Don’t Call Me a Woman: The Ups and Downs of Privilege

Although I self-identify as trans, people very rarely read me as anything other than a woman. I suppose I can’t really blame them: I’m barely over five feet tall; I have child-sized hands; my shoe size is that of the average 8-12-year-old (according to Converse.com); and I’ve never had what anyone would call a boyish figure. I look distinctly female, no matter how much I’d like to pretend otherwise.

I keep my hair styled short and spiky, and I dress almost exclusively in clothing bought in guys’ section and specifically chosen to disguise anything that marks me as female. Yet, I still get called “she” and “lady” and “girl.”

It drives me crazy. I hate that I’m only seen as a woman.

Nevertheless, I know that being seen as a ciswoman is a form of privilege. I can choose whether or not I wish to come out in order to protect myself, or even in order to make a situation more comfortable. I realize that a lot of other transgender people don’t have that option. Because people generally see me as a woman, albeit not a particularly feminine-looking one, I am at a lesser risk for violence, harassment, and discrimination as I got about my daily life.

I am not ashamed that I don’t identify as a woman. I am not ashamed to claim a transgender identity. I am proud of who I am. I don’t want to be seen as a woman. Being seen as a woman makes me feel invisible, and it’s not who I am. And yet I know that being able to be seen as a woman gives me protection and is a form of privilege that other, more visibly gender-nonconforming trans folk don’t have. I know that I shouldn’t complain about it because it is a form of privilege, and because of it, I face far less danger and bigotry than many gender-nonconforming people. This guilt only exacerbates the frustration I feel.

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