A little while ago, a young friend of mine said on facebook that she was going to start taking testosterone. She had decided she was no longer a woman, and was going to take ‘T– “But only until I have the body I want”, she said.
I’ve been puzzling over this since. What does being a woman have to do with having the body one wants? The gender training i received hasn’t entirely taken, eh. Like pretty much ALL the women I know, we have rejected a lot of what patriarchy trains us to do in order to be a woman. All of us. Even some of my friends, well, acquaintances, really, who say “oh, i like being that woman who takes care of her man”. Grim. But even at that, these women have also rejected some of their gender training. No one of us can manage to be the “Ideal Woman” under patriarchy. none of us.
as for the body–well, patriarchy trains us to strive for slender and kind of weak looking. the Ideal Woman (far as I can tell) has no body hair and not much muscle and big breasts. If a woman, like my young friend, is stocky and short, she’s going to have a hard time getting that kind of body. And I don’t imagine it feels good to be skinny and without much muscle tone. And on top of that, being a lesbian, well, we used to be a different kind of woman, I think. Now, though, now we’re supposed to look like “L Word” lesbians (that’d be, like men’s pornified fantasies of ‘girl-on-girl action’). So, ya. I don’t want that, either.
So. What’s a girl to do? become trans! then you don’t have to worry about getting a straightening iron and dieting and all that. you can just take a shot every week (or whatever, i don’t know how it works…) and then you will have the body you want. no diets, no fussing endlessly with your hair, and no worrying about how to be the “right” kind of woman/lesbian.Pass as a man. whew.
but what happens to women, then? This is an individual answer to one woman’s isolation, confusion, resistance. it’s a patriarchal answer, too-i don’t think men got together and conspired to get women to do this–either starve ourselves or poison ourselves (i do think testosterone, steroids, growth hormone, all that stuff is toxic. we don’t know the long-term effects)–but patriarchy is a strong structure, and we are trapped in it. Men benefit from the disintegration of the women’s movement, and from some women ‘jumping ship” as it were, but they don’t have to DO anything–other than the usual — you know, sexual harassment, assault, incest, all that stuff–a few guys do that, keeps us all in line. there’s a whole big analysis of the ways that male violence keeps us isolated from each other, including transitioning–and i’ll maybe get to that some other time, but for now, this is just a quick thread tying men’s violence against women to our own self-loathing and fervent wish to change the bodies we have to achieve peace.
unless we organize. We need to find ways to come back to each other, to be women together in solidarity with each other. To reject patriarchal norms–to SEE them in fact. We need a women’s liberation movement. I wanted to be a boy when i grew up- i desperately wanted to have a different body–broad shoulders, narrow hips, flat muscular chest, I wanted that. My own body didn’t always work so well, though being a girl had little to do with that. But I also wanted the stuff that went with being a boy–the entitlement, the open doors everywhere, the acceptance, the benefit of the doubt that men just get.
But when i grew up, I found women, and i decided to be a lesbian, and i found feminism, a MOVEMENT–so much to do, so sparky and big and meaningful–and urgent. and then it didn’t matter so much what m body was like– though i train really hard because i can breathe better and think clearer and i feel happier–and i now have a body that won’t let me down, and looks just fine in a suit, too.
Testosterone will not give that young woman the connection to other women that saved my life. That gave my daily activities a focus and meaning. We are all trying to figure out what it is to be a woman in the world, really and truly. I don’t know what it is, exactly, but it has something to do with our shared experiences of social expectations to become “the Ideal Woman” and the ways in which we must reject it. And it has something to do with what we make room for when we don’t fuss about our “inner self” versus our “outer self” or our body. Together we can find integrity and drive–something a needle or a treatment cannot (or a bottle or pills, for that matter). I think we’re supposed to now want a ‘quick fix’ for our alienation–if we change ourselves, we will be happy.
No. we won’t. because The Man is always fuckin’ moving the goal posts.
My young friend will take testosterone, and notice more muscle density and her voice will change and maybe she’ll start losing hair on her head and gaining it everywhere else–but–she can run on the treadmill of trans forever and never get away from her womanly hips.
She could perhaps join a women’s organization, or start a group,talk with other women about body image, what’s the body you have, what’s the body you want, why do you want it? who’s doing the choosing here? really really…
and do some sit-ups. Core training for the revolution.
i’m sad for her, and for us. i hope she comes back.