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"I will never straighten out my wrist."
April 5, 2013 11:55 AM   Subscribe

Navigating Masculinity as a Black Transman.
posted by klangklangston (30 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
That was a really good piece.

Can anyone explain the significance of the term "boi?" I assume it's mean to connote something different than "boy," but in this particular context, I think I'm missing some nuance.
posted by Sokka shot first at 12:10 PM on April 5, 2013


I am always a in little bit of transpeople. Sometimes I feel like being gay is an uphill battle for acceptance, but transgendered folk have it even worse. At least homosexuals appear in pop culture, to see a transgender character portrayed in a movie or TV show is almost unheard of.

I hope that this changes in the next few decades.
posted by Strass at 12:18 PM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure what way the writer was using it, but once upon a time we gays used it to denote gayness. Usually in screen names online. Where "I played soccer once I am trying to express my masculinity except also I'm gay and here is the length of my manhood" was just too long, the appropriate abbreviation was "SoccrBoi8."
posted by jph at 12:20 PM on April 5, 2013


Sokka - in my experience "boi" kind of gets used to mean "queer boy"? Where that might mean a young cis guy, or it might be used for a female-identified butch, or - well, anyone with a masculine queer identity. I don't know if there's a more strict usage in the author's groups, though.

I'm not black and I never spent any time in any kind of lesbian society so the specifics of this piece are not the specifics of my life and the author writes about important experiences that I cannot speak about, but I do identify with the emotional underpinnings regarding masculinity and femininity and trans identity. I'm a very effeminate guy myself. I remember, as a kid who didn't know being trans - and being a boy because I say I am a boy - was even an option, wishing that I was "more masculine" (more into sports, less into sparkly things, etc) just so I could count as a tomboy (which I thought was The Closest Thing I Could Get to being an Actual Boy). As I've grown and come out it's been a continuing struggle between buying into the expectation that I should be manlier, and wanting to keep hold of my past and not change my personality just to fit the binary.

If I'd been born cismale I'd just read as super gay, I think, but since I'm not, I'm read as somehow "failing at transness" sometimes.
posted by titus n. owl at 12:21 PM on April 5, 2013 [13 favorites]


(NB I have never played soccer. Nor was a sharing the actual length of my manhood. Also I think the term "manhood" is really awful. Makes it sound like a weird kind of penile sweatshirt.)
posted by jph at 12:22 PM on April 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


I think here 'boi' is meaning 'masculine/masculine-of-center [probably queer and/or trans] people'. Or at least I think that's what the Brown Boi Project is going for and the article seems to be using it in the same sense as them.
posted by hoyland at 12:24 PM on April 5, 2013


Can anyone explain the significance of the term "boi?"

Boi has a lot of subtle connotations in the trans community. I've seen it most often used to denote a genderqueer person who is presenting as male, but doesn't completely identify as a man. I've seen many transmen use it to refer to themselves early in their transition, when they aren't quite comfortable yet in their new role. I've seen transmen in their late 20s to early 30s use it because we're so often ID'ed as teens during this age. I've also seen transmen use it who have a very strong femme identity.

Anyway, I'm a hispanic FTM and am very glad my father took me aside when I was a kid and told me how much bullshit Machismo is and to never buy into it (ironic this was before I came out, but I was a pretty butch girl).

Combatting the ideals of hypermasculinity, especially when they are so pervasive in your culture, can get pretty frustrating because it makes many people question you for transitioning. They either say, "if you don't like {hypermasculine thing}, why did you transition?" -or- "if you think it's ok for both men and women to enjoy {stereotypical gendered thing}, why did you transition?"

The past few years, I've seen a strong sub-culture of femme FTMs crop up and it's sad to sometimes see other trans people knock them down for not being "FTM" enough. While I wouldn't go as far as the author to say I "cherished" my periods, I'm happy to say I'm finally secure enough in my gender expression to stop wondering if I'm being "masculine enough".

(Now to go back to wasting time on cuteoverload.com)
posted by Wossname at 12:38 PM on April 5, 2013 [27 favorites]


In the lesbian community, a boi is a masculine appearing, usually young, woman.

That said, this article was exceptional and I so appreciate when trans and cis men and women can tell their truth rather than subjecting themselves to the cultural norms of their community.

I never want to straighten out my wrist. I want it to flare, I want it to paint flame across canvass because I am unafraid of femininity.

Make more room, indeed!!!
posted by Sophie1 at 12:43 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Strass: "I am always a in little bit of transpeople."

D'oh. "always in a little bit in awe of transpeople." No more multitasking while I write comments...
posted by Strass at 12:49 PM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Combatting the ideals of hypermasculinity, especially when they are so pervasive in your culture, can get pretty frustrating because it makes many people question you for transitioning. They either say, "if you don't like {hypermasculine thing}, why did you transition?" -or- "if you think it's ok for both men and women to enjoy {stereotypical gendered thing}, why did you transition?"

This. It goes along really well with trans* children and the well-meaning, but ultimately false, argument that stereotypical gendered things don't necessarily indicate that a child is trans*.

"Oh, I played with dolls and loved pink when I was a little boy and I'm not MTF!"

"Hey, I was a total tomboy and you couldn't put me in a dress if you tried when I was a little girl, but I'm definitely not a transman."

It's not about gender roles and hyper-masculinity or -femininity. It's about who you are inside and how you define yourself. And I don't get why that's so hard for some people to understand.
posted by elsietheeel at 1:02 PM on April 5, 2013 [13 favorites]


This is why that T is in LGBT. Homophobia or transphobia or racism never exist in a vacuum. I may be gay. But being white and male blinds me to a stupefyingly huge swath of bigotry out there. If I was part of just a G movement what real use would it be? A bunch of white dudes marrying is great and all but I would rather not leave my brothers and sisters behind.
posted by munchingzombie at 3:00 PM on April 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


munchingzombie: Don't forget the 'Q' in 'LGBTQ.' Even those boxes don't include everyone. Identity can get extremely complicated.

Not to call you out or anything; your comment just seemed like a good time to bring that up.
posted by chaosys at 3:23 PM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's not about gender roles and hyper-masculinity or -femininity. It's about who you are inside and how you define yourself. And I don't get why that's so hard for some people to understand.
Because it's directly counter to just about everything we hear about gender from the second we're born.

On top of that, the system largely works for a lot of people. They're assigned whatever at birth, mostly that works for them, and they feel pretty comfortable with it.
posted by kavasa at 3:37 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hear you, Chaosys. I think of LGBT as more emblematic rather than exhaustive of an always growing and diversifying community of queer-folk. That and it tires out my fingers to type out the full LGBTQQA, etc.
posted by munchingzombie at 3:43 PM on April 5, 2013


One of my best friends is big Ving Rhames lookin' gay black man. Almost every time we go out to do something I witness him being harassed or discriminated against and usually, maybe because he's huge, it's very subtle. But the damn subtleties are like a million paper cuts...I won't say that he's suicidal, he's not, but he is often in despair.

Much of his grief comes from within "the community" too. When he's out socializing the #1 pick-up line he gets is a whispered, "How big is your dick?". That wouldn't be too awful if that only happened at Rich's (Bear Bar?) but he gets it at church and the damn farmers market.

Forgive me for just hanging it right out there, but there are often times when I wish I could scoop him up in my arms and hold his big head against my chest for a minute, just so that he can feel loved and safe for a little bit. Feelings that, because he's big and gay and black...he doesn't get to feel very often.
posted by snsranch at 5:18 PM on April 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I understand the spirit in which folks are saying they are in awe of transpeople or are witness to a lot of suffering, but it feels a little funny to me. People are more than their struggles, and suffering--even when we suffer "more" than other people--doesn't make us nobler or smarter. It just makes us people. This writer has found a place inside the self where they feel safe, so why are we projecting expectations about suffering and expressing pity?
posted by liketitanic at 5:29 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Terrific piece.

Many times we (trans*, queer, researchers) question why T folks are part of the QUILTBAG constellation. Until, as a society, we stop assuming that one's gender presentation has anything to do with one's other predilections, particularly sexual/partner tastes, T folks are going to be assumed to be gay/queer. Queer before, during, or after transitioning. Until we freely allow everyone to create their own gender, to mix and match across the full range of human options, and change those selections at will, we are going to have the T in LGBTQ/QUILTBAG.

But the writer is correct, one's gender normativity is not a measure of transition quality, unless the trans* person themselves thinks so.
posted by Dreidl at 5:39 PM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


QUILTBAG? That's a new one to me.
posted by egypturnash at 6:23 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


QUILTBAG! It's got all the letters of GLBTQIA, but you can also say it without trailing off because you think you're forgetting something. Even better, it doesn't feel like the letters are listed in order of 'rank', the way it sometimes can feel when talking about GLBT issues that end up being all about the G.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:58 PM on April 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


(As a side note, many orgs use LGBT because if you say "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender" it tests between five and ten points higher with folks in the "moveable middle" than "gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender." People who aren't part of the community or movement still think of "gay" as primarily a slur, and just hearing it turns them off if it's the front of the phrase.)
posted by klangklangston at 7:10 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, I really like the imagery behind QUILTBAG: It feels less like a 'we're all alike' thing, and more that we're similar, but not the same, and stitched together with solidarity for a common purpose.

As for the article, I'm glad that more stories about people that are closer to the middle of the gender spectrum are starting to seep into public consciousness: in all hopes, maybe people will stop asking the question 'so when are you planning to finish your transition?' so goddamn often.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:17 PM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


The ever-evolving acronyms for everything is starting to make me think they all just mean "everything but straight and cisgender."
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:42 PM on April 5, 2013


QUILTBAG!
posted by munchingzombie at 9:45 PM on April 5, 2013


Question: While I'm pretty sure the A in QUILTBAG would be asexual, what would the I stand for?
posted by solarion at 1:39 AM on April 6, 2013


I understand the spirit in which folks are saying they are in awe of transpeople or are witness to a lot of suffering, but it feels a little funny to me. People are more than their struggles, and suffering--even when we suffer "more" than other people--doesn't make us nobler or smarter. It just makes us people.

In a very different context, my wife through her long illness could be reliably wound up by being considered a hero or brave for living through her handicaps and illness when, to her, it all was just something to be dealt with every day to get on with proper life. You always live within your own life's limits and possibilities and it never feels anything but normal from the inside: "Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders".
posted by MartinWisse at 2:16 AM on April 6, 2013


While I'm pretty sure the A in QUILTBAG would be asexual, what would the I stand for?

Quiltbag:

Q - Queer and Questioning
U - Unidentified
I - Intersex
L - Lesbian
T - Transgender, Transexual
B - Bisexual
A - Asexual
G - Gay, Genderqueer
posted by MartinWisse at 2:17 AM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've also seen the A in QUILTBAG as "ally."
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:31 AM on April 6, 2013


I've also seen a lot of pushback from within the movement against letting the A stand for "ally", though, most usually on the basis that 1) such usage, especially if it's presented as standing for ally rather than asexual, contributes to the marginalisation and invisibility of asexual people as a group; and 2) a cis straight person, living inside the sexual and gender norms, can provide as much support as they want but are still not experiencing a comparable life experience as other people who are outside the sexual and gender norm. (For the record I respect this argument while also understanding & respecting the opinions of those who believe the A should stand for ally and ace for inclusivity reasons.)
posted by titus n. owl at 10:14 AM on April 6, 2013


The ever-evolving acronyms for everything is starting to make me think they all just mean "everything but straight and cisgender."
GSM: gender and sexual minorities.
posted by aw_yiss at 9:50 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


QUILTBAG is awesome and as a definite Q, I will be using it starting now!
posted by Sophie1 at 11:01 AM on April 8, 2013


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