When discussing our experiences as trans people with a friend, she suggested that me being a man with the emotional intelligence of a woman is a valuable thing. I tend to agree, though it would be a very controversial argument to get into that a trans man was ever emotionally a woman. Some trans men argue that they have grown up wholly male in their thinking and emotional responses. Others, like me, recognise that X years of socialisation as a woman do lead to a difference in thinking from your average man.

Any trans man, though, will have experienced the disadvantages of living in a patriarchal society at some stage. Sexism and misogyny have been built into our lives  like ingrained dirt built up over centuries. Sure, “things have improved”, but not by a whole lot, if you scrape off the shiny surface and look at what actually goes on in most women’s lives, in our cultural expectations and in the way we use language.

We’re quick to take the moral high ground and criticise the sexist practices of other cultures, perhaps satisfied that we’re much more emancipated than them, but that’s always struck me as a coward’s way out – rather than actively pursuing change at home, find someone who’s doing it worse somewhere else to campaign about.

Rather foolishly, I now realise, when I came out as trans, I expected that other trans men, having been identified by others as women, and lived and treated as such for a large chunk of their lives, would have the decency to treat women with a little bit of respect. Instead, I’ve come across more sexism, more careless misogyny and more dismissal of women’s interests than I’d ever imagined possible amongst those who identify as trans and male.

At first I thought this might be to do with some sort of warped oneupmanship – some idea that in order to be accepted as a man you have to talk endlessly about tits and how stupid women are. Or perhaps there really is a sense of hatred towards women stemming from that time when we were unable to escape from being identified as female, and were downtrodden ourselves as a result? Revenge? Really? Even if it’s on a really subconscious level, surely that’s too horrible to think about.

Are some people a little too eager to sample the male privilege  we hear so much about? I’ve heard it suggested that we trans men only really want to transition so that we can leapfrog to the top of the social heap. Don’t hold your breath, guys. Even if that was my motivation, I can’t say I’ve been admitted to the Promised Land of Privilege just yet. I’ll let you know when I’m presented with the Golden Key and taught the funny handshake.

If some trans guys think that talking about women as if they are below them, doing that whole “Yeah, what do you expect from women, they’re so crazy, I’ve never understood them” at every opportunity, and expecting women to ‘do them right’, be it in the bedroom, the kitchen, or wherever, they are going to end up resembling the worse kind of man. And more to the point, they will be perpetuating the thinking and actions that normalise oppression.

Every trans man evolves and learns from those around him. I certainly have – after 39 years of life in a female role, changing my role in society is a steep learning curve.  Surely, though, all of us can recognise that emulating the lowest common denominator of stereotyped masculinity is a mistake. We are in the rare position where we can take the people that we have always been, and develop them, changing them into the people we want to be. Do we really want to become the oppressors, perpetuating age-old patterns of gendered misery? Or the sad-act who thinks that putting women down will make him look manly?

Feminism and the trans man are not very comfortable bedfellows, but my way of looking at the world is not going to evaporate just because of a shot of testosterone every few weeks. Similarly, I guess it’s naive to expect people who have always held misogynistic views to miraculously drop them when they transition. As I think Lucas Silveira once said “An *rsehole before testosterone will be an *rsehole after testosterone”. We can only try.

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