There is nothing like being called out on your words to generate some good discussion. There seems to be a lot of that lately, and frankly, I could not be happier about it. It’s not so easy to come up with new things to write about every few days, so if anyone wants to lob some grenades my way, I can’t help but be just a little bit thankful. The latest, and plucked right from my very last post, was the charge that trans women perpetuate a negative stereotype of women. Not only do I have to wonder if this is true, I have to ask if this is even possible. Let’s talk about that.
We all know for sure that there is definitely a trans stereotype out there, and it sure isn’t pretty. Six foot four with a linebacker build, platform ‘fuck-me’ heels, five o’clock shadow, big blonde 80’s hair,70’s porn star makeup, high falsetto voice, and Forever 21 hoochie skirt. I told you it wasn’t pretty, but for the vast population with zero trans exposure, this is the image that tends to pop into people’s heads if you sneak up to them and shout “trans” in their ear. At the same time, I’m also not claiming this doesn’t exist in nature, but it’s very rare, and usually only if she’s just getting started and doesn’t have any friends. Until recently, the media did a bang up job of propagating this whenever they needed a cheap laugh for some comedy relief.
Trans sometimes do fall into stereotypes though, though generally the ‘Cosmo girl’ type rather than any depiction seen in an Adam Sandler movie. This specifically is what I think was annoying the bejeezus out of my recent commenter. This one is far more subtle, but very Carrie Bradshaw at the same time. Super femme, shoe and clothing obsessed, dipshit in the area of all things stereotypically male, and full of vacuous conversation about celebrity gossip and horrible little dogs. Unfortunately, there are actually plenty of cis women, not to mention trans, who are actually like this. It’s ridiculous and clearly a media creation, but it’s there wherever we go. Why?
I think the answer is really pretty simple. It’s out there, ubiquitous, and very easily emulated. People in search of a personal identity expression with no clue on how to arrive there on their own can fall prey to this without a whole lot of work involved. On the cis side, not every woman grew up amidst a crowd of friends with whom she felt comfortable honing her individuality with. In other cases, some found that adopting the stereotype gained positive attention. Let’s be honest here, a great deal of men absolutely love the stereotype and will fall all over themselves to buy someone who adopted it a drink at the club. I’m not saying this is good, but I am saying it is pretty understandable that someone shy, awkward, or with low self esteem and aching for that personal attention would find the gains made by confirming much more attractive than the alternative.
On the trans side much, if not most, of it comes from attempting to figure out how to integrate into society without any advantage of upbringing. Someone entering into a situation where the rules are still largely unknown and guidance is not always plentiful, it’s very tempting to model one’s self after ‘Two Broke Girls’ or a knock off of style seen in the latest issue of Elle. I’ve said more than once that beginning transition is like going from 40 to 14 overnight, and the analogy fits a bit more snug than my typical stab in the dark from out in left field. The root of adopting a stereotype is not to reinforce some male contrived societal ideal of women, but to simply attempt to blend in as rapidly and completely as possible.
In addition to this, I would like to once again point out that no one in their right mind is taking what trans women do and using it to create a picture in their mind of all women. Not only are there far too few of us to make this possible, at present trans women are still generally regarded as some weird offshoot demographic no one is really sure what to think about. Yes, if aliens land and they happen to meet a trans woman first, they may get the wrong idea, but barring that, it’s not happening. We trans are not especially pleased by this, not because we wish to be the global face of womankind, but because we would much prefer to simply be considered women in the overall population who just took a much longer route there. At the moment, we are not even close, but at the same time have the exact same interest in seeing true gender equality realized in our lifetimes for the benefit of all women, ourselves included.
Stereotypes are bad for any demographic. They allow people to make snap judgment on both an individual and a group that conforms to any prejudicial notions they already have. No one adopts a stereotype for this reason though. People in general prefer to live their lives while getting the least possible amount of shit about it, not make some grand statement to society. Condemnation of this is rarely aimed at the creators of the stereotypes but instead castigates individuals who are clearly in need of compassion and empathy. Unfortunately human society has not yet advanced to where ‘blame the victim’ mentality is universally acknowledged as a fallacy.
To those most opposed to the perpetuation of stereotypes, your time would be far better spent working against the cause rather than instilling shame and heartache. The latter truly accomplishes nothing positive and is at heart, mean in spirit.