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Grace Lavery 🐬 @graceelavery
, 25 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
I’ve been thinking a lot about what we mean when we say “trans women are women.” I wrote a scholarly essay on the topic recently but it’ll be a while before that’s out and it’s mostly a drag of Adorno. This is the point as an overlong Twitter thread, I guess. 1/
People transition for different reasons. And although this sometimes means that we have difficulties explaining our conditions to each other, this is very much a good thing! 2/
Some people transition for reasons of positive attraction: they want to be women, and they believe they can achieve that through transitioning. This is a fine thing! 3/
Some people transition for reasons of negative disidentification: they do not want, or no longer want, to be men, and believe they can achieve *that* through transition. Also great! 4/
Some people transition for reasons that aren’t relational in either sense, but purely ontological or realist: that transition is the truth; it is what is real. This is also 👌, and neither better nor worse than the others! 5/
People may change their understanding of why they transitioned many times. This is fine, and also probably inevitable! I also change my mind on the q of why I became an academic, or why I fell in love with my bf. 6/
I have certainly benefited from having been thought to be a cis man at various stages of my life. For example, I attended a prestigious all-boys school that funneled me to Oxford and eventually academia. 7/
That is, to say the VERY least, an unusual situation for trans women! And of course, my hormonal sex change and my public transition happened very close to each other. Historically this is the exception, not the rule. There is never one “transition” - there are many. 8/
In my particular case, I benefited in my particular class fraction/professional stream from being treated as a particular *kind* of man: soulful, sensitive, lyrical, etc. This benefit evaporates in transition. Its evaporation more or less *defines* transition. 9/
This is important to register, because one way people sometimes discredit trans women is to bracket us under “interesting or non-normative expressions of maleness.” Which is not correct! 10/
In the last week, for example, I’ve been told three or four times that “there are many different ways to be a man.” Cis people sometimes see us as hapless stooges who‘ve taken the idea of gender too literally. 11/
It would be to their advantage if trans women would just accept that we are men who are trying to find new ways to be men. Then, (1) maleness could be salvaged and (2) cis women could avoid us. 12/
But, after all this time: that is not the experience of many, many generations of trans women. It’s quite easy to see that we are not men, neither “marginal” nor “dominant” men. Not men! Sorry! 13/
And also not sorry. One of the things I have learned since transition is that in at least one really important sense I was treated as a woman many years before my public transition. 14/
That is, a number of powerful straight men projected strong, controlling feelings onto me that escalated over time into obsessive and even abusive relations. 15/
I don’t want to say more about this, now or probably ever. But I will day that I have mentioned this insight to a number of people who knew me well before, and all *instinctively* knew what (+ who) I meant. 16/
Some part of me, always, was not even an *effeminate* boy, in the eyes of the men who get to decide who is passing. And this is before we even talk about the ways in which effeminacy is so brutally controlled. 17/
I do not believe that this experience of me was universal among men (I imagine some will say, “*I* always thought she was a man”) nor that an experience like mine is universal among trans women. 18/
I don’t mention this story in order to universalize, then; I mention it because it is a strange truth, whose provenance is unclear to me. In some ways, at vital moments, I failed to pass as a man. 19/
Even before I was out to myself - which was either in 2003 or 2016, outness not being exactly binary - I was available, as a woman, to others. Even if they didn’t exactly know themselves. 20/
So, mine isn’t a universal experience BUT, I will say, not a unique one either. I have talked about this insight with a number of my most trusted trans woman friends, and some have described similar. 21/
“Trans women are women” is an important statement, however awkward it sounds, because it indicates (among other things) that we are, already, treated like women. 22/
There is something asymptotic about transfemininity - we’re never quite there. But the weird thing is that this is really just another way in which transfemininity is just like womanhood, and not like maleness. 23/
Women are never quite *there* yet. Men are always already there, have been there for ages, for ever. Trans women are women. It’s not a petition - it’s an assessment. 24/
So, this is why the fates of trans women and cis women are so closely connected. We are both punished for failing to be women *in the right way*. Okay that’s it bye xoxo
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