In an effort to mix things up and maintain the original focus of this blog, Rumi and I have decided that I should be a guest-writer for every 50th blog post. Kudos to Rumi on her dedication to maintaining this blog on the regular as well as clear improvement in her writing as a result of it. Happy 100th post, Rume!*
The title of this post stems from the blooming of my awareness of all of the double standards that exist between men and women, and how much more perceivable they are on one side of the path than the other, as well as how I feel about those differences. On the one hand, everyone should be treated equal, right? Well sure…but is being treated the same the same as being treated equally? I’ve come to realize that while some of the double standards that I had an active disapproval of when living as a male, are actually some of the very things that tickle me pink and bemuse me on a regular basis.
Since transitioning, I’ve put a fair amount of thought into both the blatant and more subtle ways in which I’m treated differently by the people around me. While some of the changes are welcome, some others I’ve encountered have elicited reactions within me which range from mild surprise to outright disbelief. One thing that certainly bears mentioning is the dichotomy of treatment I received while actively and openly transitioning at the school I attended here in Tokyo as well; a sort of elective recognition of sorts, both frustrating and validating at times.
As for some of the more subtle differences, I would have to say that most have been pleasant, if not necessarily positive. People from all walks of life began to smile at me as I walked by. I started to get heckled by certain types of men. Compliments about my outfits and style from women were received. I also found that getting ready (for work/to go out/to go on a date) was no longer a chore but an adventure, and while that is more of a personal revelation, it’s worth it’s weight in typeface.
After having reached the somewhat rocky plateau of being ‘mostly’ recognized as a woman in public, it seemed that I had never before realized the divergent nature of people. Women became simultaneously more open and accessible to approach and speak to, as well as seemingly less interested in me, while being far, far more critical of my appearance. It was a strange sensation to have women smile at my approach and face me as opposed to being ‘on guard’ for harassment, undesired flirting, or fear of some form of physical ill-treatment, while watching their body language shift to the defensive and exclusionary. Men, on the other hand, became much, much more polite. When they weren’t being obscenely direct and inappropriate, that is.
Perhaps the most acute feeling I’ve experienced in regards to this has been the loss of my male privilege coupled with the major backslide into perceived hedonism and outcast status, to some. Fortunately, most, if not all of that has run its course at this point, although I have no way of knowing if that would remain the case were I to return to the West. During transition, or at least the more obvious physical portions of it, I was the subject of many a stare, gawk, and double-take. Then there were the looks I received when I handed my ID over for various reasons, and the inevitable questions that followed. Let’s not forget the flak I received at the airport and the looks of disapproval and outright disgust from elderly people, either.
The individuals who operated my school in Tokyo, to their credit, made several successions on my behalf that they had no precedent for at the time. They allowed me to not only use my chosen name on all of my school work, but even went so far as to have a small meeting with all of the teachers to ensure that they used the proper pronouns and called me by that name only in class (this was kind of big deal as many other people requested to be called by various nicknames, but were denied, even to the point of a shortened version of their actual names). After I stopped wearing men’s clothing completely, I was allowed to use the women’s restrooms. Occasionally, some teachers attached ‘-chan’ (a suffix used for women, girls, very young boys, pets, and all things cute) to my name. Conversely, there were moments which truly made me feel left out and less-than. When I signed up for a soccer ball kicking competition, after being pressed because there weren’t enough people signing up, my name was placed on the men’s list (after leaving school in the middle of the day crying, I was later allowed to kick with the girls and was given a formal apology by the staff member who placed me there). I was told that I should join the tea ceremony class, but when I asked if they actually had a kimono(the female garments) to fit me, there were pressed lips, shared glances, and was told perhaps I shouldn’t do it after all (don’t mess with their traditions!!).
As strange as it may sound, as a transsexual woman, although I feel it is very nearly my ‘duty’ to oppose the very idea of social gender roles and expectations, I coincidentally subscribe to those very concepts. Whether this is a product of my very nature, or my desire for social validation, I can’t properly say. What I can say is that I enjoy being treated ‘like a woman’, and all that entails. I enjoy when men offer to carry something for me, or any other common chivalric behaviors. I enjoy, in a strange way, it being assumed that I am going to take forever and a day to get ready (this is actually true). I enjoy having my appearance complimented first and my skills and aptitudes second. It pleases me when other women ask me for appearance checks or fashion advice.
I even find it pleasant when my general way of being loose with my affections has garnered me a reputation of being a certain level of slutty.
A thing that I can say with certainty though: While I have endured much pain, self-loathing, despair, listlessness, and a slew of other negative emotions in regards to my transsexualism, I have come to realize that I wouldn’t trade it for being cisgender. This is more of a recent revelation, although one made with conviction. I can honestly say that very few individuals in this life are given (take?) the experience of walking on two very distinct, and yet surprisingly similar at times, paths. The strange and entirely unique spin it has given my perspective is…priceless. I mean…how many people do you know that have had the opportunity to sashay into a party in a little black dress and towering stilettos and also play Offensive Tackle?
*Thanks S! I appreciate your enlightening share and am curious as to how your perspective will continue to shift. Cheers!