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A bit of a rambling tangent on “what it’s like to be a man”

November 11, 2013

I really don’t know what it is to “be a guy.” Sure, I lived as one for the majority of my life, but when people ask what it’s like to be able to “see both sides,” I don’t really have an answer. I could very easily give you a comparison of what it’s like to feel intense dysphoria with myself versus not feeling dysphoric, but my experience as “a guy” is so epically different from that of your average cisgender man that a true comparison cannot be made. I could give you a breakdown of the difference in how society treats someone they read as a man in comparison to someone they read as a woman, but that’s not the same as being able to verbalize what it’s like to actually be a guy.

beamanOne of my friends tweeted that asking a trans woman what it’s like to be a man is like asking Jane Goodall what it was like being a chimpanzee. That analogy really hit home. My experience as a guy was more one of careful observation, of imitation, not am authentic representation of the actual experience as a man.

Though, thinking about it, I don’t know if any of us could accurately explain what it’s like to be anything. There is no such thing as shared experience when it comes to life, and to argue that there is, as some trans exclusionary radical feminists assert (stating that there is a “shared experience” among women), is to completely ignore the impact class, race, disability, and health has on our everyday lives. They use this reasoning to back up their belief that trans women are really just men. I’ve written about this topic, and I’ve refuted every one of their arguments, but I can tell you one thing for sure: I am not a man, and if there’s supposedly universal experience men have, it remains as much a mystery to me as it does to any other woman.

The question of whether or not I have benefited from “male privilege” is more easily answered: yes, I have benefited from male privilege in my life. For the first 26 years of my life, the world treated me as they would any other male infant, boy, and man. Sadly, in society as it currently exists, this is a distinct advantage in the world. I understand this, as I have realized what it’s like to lose said male privilege.

As I began presenting myself as a woman to the public, I was amazed at how different things can be. Co-workers talked over me, I got skipped over for promotions, strangers felt that they had the right to harass me on the street by commenting on my appearance or telling me to smile. The world’s sexism hit me in such an obvious, intense, disgusting way. If we are to change that, we need to attack the source of the problem: the sexism, itself, rather than lashing out at one another. Male privilege exists because sexism exists. Sexism exists because the world operates by patriarchy. Arguing over “shared experiences” and authenticity is only a distraction from the true problem: the fact that society looks down on feminine behavior, whether from a cisgender or transgender woman. Masculine behaviors are considered superior in almost every way.

What’s it like being a man? Hell if I know. The better question is why men are treated so much better than women (there are historical and sociological answers to this, but the entire concept is bullshit).

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