Ever since coming out as FtM (female to male transgender) I’ve been asked in a variety of ways how I reconcile this identity with my ideals as a feminist. Whether this question was motivated by confusion, curiosity, or malice I have found myself defending the reality of these coexisting identities more than a few times. I won’t pretend that this is a new issue to me or that it isn’t something I pondered and even wrestled with before other people brought it up. However, I have come to the resolute conclusion that these two identities are in no way contradictory. I now have the privilege and challenge of redefining the way that I view feminism and learning to manifest these views in a new way.
The internal battle between these two parts of myself was based on the fleeting feelings of guilt I felt when I was first questioning my gender. I felt in a way, like I was abandoning my sisters in this fight. I was also concerned with the dissonance between the ideas of being proud to be a woman or believing in the value of women and my desire not to identify that way. It wasn’t until I came to understand two key concepts in regards to my identity that these issues were reconciled.
1. I am not a woman who is becoming or choosing to turn into a man. I am a man and always have been. I am now doing what I need to do in order to be seen as such by others.
2. By transitioning and possibly gaining male privilege as I begin being seen as male by society, I am not abandoning my sisters unless I choose to. I know that I will not ever give up the fight for the equality that women deserve in the world and therefore know that I am not and will not ever abandon the people who are directly affected by this cause.
I, at that time, was also viewing my masculinity and my identity as a queer woman as ways that I lived out my feminist ideals. Learning to express these values in a new way has been a challenge as well. I have always believed that men can be feminists but it was never something I experienced firsthand. Now I am able to be an example of male feminism. I am not one to deny my past and experiences as they are a part of me and inform who I am everyday. I have had the experiences of a female in this society and it is impossible to turn my back on the lessons those experiences taught me.
My knee-jerk response the first time I was asked about how I could still identify myself as a feminist was to point out that women are not the only people who should care about women’s rights and advancement. Women are not the only people negatively effected by sexism against females in our society and women are not the only ones who can benefit from equality in that regard. Other people who are not women should care about women’s rights not only because it is just but also because they too have something to gain from women’s equality.
Another point that I often make on this topic is that I love women. This may seem irrelevant at first but I find it to be exceedingly apposite here. If I want to date a woman and say that I care about her I need to show it. I will never understand those who are romantically involved with women and then try to treat them like second-class citizens.
In my humble opinion, every person should be a feminist. No matter what gender you are or whom you love, you have something to gain from this movement. You will benefit from society finally giving women the respect and equality that they deserve just as much as any other human. I would also be willing to bet that there is a woman in your life that you love. Show her.