Rebecca Juro

Passing Politics

Filed By Rebecca Juro | September 10, 2007 3:02 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: dating, feminism, gender, lesbian, passing, sex, sexuality, straight, trans, transgender, transsexual

I originally wrote and posted this to my own blog but in light of the discussions regarding Marti's recent post I decided to post it here as well.

Today, while driving home from a shopping trip, a truck driver passed me going the other way, and honked his horn. After ten years of living fulltime as a woman, you'd probably think I'd be pretty desensitized to such things, and, for the most part, you'd be right. Even so, I still can't help but feel just a little validated when this kind of thing happens. It's not because I'm so thrilled that men find me attractive speeding down the highway at sixty miles an hour, but rather, for all the crudeness in the way it's expressed, it's a form of acceptance in my chosen gender that can sometimes elude me in other aspects of my life.

Some would argue that deriving even a minor sense of validation from such a blatant sexual objectification of women is anti-feminist and unworthy of any woman who defines herself as progressive or feminist, but one's instinctive, core emotions are rarely influenced to any real degree by such intellectually thought out social and political identities and philosophies. Indeed, for me it's probably as much about the fact that as a forty-five year old transwoman I'm still able to inspire those truckers to honk their horns as anything else.

When you get right down to it, how many of us, regardless of sexuality or gender identity, can really say they don't like being thought of as sexy and desirable, even when it comes from people we'd never actually consider attractive ourselves? Is it really shallow, self-centered, or anti-feminist to enjoy being thought of as pretty or handsome? Must that kind of attention always come from those we have that same kind of interest in ourselves in order to be considered valid? Personally, I don't think so. Sure, I'd much rather see that sentiment expressed by a sexy soft butch, but I will admit that as a single woman living in suburbia, it's nice to know I'm still considered attractive by anyone, no matter who it is.

When I first came out a decade ago, before the hormones had worked their magic, it meant a lot more. Back then, male attention helped to assuage my insecurities about my appearance and the validity of the female identity I'd only recently formally accepted as my own. I took it more as a real validation because I got none at all from women. Even today, if my MySpace inbox is any gauge, the vast majority of letters I get expressing sexual and romantic interest come from men. Of course, I tend to discount most of these as they seem to almost exclusively come from men who can't express themselves very well in English nor seem to understand the proper use of a paragraph. The picture I use there is certainly one of my better ones, but it's kind of difficult to take such interest seriously when virtually none of these men seem to have bothered to have read even the very first sentence of my profile, which contains the word "lesbian". In all honesty, I'm not really sure if they just like my picture and just haven't bothered reading my profile once they've seen it, or if perhaps they're that kind of guy who consider themselves such incredibly handsome specimens of manhood that no woman, not even a lesbian, could possibly resist their masculine charms, and they'll be the guy who can turn me straight. Despite all that, I can't help but draw hope from the fact that if so many men find me attractive enough to write to me and say so, maybe, just maybe, some women will as well.

Truth be told, that trucker went by too fast for me to be certain if it was a man or a woman. Chances are, it was a guy, but I know there are lesbian and tranny truckers out there, so I guess I can keep telling myself that anything's possible.

Hey, I can dream, can't I?

So many of my friends are married, partnered, or in committed relationships of some sort that it makes it all the harder not to feel depressed about being single, not having a romantic relationship of my own, nor even just the occasional one night stand now and then. Not that I'll ever stop looking, but after just one fairly brief long-distance relationship since I began living as a woman more than ten years ago, I sometimes wonder if the great romantic moments of my life have long since passed me by.

The Catch-22 I find myself struggling with is that as much as I want to be considered and related to as a woman in all aspects of my life, the more likely that it might become that I was about to develop an intimate relationship with another woman, the more important it would be to me to honest with her about my pre-operative transsexual status and thereby possibly define myself to her as someone other than she might be able to relate to intimately as a fellow female. Unless she's bi or still sees me as a woman despite my current genital configuration, it'll most likely put a quick and final end to any possibility of pursuing anything more than a purely platonic friendship with her, if even that. It hasn't gotten to even that point in years, but if it ever does again, I know my sexual morals will compel me to risk destroying any potential intimate relationship I might have by telling any woman who might be attracted enough to consider going to bed with me that I'm biologically not the woman she probably expects me to be.

What's the answer? Other than hoping to get lucky and find a woman who's interested in me romantically despite my pre-op genitalia, I really have no idea. It was tough enough to find that special woman when I was still living as a guy, it's often harder still for non-trans gays and lesbians to find that right person, and for girls like me, it's apparently almost impossible. Short of hopping on a plane and taking a completely unaffordable vacation in San Francisco, I don't even have any idea of where to look.

As much as I love being a woman, in some ways being a pre-operative transsexual woman really sucks.


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"When you get right down to it, how many of us, regardless of sexuality or gender identity, can really say they don't like being thought of as sexy and desirable, even when it comes from people we'd never actually consider attractive ourselves?"


I agree with you, it is nice to be thought attractive. However whenever I've been yelled at/whistled at/etc on the street, I've never had the feeling that it was because I was looking particularly attractive. In fact, in almost every instance I was looking particularly unattractive. To me, this ogling/leering/yelling has always felt much more like an aggressive assertion of power from whoever's doing the ogling. It feels like them asserting their idea of a world in which they have power over me and and in which they can treat me as something less than a person.

Rebecca,
First I want to say I admire your honesty.
You have gone through all those stages we go through when we are in transition. Building a self-identity takes time years usually as our natal female counterparts can attest to. So many who enter into transition want everything to happen in a year and it never does.

Many of us get around the finding a partner issue by waiting until we have been post op for a few months. A lot changes in that first year. I knew my girlfriend when I had been post for about a year a few months later I was at her house in Houston and in love.
FWIW my girlfriend is pre-op.

Living in the city where I transitioned and having made a few errors in judgment when I seriously began my transition being in SanDiego means being out for me. Not such a good place to see if one passes when every 10th person comes up to you and says “haven’t I seen you on TV” or “I read that interview you gave in the paper I think you are so brave” thankfully I do a measure of traveling and I lived in San Antonio for a year and lived the stealth life. only my girlfriend doctor and employer knew my history. That was validating enough for me I have always enjoyed the south and it looks after I finish my work here Texas will be my new home. That does bring up something an observation…
Most of us forget about Passing by the 6th month of RLT. For us it is not about passing it’s about being. Passing means one is trying to appear as they are not. Passing is for Crossdressers and Transgenderists not for Pre or post transition females. I don’t demean crossdressers or Transgenderists they are different from us. We are women when we wake up in the morning, when we go to sleep and even in the bedroom with the wrong equipment we are still women where it matters between the ears.

Take care,

Sue


What a snotty thing to say, Sue. Who died and made you the judge of "real women?" Geez.

I'm with Rebecca on this one - I like being flirted with or, well, noticed by just about anyone in public. But as a guy, I never get cat calls - although I did get lunch for 3 free from Wendy's today. LOL Jerame tells me that women flirt with me constantly though and I'm oblivious each time; I have no idea.

And you know what I've found, Sarah? When I think I'm looking my worst is when others find me hot too. Today for example, that Wendy's employee was flirting so hard the kid noticed - and I'd just thrown on a hat and hadn't even showered yet.

Of course, that makes me wonder how good his taste is... LOL

As I said Bill
We are different not superior.
What is so wrong with that?
If that isn’t it then please quote what I said that ruffled your fathers?
I am surprised you didn’t do it in the first place.


Take care,

Sue

Bil, hmm interesting. But i guess i wasn't really talking about ppl flirting with me. Flirting is much more of a participatory thing on both sides. I was referring to ppl catcalling me on the street or from their cars. Specifically I'm remembering one incident when I was walking home from the library and was very briefly in an alleyway behind some houses. This guy passed me going the other way, gave me a creepy once over and then made some sexual comment. First I was slightly creeped out, and second I was like jeez, I must look better than I thought. But when I thought about it further, it was pretty clear from his demeanor that his comment had nothing to do with whether he found me attractive or not. He was clearly not trying to flirt with me. Even though it was (on the surface) a positive assesment of the way I looked, it was actually a very threatening interaction. Not to spout too much feminist jargon here, but it was that he saw me solely as a sexual object simply because I was a woman, regardless of what my physical attractiveness was at the time. I'm not being self-deprecating here when I say that most of the times I'm catcalled is when I'm looking my worst. I'm fairly well-adjusted in terms of my body-image, but I'm also aware of the days when my appearance isn't conforming to the mainstream idea of beauty. On those days it just makes it more clear to me that the catcalling isn't about attractivenes at all, but instead about asserting power. It makes me sort of sad for the people who are doing the catcalling (later, when I'm feeling less threatened) that their idea of how to treat women is so distorted. It must be difficult to try to have a fullfilling relationship with someone when you see them solely as a sexual doll.

Sue,

I'll admit that I sometimes wish I could feel as you do about this, but I can't. I pretty much gave up the stealth option when I decided to become a community journalist and radio host. Anyone who Googles me is going to get more than enough to know exactly who and what I am, and I'm ok with that...I understood that reality going in and I chose to do it anyway.

In addition, anyone who's heard my show or who just talks to me for more than a few minutes is going to figure it out. My voice is probably more feminine sounding than most men, but by no means sounds authentically female. When I first started doing radio, I tried to affect a undetectably female voice on the air, but the end result was that after a while it sounded affected and fake, so I chose to just stop trying and speak in the way that's most comfortable and natural to me most of the time. I can do a passable female-sounding voice that actually does pass pretty well over the phone or at the supermarket, but it's just too difficult to keep it up over long periods so after a while I just stopped bothering.

Since I generally pass well physically, it can be jarring to some when I go on job interviews and such, but I find it, for myself at least, much less trouble to just be up-front and honest right from the start.

As far as how I see myself, it's as no less a woman that you or any other woman does, but as a woman with an unusual history and an unusual voice. It's probably cost me a few job hires at least, but since I'll be outed to any employer sooner or later by Social Security anyway (thank you, George Bush), all I see it as is simply not delaying the inevitable.

The other reality, as I wrote about, is that no matter if I'm detected as trans or not, if I'm considering entering an intimate relationship I'd be up front about my trans history and my pre-op status. I believe that while it's none of the auto mechanic's business, if I'm planning on getting naked with someone then it's my obligation to be honest them before it reaches that point. It's not only because it's just the right thing to do, but because if I didn't such a situation most likely couldn't help but turn out badly for both parties. In short, I believe that even short-term intimate relationships demand a certain amount of honesty or they're doomed to failure right from the start.

So, I guess because of how out and open I am about my trans status in most facets of my life, I'm probably more sensitive and appreciative of being accepted as a genuine female by non-transfolks, no matter what form that acceptance happens to take. I don't consider myself any less of a woman because of it, but simply a rather uncommon variety.

It may not be the level of complete and absolute level of acceptance as a born female that you and many other transwomen strive for, but given the informed choices I've made which impact that reality, I've learned to live with it.

Sarah - good point about the difference between catcalls and flirting. Some dude yelling something at you is very different from a cashier batting his eyes at you. :)

Rebecca,

We all make choices based on what we have to work with, this is a given. I would no more expect everyone who transitions to be living in stealth then you perhaps would expect everyone to be out. I shall have to listen to your show I believe I saw a link in your bio on the site.

Honesty with one’s partner be they casual or long term is the foundation for a successful relationship. My girlfriend is pre-op and like me she wasn’t even looking for a partner at the time, it just happened.

Acceptance by non-transfolk as a woman is important to most all of us. The crux of many acceptance issues many of us have faced is our own self-esteem. Being your own best friend and your own advocate must come first. People can tell if another person likes who they are or not. It doesn’t matter who you are it always shows if you like yourself or not even in a person’s writings.

It is truly refreshing to seem someone who is not saying that being stealth is some character flaw that indicates shame or something or worse.

Take care,

Sue