My first post marking the International Day Against HOmophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) dealt with homophobia. Today in my second post for HAHAT I’m talking transphobia. There’s prizes to be got, so make sure to read on!
I want to start with an image shared by the Facebook group Have A Gay Day.
An incredible pair of photographs, I’m sure you’ll agree, of a person beautiful inside and out. Images like this always put a big stupid grin on my face. Why? Mostly I think because what we see in pictures like this is a person coming into themselves; being proud of who they are and how they look; perhaps being genuinely, bone-deep happy with their physical appearance for the first time.
Read the comments on that video, of a three year MtF transition. What people notice most of all is how her expression changes; how much happier she appears at the end than at the beginning. Transition is the right word.
But then we get people like this:
People petty enough to report that first photo I showed simply because it made them uncomfortable. Because they’re so caught up in the binary of male and female that they cannot conceive of someone else wanting to challenge that. But what they illustrate is only their own absurdity. Their argument is that HAGD posted a picture of ‘nude female breasts’ (in the male photo).
But their argument gets even pettier; talking about chromosomes and ovaries and birth certificates. I don’t recall ever interviewing anyone about their internal organs or DNA prior to deciding if I believed they were male or female. Generally I’m shallow enough to go by looks, and whatever someone tells me is taken as gospel. You can look like Rachel Hunter but if you want me to consider you male then I will.
Why? Because it’s none of my damn business.
It doesn’t affect me how the people around me identify. My happiness is not dependent on forcing others to conform to abstract gender binaries. I am comfortable enough in my own skin to let others be whoever they want to be in theirs. I want others to be as relaxed as I am.
I was lucky, I grew up with parents relaxed enough to let me cut my hair and dress however I wanted. Up until the age of ten or eleven I was mistaken for a boy by every stranger I met. Indeed, it was usually when I announced that I was really a girl that my family got pitying looks. As it happened I never identified as male; I was just rather a butch little tomboy. I’m convinced, however, that formative experience served me well as I grew up. Although I’m unmistakably female I don’t strictly conform to any gender stereotypes. As I tried to explain to some friends recently, I’m just…me. And call me an idealistic fool, but I quite like the idea of living in a world where people are free to be whoever they are without fearing censure.
But that little troll’s comments rather put me in mind of a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago, which I thought I’d reproduce again here. Consider it food for thought.
What Makes a Man?
Seems a simple question, doesn’t it? But just pause and really think about it for a minute. Here are the main things that people will say define being a man:
- Short hair; a deep voice; penchant for trousers; obsession with sport; emotional impotence etc etc. None of these things, of course, make someone male. They are stereotypical characteristics, but they are ultimately shared by both sexes.
- His testicles. Tell that to the many, many men who’ve had theirs removed when they turned cancerous.
- His penis. Tell that to the poor sod who lost his in a terrible car accident; or military conflict; or – in one memorable case I remember from the papers – a domestic dispute gone waaaaaaay out of control. Does the absence of that one organ really mean he’s not a man anymore? Would you still think so if that man was your son?
- Testosterone. That strange little chemical that makes men angry and hairy. The problem is that we all have testosterone in our systems, the only difference is how much. And there is no line dividing the extent of T. that makes one a man or a woman. Some men have less than some women.
Now we find ourselves in strange territory. Do manners maketh the man, or the way he wears his hat? It is not the biological ability to have children, nor the box that is ticked on his birth certificate. A man does not necessarily desire women or enjoy violence; he is not necessarily able to grow a beard.That leaves us only with the subjective: I think I am a man, therefore I am. While I believe this is true, that doesn’t mean we can’t recognise a man when we see one. We don’t have to know him, or know how he feels, to know that he’s a man.
There is no answer to the question I’m posing, I just think it’s an interesting point. My sister studied biology at university and even she eventually told me to stop asking her to answer it, as even at cellular level there is no hard-and-fast answer. Not that we are considering the cellular or microscopic when we pass someone in the street. Maleness – as opposed to masculinity – is more essential than most people think. It is at once everything and nothing; it is the sum of all parts but cannot be traced down to one single identifier. Pick a man apart and you are left with a collection of meaningless symbols and organs. Add them all together and you still might not have a man.
To show our appreciation, all those involved in the hop are offering LGBT-related prizes. I’m offering a signed copy of my novel What He Wants to one winner, plus one e-copy of any book in my backlist to five runners up. The first prize winner will also have a £50 donation made to the Albert Kennedy Trust in their name. That donation will provide three nights’ accommodation, bedding, toiletries, food and travel allowance to one homeless LGBT youth. It is an excellent charity, and I urge you to check them out.
All you have to do to enter is comment on this post or check out Rafflecopter to enter by sharing or tweeting a link.
Don’t forget to check out the other bloggers who are also participating by clicking on the link below!