Social interactions happen every day and we process them every day without even thinking about them. From work, to shopping we are judged daily on who we are perceived to be as a person and some stigmas are always used without even acknowledging that they exist. From my time of being viewed as male I never truly processed and realized “male privilege” as a whole. From speaking over a woman, to having the imaginary right of way while walking these all happened subconsciously. Being a male I was perceived to have all the answers in the field I was in, from parts stores to Lowes home improvement. I was the guy others would walk past 3 ladies to be questioned about something. Well now in the last 9 months of being viewed as only female have I realized how much these social interactions have truly changed.
Social perceptions and pre conceived notions are the name of the game. As a man, when I said I was married, I never had to specify “to an amazing woman” nor did I have to explain having three wonderful girls. 15 years of marriage was not hard to explain nor was it hard when my wife and I were out in public. Now however it’s a whole new world. Now when I talk of marriage and kids, it’s assumed I’m the wife and there is some man at home. Others are taken aback if I speak about my wife of 15 years (yea, you’re right it wasn’t legal then!) and boy is it strange to be in public with my wife and being asked if the checks are separate and have to specify the check is together.
I don’t want to skim over the middle either. I will not exclude the transitioning times where I was stuck in the middle with people questioning and trying to figure out “what” I was just as much as I was. Being between sexes was the worst! In one day I use to be referred to as both male and female, even within the same hour. One trusted every word I said, and another assumed I was a dumb woman. All those times I had to come out and tell someone that I was transgender and all those times I feared losing the next friend was all in the face of the societal stigma. Truly defining the fact that society really is that messed up sometimes. Even just admitting your transgender will change the entire way you are treated when your in the middle.
Now let’s flow back to social stigmas. As I’m going to do a speaking day at our local community college with a former professor, it comes back to me how much has changed and how much I never noticed. I’m now expected to yield to men when we walk past each other. I’m expected to accept a man talking over me. I’m expected to accept being called pet names like honey, sweetheart, dear, etc. I’m expected to return flirt. I’m expected to be lady like in all aspects of the realm that I didn’t have enough time to properly learn about.
It is expected that I don’t know as much anymore. I can’t figure out where some think my brains went, but it sure didn’t go to far. I don’t know if it’s long hair, soft skin, or a set of breast that was to make me less seemingly intelligent but I’m not buying it. Painted nails nor heels make a woman any less intelligent. But here we are, with pre conceived assumptions of what an individual person should be like based off of 50’s stigmas.
I respected every woman I ever met before I transitioned, but even more so now. Just the shear amount of stuff I never had to deal with before is just a tip of the iceberg! Men staring at women like they are some sort of prize, then assuming they don’t now how to do their job no matter what it may be. I know women in welding, fabrication, flooring, retail, and so much more and all are equally fitting to their job. So yes, I notice that I’m now a part of “the inferior ” female sex, but that doesn’t for one minute make me have to like it. The next time some one assumes that being transgender is a choice must not realize how society as a whole actually works. It may of been a life or death choice to me, but in changing gender, I changed everything socially also. From how people addressed me to how I was treated.
I love my life and I love the fact that not only have I been able to follow my path to happiness, I have also had amazing people along that road. From work, to my social life I have managed to find only the most amazing people and for that I am fortunate. It still, and always will bother me that what I have learned this transition is how women have been labeled and treated. How it took a transition to realize that they are so repressed and viewed as weak.
This is sure not how I was raised, so I guess most of the other men just missed that memo. My mother is a strong, successful, intelligent and powerful woman with a drive to achieve anything. She raised children who are strong, independent, loving, driven and fully accepting individuals without a preconceived notion about another. She also raised us with a no excuses attitude. I learned from my mother that women built this country and this society. I also learned that behind every great man was an even greater woman. Maybe someday society will catch up to this concept, but in the meantime I’ll just be happy knowing that I’m living to see when that change occurs.
Image found on Slideshare.net via Google image search.