But I dated a woman
Darcy Padilla for The New York Times
Shane Caya, right, found fulfillment in making
the transition from a woman to a man. But it
meant the end of a relationship with his former
lesbian partner, left. They share custody of a child.
The Trouble When Jane Becomes Jack
By PAUL VITELLO
Published: August 20, 2006
IN the most recent season of the lesbian soap opera, “The L Word,” a new character named Moira announced to her friends that, through surgery and hormone therapy, she would soon be a new person named Max. Her news was not well received.
“It just saddens me to see so many of our strong butch women giving up their womanhood to be a man,” one friend said.
The sentiment was a tamer version of what many other women wrote on lesbian blogs and Web sites in the weeks after the episode was broadcast last spring. Many called for the Max character to be killed off next season. One suggested dispatching him “by testosterone overdose.”
The reaction to the fictional character captured the bitter tension that can exist over gender reassignment. Among lesbians — the group from which most transgendered men emerge — the increasing number of women who are choosing to pursue life as a man can provoke a deep resentment and almost existential anxiety, raising questions of gender loyalty and political identity, as well as debates about who is and who isn’t, and who never was, a real woman.
The conflict has raged at some women’s colleges and has been explored in academic articles, in magazines for lesbians and in alternative publications, with some — oversimplifying the issue for effect — headlined with the question, “Is Lesbianism Dead?”
It has been a subtext of gay politics in San Francisco, the only city in the country that covers employees’ sex-change medical expenses. And it bubbles to the surface every summer at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, a lesbian gathering to which only “women born as women and living as women” are invited — a ban on transgendered people of either sex.
Barbara Price, a former festival producer, said the uneasiness has been “a big topic among lesbians for quite some time.”
“There are many people who look at what these young women are doing, and say to themselves, ‘Hey, by turning yourselves into men, don’t you realize you’re going over to the other side?’ ” she said. “We thought we were all supposed to be in this together.”
Beyond the political implications, the sense of loss is felt most keenly in personal relationships.
“I am a lesbian because I am attracted to women, and not to men," said a 33-year-old woman who broke up with her partner of seven years, Sharon Caya, when Sharon became Shane. The woman, who asked to be identified only as Natasha, to protect family members who are unaware of her lifestyle, said that she was ultimately faced with the reality of her sexual orientation and identity. “I decided I couldn’t be in a romantic relationship with a man.”
Jen here. I originally posted this in the comments but as I'm chilling at home today (have had a crappy head cold since Thursday from the plane home), I thought I would tag it up here. I had written:
They are doing this story right now on NY1.
I have heard the other side of this, and in a way I understand it. I know a lot of feminist activists and lesbians who are suddenly finding what few spaces they have occupied by guys who now want to be women. When does a man become a woman?
When I went to Cornell there was actually an in-depth debate about this that I attended, as a friend of mine-a Japanese guy--was in the middle of a gender transition. S/he was on hormones and getting tits, dressed like a woman most of the time, but still had a dick. There was also this scary older guy who kept showing up who was a recent hormone-taker and never intended to get any surgical stuff done, but still insisted that he was a woman.
Part of me wanted to say, hey, you never had to deal with periods, fear of pregnancy, the generally predatory nature of a LOT of society's cast on young female sexualtiy, or an entire childhood dealing with other people's gender expectations. You can't suddenly just jump in, dick and all, yelling "oooh oooh oooh I'm a woman, me too me toooooo!" just because you got some doctor to write you a scrip for your Lee Press On Tits.
All those guys have to do-the ones that haven't cut their dick off--to go back to MaleHood and all of its social privileges--is stop taking the hormones.
F2M transgenders are a lot more likely to get the crap kicked out of them/killed if they are "found out" by "real" men.
I am OK with the idea of a 3rd gender; those who don't really fit a category, but IMHO men who suddenly want to take dressing up to a new level courtesy of some hormones are not "women" either. Women--especially lesbians and those who just don't want men as part of their private lives--have fought hard to get some tiny sliver of separate space, and men have to learn to respect that--they can't just decide how and when they "join the club" also.
One of my best friends in the world is a crossdresser. He is het and married; his wife is OK with the arrangement. However, it never ceases to amaze me just how much a) some of these guys really, REALLY think they're passing when they look like Fred Flintstone in a dress b) how they always seize upon the most bimboish, slutty stereotypes of femininity and c) how much some of them think that het men would be OK with "dating" one of them.
I guess my personal line to draw would be do whatever the fuck you want, but don't do anyting with it that would impose on the choices that others have made. It's tough.
And to elaborate further--the biggest part of the argument against letting "self proclaimed women" into women's spaces was that this was just another case of men defining women and suddenly deciding where and when they got to "join the club." All of a sudden, courtesy of some hormones, they got to barge in to discussions regarding feminism, breast cancer and other women's health issues, etc.
Most irritating: On a lot of Usenet groups and support groups for M2F transexuals: Lots and lots of guys claiming that PMS is a "myth" and that "cycling their hormones has no effect on them"--therefore PMS must be a "social construct." As someone with endometriosis and at least two uterine cysts, I personally invite those guys--and guys they are--to go fuck themselves for this opinion. Nobody asked them.
As far as the woman in the story: Her sexuality is oriented towards other women. Her partner chose to live as a man. You can't expect her to stick around for that.
Let me repeat before I'm branded as anti-TS: I have nothing against them. Just don't try to define ME based on YOUR expectations of what a "woman" is.
Jen here again with a little Thought Experiment: There are lots of meds that will make my skin a lot darker. What if I woke up one day and decided that I wanted to be Black or Asian Indian (for example)? What if I got up every day and put on a wig and contacts, and tried to "live the life?" Now, what if I also acted out every base stereotype--speaking like a bad Ebonix parody, wearing the tackiest dakishis that I could find, and so on--all while applying for affirmitive action programs claiming that I was a minority? Would I be welcome in the activist community? I think not, nor should I be. Just food for thought.
posted by Steve @ 4:22:00 AM