Trans Men and Ciscentric Male Privilege
September 3, 2008
This is a sketch to be added to Beyond Inclusion. It doesn’t actually have sources cited, isn’t polished, etc, which it will be before joining the essay, but in case y’all want to read it now:
but this is a sketch of something I want to insert into Beyond Inclusion re: male privilege:
Ultimately, the definition of male privilege that non- trans woman feminists are working off of is hopelessly ciscentric. Does it make any sense to say that trans women “have” male privilege because we didn’t experience certain aspects of sexism that cis women experience, or did not experience it as intensely, without also saying that cis women “have” male privilege because they don’t experience certain aspects of sexism that we do, or not as intensely?
…some trans men exploit this ciscentric understanding of “male privilege” to their benefit, claiming they lack male privilege because they don’t have as much gender privilege as a cis man. [quote from Trans/forming Feminisms article, possibly also Jamison Green? should find more examples] But by comparing himself only to cis men and (sometimes) to cis women, ___ erases and naturalizes the oppression of trans women. If we think about male privilege in a trans context, it becomes fairly easy to see that trans men do, in fact, have male privilege even if they don’t pass. Because while a trans man may no longer be treated like a cis man or seen as such if he doesn’t pass or is outed, may no longer be welcome in the boys club, it should be clear that a transsexual man who fails to pass as a cissexual man is still taken more seriously than a transsexual woman who fails to pass as a cissexual woman, still internalizes some male privilege in the form of messaging about being a man or woman [Bob Barres quote re: surviving sexism in the sciences], is at less risk of violence, is more likely to be able to pass as an acceptably gendered person, is at significantly less risk for ridicule and fetishization [quote Serano], etc etc. If we say that he does not have male privilege, how do we explain these advantages other than by saying that he deserves them?
Furthermore, it’s important to note that this kind of trans-man-favoring ciscentric definition is made possible in part through workings of trans misogyny, and in part the actions of trans men themselves. …maintaining “transmasculine” only space (read: trans male spectrum and masculine, crowdaggers and femme female-assigned trans people not welcome) has prevented trans women from being able to hold trans men accountable; (de facto or de jure) trans-woman-exclusive “woman and trans” and “queer/trans” spaces have meant that trans female spectrum folks have been unable to call out the dynamics of trans misogyny within many feminist and trans-activist communities. By rigidly separating trans people on the basis of assigned sex, trans men have created a situation where trans people of various genders cannot easily come together and share our experiences, and where young, feminist trans women have few-to-no queer community spaces that are truly accessible and comfortable for them… if this sounds accusatory and is inaccurate, remember that that is made possible by and through the segregation of trans women–which trans men and cis women are both complicit in–which allows for those errors to go uncorrected.
(insert somewhere: Serano’s extremely mild call-out of trans men in her alternet piece written off as male bashing, attacking, going to far, etc; sexism and lack of accountability, trans men used to lack of accountability for their complicity…)