A friend of mine used to date someone who is now going through transition (small world, right?), and she made a comment about her ex becoming “the wrong kind of woman”. Of course I asked her to explain. She had been on the phone with V that morning and listened to a long rambling complaint about getting a flat tire and how having to change it made her feel unfeminine. My friend, a very empowered woman who thinks nothing of bicycling across the state and camping out by herself in haunted fields, seemed just a little bit annoyed by this.
For the record, I used to think like V. There were male things and female things, and they remained mutually exclusive. My upbringing in a house with a stay at home mom who did most of the cooking and cleaning and a dad who mowed the lawn and created a cacophony of power tool noises in the basement was highly conducive to this. When the first transsexual I ever met, the one who outed me to myself before I was ready, told me she had changed the springs in her car that morning, I was pretty baffled. She was a woman now, a wig girl like me to boot, and I could not imagine having to do something that involved lots of grunting, mallets, and thick black grease. Ugh, gross! In my mind she should have been sitting daintily in the repair shop, applying hoochie red lipstick and flipping through the latest Vogue, while a wrench-head took care of this indelicate task for her. Fortunately, I have since come to my senses.
In my friend’s mind, the “wrong kind of woman” is one who bows out of a task she is clearly capable of doing, simply on account of her gender. I tend to agree. Well, except for the ‘wrong kind of woman’ part. I don’t think there is a wrong kind of woman anymore than there is a wrong kind of ice cream. … Except rum raisin. Don’t be ridiculous. Yes, I might not feel particularly feminine taking out the garbage, cleaning the gutters, or doing the annual spring dog shit clean up in the yard. I am, however, perfectly capable of doing these things, and performing these tasks doesn’t make me any less of a woman. It’s true, I’m probably not going to put on a pair of sassy strappy heels and a sequined gown to hump a ladder around the side of the house, but being a woman isn’t about always looking the idealized part.
I believe much of the problem is the confusion between nicety and ability. There are certain niceties of being female. I thoroughly enjoy being the victim of well meaning chivalry and not being asked to help move sleeper sofas, respectively based on appearance and diminished upper body strength. At the same time, I still dutifully kill spiders because my changes didn’t suddenly make me afraid of them when I never have been before. It’s great to enjoy the benefits, but dishonest to suddenly pretend it’s “not me” to repair the stuck flapper thing in the back of the toilet.
Loss of male privilege does not mean loss of male know how. Having the appearance of young men, many or most of us were taught a number of handy skills a man is expected to possess. Frankly, these things are good to know and continue to make our lives easier for ourselves and loved ones. Given the assumption that we have female brains, it’s safe to say that there is no reason in the world why little girls can’t be taught the very same skill set. I think it’s almost criminal that they are not as the denial is based purely on gender and not ability. True, many probably don’t want to learn these things, but I didn’t either. My family still likes to joke about me sitting in the basement crying because I was stuck sanding down my damnable Pinewood Derby car. I got over it, and glad I learned to do these things, and more glad that I still know how.