Note: Some of the ways that I look at this topic have changed a little bit since I originally wrote this on my blogger -- I may eventually revisit it but right now, I'm just not in the mental space where I desire to do so. Still, it's one of, in my opinion, my better posts so I'm reposting it in here. I have made small edits or clarifications before posting this, however.
This post is, essentially, going to be a transcription of a [thread] from my [twitter] -- with some alterations/clarifications and some expansion done, along with some context added. note: in the original thread I said transmasc and transfem/transfemme but after further thought on it, I don't think those are the correct terms to use in this discussion and will be using trans men/trans women.
Context: Lately, on twitter (and also on Tumblr), there's been a lot of discussion as to whether or not trans men have male privilege -- personally, I think the whole privileged vs not privileged discussion really falls apart when it comes to things like sexuality, gender and disability but I'm not going to get into that in this post, maybe some time later -- and the (in my opinion, correct) assertion that trans men do not experience male privilege, is often met with the counter argument that the person making that assertion is implying that trans women do have male privilege and thus, that the person saying trans men don't have male privilege is a transmisogynist.
I want to make it incredibly clear before I get into this: I do not believe that trans women have male privilege or are "socialized male" in any sense. I also do not believe that trans men are "socialized female". I think that, while trans people may sometimes have things in common with both cis members of their true gender and cis members of their AGAB in regards to upbringing, I believe that trans people have trans childhoods and that we have more in common with other trans people than any cis people.
an additional disclaimer: this post focuses primarily on binary trans experiences because while I am a genderqueer trans man, I'm still a trans man and a lot of these arguments seem to either come down to "AMAB/TMA and AFAB/TME people are opposites" or they ignore nonbinary people entirely. Though, I honestly feel like treating nonbinary as "opposite" to binary transness/gender instead of being an umbrella which contains a multitude of different genders (including no gender!) reinforces what I will describe below.
Okay, with that out of the way, let's get to the thread "transcription".
Trans men and trans women aren't opposites. We aren't mirrors or "different sides of the same coin". The idea that trans men and trans women are "complete opposites" or have opposite/conflicting experiences is rooted in patriarchy and bio-essentialism. Which is to say, rooted in the patriarchal, bio-essential value that men and women as categories are opposites. Even more so, acting like trans men and trans women inherently have oppositional/competing needs or are enemies is also rooted in patriarchal bullshit -- in addition to being, pretty much literally, radfem rhetoric. (Mainly, the idea that men/women are inherent enemies and men are inherently dangerous to women is rooted in radical feminism)
The idea that men and women are, by some sort of inherent nature, enemies is patriarchal in nature (even if it's technically radfem rhetoric) and, in my opinion, counter-intuitive to feminism and to queer/trans liberation at its very core. This is because it ends up reinforcing the idea that man/woman are oppositional categories -- that they are clearly defined with reinforced boundaries with no overlap. Which is not only bio-essentialist bullshit, but also reproduces and reinforces strict, binary gender roles. On top of this, it's scientifically unsound -- since, if you've had any biology education past sixth grade, you know that human "sex" occurs along a spectrum and that humans don't actually have particularly pronounced sexual dimorphism. Men and women are not entirely different, uniquely defined categories with no overlap. Seeing trans men and trans women as "opposite" or "mirrors" reinforces this conservative, patriarchal line of thinking -- as does seeing trans men as inherently dangerous or oppressive to trans women. The idea that men are inherently dangerous to women is a lie.
The reason men can be dangerous to women (and non-men) isn't some natural, inherent trait but the effects of patriarchy's toxic influence on men (and not all men at that. Men are entirely capable of overcoming patriarchy's influence and being a safe, healthy presence in the lives of women and other non-men. If there were no patriarchy, men wouldn't present a greater danger to women than other women do. It is a learned and entirely unlearnable thing.
While it is necessary to acknowledge
that trans men and trans women have different experiences and
often, different needs (it is, in fact, crucial to talk
about the differing experiences and needs of trans men and trans
women and nonbinary people) trans men and trans women
are not perfect opposites.
In other words, saying that trans men do not have male privilege does not imply that trans women do have male privilege and to read the statement "trans men do not have male privilege" as implying that trans women do indeed have male privilege, relies upon the viewpoint exemplified above!
It can be, and is entirely true that neither trans men nor trans women have access to male privilege. Trans women don't have male privilege because well, trans women are not men. And trans men don't have access to male privilege because, while trans allies and other trans people may see us as men, patriarchy does not. Patriarchy sees men as "uppity" women who don't "know their place". The system doesn't grant trans men the privileges that cis men have* because the system doesn't acknowledge us as men. Because patriarchy relies on the separation of man/woman as opposite categories that can never intersect so patriarchy wil never acknowledge trans people as our actual gender -- even if our gender is "man". (added later: the reality is that neither trans men nor trans women have "male privilege" because "male privilege" cannot and never will be granted in any permanent or truly meaningful capacity to trans people. Cisheteropatriarchy sees us as trans first. Whether we are trans men, trans women or nonbinary is immaterial to cisheteropatriarchy. We are trans.)
If we continue to treat trans men and trans
women (and by extension, cis men and cis women) then we will
never be able to actually dismantle the system of cishetero
patriarchy or achieve queer & trans liberation --
because, as stated above, the patriarchy relies on this
separation of man/woman into distinct and oppositional categories
to enact control.
There is an excellent [thread] by @MagsVisaggs on twitter that delves into why the Catholic Church will never acknowledge or validate transgender people (at least, not in our lifetimes) and I think it really clearly explains this categorization/separation much better than I can.
While she is focusing specifically on Catholicism/the Catholic Church, it does give a lot of insight into how patriarchy thinks of gender -- because the basis of a lot of modern patriarchy in Europe, the US and a lot of other colonized countries, is Christianity. Which has its roots in Catholocism. A lot of "secular" anti-trans ideology and patriarchal thinking uses "biology" in much same way that St. Thomas Aquinas used the Divine/God (and really, I don't truly consider "secular" because it's basically a Conservative Christian worldview with the serial numbers filed off).
And that basis is why, I think, if we continue to concede to any part of patriarchal doctrine as "correct" (i.e., men and women are inherently different and oppositional in nature) we can't possibly effectively combat or dismantle patriarchy. Because we are still actively participating in it. In order to dismantle patriarchy and achieve queer & trans liberation, men, women and nonbinary people must work together and stop seeing each other as enemies. Because it's not "men vs non-men" or "men vs women" or "afab vs amab" or what the fuck ever. The patriarchy wants to crush and control us all and the only way to defeat is for all of us to fight against it as one.
an aside: this is also why any women's/lesbian separatist ideology/movement cannot possibly succeed in dismantling patriarchy -- because almost every single one of them, with trans-exclusionary or trans-"inclusive" -- relies on the idea that men are inherently different from and by nature dangerous and oppressive to women and is thus participating in or at the very least conceding that patriarchy is correct in at least one aspect. I don't care if people want to create a women's commune somewhere out in the middle of nowhere and completely avoid interacting with men for the rest of their lives. That's fine, if that's what would make you feel happy/safe, go for it. Just... don't pretend that making a 21st century lesbian friendly, secular "nunnery" is actually a solution to patriarchy worldwide.
*Patriarchy doesn't grant the full breadth of
male privilege to all men, either. Queer men, disabled men and
men who are BIPOC are all actively oppressed by patriarchy (since
patriarchy is an element of white supremacy) and talking to
people who either are the "wrong kind" of cis men or
were perceived as the "wrong kind" of cis men, it's
become exceedingly obvious to me that, by and large, only men who
sufficiently perform white, able-bodied, neurotypical cishetero
masculinity are granted full access to male privilege
Final disclaimer: obviously, I missed things and I'm sure there are places where my wording is unclear. Additionally, I am only one man (who is white and currently non-passing) so my view-point naturally has places where it's lacking or is non-inclusive! my apologies in advance for that! Thank you so much for your time in reading this.
ETA: I want to also note that men can also be dangerous to other men and that sexist/misogynist violence is a) not the only form of violence (homophobic violence, transphobic violence, racist violence, ableist violence and etc.,) and b) that trans men are also at times subject to misogynistic violence -- not because we are women but because those perpetrating the violence see us as women.
Imo, Violence is often not done based on the internal identity of the victim but rather, based upon the perception of the perpetrator. If someone out in meatspace sees me and perceives me as a "woman" and sexually harasses me based on that, that's not transphobia (even though it's based in cissexism and transphobic assumptions about gender) it's misogyny. Whereas; if someone sees me in meatspace and realizes I'm trans and harasses/attacks me because I am trans that would be transphobia. This gets complicated in online spaces where we openly declare our internal identities but yeah. That's my view on that topic.)
I feel like, when we're talking about the harms of patriarchy, it's really important to talk about how men are also harmed by it and how men can be just as dangerous to men as they can be to women (not getting into how things like racism can be leveraged against men of color by white women because that's not really my lane but that also happens!)