Gender essentialism

You are either a man or a woman. Between the two there is a great gulf fixed. This matters to me when my friend insists I am a man. There is a package, of all the things which make you a “trans woman”- which bits matter to me? How much of that is social pressure and internalised self-phobia, and how much, well, essential?

There is social pressure. A trans woman is accepted in a way transvestites are not, despite the work of Grayson Perry and Eddie Izzard. We are legally protected, they are not- well, I thought so until I looked again at the  Equality Act 2010 s.7. I am unclear what “other” attributes could be meant.

I use a female name, dress in women’s clothes rather than feminine or flamboyant men’s clothes, and have breasts and a vagina. Where does the continuing desire to be like this come from? I understand androgynous people, mostly AFAB, have greater difficulty, so do I want to pass as binary because of social pressure or because of an innate Real Me?

I feel that if I do things from my Real Me, my organismic self, I have integrity, I am more free and truthful, though of course I am a social animal and epigenetics shows that nurture in some way creates nature. I am hyper-feminine, and that is Real and beautiful: but should it govern the name I use?

I feel desire to use my name, and revulsion at the thought of using my former name. I would experience it as crushing. I am glad to have breasts. I felt such happiness when the vaginoplasty was recommended, and such revulsion at the thought of the loss of a toe, that I feel this is Who I Am, not merely a response to social pressure.

After the Essence Process, it no longer matters to me when people call me or refer to me as a man. I experience this as liberation: people could hurt me, and they cannot in that way any more. I feel that it is a change in me, that now I am sure of my own femininity so do not need reinforcement from others; and that when others challenge my femininity, it does not raise painful echoes in me. In the same way, being able to present myself in different ways could also be liberating. I want to use my baritone rather than counter-tenor voice because the deep one is stronger with a better range and holds the note better. I want to develop both.

It matters what I think, not others. Being called “particularly masculine” really hurt. Now it does not. Possibly, my other desires come from my fear of rejection and my judgement of myself as wrong- internalised self-phobia- rather than from reality. I am not saying that they are wrongful desires, but that not having the desire, not caring one way or the other, would give me more options, make me more free.

Here is a third Cranach Melancholy, with subtle differences from André’s book.

Cranach Melancholia

From another perspective:

Patriarchy has created an ideal woman, a person exactly how the dominant males would want women to be. However, no woman could be like that, surely: it is repulsive, a simulacrum rather than a living breathing human, any woman wanting that would be in servile self-abnegation, distorted by the culture, needing her consciousness raised. Any free human being wants autonomy, self-determination and equality.

No woman is “feminine” in that way, so these feminine men, “trans women”, M-T are completely confusing. They are the shock troops of patriarchy, enforcing false consciousness on women. They are the enemy.

13 thoughts on “Gender essentialism

  1. The fact that any of it is a problem for anyone is ridiculous. We accept that everyone is different with a unique range of characteristics, desires and thoughts, yet there can be these irrational reactions to self expression. We change our bodies in myriad ways through our lives based on our exercise choices, our food intake, our illnesses, cutting hair, cutting nails, remove organs we don’t need, give people legs, veins, breasts from plastic and other bits of our bodies. Who’s to claim someone else should do it all differently?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not just our bodies, but ourselves. We express ourselves differently in different society, and hold parts back because they feel unacceptable- initially, unacceptable to others: the Shadow. And some experience this as Oppression, crushing them and stymieing them. They respond to oppression. We would be better, if we were freer. I like to think we get freer, that those in their twenties are not nearly as neurotic as I am, though I fear for children under a Tory regime. Schools are getting more unpleasant places.


  2. I really appreciate you taking the time and effort to tell you story.
    This is really helping me to be able to grasp and understand a family member and what they are going thru.
    Truly don’t know how I stumbled here..since I wasn’t searching for info…
    But it has, is, and will continue to open up doors to more understanding for me …while also building a bridge for commmunication.
    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Welcome, Renee, and thank you for commenting and following.

      I do this for me. I am exploring myself to seek understanding, and I wanted witnesses to anchor that in reality; I want to understand other perspectives; and also I passionately desire for it to be useful to others. I am very glad you find it helpful. Your family member’s experience will be subtly or greatly different, but the parallels will bring us together.


  3. As a woman I have never liked the feminine but always seen it as so driven by political and cultural ideas. Now as an older woman and more sure of who I am and want to be but I feel for many of the younger ones and not really sure how much progress may have occurred. Your honesty and insight is very inspiring.


    • As a Man
      As a-
      even after transitioning
      I have been in frightened denial of my hyper-femininity.
      All you can be is yourself.

      I met a woman who was naturally very feminine and had been forced into a particularly masculine role, running a market stall to support her family. Now, she was letting the drive that had made her succeed at that gently lower, and blossoming as feminine.


      • Agree and feeling more of being yourself can mean different things at different times. I can identify with being possibly pushed into a mixed role as a single parent. Breadwinner and homemaker. But although in work I had to manage or Iead a department I think I had a sense of all being of equal worth. I may at times have been criticised for not being ‘bossy’. But I was most of the time able to be myself at home and work. It seems to me it’s good to explore different aspects of our being.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Hey Clare, How you been?:)
    I loved this post but you lost me on the last paragraph,
    “No woman is “feminine” in that way, so these feminine men, “trans women”, M-T are completely confusing. They are the shock troops of patriarchy, enforcing false consciousness on women. They are the enemy.”
    Who is M-T and what exactly are they doing that has you so upset?


    • The last two paragraphs are a completely different perspective.

      “M-T” is an elegant expression of an idea I find horrible, that we do not transition “Male to Female”, “M-F”, but “Male to Trans”. It erases us as women.

      It is my attempt to understand what a woman, not naturally feminine but feeling judgments and pressures from society to be so, might think of my femininity. I don’t agree, but I attempt empathy. They do not say that because they are merely haters.

      Liked by 1 person

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