I don’t know what I was thinking. No, that’s not true. I do know what I was thinking. I was thinking I could be a gentler person, free of all that macho shit. I thought I could indulge my feminine side without shame (and yes, perhaps with praise). I thought I could finally be the person I want to be.
I neglected to consider the behavior of others. The way they constrain the person I am.
How could I have been so stupid? It was the behavior of others, of men, that constrained me before, preventing me from being that gentler person, insisting I ‘man up’, calling me a wimp, and worse, threatening to hurt me if I didn’t join their various herds, their various brutalities …
But now, now that I’m a woman—
I’m interrupted. All the time. I can’t finish one damned sentence before— At first I called them on it: Excuse me, I was talking. Bitch. Cunt.
Often it’s not even an interruption: people, men, just speak over me like I’m not even there, let alone saying something.
I’ve noticed I’m using shorter sentences now, speaking more quickly, to say what I want to say before someone shuts me down. I used to speak in whole paragraphs.
My queries, to everyone, about anything, go unanswered more often than not.
And when they are answered, it takes weeks.
And the replies are brief. As if I’m not worth their time. I have to ask again and again until I have all the information I need. I used to be offered information without even having to ask for it.
I’m challenged on every damn thing. All day. Every day. Even on my most uncontroversial utterances, I’m questioned: Are you sure? How do you know that?
I’ve noticed I’m starting to question myself. Maybe I don’t know what I thought I knew.
Even outside work, not only am I challenged and questioned all the time, I get unsolicited advice. All the time. As if I know nothing. About anything. It gets very tiresome. And, of course, the implied insult is very … angering.
No one ever asks for my opinion.
No matter how good my arguments, no matter how much supporting evidence I present, I have no influence whatsoever. Over anything.
I have to prove myself over and over and over and over. Reputation doesn’t exist for women except as a bitch or a slut. So I can never let my reputation for good work precede me; I can never rest on my record: in every situation, I have to start over, proving my competence. It used to be … assumed. That I was competent.
Maybe I’m not as good as I thought.
I’ve received fewer promotions. What am I saying, I’ve received no promotions.
When I publicize my achievements, I’m arrogant, I’m bragging. Not to mention disbelieved.
When I ask for a raise, I’m uppity. And so for sure no raise is forthcoming.
I swear I was doing the same quality of work as I used to, all those years.
And then when I did fuck up one day, I was fired. Just like that. No second chance, no allowances made for …anything.
And then, I was flabbergasted at the interviews I was not granted. Even for positions well below my qualifications and experience. Often my application wasn’t even acknowledged.
The jobs I’ve had to accept pay less than the jobs I had before. In fact, I refused the first three offers because the pay was so insulting. Then I realized … that was as good as it was going to get.
Eventually I had to get a job as a waitress. Yes, me! A waitress! And it wasn’t enough that I was punctual and pleasant. I had to flirt to get tips, and since they’re allowed to pay waitresses less than the minimum wage, I had to get tips if I was to make rent. It’s so demeaning. I feel like a prostitute trainee. And the uniform. Tight top, short skirt, high heels. For eight or ten hours.
And it was just part-time. So no sick days. No medical. No dental. No pension.
I had to sell my condo and move into a crappy apartment.
And what fresh hell, getting the super to replace the fridge, to fix the plumbing, anything— He always puts me at the bottom of the list and acts like he’s doing me a favour. It’s his fucking job! I am, essentially, paying him to do it!
I’ve been called rude so many times. And I swear, I’m not acting any differently. But it’s like I’m expected to be over the top nice all the time, smiling at everyone …
I can’t just ask for what I want anymore. That’s considered rude.
I can’t just say, plainly and directly, what I think anymore. That’s considered rude.
I’m expected to volunteer for everything, to ‘help out’, do this, do that. For free. Like I don’t need money to support myself?
Men accuse me of ignoring them. They make it sound like a reprimand.
They expect me to look after them, as if they are entitled to my time and attention.
Apparently I’m supposed to defer to, well, everyone. No matter what’s at stake. Apparently my primary objective in life now is not to hurt others. Others’ feelings.
When I happen to be beside a man, the other person always acknowledges him first. Sometimes not ever getting around to acknowledging me.
My presence, my existence, is tolerated. At best.
And when I happen to be on my own …
There is endless commentary about how I look. At first, I enjoyed it, but after a while, it becomes clear that that’s all anyone cares about. It’s insulting.
And the touching. Again, at first I enjoyed it, but then, well, it was just all the time. Often for no discernible reason. When a man will shake another man’s hand, that same man puts his arm around me, pulling me close, giving me a squeeze. What’s up with that?
But heaven forbid I ask him to remove his arm. One man became so apoplectic, I thought he was going to hit me.
Even online. I don’t want to be too graphic here, but I’ve received rape and death threats. They’ve been very explicit, very detailed. And they’ve been issued simply because I disagreed with a guy. And said so.
Even when I don’t say anything that might— It seems like men are either coming on to me or insulting me. It’s either one or the other.
And the insults are always sexual. Bitch, cow, cunt— Subordination by sexualization.
It’s like— I thought I was getting away from the fighting. But now, it’s like I have to fight for everything: acknowledgement, respect, opportunity, autonomy, dignity … Everything I used to take for granted.
I didn’t use to have to try so hard to be taken seriously.
I didn’t use to have to try so hard at anything, really.
I’m ashamed to say, I had no idea what women have had to endure …
I didn’t know anything about sexism. Not really. Most men don’t. In fact, I’ll bet most men understand less about sexism than white people understand about racism.
After all, this is a meritocracy. So any advantage I had over women was due to my respective choices, my relative competence. I thought.
When the novelty wore off, I realized I’d traded my first-class seat on a plane for a second-class seat on the bus. (Too late I realized that Martine Rothblatt and Caitlyn Jenner were rich and famous. Even before. That Laverne Cox worked in the entertainment industry. And so had an agent.)
I had no idea I was voluntarily becoming a member of the sexed subordinate class. No wonder twice as many transwomen as transmen commit suicide. On top of everything else, we’re broadsided by a sudden and almost complete disenfranchisement.
I read that thing about Martin and Nicole changing names on their emails. After a week of being treated like Nicole, Martin said, “It sucked”. And after a week of being treated like Martin, Nicole said she had one of the easiest weeks of her professional life. I get that now. I really get it. And I have to say, I’m not looking forward to this being the rest of my life. Not just a week of Monday to Friday, nine to five. But before and after work as well. And on the weekend. And for not just a week, but for a month. A year. Ten years. Twenty. Forty. Your whole fucking life, every minute of every damned day, from the time you get up to the time you finally fall asleep, being ignored or dismissed, being doubted, being demeaned and humiliated …