Women are free to be human. In transitioning, I sought their freedom from constraints I could not bear, which crushed me. Trans men, however, transition the other way: they too are seeking freedom and not constraint. What is the blessing of each gender? How is each empowered, and free?
I feel free to feel and express emotion. It is still a struggle for me. I do not always know what I am feeling. I do not always tolerate it, so that it bursts out of me in difficult ways, in tears or movement. I feel more free to connect. I connected at the Greenbelt festival and the Yearly Meeting Gathering. I could express feeling heart to heart.
I still associate this with weakness. Clearly it is not weakness, but flexibility. It may be vulnerable, but only if I can be shamed about my feelings or expression: if the attack, the attempt to shame me, does not work, then it is clearly strength.
The constraint was there, shaming me into not expressing myself like I can now. And when someone says “trans women transition to get sexual arousal from fooling people into thinking they are women” it is merely ridiculous, and only has power over me insofar as the constraint remains, shaming me into denial and self-hatred, using my belief that I really am weak, sick, perverted, disgusting, ridiculous, deluded and misogynist.
And we can express ourselves among trans friends, and then we find ourselves out in the real world where we read condemnation even where there is none, we project onto others our own internalised transphobia, constraints, understanding of manhood and shame. Yet we carry on, we fight through this, and eventually, possibly years after going full time, we reach that goal of freedom of expression, and self-acceptance. We are not inadequate males. We are human beings.
Strange that strength should be thought the same as control, and that self-control meant not expressing feelings, and the only way not to express feeling for many of us is not consciously to feel feelings. My feelings, and ability to empathise, are beautiful. Do men lack this entirely? Do only high-status men have this ability, or do men need an underling before they can evince emotion, as a way of controlling or using the other? Could men’s groups like Male Journey permit emotion without violence or shame? Is it something men can gain as they age and grow in wisdom?
How can you see anything outside yourself, how perceive beauty or the true nature of another human being, without access to your feelings? And, how suppressed was my real self, that I undertook this transition in order to express it. I still know what I want- Freedom. I have not attained it yet. I have a particular feeling, now, and I find my reaction ridiculous. It can only hurt me. I need it to stop. The chance of hurt or embarrassment frightens me. Accepting and forgiving myself is ongoing difficulty.
I felt the need to write, I am not going to “toughen up” by rejecting my softness and vulnerability which are beautiful and essential. I will not deny my pain, fear, incomprehension, desire, longing, loneliness, misery,
and this shows I know the threat, the desire to toughen up in that way, even though I know that only leads to misery and chains; that I am working on this acceptance, and see my goal; that I still need to work on it.
Trans men also seek freedom. Their freedom is from being seen as weak, patronised and not taken seriously, used as sexual playthings, not treated as a full human being. They find themselves respected, as they pass better.
All people contain the needs and abilities arbitrarily ascribed to “feminine” and “masculine” people. The man has his anima, the woman her animus, the soul of the other, which needs expressed to be a fully rounded human being. I might express my inner man having become free to express my inner woman.