I read this post, “I Am A Transwoman. I Am In The Closet. I Am Not Coming Out.” with great interest. Jennifer Coates discusses her relationship not only with femininity but masculinity, details her negative experiences with some feminists, explains why transitioning is not something that would work for her, and points out that females putting down a whole demographic of males as “neckbeards” and the like has its own negative impact.
As a person who was born female, identifies a lot as male, and has chosen not to transition, this essay hits all the issues for me that I have not been able yet to fully express:
“Because it turns out transition isn’t the answer for everyone — to suggest otherwise is narrow-minded and proscriptive. Because for some transwomen, femininity can feel asymptotic — the closer you get, the more you feel you can never make it. I realize it’s not an inspirational message but it’s a hard truth: some people manage dysphoria better than others. When you fight it, it fights back. I am a pharmacophobe and diagnosed obsessive compulsive. I can barely take NyQuil and a cowlick can make my blood pressure rise. I am not strong enough for that battle. I am not well equipped to transition.
Years ago, when I initially went to some women who identified as feminists for support, they (publicly) condemned what they perceived as “male” points of view on my part. This was before I even understood the complexities of my own gender orientation. They saw me as a woman with “troublesome” ideas. I was called a misogynist. One woman even told me that I could not be a “real” woman, and thus the stories of my own experiences were a “disservice” to “real women.”
It was one thing when some men bristled at the perception that I was a female operating in a “male” world (the comic book industry)—like, I almost “expected” that. But the damage that it caused me to be rejected by other women who were supposedly “on my side” was profound. It took me a very long time to come to grips with feminist ideas again, or to be open to the possibility that there could be a form of feminism that was not so restrictive and full of condemnation.
And honestly, that is why I have not gone out and identified myself as “trans.” My experience with being condemned by feminists—and being accused as some sort of “impostor”—was so toxic, I just don’t want to go through that again with anybody else. I don’t want to have some public fight with someone who insists I’m “not” trans, who uses these same tactics of public condemnation and humiliation I encountered with feminists.
I don’t want to do it because the last time I went through all this, I was so disgusted I almost became a Conservative. I mean, I had a phone conversation with Andrew Breitbart to become a blogger on his site; that’s how much I was “done” with a “progressive” culture that seemed to condemn me more than the people I really expected it from.
I’m tired of having my experiences and my identity be “policed,” where I have to “justify” who I am.
Like Coates, I’d rather just deal with most of it behind closed doors:
I choose to experience my dysphoria in private and without relief to absorb the discomfort of delicate cis people so I can glide through the world more smoothly on a frothy trail of secrets and lies. (I’m being bratty and disingenuous here. I’m just afraid this is how you conceptualize it.) Gay and trans people have been doing this for centuries.
Certainly, writing this post and others like it is not me being “private.” I write these things to afford myself the barest modicum of that elusive “relief.” And I also do it because not only do I think that these points of view need to be shared for the others who feel they are “alone” in this—but because the totality of my life and my published work so “inform” this point of view, and is so much an integral part of it. For me to be completely anonymous on this doesn’t work when my own goddamn comics—published comics—knew me better than I knew myself & had no problems being “public.”
Anyway…bravo to Coates for such an insightful and brave piece of writing!