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Inadequacy and Affirmation

Hello! I’m an amab transwoman, and I recently opened up to a few friends regarding it, and it feels good to have someone know! But, as good as it feels, I still worry and feel inadequate, especially when I compare myself to what seems to be everyone else’s idea of what a transwoman looks like or how she should be. I’m not incredibly masculine, but I have facial and body hair that I just plain don’t feel like dealing with sometimes, and a lot of my clothes read masculine. I’m not curvy in the slightest, and my shoulders and chest are way too broad. I feel a gross contrast between my appearance and what I feel should be my appearance. I want people to know that I’m female upon seeing me, but I feel like, even with changing my appearance in a conceivable way (clothes, makeup, et cetera), people aren’t going to recognize my identity.

First of all: congratulations! That’s such a huge deal and it’s really awesome that you’re in a place where you could do that.

Really disappointing answer: not everyone is going to recognize and validate your gender the way you deserve. Such is life in a shitty cis-normative/cis-centric culture. The satisfaction and comfort you’re going to find will be from Q communities, from understandings you build and conversations you have with your friends, from agency you dig out of yourself every time you affirm your identity as a woman on your own terms. I’m not going to give you platitudes of “don’t care what other people think!!!” because it’s not that easy, and we both know that. Trans women are getting a hell of a lot more visibility right now, and that’s beginning to change the conversation of gender in dominant narratives, but there’s still a lot of focus on the body and physicality (something Laverne Cox has complained about with regards to the objectification of trans women) and that doesn’t put us in a great place to have our emotional needs satisfied by people who aren’t super involved in queer discussions. A lot of people will recognize your identity and affirm your womanhood, and there are a lot of people who won’t. That sucks and I wish it wasn’t something I felt I needed to say. Of the people who don’t treat you the way you deserve and need to be treated, some will change! Some will educate themselves and reevaluate the way in which they interact with gender. But others, others whose brains are wrapped in layers of transphobia, homophobia, misogyny, and hate, might not. It’s not easy to cast their opinions aside. It’s infinitely easier to ruminate on the people in your life who deal you nothing but negativity. That said, I don’t think it’s going to be hard to convince you that doing so won’t be healthy, satisfying, or productive. So let yourself build community with people who do affirm your identity, and when you have the emotional stamina, work with the people in your life whose support matters to you.

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In this video Janet Mock calls out the bullshit that is “passing”; you don’t pass as a woman, you are a woman.

I hate the term passing, and if you watch the video linked in the photo caption, you’ll get an idea as to why. But. I am without a better phrase. “Passing” is really fuckin’ hard. It is expensive and stressful and requires so much time and energy… and it isn’t necessarily pay off! The way that you can gender yourself to the world is infinite, from using certain deodorants to hairstyles to color palettes, etc. It’s not any one way, and if you focus on the women you see around you, it’s easy to see that despite whatever stereotypes and standards we hold dear, there’s no one way to be a woman. Don’t hold yourself to a standard that isn’t mandatory, is harmful, is unrealistic and is not even really adhered to by cis women. Call people out when they question your authenticity as a woman because it’s misogynistic drivel and you deserve better. Try to not let people away with inflicting emotional violence on you — and let your friends stand by your side. There’s not one thing you can do to be the “right” kind of trans woman because that… doesn’t exist. Find power in the ways in which you have been able to become comfortable with identifying yourself that way, because that’s amazing. I hope this helps. I know that I’m not exactly known for giving concrete, step-by-step advice, but ideally something in this mess of words will help in some way.

Good luck, so much love to you, and again, congratulations on telling some of your friends.

Oly