i've been on hormones for 3 months now, but i've yearned to start transitioning since i first learned it was at all possible—about 3 or 4 years ago. it took me a lot longer to start actively transitioning than it should have, primarily because "womonhood," and trans womonhood specifically, felt so distant from the womon i knew myself to be. prior to transition, i was very cut off from MTF community of any kind (i still am, and i think most of us are, even those of us who are active in trans communities); my only exposure to other MTF womyn took place through the internet. i was bombarded by images and narratives of trans womyn who were pretty, girly, heterosexual, and very much invested in mainstream notions of normative femininity and womonhood.
i read about and communicated with many trans womyn whose transitions were focused more or less specifically on passing and acceptance by cis-hetero society. i felt so deeply alienated by these narratives, so much so that i convinced myself i wasn’t “really trans”—how could i be, when i had no desire for the kinds of “normal” femininity and womonhood they demanded?
it took me a long, long time and a lot of reflection before i was finally able to accept the validity and beauty of who i am, and start transitioning. i am butch, a dyke, a tough, angry, down-to-earth womon. i like guns, bikes, whiskey and punk shows. i wouldn’t be caught dead in a dress. in many ways i am very masculine. but that is not to say i have ever felt like a man – i haven’t.
my personal history in regards to gender is obviously enormously complex. that said, i do not see myself as a gender rebel or gender bender of any kind. i may be butch, but i am a womon first and foremost. my butch gender expression indeed transgresses sexist mainstream expectations for womyn, but in my case this nonconformist expression has no mitigating effect upon the completeness and validity of my female gender identity. i know many butches understand their butch identity as a gender in itself; and while that’s awesome, it is not at all the case for me. i am a womon. i am not transitioning to butch; i am transitioning to female; i am female. i “fuck with gender” only as much as any other female-identified butch dyke does.
i find it strange that as my transition progresses (and with it, my increasing comfort with harder and harder butch gender expressions) i’ve become more and more focused on acquiring many of the transition procedures/options that i once thought belonged exclusively to the projects of conventional and femme trans womyn. ffs and srs are in my future—i’d never thought they would be—and i’m going to be working my ass off to pay for them. that’s going to require getting a job and making money in cissexual heterosexual dominated mainstream society, and all the requisite ramifications of that kind of assimilation—“passing” etc. i know it’s not going to be fun; nobody likes necessary evils. but i do not ever want to have to explain or justify my choices to others—especially queers—who question their legitimacy.
yeah… i’ve been having more and more trouble with queer culture these days. despite being queer as fuck, and fucking deeply committed to queer culture’s ultimately utopian dream, i am getting really fed up with the pressure to fuck with gender, to subversivise my identity, to claim and express only the “fabulous” inconsistency, otherness, and difference of my experience and history. i am sick of cis dominated and cis exclusionist queer spaces. i am sick of queer cissexuals’ widespread appropriation of trans language and experiences. i am sick of having my womonhood questioned or challenged or invalidated. by anyone, and especially by queers, and especially by other dykes. i know a lot of trans womyn who feel this way.
i guess now would be a good time to explain why i use the terms womon/womyn rather than woman/women. the short answer is that it’s an attempt at reclamation. these terms come from the second-wave feminist movement of the seventies, and are, like the movement that spawned them, deeply associated with trans misogyny and the hatred which some queers harbor (and continued to harbor) towards MTF-spectrum womyn. they are also tied to another one of the second wave’s fucked up claims: that all female(-assigned) people share a universal female experience.
so let’s discard all of the fucked up history and associations surrounding the term womyn. let’s disassociate the term from its original imperialistic application—that is, its universal and indiscriminate application to all FAAB people—and rework it as an empowering celebration of our identities, as a mark of pride for we who are female identified. womon-born-womon: that’s me! because there is something really amazing, unique and beautiful about being a womon, about the strength of womyn’s community. i am a feminist, a queer trans radical anarcha-feminist…but also just a regular old feminist like my mom, who loves her cats and organizes womyn’s retreats and adores jhumpa lahiri and wears birkenstocks. i don’t think the work of feminism, unhyphenated feminism, which is at its core about womyn and their self-determination and their safety and their community, is anywhere near complete.
of course this is not to say that there is some kind of universal female experience that all of us womyn share. that all female identified people share a common or even similar set of problems, goals and experiences. i’d be the first to tell you how flawed that kind of thinking is; it ain’t the seventies anymore, thank the goddess! but let’s not overlook the commonalities either.
well, maybe commonalities isn’t quite the right word… solidarity is more like it. a sense of sharing with all sisters and daughters everywhere, a total commitment to the dream and practice of support. difference and solidarity are not mutually exclusive terms. i want us to be safe, to take care of each other, to share our strength and courage with each other, forever. there is so much power in womyn, our community & our sisterhood, let’s not ever lose that.