A funny thing

May 22, 2012 § 11 Comments

And by ‘funny’ I mean, well…upsetting, perplexing, frustrating, ridiculous. I’ve touched on it a little before.


Despite, or perhaps because of, the androgyny – and certainly because of the whiteness and thinness and non-visable disabilities – I know that I’m often considered beautiful by mainstream standards of beauty. I don’t know it so much in myself (thanks, terrible, terrible bullying) – but I know it from what others tell me.


And I know that, in the eyes of so many of the cis people who tell me, it utterly repudiates my being trans. And it is funny, that again and again I’m told that I’m beautiful – by people who won’t use ‘they’, and won’t accept that I’m anything but a woman – because I’m beautiful and therefore a woman, and a woman, and therefore beautiful. One aspect of my physical being is highlighted – my face, perhaps, or, again, being white and thin and able-bodied – and the other aspects of my physical being are ignored, dismissed. Easier to disregard the evidence of your own eyes, and only see what you’re comfortable seeing.


What does it say about the way cis society has vilified and othered trans people, that being trans and being beautiful are seen as mutually exclusive?


§ 11 Responses to A funny thing

  • alexkingsley says:

    The muggles are a funny lot. They simply can’t see what’s in front of their noses. It must be so hard for them to suffer with such a disability, but I simply don’t know what can be done to help them.

  • Someone says:

    Alas that this is so. I must confess however that you are attractive as you are, trans and all. Were you not a regular performer on the stage I tech (wherein I must maintain professional relationships) I might have long since tried to court you – unsuccessfully, as you’re out of my league – under whatever pronouns you felt like. This is all what-ifs, however, and I am content to have a friend with considerable brains.

  • See Chloe Sevigny’s response to wearing a prosthetic penis for her current acting role and then gushing in the media about how undesirable it made her feel to suddenly look exactly the same but for an entirely superficially different set of genitals.

  • rainylain says:

    Furthermore, “you’re beautiful” is frequently used as a means to argue against someone transitioning (medically, chemically, socially, or otherwise), because with this false dichotomy, someone doing so would lose their aesthetic value to the observer. This is something I see happen more with trans guys who start transition, unsuprisingly, but nevertheless, it is further evidence for how narrow-minded many people’s thinking can be.

    • cnlester says:

      I also think it’s linked to the ‘deceptive, evil, beautiful seductress’ trope imposed on trans women. ‘She tricked me with her beauty, I never knew she was trans!’ – well, maybe that’s because your idea of being trans doesn’t include the idea of being beautiful and that, as we know, is wrong wrong wrong wrong.

      • Esha says:

        I think there’s another element, which is the terms in which women have been valued historically. Women are often given the message ‘You are only valued in terms of your beauty.’ The assumption follows that if you happen to be rich in this currency, you’re wasting what you’ve got if you attempt to function in any other way than that of ‘beautiful woman’, even if (or especially if) you remain beautiful to the beholder.

  • Tam says:

    Marginalization of trans is insidious and unfortunately acceptable. The more we call it out the better. Otherwise things won’t change for the better.

  • D says:

    Classical beauty is a funny thing though. I often have a prejudice that classically beautiful people are not interesting, intelligent or talented. Had I passed you in the street I would have regarded you as “classically beautiful” and of no further interest to me and I do realise that that is a prejudice that is really unfair on people who are stuck with classically beautiful features!

    It was only when I heard your music and read your thoughts here that you became truly beautiful so perhaps I have a warped idea of what beauty is.

    The issue of the feminine aspects of you being very attractive is an interesting one. As a straight man, I am attracted to the feminine and that is usually associated with a female gender identity but not always. Having spent a lot of time personally and professionally with transgendered people, I must confess that I found myself far more attracted to your feminine aspects than I was used to. I can only imagine how deeply insulting it is to you for people to transfer their personal responses to your attractiveness into trying to impose a gender identity on you but I suspect that a lot of straight men would find that difficult.

    I feel sorry for people who have to see the world in such binary terms (although I think I have some understanding of it) and if only more straight people could recognise that they are drawn emotionally or sexually to either the feminine or masculine aspects of someone who chooses to identify their gender entirely on their own terms, then perhaps the world would be a more tolerant understanding place.

    • cnlester says:

      Again, I think this flags up something very interesting – the ways in which trans people’s physical selves might be at odds with who they are, and how hard that can be for a potential partner.

      For myself – I wish I looked as androgynous as I felt, but there’s not much more I can do to get there. For me the element holding me back from being able to institute changes to appear less feminine is my vocation, but for others it could be health, money, family, work, societal and cultural oppression – a host of difference and interlocking reasons.

      What happens, then, when an element of someone that causes them dysphoria is also an element that others find attractive? What kind of dynamic does that create? How much does it come back to a validation of the physical over the emotional/mental and, therefore, a tacit validation of the physical system of categorisation that causes so many trans people so much anguish?

      Which is all a little beside the point 😉 What I mainly wanted to discuss here is not whether people see me as ‘a woman’ – but that the stereotype of trans people as ‘ugly’, ‘failed’ cis people is so deeply engrained that some cis people absolutely refuse to accept that someone they believe to be attractive could possibly be trans.

  • Alex says:

    I think some people just have difficulty with seeing past stereotypes in general – one ridiculous one is cropped hair on a woman=lesbian – a friend of mine got her hair cropped really short and kept getting asked in all seriousness by people who actually knew that she was married to a man, whether she had “turned lesbian”.

    For some reason the word ‘beautiful’ has strong feminine connotations. Is there any word you would prefer, which eloquently expresses physical attractiveness but doesn’t imply gender? Or do you, like I do, prefer people not to refer to your physicality at all, even as a compliment?

  • This just flagged up on a wordpress search I did, and I am very glad I found it. This point is so valid, thank you for addressing this in such a way. Until I began to transition I was very rarely called beautiful, but now I am transitioning but present in a more androgynous sense I am immediately ‘beautiful’ and in words I will quote ‘you are so pretty now you look happy in girlie clothing’ and such things like oh you make such a beautiful woman why not match that with clothing. I know this is not exactly what you have spoken about but it is my underlying relation and I feel cross that I appear only to seem beautiful to those who now feel they can appreciate me as a woman even though I am not. Why can I not be seen as beautiful and trans at the same time? Or handsome and beautiful? Being GQ I am either read as female or told I must be a trans guy, in a romantic/flirtatious/sexual sense I am only ever beautiful or handsome when assumed that I am presenting as the genders those words commonly connote and it makes me so angry that I am not appreciated in these fields for who I actually am. Anyhow I feel that as a person you are both beautiful, handsome both inside and out, as a whole; alongside a collection of words that could perfectly describe you as only who you are not what society assumes. I take this from having had the pleasure of meeting you. (Now that sounds terribly weird I do apologise it was not meant to come out in such way I am just terrible with words etc as is probably very apparent) Now I’ll end this before I make even more of a prat of myself!

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