e cannot talk about women’s rights and experiences without mentioning the rights and experiences of transgender
people, as well. Reminder: People deserve to be treated with respect. They deserve to be accepted for who they are. They deserve to be safe. They deserve to BE, to exist. Period. If you need to educate yourself on how to be supportive of transgender people, read this
While we have not yet had the opportunity to talk to any transgender or non-binary folks in the industry (but we would love to – hit us up!!) to share their experiences, a 36-year-old transgender woman (a woman who was assigned male at birth) from Florida shared her introduction to sexism as a female-presenting person. “At the beginning of my transition, I was working in retail, interacting with a lot of customers. Looking from down the aisle back then, I might have just appeared to be a gay emo boy with long hair, form-fitting clothes, and a touch of makeup. However, after months of estrogen, my body shop began to feminize, and my chest had a bit of observable curviness.”
“As that happened, it dawned on me that the ways in which customers called out to get my attention were becoming on average a bit less respectful - I had a sudden first-person awareness of the difference in how women and female-presenting people were treated, compared to men and male-presenting people. When I looked like a girlish boy, I was very rarely talked down to, but now that I looked like a boyish girl, I heard condescending tones more often. It’s odd to me that most people seemed to have no idea they were talking that way,” she said.
“I was simultaneously filled with excitement that I was starting to be seen as the woman I am… as well as a crushing sadness for how society teaches people to talk to women.”
An article published in “TIME” magazine
also provides an interesting perspective on sexism, from the eyes of a transgender man (a man who was assigned female at birth).
Exploring how “experiences of trans men can provide a unique window into how gender functions in American society,” writer Charlotte Alter recounted her findings after over two dozen interviews with trans men and activists: “Over and over again, men who were raised and socialized as female described all the ways they were treated differently as soon as the world perceived them as male. They gained professional respect, but lost intimacy. They exuded authority, but caused fear. [They] reiterated how fundamentally different it is to experience the world as a man…Cultural sexism is often more visible to trans men, because most say they find it easier to be low-disclosure than trans women.”
Please, take a second and imagine being in that situation: How would you feel if you were suddenly treated differently by strangers, acquaintances, friends, even family – just because you wanted to be who you already are? Maybe you gained or lost some hair or fat… don’t we all do that during our lifetimes anyway? And whether I shave or not is none of your damn business, unless you’re in my bed (and even then, eh, I’ll take it under advisement), but I’m going to offer a suggestion that will bring you so much peace: stop worrying so much about what other people are doing with their own bodies or in their bedrooms. It’s none of your business.
The TIME article continued: “[Many] had no idea how rough women at work had it until they transitioned. As soon as they came out as men, they found their missteps minimized and their successes amplified. Often, they say, their words carried more weight: They seemed to gain authority and professional respect overnight. They also saw confirmation of the sexist attitudes they had long suspected: They recalled hearing female colleagues belittled by male bosses, or female job applicants called names.”
Others told Alter about male co-workers sexualizing female colleagues when women weren’t present, while James Gardner noted one of the professional benefits of maleness: “I don’t get as many calls to James correcting me. I’m the same person, but the men are less critical of James.”
There’s another side to transitioning though, because as a man, trans men are now viewed as threats. Tiq Milan told Alter: “If I start to get too close, I can feel her fear, I can feel that she’s getting upset. And it’s really just an indication of how dangerous this world is for women.” (If you don’t understand why men are viewed as a threat, stay tuned for the final installment of the Dirty Little Secrets of the Automotive and Skill Labor Trades Industries – Sexual Harassment, to be released on March 31st, 2021.)