Recently there was some controversy over a some statements by Chimimanda Adiche about trans women having the benefits of male privilege prior to transitioning unlike biological women who are raised in and suffer under direct sexism and misogyny.
I can understand where she’s coming from in that I also used to feel the same way and today after more education, I don’t necessarily feel the same as I used to.
I do understand that perspective and the feelings around the reality of that truth.
I would like to first say that I am a cisgender woman, I am not trans, so I have no idea what it feels like to be a trans person.
I am however a bisexual woman, and as a bisexual woman, there are people who feel that if I am not currently in a same-sex relationship or have never been in a same-sex relationship, or have ever engaged in physical or sexual activity with someone of the same sex, that I cannot claim that I’m part of the LGBT community.
Someone can also claim that I do not know the struggles of someone who is not heterosexual.
It hurts to know that there are people who feel the need for legitimate proof in an external form to determine the validity of someone’s struggle and truth.
In many other ways this is displayed in my life such as being light-skinned, but also being part of the Black community.
Some people will say that because I benefit from light skin privilege, that I do not fully understand the struggles black people who are darker skinned, and therefore I do not fully understand what it is like to be Black.
I recall an episode of “This Is Us” where there was a meeting of fat people and a woman who had some kind of body dysphoria such as bulimia or anorexia. She said that she knew that the people there felt that she didn’t belong because in an external form she benefited from thin privilege, but she still struggled on the inside everyday mentally and emotionally when she saw a fat person in her mirror.
There are also the people who suffer from mental illness such as bipolar disorder, schizephrenia, multiple personality disorder or ADHD.
They do not have physical displays of pain such as a cast or crutches or a wheelchair to prove their pain or struggle to the world.
I think that there are plenty of examples where struggles and pains are felt internally and just because they are felt internally doesn’t take away from their validity or there magnitude.
I even read a comment that someone had left on a thread saying that they felt offended being referred to as a cisgender person and that they are a man not a cis-man.
However I think it’s hard for people who are used to being in the privileged position to accept any name or title or label is specially from the marginalized group because it implies that they are not the standard.
It implies that they are part of a diverse spectrum and that they are not the “normal regular standard” one and that the other person is the “other” but rather that they are just part of the variety of colors of a pallet.
Caitlyn Jenner, who I feel is a very poor role model for the trans community for various reasons, didn’t transition until she was much older.
She was able to experience the benefits of rich, successful, thin, fit, white male privilege prior to that transition for a long time.
But I’m not Caitlyn and I cannot assume, being outside of her, how much pain she legitimately endured from looking on the outside.
Someone can look at me a judge me and say look at your privileged bougie butt. You’re attractive, thick, well-to-do (supported by my parents) healthy, English speaking, American, fairly sane etc.
But I have struggles they may know nothing about just by looking at me.
I think that the differences between trans woman experiences and biological woman experiences should be acknowledged, but I don’t think that acknowledging it takes away from the reality that it is still a circumstance of a woman trapped in a man’s body with a woman’s emotions and a woman’s mind and a woman’s soul.
I think it is possible to acknowledge both at the same time because I can acknowledge my Blackness at the same time as my light skin privilege.
I can acknowledge my bisexuality at the same time acknowledge the benefits of my perceived heterosexuality.
To a degree trans people who are fully passing and are not questioned have privilege as well because if you are a fully passing trans woman who is in a relationship with a fully passing trans man, then no one will question your relationship and will perceive the relationship as a cisgender heterosexual couple.
One can argue however that the very real fear of individuals who are hiding is a burden, a torment and a mental and emotional torture, that people with external pains do not necessarily wrestle with in the same way.
Someone with external pain has to go to drastic measures to change themselves to even come close to looking like what they desire.
Even if I bleached my skin, changed my features, wore blue eyed contacts and straight blonde hair and had surgery to alter my features, I would still not look naturally Caucasian.
The passing trans couple due to the perception of being a perceived heterosexual couple will receive benefits that a gay couple will not.
A gay person who acts in the cultural norms of perceived femininity for women and masculinity for men will be “read” as heterosexual and may not face the same circumstances that a “butch” woman or “twink” man would.
A bisexual couple that is in a poly relationship or in a monogamous same-sex relationship will face discrimination that a bisexual person who is in a monogamous heterosexual relationship may not.
Not living in one’s truth can be one of the heaviest pains any individual can endure in in that aspect it can possibly be equal to or harder than external pain. This however is not a be all, end all conclusion.
Every single individual has privilege of some kind in some aspect of their lives at some point in their lives.
Different ages have different privileges and for most of us who live a full life we will experience all the stages between birth, youth, middle age and elderly age.
There is no single individual that has no privilege at all in any aspect.
Privilege can be being attractive, sane, thin, healthy, tall, English speaking, American citizenship or something else.
I do agree with a Chimimanda Adiche as far as not needing to be concerned about being liked. It is imperative that we be honest about our feelings and thoughts even if people may disagree.
I appreciate her honesty because it is a feeling that is real it is a truth that exists and I think that truth can be acknowledged without taking away from the fact that trans women are legitimate women.
If someone has not transitioned then they will not experience the external discrimination with which biological women do and that is a concrete truth.
It is true that there are trans people who dress in the clothes of their gender identity and receive attacks due to that, but at the end of the day clothes can be taken off and they can return to the safety of male privilege in which biological women cannot.
It may not be the most popular opinion, but it is a true one and as I said it is not an opinion that I feel invalidates trans women and I fully feel that feminism should definitely include trans women.
I do feel that for bisexual people have a similar struggle as well. We have the privilege of existing in both the heterosexual and homosexual world, and yet we are also exiled from both as well.
I know that despite how I feel on the inside, that there really is no external bisexual skin color that proves that I am a bisexual woman, without me stating that I am without being in a visually obvious same-sex relationship.
These are just my thoughts and I have no intention on hurting anyone.
I think these points are important to acknowledge. I also want to say that the trans experience is a very unique Human Experience that should be described in a very specific manner because as a biological woman, I have never felt what it feels like to feel trapped in a body that isn’t right for me.
Being trans is a unique and very specific experience and it should be acknowledged as something different and there’s nothing wrong with that because everyone doesn’t experience womanhood the same.
White women do not experience Womanhood the same way that POC women do.
NBWPOC (Non-Black Women of Color) don’t experience Womanhood the same way Black women do.
LB (Lesbian and Bisexual) women do not experience Womanhood the same way that heterosexual women do.
There are women who experience childbirth.
There are women who experience rape.
There are women who experience being fat.
There are women who experience domestic violence.
There are women who experience true love and great sex with wonderful partners in a fantastic marriage.
There are women who are virgins for their entire lives.
There are women who experience having big big breasts versus those who are flat-chested versus those who lose their breasts due to cancer and have to adjust to losing what they had.
I think people are upset at the hypocrisy because Chimimanda Adiche spoke about the problem of a single story.
Women don’t have a single story.
Cis women don’t either.
My girlhood was not filled with sexism at least not in my home. My father raised me to be tough, to defend myself, to be aware of all things, and to push towards greatness.
He never once treated me like I was less than or said that I could not do something because I was female.
If anything he was a bit harsh on me and raised me similar to how a son would be raised in some aspects and said that he would not go easy on me because the world would especially not go easy on me BECAUSE I’m a woman. He wanted to raise me to be tough enough to handle those hardships.
So in essence I cannot relate to at home sexism for the most part because I did not really endure that. I grew up in a home and extended family that was matriarchal with the women in charge running things. Most of the women are married happily to men who respected that and were not intimidated by it. They honored their women and they supported them.
All women nor girls have a single story. If Chimimanda Adiche can understand that Black people don’t why can’t she understand that Women, including trans women don’t either.
Whether trans women are included in the conversation or not women and girls as a whole have very varied experiences in life. Some were the popular girl while others were the nerd. The popular girl isn’t going to understand the plights of girlhood as a nerdy smart girl.
Women of different races certainly have very different experiences.
I’ll never understand what it’s like to be an Asian woman or a Latina woman.
The real question is can external pain be just as painful as internal pain?
Everyone is going to have different answers to that and some people say yes they can weigh the same and they’re even cases where internal pain can weigh even more than external pain.
The reality is however if a pain is external it’s inescapable socially.
People cannot chase after and murder what they cannot see. If seeing your difference means I can physically target and maim you I think that is more significant than just feelings of internal struggle inside.
Someone can say they want all disabled people murdered but mentally ill people can hide. That’s significant. The mentally ill may be fearful for their lives but the visually obvious have to physically move and hide.
Ability to hide is a privilege.
I cannot do this as a person of color.
Can we really weigh fear?
Can we really weigh struggle?
The answer is yes, but we won’t weigh them the same, and that’s mostly due to our biases.
Biological women do have to live with a fear of being attacked but I think that it is also just as valid that trans people also have to live with a fear of being attacked and even if they are passing there is still the fear of being found out.
If someone discovers that someone is pre-transition or has no plans of transitioning through surgery there is the rage that is displayed more violent and virulent than that of the hatred of a biological woman?
Is trans-misogyny scarier than misogyny against cisgender biological women?
Should they even be weighed to begin with?
Is this really even a proper case of external vs. internal pain?
For example if someone feels trapped in a body that’s not theirs, what about someone who is trapped in a body that has vitaligo or a skin disease?
That’s external pain right? So trans experience IS indeed not simply internal but external, no matter what outside people think.
They look down and see a body that does not match their mind. That is external pain correct?
It is a lot to ponder, but I think I made some significant points. If anyone asks I have mixed feelings about Chimimanda Adiche’s statements, but I don’t think that she ought to be attacked for them. I think she had a good point and a good perspective, but since neither I nor she is trans, we can never fully understand what it is like to be trapped in a body that does not match and feel pain when things are said about women or done to women, when you truly are a woman on the inside.
I hurt when homophobic things are said and done even though I’m not homosexual. At the end of the day however, I can still hide. To a degree those with any sexual orientation can. It’s not external but trans is in a way.
It’s really both if you think about it, because trans deals with the body not simply sexual attraction and or emotions towards other people, so it is both an internal and external pain, a dual struggle, and that sounds like a lot to deal with, and they certainly have my sympathy.
-Just My Thoughts