Passing Privilege

CN: Rape Mention

For most trans women, “passing” refers to the ability to be perceived and treated by strangers as a cis woman. This can be determined by any number of things, including physical traits, gender expression, vocal pitch/tone, sexuality, and more.

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Hate the Sin, Hate the Sinner

CN: Religious Abuse, Queer-Antagonist Slurs, Violence, Sexual Assault, Self-Destructive Behavior, Disordered Eating, Suicide

Long before I knew I was queer I only knew I was “different”. But not the praise-worthy kind of different. This was the kind of different that had adults muttering and whispering behind raised eyebrows. I learned euphemisms like “creative”, “artistic”, “chatty” and “expressive” were not compliments in rural Arkansas, they were warning signs. Warning signs of what, exactly? I had no clue, but I knew from their expressions and hushed tones it was serious. Before I knew what I was, before I knew there were others like me, one word I used most often to think of myself was Freak.

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“You Don’t Look Trans”

Dear Cis Women,

If a trans woman trusts you enough to self-disclose, don’t say “You don’t look trans!” That’s not a compliment, it’s an insult to our trans sisters who apparently don’t meet with your approval.

Actually, we *do* look like trans women! Because we are trans women and this is what we look like. There is nothing wrong about looking like a trans woman unless you believe cis women to be superior. I’m sorry transmisogynist media has given you a very narrow idea of who we are, and I can understand that and try to be patient because it’s something even trans women have to unlearn. But rest assured, we’re just as varied in appearance as you are.

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Just Like You

Nearly five decades ago, the modern queer rights movement exploded from the grief and anger of the most marginalized members of our community: queer people of color, trans women, sex workers, and other people starved for justice took to the streets. Arrests were resisted, fires were lit, cops were assaulted, and our mothers refused to back down. The revolution had finally come and straights were going to have to put up with our shit for once.

People who weren’t there got inspired. They threw open their closets and forced the world to realize we were far more numerous than previously believed. Slowly it dawned on them that we were not some faceless and malicious boogie man, but their children and their neighbors and their co-workers. We weren’t scary, we were just like them!

As it turned out, only some of us weren’t scary.

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CN: Toxic media, transmisogyny, violence against women, suicide

I first learned about girls like me by watching an episode of Jerry Springer entitled, “My Girlfriend is Really a Man!” I might have been ten-years-old.

I saw the host introduce flamboyant women who the audience immediately booed. I heard the women try to explain themselves, but get interrupted too frequently to communicate anything. I watched in horror as their boyfriends’ reacted with more violence than I had ever witnessed between two real people on television. Never on daytime television had I actually witnessed a man punching and beating another women. But I did that day. And the audience cheered him on.

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Lesson Two: Vocabulary

Good afternoon class. Now that you’ve all had a chance to look over the syllabus, I’d like to set down a solid foundation of the non-oppressive language we will be using throughout the semester.

For some of you, these words will be familiar but the definitions may be slightly different. For others, this list will look like a foreign language. It does not matter to me what level of experience you already have in transfeminism discussions, for the purposes of this class we are all going to start from the beginning so there will be no confusion or misunderstanding.

A side note, many of your required reading will use slightly different language or definitions. I ask you to remember that language is an ever-evolving aspect of communication for all groups, not just trans women. If at any point during your reading you become confused or would like clarification, please do not hesitate to ask me for assistance. The last thing I want is for something as petty as word choice to get in the way of fighting transmisogyny.

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“Closets are for clothes, not people,” is a common battle cry of the queer rights movement. But many fail to appreciate the ways clothes can be used to trap us or free us.

Like it or not, humans make assumptions about other humans based on their bodies and the articles used to cover those bodies. As much as I genuinely believe clothes should not have gender attached to them, I also know I project a very different message to the world as a 28-year-old woman wearing jeans and flannel than I did when I was a 17-year-old kid wearing jeans and flannel.

Many people fail to realize (because they’ve never had to think about it) how much about our gender and sexuality we communicate through our clothing. And even fewer people realize how much others rely on our body and clothes to interpret clues about our gender and sexuality. This is why the same outfit on two different bodies can be interpreted in wildly different ways depending on their skin tone, haircut, fat distribution, size, height, and many other uncontrollable factors. And why even the same clothes worn at different points in our lives can communicate drastically different things.

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