Masterpieces: The Othering of Trans Bodies and Minds

TW: transphobia, homophobia, violence, suicide, discrimination

The trans body, as perceived by the cisgender majority, has become a piece of art on display in a museum. For most, being trans necessitates the body, and often the mind, to be critiqued like a craft by the crafter, a drawing by the artist. The average trans person is painted by themself with meticulous care to the perceptions of others for the main reason of safety; the protection of “passing” a priceless sculpture: the carved, collected, or lucky body has the privilege of assimilation, the threat of violence, discrimination dwindled. However, when the body does not “pass,” when the body is a work of art on display to be critiqued by the public, by men, it is a political statement like most art, a statement made, most often, against the will of the trans person.      

The trans woman, for instance, when not “passing” threatens the safety of patriarchy to cisgender men; her body, a statement that gender roles, and thus the privilege the man stands on, are fragile, the man becomes scared. Further, when the trans body conforms to requirements of cisness and “passes,” men frequently find themselves aroused by the trans mind and body. When the trans person informs the cis man of their trans state, the man will lash out. He finds his own attraction repulsive, disgusting in a way that mirrors his homophobia because he, even through his attraction, has ignited the veil of passing to flame and sees the trans woman as a man playing pretend, perhaps trapping him. Too often, male disgust, at the trans woman and himself, turns to emotional and physical violence, even murder. The man, within this scenario, fails to see trans womanhood as true womanhood, but rather, as “other,” a mutated attempt at cisness, a subversion of his power because his patriarchal privilege is loosened; he tightens his grip by performing violence: his reclamation of power lost, a reinforcement of gender roles. The man implies, “you are a man too, just like me; a man who has threatened my power over womanhood; I must get my revenge.”

The trans body being viewed as a statement against patriarchy, seen as an intentional act against manhood, results in the trans person being “othered,” as not being accepted into the heteronormative relationship of cis man, cis woman. The trans person, even when included as datatable options, is rarely, if ever, allowed to assimilate to the white picket fence family of the suburbs; cis people will never claim the trans person as a “life partner” but a fun excursion or an experiment. Even this negligible bar is uncommon. Moreover, 2020 saw the rise of the “super-straight,” or the individual only dating cisgender people of their desired gender. This declares the trans body as “other” than the cis body, which in some ways it is a diffrent body, but centering one’s sexuality, one’s entire romanic existence, around the exclusion of transness, if not directly violent, creates an antagonistic enviorment that maintains cisness as the unreachable standard. The majority, though, will say they simply will not include the trans person in their sexuality, or that they are open to dating trans people, but given the opportunity will never accept the trans person as dateable, even if they share mutual attraction. Again, this “others” transness, defines gender to the body, and claims the cis person as superior. For example, if a trans woman attracted to men is identitcal to a cis woman except in choromose, what is the man afraid of except a loosened hold on patriarchal power? Except a perception of emasculation? Additionally, this requires discourse about the genital “preference,” which is not a statement of “I prefer vagina to penis,” but is, in nearly every case, a requirement, a necessity even beyond the “passing” state. One is attracted to what they are attracted to, that is really not in control, but even given this, the persistence with which cis people advocate for their “preference” calls into question the motivation of their words. Gender is not the presence of a genital, gender is a collection of attributes, a dance, an art, or perhaps even in the absence of a single gendered act, it is a feeling; this is in burning friction with the commonality of the genital “preference.” 

These requirements, through othering their bodies, through forcing their bodies to become political statements, upholds the very norms that lead so many trans people into the cage of low self esteem. The lack of healthcare, the epidemic of poverty, the threat of violence and houselessness are the tools by which a white supremcist, patriarchal, capitalist society forces the political statement that is the trans person into a matrix of otherness, a system through which the cisgender majority can claim a diffrence to the trans person. The cisgender person implies, “you may be a woman, but you are not a woman like me, you are an other woman, perhaps an inferior me, I am what you try to be;” but I insist that “my womanhood is other, I reclaim the otherness you press upon my body, my mind; I am a different type of woman, a better woman. I fight against a constant storm and manage to sculpt myself into the masterpiece. I do not dream of “passing” by your standards because I am wild like the fields in wind, I am free in my femininity like freshly caught fish sent back to sea. You, my cisgender sister, are stale like ice, the title of woman to you is ordinary, to me it is the rise of the moon past dusk, it is everything. To the cisgender men who wish to make my body, my genitals a statement of pollitics, then I will be a work of art, a painting about the whisper in the forest, a haunting. What are you, have you even thought about it? Remember, I am a haunting and you should be afraid, I reclaim the voice you take from me, your tightening grip of violence does not scare me, I have the wild fields, the familiar moon.” 

My words, my ability to not care for “passing,” my existence as a woman is only possible because of Black Trans People and Nonbinary People as well. Black Trans People have faced practically all of the violence thrown at the trans community. Black bodies have always been categorized as “other,” as not normal. Their existence and their constant and cricual fight for liberation means that I, a white trans woman, am safer because of them. Nonbinary People, also, make my existance as a “non-passing” trans person possible. The political statements their bodies are forced to make are similar to my own, they aid in normalizing my existence even in the face of cisgender oppersion and erasure from the trans community, a place they have as much right to as me. As Gen Z continues the fight for Trans Liberation, remember that the Black Community has said all there is to say, it’s about time we listen.  

Written By: London Chastain

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