i’m a “fake trans girl” and i hope you are too

so i’m sitting at a bar in a nondescript Pacific Northwestern city drinking a large jar of something very pink and laden with bourbon, chatting with a few friends, including Caylee (whose blog you really ought read) amongst others…and i had one of those “eureka” moments as we were discussing why the “trans community” is so inherently and openly toxic: the fear of outsiders and otherness is about as serious as it is amongst geeky folks, and the resulting fear is to keep out difference and claim that this difference is because someone isn’t “good enough.” in other words, much like the abject horror and open sexism that is the war against “fake geek girls”, a war based on a delineated and clear fear of women entering spaces like cons and gaming venues, there’s a war against “fake trans girls” here within our community. it’s based on the same baseless fears and enforced using the same ridicule and othering, and much like the war on “fake geek girls”, the war on “fake trans girls” needs to stop.

i’ve been called a “fake geek girl” even if not exactly in those words. this is particularly hilarious because i am not especially conventionally attractive and was just there to play Magic: The Gathering, a rather addictive tabletop turn-based card game that i used to be pretty involved in. because i relocated, i needed to find new people to play with. this became a circus of humiliation: unlike most games, i do actually know how to play M:TG, and i was actually pretty good. however, on all three stops i made, i got told various things about how they didn’t have space for any new people that night (while at least one gent was waiting to play), that the open game night announced on the store’s website was “private”, and, oh yes, that “you don’t look like you belong here.” when there’s 23 guys and you, ladypeople, and you’re the one being told you don’t look like you belong there, i think we all know what’s going on. of course i don’t look like i belong there when everyone there fits a monoculture…but that doesn’t mean i don’t belong there, goddammit. so because i had no one to play with, and nobody answered my Craigslist ad seeking people to play with, i gave up on playing Magic: The Gathering about six years ago. is this necessary and central to my life? no, no it’s not. but it reminded me that solely because of my gender, i have no place in geek space because of some unfounded fear that i was there to laugh at people…when my presence was there solely to make them taste the wrath of my blue-white deck. i’ve been cleaning up lately, and when i clean, i see my endless amount of M:TG cards and not only is it a reminder that i miss playing the game, it’s a reminder that a structural barrier got in my way of being able to enjoy something that brought me fun…because someone who didn’t even know me saw me and assumed that either i was going to laugh at them or that i would be incompetent…based on my gender.

the feminist critiques of the “fake geek girl” fabrication have been pretty scathing and deservedly so. the article i linked above from the always amazing Devin at Badass Digest is a fine example of a reasoned criticism of the misogyny behind the “FGG” designation and Susana Polo provides some constructive criticism of the trope, but there have been writers like Tara Brown who have shamelessly played into the sexist concept of the “fake geek girl” while all the same venerating almost all the elitism that makes geek circles inaccessible to those of us who come from lower classes, even once we have the cards and know the rules. there’s Joe Peacock’s fiery rage of sexism and woman-fearing that he splattered all over the CNN GeekOut blog, a particularly nasty and hostile piece which reminds most of us womenfolk that in a world run by bro-culture we’re never going to be let in even as guests, because nothing we can do is good enough. Peacock sets out one of the greatest fallacies in treehouse culture: “i deserve to be here, but I get to decide whether or not you’re good enough.” hint: you’re never going to be ‘good enough’ when the person deciding is scared to death of you, regardless of the reason. it’s me and my Magic card case wandering into the game store looking for someone to play all over again. no matter what excuse you give, the end result is that the myth of the “fake geek girl” is advanced to keep all women out of the geeky pursuits. 

so maybe i don’t know who directed Star Trek V: The Final Frontier or the reasons behind the worship of Wil Wheaton and i certainly don’t read the “right” comics though i do treasure my signed copy of Hazelnuts #0 and i can give you a nuanced and detailed critique of the comics distribution system in the US and Canada and how it helps preserve independent comic shops and keeps the chains from getting in on the action as easily as they do in many other forms of media sales. i know my credentials are going to come up short on some level, but i have a feeling that Joe Peacock’s will, too…it’s just that as a function of entry into space, his credentials aren’t questioned based on his gender.

and this is what dawned on me over that giant pink Mason jar: i’m a “fake trans girl.” i don’t have the credentials to be allowed into trans space without being questioned and called insufficient. i’m never going to be able to claim that i have legitimacy and cite how much money i’ve spent on surgery as a justification and i don’t have anyone already inside the space to vouch for me. i’m an outsider, and the guardians of trans space, generally unquestioningly enforcing transfundamentalism, believe that this space must be protected from outsiders at all costs. the possibilities are just as narrow when it comes to trans circles as it is within geek circles: you’re either scared i’m there to laugh at you or that my assertion of gender is inherently insufficient. is my femaleness inherently insufficient? well, of course it is because that’s how it is for all women. consider the levels of body policing and shaming that patriarchal culture dispenses toward even cis heterosexual white women like Romola Garai, claiming she’s “too fat” for fashion and Hollywood movie roles and airbrushing her curves away in still photography. now, Ms. Garai and i are the same height, but she’s probably about 6-12 inches smaller around than i depending on which body parts we’re discussing.  the fact that her body is shamed and hidden has everything to do with the trap all women find ourselves in…because we live squarely under the thumb of patriarchy, no woman’s body will ever be “good enough”. in other words, by dint of presenting as female, we’re all already not good enough and the transfundamentalist kapo merely enforces whatever their own biases entail to say some trans women aren’t good enough, blithely ignoring that many people they do let in don’t meet the standards they cite as “necessary to keep the group functioning.”

now, as for the thinking i’m there to laugh at you part…i don’t even know what to say there, but increasingly i fear that might be part of how transfundamentalist enforcement works. i mean, when there’s no other explanation, Occam’s Razor pretty much suggests to default to base human instinct and around trans issues that seems to always be fear.  transfindamentalists cling to a pathological need to enforce borders but there’s no real foundation for the enforcement of these borders…the differences in trans women that Ashley Love, Just Jennifer, TS-Si and their ilk rage against are completely ethereal things that cannot possibly be grounded in reality and which sound much like the “feminine essence” argument many people from the MichFest boards use to justify excluding trans women. (since MichFest “prunes” their boards to remove all trans-related discussion, i regret i can’t provide you with a link. got screenshots? send ‘em to inchoaterica at gmail dot com!)  when the argument is identical from someone who says all trans women are invalid and someone like Just Jennifer who says most trans women are invalid, you start to notice that they’re chasing identical wisps into the woods of transmisogyny, and i think we all know what happens when you chase wisps into the wood. the same fate invariably befalls every traveler who is unwise enough to give chase to those mysterious lights…

heck, an open invitation to transfundamentalists to explain their position garnered no actual responses, here or on any of the various messageboards these posts end up reblogged on. so let me tell you this plain and simple, HBSers and your sort: no outsider trans person is there to laugh at you, and the suggestion that we would implies that all of us have the same base instincts in your hearts that you do in excluding. if you believe this, you surely buy that Magneto was right and that humanity is beyond saving…i guess maybe that’s the real difference between us, as i subscribe fervently to that Dumbledore was right, in that people may well be different but a common uniting cause should be enough to bring us together. We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. Lord Voldemort’s gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust. Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open. (from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling)

so you’re enforcing borders that have no foundations in reality and clinging to them…i had thought that the reason was to be mean, but now i realize that transfundamentalism clings to these borders because it’s terrified of what happens if it doesn’t. in other words, the transfundamentalist lashes out first out of fear of how the outsider will treat them, ascribing the worst intent to the outsider without giving them a chance.  the Just Jennifers of the world are so scared of how other trans people  will be seen by cis folks to the point they destroy other trans people for what amounts to shits and giggles to preserve their illusionary safety  that they believe they’re “good enough” to be provided by cis people. at the heart of all these things, though, it’s all wired into fear. fear preserves monocultures and keeps the dread outsiders who don’t perfectly match your monoculture out, producing the monocultural idea of One True Way.

when you’ve never tried anything else and believe there’s One True Way, you get things like the idea that there are “fake geek girls” and “fake trans girls” alike. we can go on at length about why these standards are used to judge women and how all this does is reinforce kyriarchical-patriarchal ideas that keep us all down….but it’s time to reclaim the tar being thrown at us by people clinging desperately to their sinking lifeboats because they’re too scared to imagine a world populated by people less terrified than they. i reclaim my being a “fake geek girl” because it’s always going to be leveled at me if i try to put my nose into geek space, and i reclaim my being a “fake trans girl” because it obivates the ludicrous nature of deciding who is and isn’t a “real” transsexual based on unquantifiable, imaginary criteria which are enforced whenever someone feels like it.

so yes, i’m a “fake trans girl”…and a member of Dumbledore’s Army while we’re at it. we are only as strong as we are united. 

15 thoughts on “i’m a “fake trans girl” and i hope you are too

  1. Yeah, I also view this fear as a kind of despair. I think they not only can’t imagine a world with people less afraid than they are I think they can’t imagine in the slightest a world without our existing social hierarchy. They don’t fight the kyriarchy because there’s no fight to be had. To pull out another fantasy based analogy, these white upper-class gatekeepers are the equivalent of Saruman: evil is going to win anyway, so why not preserve themselves and help it along?

    • blue-white gives you two huge advantages: the protection/disenchant of the white, and the ability to do damage swiftly that blue brings you. in other words, it’s not the flashiest deck, has more of an aspect of control involved, but it gets the job done really well if you ask me.

      but i haven’t played in like 7 years, so idk what has changed, but i still see blue-white as a control deck listed on the internet, so some things never change! it’s not going to be a feared deck which takes out opponents in seconds, but it can methodically pull your opponent part. and isn’t that what the game’s about? :D

      • that’s interesting, i based my blue-red around those same goals! the blue gives you control (with all the counterspell and counterspell derivatives), and the red gives you easy quick damage! especially since i only included red creatures that had haste.

        i, however, have also not played in a while. mainly because the only places i played were places my boyfriend went to, and so when we broke up, i couldn’t go to them anymore.

      • omg hi Kit et al! nice to see you over here since i had a tumblr spoonmergency and had to drop it for a while. hiiiiiiii!!!!!

        blue-red huh? interesting. innnnteresssting. i started playing again in a v.v. limited capacity using the ipad app (hellloooooo money sink, owwww) and i’m slowly getting a feel for it.

  2. Saw someone link this on facebook but I find this odd. I’m sorry but every MTG community I’ve ever taken part in has never ousted anyone. Even FNM is more than happy to get more money from people. So I dunno are you playing in some stereotypical southern state area?

    Blue White these days tends to have too much math, if you are able to handle that headache. Kudos to you =P I gave up on it.

    • It’s not “ousted”, it’s keeping someone out in the first place without a chance to see how they are.

      And no, i live in an area where there’s a significant geeky population but you need, as usual, social entrée, and most of my friends have no idea what Magic: The Gathering is. I’m not gonna stand there and demand to be included if someone really thinks i’m there to laugh at them…it expresses such a fear of one’s fellow humans that i don’t really have words to describe it. Yes, i fall outside the “geek” stereotype, but nothing about me says “i’m here to mock you” so far as i’m concerned, to the point i’ve tried avoiding snarky t-shirts (my default), don’t speak unless spoken to, etc…basically avoiding anything that could be used to say that i’m trying to start trouble. The allegory here is “fake geek girl” = “fake trans girl” and that’s mossssstly my central point. Just like i don’t get let into trans spaces because “nobody knows you” since most of my friends are cis (and all my local friends are cis), the same thing applies in geekspace. We don’t know what you’re doing here, and we’d rather get rid of you than ask.

      Contextual math is easy, IMHO. Depends on how much math, though…the problem with Magic is when you start making notes it becomes obvious what you’re doing. :)

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  5. I like Magic: The Gathering myself but financially it’s just easier to play it on Xbox, but even though I was in the “nerdy crowd” I was generally shunned by the kind of kids that played when I was really super interested in it. I didn’t have a lot of money… One parent didn’t grant me the freedom, and controlled my life with an iron fist (usually for the purpose of “Making me a Man”)… I was lanky, awkward (because of social isolation and abuse, some of which was readily apparent to others), but mostly I just gave people the “head tilt”…

    Even being male at the time never “really” let me be “one of them”. If they played with me, they just used what privilege they had (investments in expensive cards, parental support to play publicly, including tournaments, and other advantages for being that “in group) to sharpen their teeth on me. I did have a few friends with whom did play and didn’t treat me in that way. But the whole arrangement really dissuaded me from participating. Whether it was because I was awkward and emasculate, or because I was poor and pretty much depended on donated cards, and what booster packs I could sneak in with what little pay I had when my dad wasn’t around.

    I didn’t get allowances, I had to work my ass off, usually with little other than an occasional Gatorade for reward or a rather meager pay when my dad was doing well in his business and feeling generous. So I think there is a bit more to the dynamic within geeks spaces, just going from my limited experience in High School. I was seen as a geek/nerd, but was generally considered even beneath them. All the things about me that set me apart made really affected my social life in high school, and keep my isolated and awkward. But, like you I guess I could be considered both a “Fake Geek Girl”, and a “Fake Trans Girl”, maybe even a subclass of “Nerd” before I was a “Nerd Girl”.

    But you know, when I first turned to those who’d define me as such for inclusion before I knew better, I realized how cold and bitterly high the price of their inclusion was. And to be honest, I am glad I don’t have to, don’t want to, and have had time to realized that it’s not a toll I will have to pay. I am likewise glad that I didn’t internalize their message, and therefore torment myself endlessly trying to meet a standard that never had someone like me in mind in the first place. We can be our own worst enemies far to well, so we certainly don’t need anyone strapping any additionally baggage to that wagon. That goes the same for those who’d hold my full inclusion to magic, as well as my validity as a trans* person. Good post, I read it a while back, but finally had the thought to comment.

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