Emoblog/2017/09/11/internalized transphobia thread
This was originally posted as a tootstorm starting here, with some light editing.
So, yeah, this relates directly to... feelings I experience regularly. It's partly what I call "gender impostor syndrome" -- the feeling that you aren't really a member of gender X, you just wish you were.
In my case this is probably accentuated by the many decades of believing it was logically impossible for me to be female, and I internalized a sense of male identity even while hating it and knowing I hated it.
We have a gender-neutral occasionally-IRL friend who views gender purely as a matter of identity: what you say you are is what you are. I agree that this is the way we should treat each other. The degree to which trans people "pass" as their true gender varies hugely, as does access to HRT and other things that can make it easier and more complete; for example, 16 years passed between the time I discovered my own gender and when I could start transitioning.
So, yeah, the default mode for talking about someone's gender should be based entirely on what they say they are, not what we think they look like or even how they "present".
For me (& presumably Claire and I suspect many others), though, it's a more complicated matter internally.
In my head, there's some circuit that makes snap decisions about what someone's gender is, based entirely on sensory input: mainly appearance and (if available) voice.
I can influence it to some degree, and I've gotten pretty good at overriding it even when it's like "no, that's totally a dude".
(This is how we overcome bigotry in general, fwiw: the squick says "eww, weird skin color/hair/clothes/behavior", and we say "uh-uh, no you don't; get used to it, bucko" and the squick eventually backs down.)
But it does seem to be a reality that most people have that circuit.
Some will override it, a few won't.
When someone you've just met uses your correct pronouns most of the time but occasionally "slips up", that's the circuit talking (according to my hypothesis, anyway).
And we do it too, and it's not something to feel guilty about any more than when you accidentally step on someone's toe. We can't completely prevent mistakes that hurt other people; the important thing is to take corrective action when you do.
And we do it to ourselves – or at least I do.
I look in the mirror, and generally the best I can do is "okay, that's not really a guy; there might be elements of cute lurking here"...
...and that's with the override cranked. Very rarely can I look at a photo of myself and even for a split-second read it as actual female.
I suppose all this is a bit of a digression, but I felt like it needed to be explained, because (it seems to me) it's a key element of "real woman".
Not that you aren't a "real woman" if you don't "look like" one, but that it can be very difficult to feel that way on a gut level when that's the case.
So anyway... when Claire says "my gut level reaction is that it doesn't count" -- I think that's the same thing as what I've been describing here. We're constantly fighting that piece of circuitry. (Maybe some people don't have it, so they don't see why it's a problem; I don't know.) We invalidate ourselves, and we project that sense of invalidation on others who we know share this aspect of our experience.
It's not "bad" that we do; it just happens.
And even access to the best contemporary medicine (which many of us lack) can only help us so much. If we could transplant our brains into ethically-grown female body-clones of ourselves, it would almost certainly be different.
We could look in the mirror and the circuit would say "GIRL!" (or "woman!" if you identify that way) and we would feel all warm and fuzzy about ourselves (which is probably how most people feel about themselves naturally) – but until then... yeah, it's fucking HARD: to see ourselves as who we believe we really are, and to see others as who we rationally know they are.