Today’s sensational breaking news: It’s a girl! Bradley Manning has announced that she’s transgender and wants to be referred to as Chelsea. I’ve run into transgender people here and there, first at college and later when I’m at some party or event where LGBT people are invited. Being nerdy and typically the other person in the room no one wanted to hang out with we would usually end up making conversation. They were almost all exclusively MTF, meaning men trapped in women’s bodies, and there is a much higher ratio of MTF than FTM. I think this is because of the much stricter constraints in gender behavior for males. After a quick Google search the ratio of MTF vs. FTM has seemingly dropped from 10:1 to 3:1 which may be the result of the loosening constraints in accepted gender behavior for men.
When talking to these transgender people they would commonly say something about being born in the wrong body. I would always counter with “How would you even know since you’ve never had boobs and a vagina?” which would usually piss them off and lead into a long lecture. It always seemed to me that these were mostly males who simply fit in better with women and wanted to present and act in an effeminate way to reflect that. But in order for that to be acceptable they had to go through the drastic process of transitioning or completely living “as a woman”. There was no middle ground for them to tread, no widely accepted tomboy equivalent territory to inhabit. It’s been an all or nothing deal for these people who simply weren’t comfortable being stereotypical men.
One semester I had an out-and-proud “sissy” coder classmate. He was militant about being himself, keeping his name and gender pronoun, wore whatever he wanted to and was in a straight relationship with a woman. We never became friends because he was an annoying person and a terrible coder but it struck me what a hard-ass he had to be about being himself. He told me he was completely estranged from his parents and they had fought him over it his entire life. I don’t think most people, especially effeminate men, can do that. I think there are MTF people out there that would be perfectly content keeping their penises if women would accept them into their social circles and they could wear a skirt and heels in public without drawing stares.
Fun nerd fact: While most people think women fought for the right to wear pants out of principle, that isn’t true. Women who wore pants early on were ridiculed by their peers and treated quite harshly all around. What finally made trousers mainstream for women was the popularization of the bicycle, necessity being the mother of change in social convention.
I’ve had some bad experiences due to stepping out of my normal expected gender role. While most people are supportive of my wife and I swapping child care and career duties, and more and more it seems like it’s the smart thing to do, I have also gotten some grief from my male peers and a handful of conservative women. I also have longish hair that my male peers will sometimes comment on because I have to “fix” it before I go out, but I’m fighting baldness as long as I can. And I love gossip. I have an “interesting” family and one of our favorite past times is talking about who isn’t speaking to who and why or who was taken to jail recently and what stupid thing they did to get there. But I’m also a hairy beast who can fix anything, supes-up his cars, has NASCAR season tickets, likes to see stuff blow up, and can throw like a man. I can still show my man card if it’s asked for and prefer to hang with the guys, especially if the girls would rather not have me around. But most of the day all the guys are at work so it can get kind of lonely.
Things have changed enough now that if someone calls me out for being a SAHD they’re the weirdo. But I still feel that in order for me to hang out with the other moms it has to be something that involves the children or the wife. Which is really too bad for them because I would be happy to bring the tools over and knock a few things off their husband’s honey-do list as long as they followed me around and dished on the latest PTA drama with me. I can even change most light bulbs without a step ladder.