neither deceptive nor pathetic but yourself instead

…so at the end of yesterday’s post i left off with a couple of thoughts, namely that compliance with the deceptive/pathetic tropes that cis people layer on us isn’t working for bringing us respect, rights, or inclusion, and moreover that the use of these two tropes as part of mandatory compliance results in the erasing of many trans women.

compliance isn’t working, and i’m going to say something some of you might find uncomfortable: our compliance, designed to curry favor with the expectations we have of cis people, isn’t what cis people want. like many trans women, my survival is generally predicated on passing, and  i walk amongst cis people all the time, assumed to be one of them.  i know a little something about how cis people perceive trans people, and i can tell you that what we fear in our heads isn’t always what they’re looking at.  sure, there are the phobic assholes, but i feel like Joe and Jane Average have their experiences colored by expectation and the constant “we’re just like you” that comes from our leaders reflects something that Monica Maldonado put far better than i ever could in her piece “Born This Way? Humbug.”  this is the reality that we are all different and that the people trying to claim we’re just like you (and the “you” is always cis people) are actually doing everyone a disservice, both in insulting the intelligence of the majority of cis people who don’t see trans women as monolithic and at the same time silencing the voices of trans women who don’t conform. in other words, i’m telling you that Joe and Jane Average know better than to believe everyone in one group is the same, and our “leaders” who promulgate this message are doing everyone a disservice in trying to portray us as a monolith. they’re holding us back and hurting us both internally and in the eyes of cis people alike, and, all apologies to Public Enemy, this is more than a disservice given the violence, discrimination, and repression that our people face: it’s a crime.

we go back to the “trans community” and see that it continues to feed on these tropes that cis people have created for us. in other words, by enforcing the idea that you have to be deceptive or relegate yourself to being pathetic, it crushes our self-expression. if you resign yourself to being “pathetic” you’ll never see yourself as beautiful, never put yourself first when you need to heal, never see yourself as being equal to a cis woman.  you’ll instead fall into the plan someone else has for your existence, talk down on yourself, sell yourself short, and despite having transitioned and taken agency over your body, you’re not being true to yourself or your self. the “pathetic” model speaks to a negative pathology created by the transphobic portion of cis society and by following this model you’re going slong with their plan for you. is it worth it to get acceptance in a support group or be invited into some trans-related social space? i really don’t think it is because it’s relegating who you are to a class that is lesser based on your fear that you are not good enough to be valid, that you are not good enough to stand up for who you are. as i said yesterday, if you think you’re a pathetic transsexual, you’re probably not pathetic at all. the approval of a few enforcers just isn’t worth sacrificing who you are.

and, well, the funny part is how similarly this crushes those of us who fit the “deceptive” trope. we often find ourselves fearful of how we are perceived, too. i know that i have fought a long and awful battle with perception because i know that all protestations aside, i’m nowhere near as ugly as i want you to believe, but i am not comfortable admitting this because i don’t want to feed the ‘deceptive’ thing. so i cover up, and hide, because that’s what’s comfortable in the moment. all i know how to do in life is cover up and hide, really.

which brings me to the intensely personal part of this blerg entry: as much as there are a lot of other medical/biological reasons my weight is screwed up (we’ll talk more about those shortly) i often wonder if i don’t fight harder with the size of my ass because i know this is some kind of protection and because though i am fat i manage to just clear the “grossly corpulent” bar, and the fact that i’m pretty shapely all told and can move my ass like nobody’s business often causes non-fatphobic people to forget that i am a “person of size.” i mean let’s speak some truth to power here: fatphobia is fucking gross and body policing is not okay but at the same time i idly wonder in places i don’t like to admit if some of my weight is me trying to protect myself.

i’m just not sure what i’m protecting myself from.

…but then again i’m still figuring out who i am. i know one thing for sure, though: i am neither deceptive or pathetic. i am Erica, but a pebble against the avalanche but a pebble nonetheless.


3 Responses to “neither deceptive nor pathetic but yourself instead”

  1. This comment is a bit of an emotional mess & I apologize for that.

    So reading this post & reading
    this morning, I had a rather…violent reaction.

    I was actually pissed that both of you are attempting to say that someone like me can be anything other than a patheticuglynotperson freak. Of course, Erica, you can guess that I realize that means I do not think you are wrong but am terrified by your rightness. It’s the same terror that makes me it impossible for me to look in mirrors on my bad days. That says a lot about how deeply I’ve internalized this garbage; because, honestly I always feel ugly & other. I feel so fucking wrong because I don’t want to look cis. At all. Not only am I not trying to look like a white high femme cis woman I don’t even want to look like a butch cis woman either. That makes me feel so guilty & like I’m a “bad tranny” y’know?

    Sure, on some days I can feel some modicum of confidence but it’s usually externally reinforced. Someone can give me a bit of strength but within days it’s expended and I’m back to being just a fuckedup unfuckable freak. Yes, I know there’s complications here because of other things in my history (hello sexual abuse that I’m still in denial about 5 days outta 7); but but but what makes me feel wrongalonebroken, like I’m spending whatever ability I have to generate self-worth on maintaining the outward pressure needed to just keep myself defined against a binary-obsessed cisarchy. What set me off in some ways between the two essays is pointing out how other trans women(& womenish people) help reinforce this notion. As much as Whipping Girl helped me come out because she talked about what hormones could do so eloquently, that book deeply set in my head the notion of a binary gender system that I need to fit into. Silly tranny, non-binary identities are for CAFABs.

    Where am I going with this? I guess I just want to relate how I feel like I fall into the “pathetic” bucket all the time just by trying to exist as me instead of some bullshit narrative of what I’m supposed to be. I feel like there’s only a handful of people (maybe 2 or 3?) who’ve ever really seen me as me & I’m tired of feeling scared to try and make myself known to others.

    *snip rant about the above being whiny pathetic and illegitimate, under assumption that’s just bullshit defense mechanism*

    • you don’t need to apologize for being emotional…it’s okay, this isn’t exactly easy stuff for our psyches, and i spent a *very long time* buying into the idea that i had to buy into an absolutist binary model where even the slightest failing meant i wasn’t valid. of course, the reality is that “woman” is an illusory target in that almost all cis women are body policed and mocked for their looks, thoughts, and credentials. the difference, of course, is that unlike trans women and womanish non-binaries of all sorts, they don’t have their gender stripped from them, often by their own damn peers, for their “failings”. this is why i think much of what Ms. Serano said has basic truths for most people who identify on the “womanish” side of things, especially those of us who are CAMAB, but that her paradigms do enforce a toxic obsession with the binary…but you said that already.

      i prefer to take Ms. Serano’s work as a good start but not the be-all and end-all of how we look at actually standing up as CAMAB people who identify on the womanish side of things and to identify common themes of oppression that she talks about without reinforcing her idea of an absolute binary. as you know (and i think i’ve imparted to the readers) i am female-identified and obtain much of my safety from passing as a cis woman, and i’m okay with that thank you very much, but i am a more complex ecosystem than “trans woman” especially given all the baggage that trans women have added to that designation in our misguided attempts to please cis people which end up just enforcing and strengthening the cisarchy and the patriarchy alike.

      and, well, be you. i think more people like *you* than you’ll ever understand, but that’s just my humble (and i can confidently say correct) opinion.


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