A dabble of theory – an absence of blokes

Chipper again…and maybe long overdue for me to dip my toe in the theory water. Almost.

Ready for theory

There’s a fair bit of thinking i’ve been doing over the last few months, as you might expect. Some of it, i am sure, will have been done before. After all, i come to this late in the day: but as i know very well from every other field i’ve been active in, thought grows incrementally. Simple stuff needs to be thought and said and debated before more complicated things can emerge. So i hope i’ll contribute something.

Too, i can be a bit more open. I’m not subject to scrutiny any more: no longer dependent on the goodwill of specialists who might judge my worthiness to transition according to how closely i fit the prevailing orthodoxy. I doubt that i am going to reject it root and branch. But i always have been a tad uncomfortable with the way in which gender identity services demand conformity to the gender binary.

Empathy is all

For now, i’ll just re-iterate that i’ve never seen the transition process as being about “becoming” anything…still less “becoming a real woman”. Which doesn’t mean i don’t absolutely identify as female – or whatever the correct term happens to be nowadays (apologies for the double negative).

No: it is about identity – and more: its about empathy, which i am going to write about a load more oveer the next few days. Its about how the transition process has represented, for me, a burgeoning two-way empathy between myself and those with whom i identify. If this blog has been about anything, it is less about me gaining boobs and a fashion sense – and far more about me developing the ability to share experience.

Take my recent questioning about appropriate semi-formal wear. Some women have written to me with incredibly detailed advice. We possibly share a view of how to dress and i will be taking some of that on board. Others, though, write to say that the whole issue is one they find quite intimidating. It doesn’t matter. Neither point of view makes the individual more or less a woman.

But its the sharing of the dilemma and the fact that i now have to tackle the same dilemma as countless women before me that is important.

And that is possibly why – i realised recently – there are so few men in this story. If i am developing empathy around my gender identity, then i am also losing empathy (is there a better word for that) with those with whom i once outwardly shared a gender.

The burqa problem

A good example of that – and apologies if the individual happens to be reading: it made me smile, rather than grit my teeth! – is various witticisms about the burqa and veil-wearing.

I have, in the past, worked with middle eastern organisations. No more. Some would regard me as gay and therefore a suitable candidate for the death penalty: others regard me as female and either not allowed to speak at all in some meetings (i kid you not!) or at very least required to wear “appropriate clothing”.

I’ve chatted that through with a few female colleagues and… its another of those things that really do bring home to you the implications of transition. One friend told me of how she needed to wear a head scarf: how, in some circumstances, she might be required to cover up even more. It…made an impact.

The very idea that how i dress (and i have since had a lot of this every time i’ve debated issues like slutwalk or sexualisation) is now potentially subject to policing by blokes.

I talk to female colleagues and they get it: they get how infuriating, how demeaning such an attitude is. I don’t need to explain it to them. We’re already on the same page.

and a male perspective

Whereas, yesterday, chatting informally to a male colleague, the issue came up. How funny, his logic ran: i might have to wear a burqa.

Huh? What’s going on here? It dawned on me. As far as most women are concerned – those for whom my transition is real and with whom that new empathy is present – tIt doesn’t exactly fill me with joy and even where its subject of humour, its humour with a female twist.

But this friend, colleague, bloke…its the opposite of empathy. He remembers the bloke he once saw me as. He finds the burqa idea funny. Maybe once i, too, might have. So its just an ordinary everyday piece of ribaldry. How could i possibly be offended by it. How could he possibly get why i MIGHT be offended by it?

And if i object? Hmmm. I can predict the response: don’t men have to wear ties to some meetings What’s the difference? How do i begin to explain?

I shall see: but it begins to dawn on me what the problem with blokes is going to be: with women i am gaining something in common. With men, i am losing it: but whilst its easy to spot the things gained, loss tends to be invisible.

I suspect that means that it will be far easier for women to treat me as a new woman, than for blokes to treat me as an ex-bloke for some time to come.

jane
xx

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