A Transgender Perspective
Illustrated by Yana Denucci-Gagnon
“For every woman who burned a bra there is a man burning to wear one” (Vera).
Miss Vera, an American actress and writer, often used her writing to promote recognition for transgender women. In this specific quote, Vera makes reference to the Miss America protest of 1968 in which feminists lit bras on fire as a sign of protest against our patriarchal society. Vera uses this protest as a classic example of how feminism has led to more recognition of women as an oppressed group than it has done the same for transgender people. This recognition towards the oppression of women has led to a lot of societal progress and has resulted in the diminishment of women as a marginalized group. Although women remain less privileged than men, I would argue that all cisgendered people are more privileged than people who do not align with their sex.
Cisgender people, or people whose gender identity aligns with their biological sex, live in the comfort zone of the majority. I have recently come to understand that I am in fact trans non-binary and have spent the last few months living from an almost entirely new perspective. Although I have almost always experienced the oppression of a visibly queer person, I have recently developed the vocabulary and the understanding to be able to express this perspective. Transgender people who do not ‘pass’, meaning they do not physically appear as their preferred gender, are at an extreme disadvantage for success and are drastically disadvantaged everyday. Even as a pale-skinned (White) Canadian I have come to realize the lack of understanding cisgendered people have in regards to their own privilege. It took me almost two months to get a job in the West Island because employers would rather hire a cisgendered person over a visibly genderqueer one. After finally getting a job, the place went bankrupt and closed two months later, leaving me unemployed once again.
My brother, a cisgender, heterosexual man, was hired at the only two places he applied to, which both pay significantly above minimum wage, and are strongly established institutions, which will not, at any time, go bankrupt. My brother can also mention his serious girlfriend of three weeks at any time without fear of harassment. I, however, must tiptoe around mentioning my partner of almost two years, in fear of making someone uncomfortable or being told my relationship is less legitimate.
Even as a visibly queer person I am still at a great advantage compared to most genderqueer people. People will often assume I am just a butch lesbian, and although this means being misgendered several times a day every day, this is still an advantage because it is much more socially acceptable to be homosexual than it is to be transgender.
Trans women definitely face the most adversity of any subgroup in the transgender umbrella. First of all, is much more difficult for a transwoman to pass than it is for a transman, as the effects of hormone therapy are much more rapid and drastic when taking testosterone than estrogen. Secondly, as much progress as feminism has made, it is still a disadvantage to be a woman in a patriarchal society, and as such transitioning from the ‘stronger’ sex to the ‘weaker’ one is viewed negatively by the majority.
Perhaps you, if you are a cisgender person, read this thinking you are an outlier. I plead you to ask yourself, even if you are not transphobic, how much have you really used your own privilege to help marginalized people? Would you be willing to sacrifice your own privilege for the benefit of the oppressed and even the playing field? Can you change your perspective for the benefit of minorities?