I’ve said before that I don’t usually write in the first flush of anger – I prefer to let it simmer down and reduce into something luscious and thick and punchy. But right now I am very, very angry – and it’s not new, but it’s been stoked up fresh today, and there’s nothing for it but to write it down.
I am so sick and tired of trans bodies being seen through the lens of cissexism, in all its forms, that I could break something – many things. Two news items today that managed to tick every box in the othering, the judging, of trans bodies and the individuals who inhabit them. First, a seemingly well-intentioned but still infuriating piece in The Advocate – My Attraction to Trans People is not a Fetish - a claim I would have taken more seriously if the author hadn’t used such fetishistic terms for trans people, nor recycled so many of the usual tropes about trans bodies. The second – a heartbreaking story about a Belgian trans man who applied for and received euthanasia – titillatingly retold by news agency after news agency. Here’s a typical example - ‘failed’ surgery (‘botched’ has frequently been used) – and nothing to contradict the tragic claim from an abused and depressed man that he was ‘a monster’.
Ask yourself – the last time you read about trans bodies in a piece written by a cis person, did it contain any of these assertions/hints as to these beliefs? Or have you encountered them in everyday life – because god knows it happens to me all the time:
- That trans bodies are ‘mutilated’ cis bodies – even when it’s couched in the politest of terms. Both as a threat/plea against physical transition (“but you’re so lovely as you are/it would be such a waste”) and as an attack against those who’ve been through all kinds of medical transition. I’m not going to write out the things frequently said about trans genitals – they’re just too hateful to be on this blog.
- That trans bodies are ‘failed’ cis bodies – ‘well done old boy, but not quite cricket’. Poor old things. Not quite up to scratch. Done their best. Best you can hope for. What a shame.
- That trans bodies are so different…so sexy…so exotic. Yes. All trans bodies. Because we’re all alike, and we all have a mixture of differently societally gendered bodily attributes (but only in a way attractive to cis people! otherwise fail!) which make us special and exciting. Even if you ‘can’t tell by looking’ we give off a magical aura that no cis person has.
- That trans bodies are so different…and terrifying…and help, dystopian nightmare! Franken-something and something-bot. Freaks! All of us! Run away!
Not all cis people do this, not by a long shot. And it’s not that I don’t want a person attracted to me to also be attracted to my body – for better or worse it’s the one I’m stuck with – I’d done my best with it and I want to be desired and found beautiful as much as the next person.
But my body is not a metaphor or entry into a crypto-category of fetish object. No other person has the right to write over it, or depersonalize it – try to dissect it or approach it in a way that negates the intellect that drives it. It’s not a prop, or a bogeyman, or a sex toy – I will not have read back to me what a cis person does or does not find acceptable about the physical embodiment of my self, regardless of the actual self in question.
There are cis people who steal our bodies away from ourselves – through gatekeeping, through cultural pressure, through ‘humour’ and abuse and pity and scorn. We need to take them back.