Trigger Warning: transmisogyny, transphobia, non-binary erasure, violence against trans people
NOTE: I know not everyone uses the words “masculinity” and “femininity” for themselves (I don’t), but for the sake of brevity I’m using them here.
A few weeks ago, I saw a MAAB student start wearing some new clothes to school–a sparkly striped pink, purple, and blue shirt; a red sweatshirt with silver rhinestones. The clothes complimented their rainbow pink light-up shoes very nicely.
As I saw this student finally able to make some changes in their school wardrobe, I was excited, for sure, and scared for them, hoping it was going OK. I also realized something–I think I knew it in theory before, but it hit my gut that week.
This student wearing glitter and purple and pink and rhinestones–the censure they face is fundamentally different from the censure I face as someone who is (and is perceived as) FAAB. Transmisogyny and/or femmephobia is something that affects all MAAB people that deviate from the norms set by masculinity.
Those norms are stricter, with less room to move, than the norms set by femininity. Although FAAB people who deviate from those norms still face problems (for sure!) masculinity in FAAB people is more accepted and met with less violence than femininity in MAAB people.
With my body as it currently is, and in the queer-friendly area where I live, I can express my gender in a much wider range than someone who is or is perceived as MAAB, without as intense of a risk of violence.
Now, do I struggle with tons of shit and transphobia? Of course I do! Do I always feel comfortable with the way people are perceiving me? No–on days when I wear a dress, I hate when people think I’m a girl. Do I feel like I have a license to express my gender how I truly want to, all the time? No, definitely not–my gender expression, in some of its forms, is outside the realms of acceptability.
But, as long as I am seen as FAAB, it is much less likely to bring physical violence my way. Even if I leave the house in fairy wings, a leather jacket, plaid pants, glittery platforms, and a big straw hat. I may be laughed at, sure, ostracized, yes, deemed unprofessional–the marginalizations are real, and why I don’t always express my gender all the ways I’d like to.
But it’s still safer. It’s still safer. It’s still safer.
FAAB people, I know we are not a monolithic category. We have a huge range of experiences. If we are perceived as MAAB but also express a lot of femininity, we might even experience different pieces of femmephobia that feel a lot like transmisogyny, even if it’s different.
(Personally, although I’m neither a femme man nor a butch woman, if I had to choose I’d rather be perceived as a femme man. It’s not what I want to be perceived as, but given the options most people think of, it’s the better possibility. But I have to admit that one reason (among many) I’m nervous about taking medical steps for that to happen is all of the extra violence that will be thrown my way.)
We FAAB people come from all sorts of experiences, and we still need to recognize all forms of transmisogyny. It’s real. It’s killing our siblings at very high rates. It may feel like the unique problems of non-binary erasure are affecting us all equally. They’re not. They’re not in 1001 ways (this isn’t even going into how race, class, ability, nationality, etc. affect people). But one big way is the way in which femininity on MAAB (and MAAB-appearing) bodies is reviled and exterminiated.
Honor our siblings who are well aware of this, for whom this is their daily life, for whom this is their deaths, our siblings who wear pink and purple and glitter and rhinestones and light-up shoes anyway. Listen to their stories.
And call out transmisogyny when you see it, again and again. Act in solidarity with our MAAB siblings. Work towards love, for everyone, again and again, and again.
It’s how we’ll all get free.