- If there IS, and it’s somehow “amab wearing feminine clothing,” wow, you just defined me and a ton of others right out of our trans identities, thanks.
- Excuse you, there are people with genderqueer and non-binary identities who DO NOT also identify as transgender, and they should not be required to do so just to meet the necessary qualifications to put on a dress sometimes.
- Nobody should be required by their perceived gender to act out any version of the gender binary. Ever.
The tl;dr takeaway is: No, it’s NOT harmful to trans people for “I think that person looks like a man in a dress” to be socially OK and NOT an incitement to attack the person in question.
Most likely all that will come of this are some pretty pictures of Jaden Smith and a smattering of “wow this is so great for humanity” and “this is the destruction of civilization” articles. Louis Vuitton will sell some more overpriced designer goods that most trans people can’t even think about affording.
(Hopefully some teens get some drool material out of the photo shoot, too. Somewhere out there is a 15 year old who wants to see fancy photos of a cute boy in a dress, and I hope nobody gets on their case when they pin them on their walls.)
But if, for some reason, this is the start of a revolution in which feminine clothing is no-longer seen as “only for women, those terrifying and inexplicable creatures” hey, I welcome it.
And yeah, I’m still chafing a bit at yet another article about trans people that starts and ends with the assumption that the only trans people who matter are trans women who pass.