August 6, 2016

"[W]hat we really take issue with is that some of the behaviors she thinks are 'what it means to be a woman' are offensive, such as constantly apologizing for her appearance..."

"... or her voice — because it doesn’t yet sound feminine enough — or announcing to the whole room when she needs to 'powder her nose.'"

From a WaPo "Ask Amy" letter from a woman having a problem with her transgender friend. Amy prefers calling the behavior "cartoonish" instead of "offensive" and speculates that she'd use an "exaggerated stereotype" — "I’d channel John Wayne, with notes of Ryan Gosling" — if she wanted to "act like a man"... which seems to miss the point.

Isn't the person transgender because she already feels that she is a woman, not that she needs to act like a woman? So shouldn't she act however she feels? Maybe the answer to the letter writer should just be that your friend, like most human beings, is annoying. Give her the same respect you'd give anyone else who is your friend: Tell her when she's being annoying.

34 comments:

Helenhightops said...

The transitioning friend is doing the burlesque version of a woman. Real women don't act this way. This is mansplaining to women. They pick up on this, and find it offensive.

Laslo Spatula said...

Every response I want to write involves the word 'pedantic'.

I am Laslo.

Paddy O said...

How does someone who is not a woman know what it feels like to be a woman?

So the feeling of being a woman is the assumption about what it must be like to be a woman. Even if deeply felt it is still not an accurate assumption. It's never the actual reality of being a woman, which is a state unknowable to a man except by cultural cues. So a man who feels he is a woman feels he is the embodiment of those cultural cues, cues which are socially determined, and may increasingly be outdated.

eric said...

When you have deeply ingrained psychological problems, you're going to piss someone off eventually.

Ann Althouse said...

"How does someone who is not a woman know what it feels like to be a woman?"

The question assumes that the generality is a real condition, but everyone is an individual. Why can't this person simply be whatever she feels she really is and not strive to be something that no specific person is?

And yet all of us some of the time attempt to be some abstraction, such as a good person or — let's say you're a law professor —  a law professor.

If the sought-for abstraction is different from what the person happens to already and naturally be, then why is the person seeking? It might help understanding to think of something that you try to be that you sort of are but are imperfectly. Is there some reason you think that not fitting the ideal is a problem? Why not be just as masculine and feminine as you are and be done with it? Why cross over further than you already find yourself?

You might say I'm trying to be a Christian, but I'm not enough of a Christian yet. That makes sense to most Christians, I would think. But why would being a particular gender correspond to that sort of striving to be better?

mockturtle said...

You might say I'm trying to be a Christian, but I'm not enough of a Christian yet. That makes sense to most Christians, I would think.

You might be totally misunderstanding Christianity.

The question assumes that the generality is a real condition

While I am the first to admit the differences between genders, I also believe we more or less feel the same.

n.n said...

He doesn't feel like a woman because he is male. Transgender/crossovers may experience a lifetime of cognitive dissonance. Like their transgender/homosexual, transgender/flux, and transgender/choice counterparts, they will need to reconcile between their nature and orientation. Forced normalization and selective exclusion (i.e. pro-choice or "=") will not resolve this issue for them.

FullMoon said...

Ann Althouse said... [hush]​[hide comment]

"How does someone who is not a woman know what it feels like to be a woman?"

The question assumes that the generality is a real condition, but everyone is an individual. Why can't this person simply be whatever she feels she really is and not strive to be something that no specific person is?



The person wants to transition close as possible to their own predetermined version of "woman".

Jay Elink said...

"He doesn't feel like a woman because he is male. Transgender/crossovers may experience a lifetime of cognitive dissonance. Like their transgender/homosexual, transgender/flux, and transgender/choice counterparts, they will need to reconcile between their nature and orientation. Forced normalization and selective exclusion (i.e. pro-choice or "=") will not resolve this issue for them."

**********************

In the Good Old Days, Freud would have called such a person a neurotic, also known in common parlance as "fucked up".

Fernandinande said...

"I know my voice is terrible, it irritates people so much they just want to kill me."

Sebastian said...

"shouldn't she act however she feels?" Umm, no. Not if she is 1. crazy and/or 2. drives her friends crazy and/or 3. a tactful adult who wants to be treated as such.

How long before the exaggerated stereotypical behavior of transwomen is revealed and reviled as sexism?.

Ambrose said...

Sometimes t's hard to be a woman.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WoP039FxH4

buwaya puti said...

In the old days they would put these people in a monastery, and they would try to behave like monks.
They usually got pretty good at it I think.
What they want to be seems to be a matter of fashion.
Modern fashion is stupid and expensive.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ambrose, you magnificent bastard, that was my first thought, too, except this version!

Also, I've wondered this from time time about the strong drag queen culture/subculture (among homosexual men, I think)--aren't those offensive portrayals according to the standards of the day? Feminist PC culture is not something I pretend to fully get...but consistency doesn't seem to be on of its strong suits.

The Vault Dweller said...

The woman writing in seems to think that her friend's behavior is exaggerated and offensive but I wonder what an objective male observer would make of the behavior. The woman and her friends say they have known the transitioning person while the person was still a man. My hunch is they probably still think of the person as a man. Kind of like how if you have had a long-time friend from childhood many still think of that person as how they first knew them.

Maybe these actions seem exaggerated and offensive to her because she subconsciously views the actions as being performed by a man. The real test would be to see if an objective male observer views the actions as within the normally expected range of behavior of a woman. My hunch is the neutral male observer wouldn't think the actions are too odd.

Ann Althouse said...

"You might be totally misunderstanding Christianity."

Maybe, but I think of the hymn, heard many times, in Christian churches, "Lord, I want to be a Christian..."

You didn't credit yourself with being a Christian. It was an aspiration.

Ann Althouse said...

"Maybe these actions seem exaggerated and offensive to her because she subconsciously views the actions as being performed by a man."

Maybe the women are ashamed of their own urge to primp and fuss and the by-choice woman is embracing what they have as-yet failed to come to terms with.

mockturtle said...

You didn't credit yourself with being a Christian. It was an aspiration.

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." Ephesians 2:8,9

The Vault Dweller said...

"Maybe the women are ashamed of their own urge to primp and fuss and the by-choice woman is embracing what they have as-yet failed to come to terms with."

Well, I suspect the women are upset because either they think their trans friend is portraying a woman how a non-woman has seen them in reality, and they don't like what that seems to entail, or they are upset because they think their trans friend is portraying a distilled, idealized form of womanhood and they don't like that. Either way I think the trans friend is acting as a mirror for these ladies. Because the behavior they describe of their trans friend doesn't really come off as some sort of intolerable social nightmare.

Birches said...

Althouse is right.

I've found that when people undergo massive changes in their life, aspects of their personality change drastically too. It has been rather annoying, because it does seem as if the person is playing a part. Most of the time the changes die down after a few months and they become bearable again.

mockturtle said...

I've known a few drag queens and, though not transgender, they certainly do exaggerate the prototype.

Balfegor said...

I don't think it's possible for someone to feel that they ought to have two X chromosomes rather than XY -- too abstract. Transgender has to be about the shared social idea of "woman" (or man) rather than the underlying genetics. It could just be the physical manifestations, like a feeling that one ought not have a penis, or one ought to have larger breasts, just as some people feel they ought to be amputees, but it could also extend to the individual's concept of "woman", in terms of social role and behaviour.

But in the present day, at least among Whites in the US, gender is not particularly heavily marked. Women are not particularly dainty, and for all the complaints that aggressive speech from females is read differently from aggressive speech from males, plenty of women speak aggressively (and coarsely) so that as a matter of social reality, gender behaviours are not strictly delineated. It's a cline, with some men (like me) falling pretty clearly on the dainty, effete side of the line. Sticking our pinkies out as we sip our tea. Under such circumstances, it should not be surprising that a man seeking to display "female" behaviours as an expression of his transgender identity should end up way on the extreme edge of "feminine" behaviour -- in the realm of caricature. That's the only place the gender marking is unambiguous.

And of course, the gender identity he associates himself with won't be one he has grown up with. If he seeks to transition as an adult, he likely won't have grown up with people treating him as a woman. He will have been on the outside only, looking in. No magic will give him an authentic feminine perspective, not until people start reacting to him as a woman.

bagoh20 said...

Being annoying isn't considered by most of us to be a government protected right. If you call a heteronormative person annoying they don't call you a bigot over it.

Paddy O said...

"If the sought-for abstraction is different from what the person happens to already and naturally be, then why is the person seeking?"

This is, I think, the key question. There's a something being sought, and even if imperfectly, I think they are still a person who is seeking and I see that as a very important part of being a person. So, I'm not dismissing the person's quest. Though, in any realm of life, those that already are a thing tend to be less gracious to those who are posing at what those people are. There's a sense of established comfort in an identity that leads people to resist those who aren't quite there. The strong urge to push back against heretics. Which is often overdone.

Every identity does have its limits to acceptance, which seems to be the debate these days. If I said I was a law professor, as imperfect as I may be and as earnest as I sought to be, I still wouldn't be allowed to teach a law class at a law school. And if I tried, I would likely teach a caricature of the law. I don't understand it enough, and the real issue is that I may think I understand a lot more than I do.

Students do this a lot, they assume they know more or as much and respond in an arrogant way to issues. We don't know what we think we know and so aren't fulfilled in our own assumption of identity. "I deserve an A," students sometime tell me. In their perception of their work and the topic they might, but I know more and can gauge them against a broader understanding of what it means to be an A student. One cannot simply believe oneself into an A, even if it is a heartfelt belief.

Christianity is another level of conversation. We are all, to be sure, incomplete Christians, but there historically, from the very beginning has been a point at which people were or were not actual Christians. The creeds offered some guidance on that. John Wesley has a very interesting (to me at least) with the title "The Almost Christian" on just this theme.

Sometimes the "almost" exaggerates some elements of what they are seeking as a way to compensate.

In Christian anthropology (doctrine of humanity), we'd of course say that what is being sought ultimately isn't going to be fulfilled through taking on another gender identity or other such pursuits. There's a quest for an ultimate sense of meaning and selfhood at work. Affirm the quest, suggest the temporary targets aren't quite on track.

Paddy O said...

With this, I think the narrow constraints of cultural gender expression are part of the historic problem. In our era where we're bursting conceptions of gender roles and assumptions about what it means to be a man or a woman, we're going to see more conflict between those who want to be a stereotypical gender and those who want to blow up those stereotypes.

mockturtle said...

Re Paddy O 11. May we all thus experience what it is to be, not almost only; but altogether Christians; being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus; knowing we have peace with God through Jesus Christ; rejoicing in hope of the glory of God; and having the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost given unto us!

I know how Wesley struggled before reaching this rightful conclusion, as do many Christians. Grace can be a difficult concept. But, in essence, it means unmerited favor. There is nothing we can do to earn it.

MikeD said...

Thank G-d my late stage COPD & my canine companion, at 15 years, demise will preclude the insanity of "gender choice" impacting my life. Alluha Akhbar, on the other hand, will directly effect psychological problem trans with, as the Red Queen said "off with their head" joining all the other alphabet soup losers!

Clyde said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul Snively said...

mockturtle: I've known a few drag queens and, though not transgender, they certainly do exaggerate the prototype.

The drag queens showed their honest, sincere affection for what was, in the very early 90s when I saw a show, the essentially lost art form of burlesque, some five years or so before Dita Von Teese started reclaiming it. I thought it was delightful—a very healthy restorative against the heroin chic of the day. I mean, I remember when Brooke Shields modeled for Calvin Klein. When you manage to make Brooke Shields look like a boy with long hair, you've gone too far.

Jupiter said...

Apparently the kind of woman he has always wanted to be isn't the kind of woman she wants him to be.

Molly said...

Everyone is getting the direction of causality wrong. It's not, "I feel like identifying as a woman, therefore I act like this." Rather it is "I feel like acting like this, therefore I identify as a woman."

Paddy O said...

"There is nothing we can do to earn it."

True. But that's a different discussion. Works-salvation is one thing, what Wesley was suggesting was what it means to live out the Christian life. First God works, then we can work. First God works, then we must work. Grace is not deserved or earned but neither is it passively experienced. That's all through the letters of Paul, cf. Romans 8 and onwards.

Molly, I don't think that's the issue with everyone. I see it as the one saying, "I feel like acting like this, therefore I identify as a woman" with the response being, "that's not what being a woman is like."

The issue is whether the correlation of feeling is genuinely equivalent to the nature of womanhood, or if the feeling being experienced can only be a caricature or stereotype of what the person assumes it is like to be a woman.

Paddy O said...

Mockturtle, your comment on grace did get me thinking how it is a fitting analogy. A person cannot earn the grace to be a woman. They are given this grace. But a good many can try to pose as a woman, trying to earn it or mimic what they think it is like.

Maybe double predestination has a place in gender discussions. One or the other, without choice of being (coram deo) but still choice of living it out (coram hominibus). But of course there are always those complications that keep it from being so neatly tied up.

mockturtle said...

Yes, I believe that what Wesley called 'Almost a Christian' can apply equally as 'Almost a Woman'. Posing isn't being. Therein lies the problem with the transgender issue, IMO.