This last week I attended a training in couples therapy. It was good to see some people that I knew and to be in a large group of people that were dedicated to learning how to help people have better relationships and ease their suffering. Afterwards, I went out to lunch with several of the men from the training and I reflected on how it was good to be part of a group of men dedicated to helping others, and learning more about how to promote connection.
It made me think how different these men were than the view of men that I see on my internet feeds. Men as brutes, men as barbarians, men as violent, men as abusers, men as narcissists, and men as violators. Yes, all of these types of men do exist. A lot of us have been abused by men in one way or another, and adopt this view of men. It was my deep internalization of this idea of men, and male culture that made it feel unsafe to be seen as a man or to be a man in the world. It was as if becoming a part of male culture was to participate in violence, either as perpetrator or victim. That childhood experience was deep-rooted and governing my behavior. Now I can clearly see there are lots of different kinds of men, and lots of different male cultures. I knew this in my head of course, but not viscerally, and it was the visceral part that required healing.
I think that is a task all of us with gender issues must face whether detransitioners or not, the fact that there is still some aspect of the birth sex that remains. Long-term transitioners write about this too. Anne Vitale has written about this. Kate Bornstein has written about this too. I don’t think detransition is required, but I think wholeness requires some integration and acceptance of maleness. It is only possible to partially change your sex. Suffering comes from the discrepancy between how you would like the world to be and how the world is.
I see some of the the gender critical trans women I know struggling with this. Trying to accept their maleness and the desire to transition and present as a woman. Also struggling with the political and social ramifications of doing so. After all, how can you simultaneously accept your maleness and maintain a vision of males as horrible and evil? I would suggest that to the degree that you see yourself as male, you are the very example of how a male can be considerate and thoughtful. You are so concerned with the potential negative effects your transition might have on others that you are willing to forgo your own happiness, and to deeply explore how you can be comfortable in the world and still considerate of others. This is a sign of your good heart. So, such things are possible for males.
It is funny sometimes, I find when people refer to my blog, they often refer to me as a “they”, rather than a “he”. Almost like I have to be some outside of gender being. I am not that, I just expanded maleness to include myself. And if you have found any of my words useful, helpful, or kind. Know that they have come from a male. Technically a straight white male even!
What was toxic for me was not expressing femininity, what was toxic for me was attempting to hold my body in ways it wasn’t meant to be held in order to attempt to convey the idea I was female to people. Holding my shoulders in and my hips out, pitching my voice higher than its natural resonance. These things were toxic. Adopting a female role, wanting to be beautiful, desiring to participate in more feminine cultures, expressing myself in ways that our culture says are not okay for men, there was nothing wrong with any of those things.