This is a guest post by Toni D’orsay that deserves a signal boost.
“Welcome to womanhood.”
It is a phrase heard by trans women at least once — often far more often than that — and it is always meant in a commiserating way, a kind of “welcome to the sisterhood” statement, that ties within it all the other stuff that goes along with being a woman.
It is often given in particular contexts that suggest that this is a new experience for trans women, something different from what they had experienced in the past, and the flaw in it, the cruelty of it, is derived from that simple misunderstanding.
Trans women are women who typically spend a lot of their time looking in from the outside. Another metaphor: the most unpopular girls in high school who watch even those with the slightest greater popularity enjoy everything, while they get stuck eating ashes. Alone. Away from the lunch room.
It won’t apply to all trans women. Nothing can. Not even transness, when it comes right down to it, but that won’t stop people from trying, since transness is a concept structured by the dominant social milieu, in and of itself.
But by and large, trans women are women who have been denied all those experiences and forced into another set. They would watch over their shoulders or try to understand the why and how the what from outside, not the inside, and in doing so, they did, in fact, experience a womanhood — just not the acceptable, prepackaged, pre-approved, preordained, structural and institutional womanhood many know. Most know.
The underlying message is welcome to the ways in which which being a woman sucks. On rare occasions, it is welcome to the ways in which being a woman is awesome.
Trans women already know that, though. They have watched it. They have often prayed for it. They may not understand it as well, because they were never on the inside; never popular enough to hang out in the schoolyard.
Some will argue that isn’t probable. You cannot know something from the outside, they will argue. Yet we do that all the time, all of us. If you don’t believe me, look at how much we think we know about the lives of celebrities.
We probably don’t get it in full detail, the depth of nuance and the nitty gritty of the emotional weight, but we know it.
We don’t understand it, though, no mater how many pet theories we come up with.
Trans women were trans girls. They grew up, and a large number of them waited, expectantly for our first periods, our first kisses, our dance dresses and those little things — for some of us, we figured for a while we were just late bloomers, it would happen, it will be okay.
We were denied those things. Often punished for thinking of them. Often we were nuts, and for those of us of different generations, we were pushed to be more masculine, trounced if we didn’t do well, given disappointing looks and worried for us glances by teachers and principals and parents and strangers.
We were children, disappointing parents by being what they told us we could be, because we didn’t fit into the world they knew or understand or approved of or liked enough.
They know the dark side. In some cases, perhaps far too well.
But they also, as a result of this, see womanhood differently. I mean, these are women who had to fight to be women, had to defy family and government and, if some are to be believed, Gods, to be women. They never got to experience these things, so for them, sometimes, even the crappy parts of being a woman are blessings, which can be pretty jarring, pretty funny, pretty heartbreaking.
And even as they do so, they are punished for being women. Not merely treated that way, but punished for it punished for wanting it, punished for living as themselves.
Trans women get to be told they don’t get a say in their reproductive rights, and then are punished for not having that say, then punished for wanting them, and punished for thinking they deserve them, and punished for not being able to do the thing people think of most often when folks say reproductive rights. Something which a lot of them would give up limbs in the most literal sense to be able to do.
Indeed in one of the more hateful theories out there created by cis folks about tans folks, wanting to be a woman is a delusion, and it is all about sex, and yet if you were to ask trans women if they want babies (which, you guessed it, requires sex), and they answer yes, in and of itself, undoes all of that theory as it is constructed.
Because we are punished for wanting that. Wanting something that people say we can never have, and say it with a kind of smug and grim satisfaction, like a twist of the knife that those who say that know they have just jammed into a kidney from behind.
We know womanhood. And for those of us of color, we know oppression and discrimination that while it differs in style, is still the same, basic, harsh and ugly human reaction.
Which is all bad enough, except that we get it all from everyone, including women, because we break rules we never made that were never established to account for us, that pretend we do not exist.
We know womanhood. And we know a truth that few folks will ever utter, a thought that really makes the notion of welcoming us to womanhood even more bitter than it usually is.
We know because we are not welcome to womanhood, we never have been, anywhere, so even that lie just makes us quirk a corner of our lips in a wry smile and shrug.
Because we are going to carve a place out for us. We are entitled to it — it is our human right to be so.
And for that we need no welcome.
But you are welcome to join us.