Male privilege – how to be a male feminist

For Christmas we took some family pictures with me and my brothers posing together. I’m the oldest one, but yet the smallest. This is for future reference; we decided to do another photo-shoot next year and speculated on whether or not I’d be having a beard by then. Probably not. But I may have just started on testosterone and if I keep up my good work at the gym, other changes are to expect.

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I think I pass rather well on these pictures. Even if none of us are that much of a looker, we sure look very much alike! Many friends have mentioned since my last post that they don’t think of me as a girl or woman any more and have no trouble with my name or pronoun. So, only six months in to openly transitioning, I mostly pass as a guy.

Due to that, I’ve been reminded on how passing brings new responsibilities and interpretations of my actions. Brave friends point out to me what sometimes happens if I’m not careful with what I do or how I express myself. Remember you’ve got male privileges now, they say. Watch how you use them, they say. All of a sudden things got more complex.

As we live in a patriarchal society my obligations as a feminist (transgender-)man differ from those I’ve had earlier when I was perceived as a woman. My job is to figure out what to do and start doing it ASAP. There are lots of feminist blogs on how to be a better feminist man or what not to do.

That said, I feel that it is slightly different to have “changed sides” from being a disadvantaged female feminist to being a definitely more privileged (transgender) male feminist. So I tried to write a list of my own, over the things I’ve been reminded of and currently are working on.

How to be a good feminist (transgender) man:

  • Shut up and listen. Really, really listen. It is not possible to over-listen to someone. As a man you’ll have more time to talk and others will back you up more than you are used to. Remember to balance that privilege by practising actively and attentively  listening to others to equally empower them.
  • Some safe-spaces are not for you any more. Remember to respect that others have more need of them than you. You might even be making important safe havens unsafe without knowing or meaning it.
  • Watch how you gender others and how you reproduce norms around gender. The patriarchy and binary gender system sucks, but you are in on it to and you are responsible for how you deal with it.
  • When misogynist injustice strikes and you are watching it, remember that it is not your fight at a person level any more. As a man you are in the other end, now you have to work from there. On a structural level you are responsible, not the victim.
  • You are generally not entitled to express yourself as a representative of the female gender any more. It may seem unfair as you haven’t had all of your male privilege-packages delivered yet, but just suck it up and go and hate the binary gender system somewhere you can do it without making others suffer for it.
  • If you offer help for someone gendered female, due to the norm of heterosexuality and the influence of traditional gender roles it may seem like you are trying to be all heroic only to impress the ladies or make yourself look good. It is hard to be a gentleman without diminishing others. Sometimes it is best to wait and see if someone asks for your help.
  • Don’t stay silent when you see sexism in action. That includes rape jokes, slut-shaming, fat-shaming and skinny shaming. You are a feminist ally now. Be the guy who doesn’t let other guys talk shit about women behind their backs. Be the guy who never lets a “she was asking for it” stand.
  • Just because you “used to be a girl” you cannot possibly know what every girl or woman out there have experienced – don’t mansplain things, it is so diminishing.

I expect to learn more and to be able to expand my list later on, but this will have to do for today.

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Transgender Day of Rememberance

Today it is the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

TDoR occurs annually on 20th of November. It is a day to memorialise those who have been killed as a result of transphobia, to protest against the oppression, fear and hatred of transgender and intergenderd people. Transgender Europe’s Trans Murder Monitoring project has registrated 238 cases of murders of trans people, just in the last 12 months…

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Home made candlelights.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance was founded in 1998 to memorialise the murder of Rita Hester, by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, herself a trans woman. Since then TDoR has been held annually, slowly grown and evolved from the web-based project started by Smith into an international day of action.

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I’m reading up the names of transgenderd people who have died during this year, because of who they were.

I took part in and helped organize a TDoR memorial today in the central square of Uppsala where I live. We lit candles in beautiful home made candlelights in the colours of the pride– and transgender flags and we handed out flyers to by-passers.

There where speeches and a ceremonial reading of some of the names of trans people who have been victims of violence and hate crime, just because of being who they where. We wanted to give them faces, so we had portraits of them placed around the square among the candles. I’m glad so many came, stopped by, listened and participated in the memorial today. Thank you all for making it such a beautiful ceremony!

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A busy evening in the middle of the city, yet we had a silent minute for those we’ve lost to hate and violence.

This day I also want to remember the brave ones that have gone down the road I’m on before me, all in your own way. I owe you so much! Some of you have fought for my right to be able to change my name to a male one, others for me to not have to go trough major surgery that makes me infertile, just because I want medical help to transition.

Some of you have had to keep your names and faces secret to the world while blogging about your transgender journey, in sadly justified fear of discrimination or hate crime. But with your activism, your actions and writings you have made it possible for me to not have be so secretive about myself. I have a choice. That is the greatest gift, the freedom to be oneself, without fear or shame. You have helped opening up the worlds eyes to trans issues, and you’ve made my world larger and lighter. You know who you are, thank you.

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“Stop violence against trans people”

Transgender Day of Remembrance is almost over when I write this, bit it is never to late to make a difference. If you also want to do something, I’ve got a suggestion. Do something fun that also is a way to help change the world to better place – check out these three small independent queer games! A close friend of mine tipped me off on them and wrote a short article about them here. Important, interesting and educational!

Manichi – Play it and test how to adapt in different ways to avoid social punishment.

Negative Space – Experience to explore what it can be like when gender roles are too limited.

Dys4ia – About the physical transitioning process that some transgender people are going through.

/ E.

Everyday things I do to transition

Sometimes you hear frustrated trans people who are pre-diagnose, pre-surgery or pre-hormone treatment saying that they are “pre-everything”. Some say that they are “early in their transitioning” or that they haven’t even started transitioning yet. I don’t feel like that. Even if I’m currently pre-everything mentioned above, I’m not pre-everything. I like to think that I’m in charge of my transitioning, not any team of doctors and psychiatrists I might meet in the future.

Sure, I’m waiting to get in contact with the special trans care-team, but it is more empowering to think of the things I can do for myself every day. I feel that my transitioning is an active process that started long before I was even aware of it, years ago. I’m now post decision, post name-choosing, post coming out. Everyday I actively do lots and lots of things related to trans. Almost every aspect of daily life is somehow influenced of my transitioning and in this post I will go in to a few of them.

Meeting my reflection in the mirror is a transitioning experience every time as it has to do with my self image, how I build gender. I can also see many of the little things I do to make myself more androgynous.

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Is today a boxer, binder and packer day or not?

I transition when I get dressed in the morning. What I’ll wear is based on two questions; how comfortable verses how representative for myself do I want to be today? That settles if I’ll wear my binder or a sports bra or neither. Then; am I going to change clothes in the girls locker room at the gym later that day? In that case, no boxers and no packing, that’d be to embarrassing.

Every shirt I buy, I have to alter a bit before I can wear it. Nowadays men’s shirts fit just fine over my shoulders but the sleeves always needs shortening. I also have to shorten the bottom hem or else the shirt will be to long and to narrow over my hips. It took me a while, but now I feel that I’ve really gotten the hang of how to adjust men’s clothing to my size without making them look feminine.

After dressing I’ll have breakfast. Back when I was a “she”, I’d have spent >20 minutes in the bathroom first, doing all sorts of stuff to tidy myself up, like braiding my hair, picking eyebrows, going through a serous skin care routine and putting on make up. Now, I just wash off and go for a less tidy look. 😉

When it comes to food, I try to stuff in as much as I can manage in order to get good result out of my intense training routine. I want to gain muscle weight, but I have trouble eating enough to make that happen. Therefore I drink full milk instead of the less fat one I used to prefer. I have extra meals when I can and always gainer after training. For breakfast I try to eat a large portion of porridge rather than a few sandwiches as before. The texture of the porridge is absolutely disgusting and I really, really hate it. But because of the texture I can spoon in more of it before I feel full.

That brings me to health issues. Being trans affects how I feel about myself and how much energy I have (there is a lot of work with the transitioning stuff, that is what this post is about). I eat a few health supplements for supporting my training and I’m cutting down on some medications in order to gain weight and grow. I do what I do with my doctors support but every time I talk to him or anyone in the health care system, there is a huge gender confusion from their side. They simply can’t get it straight.

In school or among other people I watch my voice so that I keep the pitch down as much as I can. After all, I’m studying to be a speech and language pathologist – voice matters to us! I also try to monitor my way of speaking and behaving so that I make sure not to take to much or to little place in conversation. I’ve noticed that people tend to give more room to me now. They ask for my opinions and listen in a different way to me when I use a more masculine model of speech. That is a male privilege, if you ever saw one. I don’t want to take advantage of that on someone’s expense if I can help it. Also, to some extent I try to monitor how others speak to or about me. Sometimes people who don’t know me to well need to be informed on what’d be the right pronoun.

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My phone makes me uneasy.

Suddenly, sometime during the day, my cell phone rings. I always freeze for a second when it happens. Every time. I’m not comfortable speaking in the phone any more. I have a male name and a distinctive female voice. When my only mean of communicating, (my voice, language or way of speech) is deceiving me in how I want to be gendered, I feel uncertain and uneasy.

Is it a relative calling, someone that I haven’t come out to yet in person, someone that’s worried about talking to me or unsure of how to adress me? How am I to make this person feel more at ease? Is it a stranger calling? Is it some bureaucratic issue regarding my gender where I’ll be held responsible for a missunderstanding or for being “missleading” in some way? Am I going to have to come out as trans or do some awkward explaining about my name or voice or pronoun now? Is a conflict or insult coming up when I take the call? Usually, everything is fine. But this panic reaction just keep coming.

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I work out at the least four times a weak. That is eight visits to the locker room were I feel unwelcome and frowned upon .

After school I either meet up with friends, go to work or to the gym. The two later activity’s usually means confronting issues of taking or not taking conflict abut my gender identity. When having to choose gender/locker room, that is a conflict to me, I don’t feel welcome in neither.

And on work, well, I work with mentally disabled grown ups that have no idea about non normative gender expressions and identity issues. I started to work there before I came out as transgender and I have only outed myself to my boss. That went well but later she seemed to sort of accidentally have happened to slip information about it to my co workers. I feel that it is to much for me to educate both clients and co workers on the matter and because of that also to much to ask for to have them using the right name and pronoun. That is somewhat depressing to say the least and I consider changing workplace so that I don’t have to waste energy on constantly holding myself back.

But I’m very lucky when it comes to how my family, friends and close relations have handled my coming out as transgender. I’m so proud of my parents! They have been more supportive and understanding than I ever had hoped for, even if much of what I’m going through is new to them. My friends have also turned out to be genuine super allys and I feel truly blessed to have such a strong network. ❤ Thank you all.