A quote from a piece I wrote today about the shaming of men who desire and date trans women, and how this stigma only further demeans trans women.
Yes, this is a direct response to the commentary following the foolishness surrounding hip hop DJ Mister Cee.
On Socialization Arguments against Trans people
So, earlier today, in a relatively short period of time, I watched someone unironically use the argument that trans women are not women because they were socialized as men, and that as such, they cannot ever be anything other than men.
They also applied it to trans men, indirectly.
Specifically, these were the uses of the concept:
You cannot transition out of your socialization, just like you cant transition into male privilege.
Your socialization dictates that what you say goes, men dominate, and push their way into female spaces.
Now, most trans folk tend to fall for these arguments. They are, for the most part, still dealing with a lot of the internalized shame and stigma that is hurled at them, and this is a fairly common, very old argument that presupposes, at its core, that one cannot change because of their socialization.
Indeed, in the second example, that’s even made explicit.
Now here’s the problem:
A woman said those things. Well, actually, I say a woman because she claims to be a woman, but as I’ve seen no evidence of it, I’m merely giving her the basic dignity to which she is entitled by respecting that claim of hers — and I’ll note I’m doing so despite being called a man, white, and a few others choice things, all of which are false.
Which I realize is a bit of a derail from the point, but is one of those little jabs that I occasionally have to get in with a bit of glee.
In any case, as a woman, she was socialized as a woman. She was socialized that if I am a man, she is supposed to shut the hell up and not argue with me. She was socialized to not make waves, to be more interested in finding a good man than living a life that is her own construction. She was socialized to see her job as being a woman and as being a mother, and she was socialized to look for the prince.
Yet here she is not doing those things.
Here she is actively defying the very socialization that she is saying that one cannot defy.
In feminist discourse, what she’s arguing is that Structure (in this case, patriarchy) is so powerful that it overrides the ability of a trans person to have Agency, while she, in turn, retains that Agency for herself and is able to actively use it to resist the power of Structure.
WHen I pointed this out to her earlier, I was informed of several falsehoods by her and another person about myself, which essentially amounted to them deciding for me what my state of being is — that is, not affording me the basic core precept of dignity, and, instead, acting in a manner that is directly oppressive and that seeks to decide, for me, regardless of any other reality outside their own narrow viewpoint, that I am what they say I am.
Now, forgive me, but I’m trying really hard to think of a time when someone else gets to decide for you what you are that doesn’t involve violating your human rights.
I’m sure if I think on it long enough I’ll come up with a really complicated case.
This, however, isn’t it.
When you see radfems, in specific, using that argument, remember that they are, themselves, going against the very socialization that they are speaking about, and if they can go against, then there has to be some other reason for someone else not be able to do so, unless, of course, they are trying to police the lives of other people.
When you see conservatives doing it, remind them that socialization means they wouldn’t be speaking out themselves, because we in america are socialized to hold up as heroes those who undergo the arduous task of self empowerment and become whole persons — we hold people who rise the fullness of their potential as architects of the future.
It probably won’t work, but it gives you a head start.
In any case, here’s the simple truth: the way people are socialized does have an impact on how they live their lives and it does influence their decisions and their experiences. It doesn’t make those decisions for you, and it cannot stop you from being yourself if you are strong enough — if you have the personal Agency enough — to defy it.
The act of Transition — an act that trans people have to undertake against tremendous odds and that typically has enormous personal, emotional, and spiritual costs — is an act of Agency, an effort that, in and of itself, is absolutely concomitant with the act of overcoming the very socialization that they speak of.
In practice, I point out that transition is only about 10 to 20% physical. And that part takes time — a lot of time, really, but most folks with means concentrate on the first three years or so.
The rest of it, and the part that is the hardest, is the social part, and a major reason that it is so damned hard is stuff like this spcialization argument, and the real, measurable tangible harm that comes from being told you are not a woman, you are not a man, you just have a mental illness and related aggressive, violent statements made for the express purpose of causing emotional and mental harm to another person.
The person who said those things is a serial abuser. Abuse was their response to me when I pointed out the problem — which isn’t hard to figure out, really, given that it is about the least feminist statement one can make — and abuse is what they hurl at other trans people.
I’m sharing this so that the next time you see someone use the socialization argument against anyone, you can point out to them the core flaw there: they are part of the same system that socializes themselves.
You’ll call Ben Haggerty “Macklemore” and Stefani Germanotta “Lady Gaga”, but you won’t call Chelsea Manning “Chelsea Manning”, because that’s just too weird I guess.
"cis" is not a slur
"cis" is not an insult
"cis" is an incredibly important word that eliminates the "otherness" of trans* identities, and makes cisgender identities less of a default