Bil Browning

Autumn Sandeen interviews Chaz Bono

Filed By Bil Browning | April 19, 2010 7:00 AM | comments

Filed in: You Gotta See This
Tags: Autumn Sandeen, Chaz Bono, GLAAD Media Awards, Los Angeles, public transition, transitioning

Autumn Sandeen went to the GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles and had a chance to chat with Chaz Bono on the red carpet. His answer to Autumn's question about transitioning is interesting; I've heard several other trans folk say they think transmen have an easier time than transwomen. What do you think?


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Not easier. Different. There are some aspects of passing earlier on that are easier (voice lowers, facial hair), but the surgical process is more expensive and challenging, and some of the social aspects can be a lot more difficult.

The guys are socialized in a way where they're brought up to be more emotional, dependent, expressive, etc. because "that's the way that women are supposed to be." Many rise above that to find a place where they're socially comfortable, but it's still a shock when they arrive in spheres where they're expected to be completely stoic, "be a man" etc. without knowing the unspoken "rules." Finding that there are many circumstances where it's no longer appropriate to strike up conversation, talk about things that really bother a person, etc can be jarring and isolating.

Men and women are both competitive, but in different ways. For men, any sign of weakness will sometimes get one savaged (or dismissed, which can be worse), and it can be like walking into a hazing without knowing what's coming, until one adapts to the new customs.

Again, these are generalizations / oversimplifications and one size does not fit all. But I certainly respect the difficulties the guys face.

Mercedes,

If you get phalloplasty (which extremely few FTMs do) then, yes, the surgery is intense and expensive. If you get a Meta, then it's usually less than MTF SRS. Moreover, top surgery is a lot cheaper than MTF SRS (and, in some states, allows you to change your birth certificate) and hysto/oophorectomy is quite often (not always) covered by insurance (and a pretty easy recovery).

By comparison, many trans women need some form of FFS to assist in the smoothness of their transition (and for safety), which is extremely expensive (and a time consuming recovery). Breast augmentation is common (which is about as much as FTM top surgery). Some transitioners need to deal with hair loss, which can also be expensive. Moreover, most trans women face years of very expensive and painful hair removal (which can cost over 20K) and dealing with voice (I worked on mine for 18 mos. with a speech pathologist). Trans women in low income communities often need to resort to dangerous procedures like pumping silicone to improve their passability. There is no equivalent for trans men.

I'm not minimizing what trans guys go through, especially those who are from the dyke world and suddenly find themselves persona non grata in their former community but I don't think they have the same issues of safety and harassment trans women do. In general, a not-totally passing trans woman sticks out a lot more than a no-totally passing trans man, and that makes for danger, combined with society's harsh reactions to perceived 'male expressions of femininity'.

Nor am I talking about non-binary folks because those are slightly different situations with their own challenges.

I was really appreciative of Chaz's remarks. I don't hear that very often in the FTM community and it gave me a lot of respect for him. It's good to see he has a very wide ranging perspective.

Good point on the type of surgery. In Alberta, GRS was covered by health care up to last year, so most guys I knew and had the choice went for phallo. So the balance of what I've seen here has been that.

But again, the point is that I don't know that we can really quantify one group as having it "easier" or "harder," just different. I learned from a fellow I dated for awhile that the guys go through a lot of things that are not immediately obvious to us, but are sometimes quite profound struggles.

We can never assume.

Mercedes, I'd be interested in hearing more about this subject (I note that Bilerico has only 1 occasional transman contributor... a serious lack). While I'm willing to accept there are many faceted social and interpersonal nuances which each group faces, I'm talking about fundamental issues like just being safe when you go out. That trans women are more exposed to danger and threats than trans men is, to me, not open to question.

If nothing else, look at the Transgender DOR, see who's listed on it and I think that says a lot.

Many a MTF transwoman has to face the nasty question are you a pornstar? Where as the FTM transmen seem to be able to skip this all togehter and move on with there lives and carrers go figure.

Caty

I think that it's interesting that he brought it up on his own, unprompted. I had gotten the impression from the caption that this was a question Autumn had asked him.

I'm also glad to hear that he's doing a documentary.

Chaz is awesome!

But let's be real, men always have it easier. Its not right, and I hope the world changes, but as it stands now, its much easier to be a man than a woman--transgender or not.

I think we should work for a world where its easy to be who you are, man, woman, transgender person or cisgender person.

As far as passing when your FtoM, you pass a lot easier when you have been on hormones for a while and have had top surgery. It is the bottom surgery that is difficult for the FtoM. With MtoF it all depends on when the transition takes place. You can't change all the destruction that Testosterone will do. I'm sure that in some cases facial surgery would help but not in everyone. As far as the surgery goes, no doubt MtoF have it over FtoM. In the end I'm sure that we are all pretty much satisfied with whom we are. I know I am.