Queer Issue 2012

Transgender Marriage

She Used to Be a Man and He Used to Be a Woman—and That's Just Fine, According to the Law

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Queer Issue 2012

Brad Anderson married his wife in a big church wedding while his conservative family looked on from the pews. By age 33, he was living in the suburbs of Seattle and had three children of his own—ages 6 to 9. Then his wife announced she was a lesbian. She was sure that it would cause a huge rift between them, but Brad extended his understanding: "I said, 'I totally get that. Wow. Let me tell you something I've never told you. I've always thought of myself as—and wanted to be—a woman.'"

Specifically, Brad always wanted to be a lesbian, too.

But without the surgery. "At the age of 33, I thought it was past the time," Brad recalls. "I also can't be a transsexual because I am attracted to women. I was a proud person, and I didn't want to be an object of derision." But at his wife's encouragement, Brad eventually decided to transition to womanhood, and they vowed to make their marriage work. "It was 1991 when we said, 'Let's do this.' So I shaved off my beard, figuratively and literally, and I finished my transition by the middle of 1993."

Even though they were both women—Brad was now Breanna, with blond locks and a wardrobe of dresses—they were still legally married in Washington State. They had become one of thousands of same-sex couples in the United States to achieve full marriage equality due to this unusual loophole that involves switching genders.

Then Breanna's mother-in-law filed a lawsuit asking the state to mandate grandparent visitation rights to the children and to nullify their marriage. After all, they couldn't have gotten married as two women, so how could they stay married as two women? A judge threw out the lawsuit, thankfully, so their matrimony was still legal. But for various reasons, their marriage fell apart within a couple years, and they divorced.

In 1995, while surfing a chatroom called "lesbos," Breanna met a woman named Ryan Blackhawke. "It was all lesbians," remembers Ryan, who was on the other end of the chat channel in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. "We started talking more and more." They made plans for Ryan to meet Breanna on a visit to Seattle. "It wasn't going to be serious. Well, that lasted for about a week before Breanna asked me to move in."

Breanna and Ryan dated for a dozen years. They couldn't marry, of course, since they were both women, but they had a life that looked a lot like marriage. They shared a split-level house in Kirkland. Ryan worked at Starbucks, and Breanna worked in tech. They acquired a cat, a Ford Explorer, and a Prius. They would welcome Breanna's three kids from the previous marriage to dinner like any other family. "We are very middle class," Breanna says. "We have a mortgage and three kids," Ryan says.

This domestic normalcy made them the ideal candidates to register as domestic partners in 2007, taking advantage of the new state law that extended many of the same rights as marriage (such as hospital visitation, sharing health insurance, rights to make funeral arrangements, and other romantic stuff). On the first day that couples were allowed to file their paperwork in Olympia, Breanna and Ryan stood in line to make history.

Breanna being a transgender woman, they were also active in the transgender community, and they were planning to attend a trans conference in town called Gender Odyssey. (It's an annual conference; the next one is August 2–5.) But Ryan was protesting going. Her objections grew irrationally, Ryan admits, until Breanna confronted her. Ryan remembers Breanna saying, "'Is there something else going on—do you think you might be trans?' I just lost it and said, 'I really think I am.' We talked about it every day for two weeks. Then we retreated into our corners to discuss what this meant for our relationship. It wasn't until 2008 that I said, 'Cowabunga, let's do this.' Even my boss was all excited and explained that Starbucks has a policy for this and began looking it up."

Once on testosterone, Ryan presented very much as a man, with a masculine swagger and a coarse black beard. Even before undergoing surgery, he says, "Emotionally, I felt accepted as a male in society."

He also retained the name Ryan—because why not?

In a strange inversion of Breanna's previous marriage to a lesbian, Breanna and Ryan were still registered with the state as domestic partners, as two women. They felt no particular need to change that status by signing a marriage certificate. However, they were eyeing the IRS's Flexible Spending Account program, which allows workers to set aside certain funds, tax-free, and essentially borrow from themselves. Specifically, they wanted to use the program to pay for Ryan's medical expenses. But due to the Defense of Marriage Act, which is federal law, same-sex couples in states that have domestic partnership laws or even same-sex-marriage laws still can't receive those federal benefits.

So Ryan and Breanna did what millions of committed, opposite-sex couples do: They got married.

"All it took was going into the Department of Licensing to change one letter on my driver's license," says Ryan. "Then all of a sudden, we can have all these rights that we didn't have before, while our friends are still locked out."

All this goes to point out the arbitrary nature of legal marriage, filled with so many loopholes that Breanna describes the law as "Swiss cheese." Transgender marriage, she points out, "underscores the completely subjective, irrational structures around marriage. The fact is, some people do change their gender in their lives, making us fall in and out of these legal classifications that have been fabricated."

At this point, Ryan and Breanna had been together for 15 years—first as girlfriends, then as legally partnered women, and now as man and wife. Their love even has the federal government's blessing.

Still, they aren't exactly embraced by everyone.

"We don't have real chummy relationships with our neighbors," Breanna says. "But then again, we haven't been firebombed, either."

The only obvious giveaway that their chromosomes don't reflect their gender is that Breanna is taller than most women and much taller than her husband.

"I don't think I normally have any problems," Breanna says. "I don't have some kind of illusion that my gender change is undetectable. And I didn't have facial feminization surgery." But sometimes people think Breanna is a man when she talks to them on the phone, she says. "And when people see me, they say, 'Sorry, ma'am.'"

They continue to live an intensely suburban life. "I know the cadence of life as a straight person because I was one," says Breanna. "We complete each other's sentences, he drops me off at work every morning, he ruins my lingerie."

That's right: Ryan, the man of the house, has a track record of destroying Breanna's bras in the dryer, even though Ryan used to be a woman. "I don't get to touch those anymore," he says. recommended

 

Comments (54) RSS

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1
You guys rock my socks off! -Naomi
Posted by naomi*nel on June 20, 2012 at 12:43 PM · Report this
2
Awesome sauce! <3
Posted by strandgeist on June 20, 2012 at 1:12 PM · Report this
3
Much love and gratitude to 2 very special and wonderful friends!
\(^.^)/
Nicki and Meg xx
Posted by Nicki on June 20, 2012 at 1:16 PM · Report this
4
Characterizing the law as "fabricated" is an absurd, self serving statement. The law is not perfect, never has been and never will be. But the law DOES serve the large portion of the population on very rational terms, the exceptional case described here notwithstanding. Opposite sex couples where BOTH the "man" and the "woman" are transgender must be exceptionally rare. Less than 1 in 1,000,000 is my guess.
Posted by Chris Curzon on June 20, 2012 at 4:01 PM · Report this
5
Characterizing the law as "fabricated" is an absurd, self serving statement. The law is not perfect, never has been and never will be. But the law does serve the large portion of the population on rational grounds, the unusual case described here notwithstanding. Opposite sex couples where both the man and the woman are transgender must be exceptionally rare. Less than 1 in 1,000,000 is my guess.
Posted by Chris Curzon on June 20, 2012 at 4:06 PM · Report this
6
Great article. Chris, it also covers cases where only one partner is transgender as well but that isn't really the point - leaving out one group because they happen to be same-sex seems a bit silly in light of what the law and even our great "partner" acts in this state allow.
Posted by Jenmoon on June 20, 2012 at 5:32 PM · Report this
7
Love the article. And yes, the law is Swiss cheese. Nicola and I remain married despite her transition because we were a heterosexual couple when we. Entered into matrimony. The law is indeed a ass and it needs to be rationalised.
Posted by Meg Cowie on June 20, 2012 at 11:09 PM · Report this
The Max 8
@5-6: It's such a simple argument that it makes me weep with frustration. The Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the 14th amendment of the Constitution grant all persons equal protection under the law. Therefore, all laws restricting the rights of two legally responsible adults of whatever gender from marrying for whatever reason are prima facia Unconstitutional and invalid. When one of us (or two of us) are having our legal rights trampled by illegal laws, all of us suffer.
Posted by The Max on June 21, 2012 at 8:07 AM · Report this
Kunst Frau 9
I fabricate items out of metal and wood. Humans in power put words together and fabricate laws and codes, build cities, institutions and religions. Marriage is a human-made construct. Marriage equality does no harm and it does do a lot of good, and it moves our egalitarian society forward.
Posted by Kunst Frau on June 21, 2012 at 9:22 AM · Report this
10
oh shoot. I didn't know I wasn't supposed to put those in the dryer...
Posted by subwlf on June 21, 2012 at 1:39 PM · Report this
11
I'm a very liberal type.

I don't care who you screw.

I don't care who you marry.

I don't care what body parts you cut off.

But don't mutilate yourself and expect me to call you a woman if you were born male (or vice-versa.)

Your chromosomes and your role in reproduction determine your gender. A knife and some hormones does not a female make.
Posted by David in Shoreline on June 21, 2012 at 3:10 PM · Report this
12
@11

Gender is way more complicated than that--gender roles (societally sanctioned, not 'natural'), expression and identity are all separate components. Not to mention several biological conditions that discredit your argument. It's none of your business what chromosomes or body parts someone does or doesn't have.

It is extremely shitty not to respect someone's identity.

F*** you sir.

Sincerely,

Science and Decency
Posted by muffin on June 21, 2012 at 6:16 PM · Report this
13
This article is full of unexamined transphobia.

For example, "The only obvious giveaway that their chromosomes don't reflect their gender is that Breanna is taller than most women and much taller than her husband." is unnecessary. Who gets to decide which chromosomes "reflect" which gender? Also, you're showcasing how normal they are, using their ability to pass as cisgender. A lot of us do not pass as cisgender. We are no less authentically our genders.

It's othering to call a marriage between trans people "transgender marriage." The marriage is just a marriage. The people are trans.

I am not going to commit the time to tell you every hurtful thing in this article. Delete most of what you have written here. Try again.
Posted by Oscar M http://oscarmcnary.wordpress.com/ on June 22, 2012 at 12:20 PM · Report this
CodyBolt 14
Awesome and poops to the neighbors that don't like them! I'm so glad that Breanna and Ryan have found love and happiness! :) :)
Posted by CodyBolt on June 22, 2012 at 4:55 PM · Report this
15
Really, Oscar M? You want to beat up on this article? While the language may not be perfectly vetted for maximum correctedness, it's a pro-trans article. How many pro-trans articles do you see in journals with a circulation of this size?

Yes, it's "othering" to call it "transgender marriage", just as it's "othering" to use the term "gay marriage" -- but that's the moment we're in. It's in that context that the term "transgender marriage" is being used.

Wouldn't you (and the rest of the world) be better off if you put your energy towards grappling with your enemies, rather than your allies?
Posted by bottsford on June 22, 2012 at 5:08 PM · Report this
16
@13 for fuck's sake. Accept genuine allies even if they can't manage to navigate your minefield.
Posted by beef rallard on June 22, 2012 at 5:10 PM · Report this
Andrew Cole 17
@11, what about people with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome?

Chromosomes don't infallibly indicate gender or sex. Life is complicated and crazy, and the labels that people create are, well, created by people! They don't have any meaning beyond what we assert.

Also I'm kind of curious what you get by your refusal to call transwomen women or transmen men. The soft glow of a job well done? What are you trying to accomplish, here?
Posted by Andrew Cole on June 22, 2012 at 5:15 PM · Report this
18
@11 Gender is as much of a social construct as it is a biological one. However...

Sometimes even the biological is a lot less binary than you'd seem to wish. I don't want to blow your schmucky little brain, but you should really go read this article. Chromosomes are not always the determinant factor in gender. Sexual development is complicated and depends on a bunch of genes besides those X and Y things.
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on June 22, 2012 at 5:21 PM · Report this
19
@11: What do you give a shit? Seriously, why take a hard-line stance on something that does not affect your life in the slightest?
Posted by Ben on June 22, 2012 at 5:24 PM · Report this
Hawke 20
For the sake of our neighbors, I'd just like to say that our neighborhood is just not one of those chummy neighborhoods where everyone knows everyone. They aren't assholes. We've always been treated with respect. Well, except for that one time the token wingnut neighbor down the street called the cops and claimed I hit his car in his driveway and drove off, making me prove that my truck had been parked in MY driveway for several hours. But besides that, we've never had a problem.

Also, my wife and I were happy with the positive coverage. We are also happy to be able to use our story to highlight the arbitrary and inconsistent marriage laws in the hopes that it will get everyone closer to marriage equality.
Posted by Hawke http://facebook.com/thehawke on June 22, 2012 at 5:34 PM · Report this
disintegrator 21
@11: You're kind of a dick, aren't you?

A liberal one, but still: Be honest about yourself.
Posted by disintegrator on June 22, 2012 at 5:36 PM · Report this
22
Thanks for sharing your story, Ryan and Breanna! It takes a lot to be happy in this world, so if you have found what works for you, then that is awesome.
Posted by MLM on June 22, 2012 at 6:00 PM · Report this
23
@11: Like you'd be able to tell the difference unless somebody tells you. Even liberals can be bigots.
Posted by suddenlyorcas on June 22, 2012 at 6:27 PM · Report this
Canadian Nurse 24
@20: Thanks for sharing your story! You two seem awesome. I wish you lived in my neighbourhood.
Posted by Canadian Nurse on June 22, 2012 at 6:43 PM · Report this
25
The "Swiss cheese" laws are one of the things I point out when I talk about marriage equality. I mean, how lucky am I that I was born in California, where it's been made even easier for me to change my birth certificate? I can marry my female-bodied partner fully and legally without any problems. Not that it should matter, but I guess if I'm looking for a silver lining in the wake of Prop 8, there it is.

But what about states like Texas? Had I been born there it wouldn't matter. I could have all the surgeries and shoot all of the testosterone and wear nothing but plaid and denim and be a lumberjack cowboy with the World's Most Glorious Beard and I would still legally be a woman. I would not be able to marry my partner. I couldn't be legally recognized as the person I am.

All because I could have been born a thousand miles to the east. How stupid is that?
Posted by FullofPop on June 22, 2012 at 8:15 PM · Report this
26
@25 "How stupid is that" indeed. A state border, a piece of paper, these are the things that can prevent people from marrying?

I'm grateful that we'll be able to marry, but it pisses me off that the only reason we can is because your gender identity and my legal gender are considered legally appropriate. What a petty thing for the law to use to decide people's rights.
Posted by Zuulabelle http://www.mellophant.com on June 22, 2012 at 8:23 PM · Report this
TVDinner 27
@20: I second Canadian Nurse! Thank you for sharing your wonderfully unusual story. Think of the closeted trans kid who picked up a copy of this week's Stranger and read about you two. That kid now knows of two more people like him or her, that he or she (or anywhere in between) can just be regular folk who work at Starbucks or in high tech, and have a split level in the 'burbs.

Keep on keepin' on, you two!
Posted by TVDinner http:// on June 22, 2012 at 10:21 PM · Report this
doloresdaphne 28
@19 re: @11. You ask @11 why he cares about something that doesn't affect him. I don't see how it affects a man, but as a woman, the annexing of the terms "woman" and now (according to this thread), even the word "female" to include people who were not born and raised as girls (vagina havers) DOES affect non trans people, specifically women (sorry, cis women).

It affects me, as a woman (sorry, cis woman), and as someone who belongs to a distinct class, that the only language I have ever had to describe me and my class (girl/woman/female) and in the struggle to liberate my class is being broadened (without my consent) to include a group who don't share this same experience.

I understand how being called a trans-woman as opposed to just a woman places a feeling of otherness on transwomen, but that doesn't change the fact that annexing girl/woman/female doesn't affect myself and other women (sorry, cis women) who are feminists who want to talk about our experience, and advocate for ourselves.

A trans-woman who is born with the exact chromosomes as me, who feels as female (or even more female) than me is still different if she is born with a penis and raised as a penis having citizen. She may experience misogyny, but it is not the same as a girl with a vagina experiencing misogyny. Her persectution may be greater or lesser than mine, but we are still different, whether you let me say it or not.

On one hand, I don't want to hurt the feelings of the trans-women, but on the other hand, I don't want me, and women like me erased from the english language either.
Posted by doloresdaphne on June 23, 2012 at 4:06 AM · Report this
douchus 29
#28

Selfish bitch.
Posted by douchus on June 23, 2012 at 4:32 AM · Report this
Jessica 30
@28: as a fellow cisgendered woman, you're not a special snowflake. Misogyny, patriarchy, and kyriarchy hurts everyone, cis or trans.
Posted by Jessica on June 23, 2012 at 9:23 AM · Report this
31
I am not on board with @11's aggressive attitude but, speaking as a liberal straight male, I often have trouble with gender pronouns for at least some of the male-to-female transgendered I meet because they don't seem remotely female to me. I'm not just talking about facial characteristics and muscle mass, it's also body language, clothes, posture, and speech patterns. If you don't carry yourself as a female, you will read as a male, regardless of what's been snipped. This can lead to subconscious negative reactions, sort of like uncanny valley with robotics/3d animation. I'm personally extremely hyper-vigilant about body language, so being in the presence of someone who is trans-and-bad-at-it is like someone is constantly scratching their nails on the chalkboard of my brain. I don't aggressively use "he" instead of "she", but I also find myself constructing sentences in ways to avoid having to use a gender-identifying pronoun at all.

On top of this, for me, I sometimes hang out in the burn community where cross-dressing is fairly common. Most of the burner guys in skirts class themselves as male, so transgendered women who suck at acting female then get sensitive about your use of the wrong pronoun are giant social land mines. Some transgendered folk are easy going about making mistakes like this, but others have a giant chip on their shoulder and want to pick a fight about it. Fun!

I bet that, in my life, I've met at least a couple male-to-female transgendered people that I had no clue about, and I've also met some others who I had a clue about but did a great job at coming off as a female and didn't tweak me in any the above-mentioned ways. But I also know that a significant portion of M-to-F people whom I've met may have taken hormones and had operations, but have not put in the time to learn to move properly.
More...
Posted by mirth on June 23, 2012 at 9:35 AM · Report this
32
@5: "Characterizing the law as "fabricated" is an absurd, self serving statement."

It's also entirely true, you ignorant twatwaffle.

Call the statement whatever you want, it's not going to make you any less wrong or stupid.
Posted by rule of law obsessives are so poorly educated on June 23, 2012 at 12:11 PM · Report this
33
Thank-you, @ 30. My thoughts exactly.
Posted by Maxine on June 23, 2012 at 12:42 PM · Report this
OutInBumF 34
Marriage is, has been and always will be an artificial construct designed to facilitate society's ends.
Thank you for deconstructing it with this article, Dominic. Nice job!
Posted by OutInBumF on June 23, 2012 at 2:44 PM · Report this
35
@28 While I can kind of, sort of understand where you're coming from, I don't agree with it at all. Yes, a woman who happens to be trans might not share some of the specific experiences you and I, as women who are cisgendered, had growing up, such as being hassled on the street by men more than twice your age at fourteen. However, in a broader sense, she's had the same experience of growing up and having her life adversely affected by the patriarchy/kyriarchy. And the misogyny present in society affects her in many of the same ways as it affects you and me--she, too, can't walk alone in a city at night without worrying for her safety.

@31 Personally, I am of the opinion that there is no right or wrong way for women to move or behave. You can't fail at your gender, however you happen to perform it. I'm cis and pretty straight-up fem--how I move is probably pretty close to what you think transwomen should be trying to emulate. That doesn't make me any more or less of a woman than a woman who looks or acts in ways that are more commonly associated with men, one who might be misgendered by strangers on the street.
Posted by TheRecklessRoute on June 23, 2012 at 4:17 PM · Report this
36
@35 Just to clarify, I don't think all women should move like they trained at a finishing school. I'm talking on a more subtle level. Ultra-feminine women, geeky tomboys, and butch leather dykes all read as "female" to me. That's not the case for me with a lot of transgendered women.

Physical features and muscle mass do play a role in this, but dissonance often also comes from clothing and movement choices that cys females wouldn't make. One example I've observed several times is when a trans woman wears a short skirt then sits and stands like they're in jeans. Cis women almost never do that - they are either fem and wear a skirt and stand 'right', or they're more of a tomboy and don't wear short skirts. That leads to my gut instinct of "that's a guy in a dress".
Posted by mirth on June 23, 2012 at 9:47 PM · Report this
Hawke 37
@36 then I suggest you fix your reader because it seems to be stuck on some fucked up measure of what a "real" woman should look like or move like. You may not like the way they move but that doesn't make them any less of a woman and they are due the respect of being able to identify however they see fit.
Posted by Hawke http://facebook.com/thehawke on June 23, 2012 at 9:56 PM · Report this
38
BTW: I'm the Breanna Anderson in the article...
@28: I'd like to believe that we could enter in to some kind of interesting and respectful dialog but based on my interactions with other 2nd wave feminists spouting such Raymondesque clichés, I rather doubt it. Most of all I want to challenge the idea that all women share the same essential experience of oppression or discrimination in the world; that a white heiress from New York has more in common in social experience with a poor black girl raised in New Orleans than she has with me, based on the shape of her genitals at birth. I think we can both get behind the proposition that the current systems of gender enforcement are tremendously oppressive and irrational. However, to assume that gender oppression trumps all other systems of privilege and oppression is absurd on its face.
Further, it strikes me that the essentialist claim you make to the label “woman” is directly equivalent to the claim and supporting argument made by hetro marriage essentialists: that there is some mysterious law of conservation of legitimacy that will take away the quality of your access to a symbol or concept if I am allowed the reality of my experience.
Your line of reasoning would legislate Me out of existence and banish me to some nether world of ungenderedness that I never wished to inhabit. I have always and only wanted to be and be recognized as a woman. The good news is that is now my reality.
Posted by glyphstone on June 23, 2012 at 10:05 PM · Report this
doloresdaphne 39
Hi Breanna,

I also want to see a respectful dialogue between trans activist and trans critical activists (those who are often described by trans-activists as transphobic). I’m not familiar with Raymond. I haven’t read her, but I’ve witnessed a lot of heated, disrespectful, at times pig headed, and sadly at times hateful mud slinging on both sides. I am not saying that there aren’t differences between non-trans women, but we non-trans women share something in common, that we were born with vaginas and raised as girls, and often go on to get pregnant (or fear becoming pregnant) and this is no small trifle. We have a word for us, as a group, and it’s female/ girl/ woman.

Just as black civil rights groups have banded together on one commonality (being of African American descent), there were no doubt people of different socio economic backgrounds, but they organised together because they had that one commonality, that one common oppression that they were committed to overthrowing together. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with saying that one commonality is important.

I agree that trans-women and non-trans women have much in common. I don’t dispute this. Of the trans-women I’ve met in the past, or read/watched in the online media, such as Kate Bernstein and Red Durkin, I’ve been surprised how smart, and often very supportive of the feminist struggle these women have been, and have seen them as allies, or potential allies, but that is all. We are different. We have many things in common, but I’m telling you as a woman who was born with a vagina, and raised as a girl, lived with a womb, and had pregnancy scares, that this is a massive difference, an important difference, and when trans-women try to say this difference is a triviality, it sets of my “colonization” alarm bells.

I can see why it would be tempting for you to try to draw a parallel with the defense of the words “female/girl/woman” with the “marriage is for a man and a woman” argument. I have already explained in my original post how the annexing of the words female/girl/woman by trans-women DO affect me directly. I know this doesn’t change the fact that by preserving the original definition for “female/girl/woman” that trans-women are left out in the cold, with nothing but “trans-woman/ trans-girl to define yourselves, and I feel bad about that. I don’t know what the solution is, but I’m just being honest here, because it does affect me. I don’t want trans-women to suffer, or be “legislated out of existence,” or “”banished to some nether world of ungenderedness.” But at the same time, I don’t want trans-women to find their place in society at my and other non-trans women’s expense.

The ferocity with which concerns such as mine are shot down is understandable, because I know transgenders are stuck between a rock and a hard place (male / female) but the emotion tends to dumb down the debate. As a feminist, I and other researchers and policy makers rely on statistics relating to income, workforce participation, education, violent crime, including domestic violence, numbers of female CEOs, women in politics, etc to do important work.

If trans-women who were raised as boys, and who transitioned in middle age (and most trans-women transition after the age of 30), then these are people that may have built their careers using male privilege (albeit that they were disadvantaged by not feeling male), and then they go and get a sex change, and the figures seem to indicate that the status of women is getting better, when really, it’s just that a portion of the women counted were raised as boys. It’s misleading, and has an impact on policies to change the status of women.

I would like to see a world where;

a) The census card has two boxes to tick, and asks for both born sex, and gender, (so a trans-woman can check male, then female)
b) ID cards also have the sex and gender details (not just one).
c) Transgenders are accepted in society, and don’t feel pressured to pass as being non-trans.
d) Trans-women are allies to non-trans women, but respect one another’s space/different experience and don’t try to colonise one another.

I’m still learning about this stuff, and I know you’ve thought about this (from the trans side of things) more than I have, so I’m open to having my view changed if you or anyone else has any compelling arguments. It does appear though, that you don’t care about the impact this has on women born women. You are advocating for trans-women, and I am advocating for women born women. There is a turf war going on, as far as I’m concerned. It is not women born women who polarized sex into a hierarchy, it is society. Trans-women have born the brunt of this polarization, and now they are asking, (or actually, more like, demanding) to take refuge with the women born women, because they have no where else to go. My heart goes out to trans-women, but I don’t’ think the onus is on me as a woman to let trans-women take shelter with me, just as I don’t consider myself obligated to let every homeless person live with me.
More...
Posted by doloresdaphne on June 23, 2012 at 11:30 PM · Report this
Just Blue 40
@39, it's absurd to imagine that being born with a vagina and raised as a woman creates a magical
commonality that trumps any other. As a lesbian, pregnancy scares aren't a part of my life. By your reasoning, I lack a crucial component of womanhood. I suppose I can't call myself a lesbian anymore.

If being raised as a girl is such a defining factor of womanhood, am I less a woman because I was raised a tomboy? Does it skim a few girl-points off my score sheet? Would a girl who transitioned very young be a woman by your standards?

By commenting on the male privilege women receive pre-transition, you seem to think that taking the brunt of misogyny defines womanhood. I'd rather not be defined by what I've suffered. Womanhood is a beautiful thing. To carve it out of such a crude, blunt tool is demeaning.

Besides, many trans-women I've known have faced far more misogyny than I. Because their parents,
classmates, peers, and bosses balked at their femininity, thought they "should" be male, more misogynist insults were hurled upon them than I ever experienced. There's no more hateful a caricature of womanhood than the one described when a bigot sees femininity where they don't feel it belongs.

You don't get much male-privilege when you are perceived as being insufficiently male. Instead, everything that defines you as a woman is a target of criticism and ridicule.

It appears to me you're intellectualizing an emotional argument. You're understandably frustrated and angry that men receive benefits you don't. But by refusing trans-people their right to identify as who they are, your indignation is seeping into envy. You imagine (in some cases rightly, in others not) that some women are receiving male-benefits you were denied. And so you punish them by refusing to accept them as they are. In doing so, you're adding to the deafening chorus of anti-trans bigots. It's tragic that some branches of feminism managed to find common ground with religious zealots and woman-haters.
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Posted by Just Blue on June 24, 2012 at 8:19 AM · Report this
41
-Gay men
If they live productive lives otherwise and don't tell people about their sexuality then they're fine by me, DADT should be applied to the rest of society

-gay women
Useless, since the only purpose of women is to be mothers and wives. Like gay men, they should remain closeted, but unlike gay men, they really can't be useful

-transexuals
Mentally ill individuals who should be cured if possible
Posted by Eric378 on June 24, 2012 at 8:39 AM · Report this
42
@39: I can't find the reference now, but there was a study once that followed transgendered people's incomes before and after transition. It found that male-to-female transsexuals made, on average, lower incomes post-transition; but female-to-male transsexuals made higher incomes. This suggests that gender discrimination has more to do with how someone presents currently than with which genitals they happened to have when they grew up.

Anecdotally, I've heard of at least one MTF lawyer who, after transitioning, found discrimination against women in the legal field to be so strong that they chose to practice as male and live as female.

This tends to lead me to believe that, while transwomen have a unique experience in how they got to womanhood, their interests are pretty strongly aligned with cis women. I don't deny that men generally tend to receive beneficial treatment in society; but the thing is, no one checks your penis at the door. You get that treatment by ACTING MALE, and most transwomen were bad at that from a very early age.

You seem to feel strongly that there should be some kind of "real woman" and "woman-with-an-asterisk" division, as a way of defending womanhood. I suppose that doesn't surprise me, because I see the same from men -- there's a strong cultural idea that we have to defend "real men" from "feminized men" that act in non-traditional ways. To me it just sounds like a defense of the status quo, however. I'm sure that sounds good if the status quo is working for you, but there's a lot of people it doesn't work for.

Full disclosure: I am a veteran of basically the same situation this article describes. I had a wonderful domestic partnership with a guy that eventually became a wonderful marriage to a woman. A lot of people seem to find this confusing, but to me it seems obvious; she's still the same person, except that she's much happier and more comfortable in her own skin.
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Posted by Orv on June 25, 2012 at 12:47 PM · Report this
More, I Say! 43
@39 everything @40 says is right, but I'd like to add that I think you are gravely overestimating the effect that trans-women have on the interpretation of census data, because this trans population is of such a small percentage that I promise it's really not skewing data so far as to make people think womankind is doing better than it is, or some such ridiculousness.

I don't define myself as a woman due to my vagina, my experiences with misogyny, or any of your other utterly arbitrary requirements.
Posted by More, I Say! on June 25, 2012 at 1:25 PM · Report this
44
@39, transwomen are, statistically, incredibly un- and under-employed and un- and under-housed(go look at the National Center for Transgender Equality's study, "Injustice at Every Turn"), and incredibly subject to violence (go look at the Transgender Day of Remembrance website and look at the list of names and how they encountered the violence that killed them). If you, as a self-identified feminist, can't give some kind of shelter in your movement to people experiencing that type of very specific, targeted discrimination, then I'm going to turn in my goddamn Women's Studies degree, because I want no part of that back-turning.

Also, it's "transgender people." Not "transgenders." It is an adjective, not a noun.
Posted by ciswoman who can use google on June 25, 2012 at 11:22 PM · Report this
45
Breanna, your arrogance is hard to understand. Ask my MTF 13-year-old what kind of male privilege she received.
Posted by kerala on June 26, 2012 at 1:57 PM · Report this
46
@28,39: What about cis women who were born with reproductive defects and will never be able to get pregnant? Does their lack of experience with pregnancy scares also make them "not really women" in your eyes?
Posted by efnord on June 26, 2012 at 2:10 PM · Report this
47
@46
You have misidentified who is claiming that MTF people were raised in the cozy bosom of male privilege. It is not Breanna, it is doloresdaphne.
Posted by BakerB on June 26, 2012 at 2:44 PM · Report this
ScrawnyKayaker 48
@42 I'd like to meet that lawyer's hairstylist!

(OK, bad joke, you're not a replicant.)
Posted by ScrawnyKayaker on June 26, 2012 at 4:24 PM · Report this
49
@39 There just aren't enough transwomen to skew the statistics one way or another. Due to my profession and my choices of social circles, I suspect I encounter a whole hell of a lot more transfolk than the average straight cis dude. And even then, while I've encountered thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) of ciswomen in my life, I don't think that I've encountered more than a hundred transfolk. They just aren't common enough to create a detectable effect on whole population statistics.

And as others have pointed out, transwomen are not only generally less well off after transition than they were before, they are also in general less well-off than ciswomen. If they have any detectable effect on whole population statistics at all, it's in the downward direction.
Posted by rocketgeek on June 26, 2012 at 4:25 PM · Report this
Just Blue 50
Neat to see my comment re-posted on Slog. There were already more than enough strong points made regarding the possibility of statistical skewing, but I can't help but add one more: even if such skewing existed, it would be the statistician's job to account for it. It's ridiculous and crushingly callous to ask people to change their self-identity because it might make the math harder.
Posted by Just Blue on June 26, 2012 at 9:25 PM · Report this
doloresdaphne 51
@ everyone who has responded to my comments. I just want to say thanks for staying civil, and offering well thought out responses to my concerns rather than simply telling me I'm a transphobic bigot for questioning these things. I probably wouldn't have the balls to raise these questions in person.

Like I said, I'm open to having my perspectives changed on all of this, and I'm still learning about it. I've read and heard more about this debate from the radical feminist side of things, (I'm not a radical feminist, but I find some of their arguments interesting), and now I'm trying to get a better understanding from the trans activist side of things. I'll address the above comments shortly, once I've had a chance to digest them all.

I'm sorry if some of my questions are offensive to some people, but if I can't ask these questions anonymously on the internet, where can I ask them?

Disclaimer: I live in a small city, with a small trans community. My only experience with transwomen has been in my travels to bigger cities such as Seattle.
Posted by doloresdaphne on June 27, 2012 at 4:44 PM · Report this
52
@50: Really, all that it requires of statisticians is paying attention to asking the right questions. The only thing that changes is the assumption that "woman = born female = two X chromosomes." If you're, say, studying color blindness (which is genetically carried on the Y chromosome) you probably want to ask "do you have a Y chromosome," not "are you male or female."
Posted by Orv on June 27, 2012 at 5:28 PM · Report this
53
@36: Sorry to break it to you, but we do not exist for your approval. Your observations may be true for you in some cases and you may be off the mark in others. So what? That goes for women of all types and paths. Men too often believe that their approval or disapproval has some bearing on the worth of women.

@39: My identity is not up for negotiation. I don’t mean to come off as masculine/aggressive or anything but it’s just not. Would you consider yours to be? So here I wash up on your beach, having burnt my boat and broken my pots, at last dry foot in the Promised Land. But hapless, I’m round up by the boarder milita: “Ha we caught you, you scoundrel! I see you’ve come to colonize us. Well none of that. Off to the fenced enclosure with you…“

I am a Woman. That is my primary gender identity. Trans is how I got here. I have many identities as do we all. We are all intersectional. Being Trans can be hard and it is a choice to some degree whether to endure the unknowns and challenges of Becoming vs. the pain of staying “tight in the bud”. I am so very proud and happy to be a Woman and I am proud of my journey and of those who share it with me. And I am also so proud to be a citizen of this adopted place and to be so beautifully embraced, figuratively and literally by other women who acknowledge and affirm our common bond. But I have known all along that not everyone likes immigrants.

I am a Feminist! Kate Bornstein, a friend of mine, is not an ally; she is a full throated feminist and educates so eloquently and effectively about the many overlapping layers of oppression and subjugation that people face.

Transgender people are now believed to be about 1:300 of the population, so about 1 or 2 in 600 people will be openly trans feminine to some degree. Transgender people transition at all ages and all stages of career development. Very many that I know have had their professional careers crushed due to discrimination as a result of that transition. If you wish to be educated, please read the executive summary of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey here: http://www.thetaskforce.org/reports_and_…
It is a well design, implemented and vetted piece of research. Its conclusions align well with the local survey that I and others did in 2006-7 that show that Transgender Women and Men statistically suffer tremendous economic and social disadvantage, particularly compounded for people of color. Coming out as Trans is not a good career move. Trans Women are not budging the needle on the labor statistics except perhaps to drag it down a bit.

I was going to go on …. And on… but I think I’ll give it a rest.
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Posted by glyphstone on June 27, 2012 at 10:04 PM · Report this
54
I am glade thing worked out for her.
For I can speak for other mtf transsexual who have had trouble with the law and marriage.
I had my srs surgery 13 years ago
For the state that I live in, I was not allow to change my birth certificate for it still has the male on it.
But I and female. It is fine if I want to marry a woman and be legal document but not if I want to marry a man.
Please let us live who we are with out being judgmental, as for me I am a lesbian and proud of it.
TJ
Posted by tg1961 on December 8, 2013 at 3:06 PM · Report this

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