not all women

if there was a concise way to describe the #notallmen/#yesallwomen conversation, it is that women have to go through shit that men don’t go through, and when a man says that not all men are like that, he stops making the conversation about women, and starts making the conversation about him.

with that in mind, allow me to make this conversation about me.

i am currently for all practical purposes a white male, so i have the most demographic privilege a modern person can have. i aspire not only to be female, which would require a sacrifice of much of that privilege, but a transwoman, which sacrifices a large amount of the remaining privilege. i’ve had one experience with a dude getting too creepy while i was en femme, and that was relatively harmless. i suspect my luck wouldn’t continue.

for me, #yesallwomen is not about shutting up and listening to women’s experiences, nor is it about discussing my own experiences. it’s a terrifying future that someday i will have to face. i feel misplaced empathy with #notallmen, but that’s because i am scared and alienated. the unstoppable force inside me is on a collision course with the immovable object of society.

#yesallwomen is about highlighting what divides us, but the central friction in my life is that divide. the friction is that whenever a women’s issue comes up, i feel as if i’m on both sides, and neither. like i should be able to understand it, to represent it, to speak on it, but i cannot. that’s the misplaced empathy. there are those that understand, and those that can never understand, and then there’s us. what do i conclude? that i want to go out there and get some oppression under my belt? that the real way to foster sisterhood is to start suffering? that’s dumb. i’m all about self-love – there’s no such thing as being “trans enough,” but clinging to my privilege is more than enough to make me feel like i’m without a tribe.

being trans isn’t a choice, but pulling the trigger and transitioning is. so when i say i’m making this important topic about me, i really mean i’m making this about how the #yesallwomen conversation affects aspiring transwomen, because we’re invested in this conversation too. not in a “not all men are men!” way, though that’s the screaming impulse i have to suppress, but because we have to understand what we’re opting into. i’m certain that in the future i will have to throw off my security blanket and embark on a journey that is bound to be more personally fulfilling and self-affirming than anything i’ve ever done before. i will enjoy becoming what i’ve always known myself to be in pursuit of inner peace. but that requires an enormous amount of bravery – similar to the bravery that ladies need to have just to do ordinary shit. in the end the risk is worth the reward, and if millions of other ladies can find a way to live life without getting paralyzed by fear, well, i’m enough.

#notallwomen live with harassment, but that’s only because the reality of #yesallwomen is enough to push us back into the closet. and i guess that’s a kind of indirect harassment.

well maybe not all the way back into the closet, but I am definitely hiding under a coat.

pronouns

i wrote this in march after a piece about me in the windy city times came out

so i got a couple supportive messages about the article from yesterday, which is pretty cool. they made me happy. the pronoun question came up a couple of times.

i am thrilled that when you read about what has been the most difficult and personal struggle for me your first reaction was one of support. that is really great and you are really kind. but i am currently uncomfortable dictating how people talk to or about me.

it’s totally your right to choose your pronoun! you have the right to tell people “this is who i am, so treat me with respect.” and maybe someday on my journey i will arrive at a place where i can do that. but the most important thing to me is that i am still the same person that i am a week ago. that was kind of what i was trying to communicate in the interview, that i don’t have to change for everyone else, that i never saw myself as one gender or the other, that it’s not so much about where i am as about where the wind is blowing. as rote as it sounds, i am just being myself. i’m happy that you can see more of me, but i haven’t been secretly seething at anyone.

one of the things that simonis and i have gotten at in our work on gender policy in sport is that we are all the same person we were yesterday. setting some arbitrary line in a gender policy that says you’re eligible for this yesterday and that today takes your journey away from you. maybe being accepted by your peers is the first step of your journey, and maybe it’s the last. maybe the pronoun is the first thing you want to tackle. maybe it’s your wardrobe, maybe it’s hormones or surgery or your name or what your driver’s license says. there are a lot of steps i’m not ready to take. maybe there are some i’ll never take.

as important as the pronoun question is, mandating usage one way or the other is not a step i’m ready to take. i don’t think of myself as having or lacking a gender. that’s not part of my self-image. if you see me in one way or another, use the word that fits with that. if you don’t, use what comes naturally. i might change my mind down the road, but until that day comes, you have a free pass. to quote the great poet rupaul charles, “You can call me he. You can call me she. You can call me Regis and Kathie Lee; I don’t care! Just as long as you call me.”