Frisky Rant: IDGAF If You Say I Look “Like A Tranny”

Frisky Rant: IDGAF If You Say I Look "Like a Tranny"

I’ve wondered for a long time if maybe I have higher levels of testosterone than other women, because there’s always been a lot about me that is just distinctly un-feminine (in the sort of standard way of looking at masculinity and femininity). I don’t want to state any facts about testosterone because I am not an endocrinologist and I don’t want to engage in pseudo-science, but suffice it to say that when I hear the experiences of transmen who have undergone hormone therapy I’ve related to the differences they observe. And, in fact, I’ve always had an easier time relating to and making friends with men.

And that’s on top of the fact that I have acknowledged for a long time that for a woman – and in my opinion, a beautiful woman – I have exceedingly masculine features. My facial structure is almost an exact copy of my father’s. I have wide shoulders, and I tend to hold muscle definition pretty easily (when I bother trying). I’m hairier than a lot of women I know, and it’s a pain in the ass to manage.

All of this makes me a pretty easy target for transphobes, because if I say or do something they don’t like and they want to take a dig at my looks, they always – always – fall back on “You look like a tranny!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard tranny, trap, dude in drag, etcetera etcetera. It used to upset me because I felt it was a misrepresentation of my identity and because it was a thing I wasn’t used to having associated with me, but as I reflected on it, I realized that I just don’t care.

I’ve worked with the trans community since I was 14. I was on my school’s Queer-Straight Alliance the entire time I was in high school, and when I became president, I tried to make trans inclusion a priority. I worked with GLSEN for a year. I’ve lent the support I could to several healthy, happy transitions, and I’m proud of that. I love the trans community and although I don’t understand the experience of being trans, I respect it. So when people say that I look like a tranny or a “trap” or a dude in drag, I’m only offended because I hate those phrases for their implications and histories. They’re ways of invalidating and denigrating trans identities.

What people mean when they say those things is that I look like a man. That’s a bad thing to them not just because they’re bigots and to them trans people are invalid human beings, but also because, at heart, they believe that there are only two sexes (this is incorrect), that those sexes have roles and expectations that are inherently and fatally attached to them, and my looks, as a woman, have failed to live up to their expectations. I am not dainty, I am not spectacularly soft, I’m not rounded off everywhere, I can be somewhat physically intimidating.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The idea that this is an insult to me hinges on the assumption that I’m operating with a lack of knowledge about my own body, and stating the fact that I look kind of masculine is going to come as a surprise to me. It doesn’t. I shot a few self-portraits in drag because there are people in my life who insist on telling me no, I totally look like a woman! I don’t look like a man at all! under the same belief that “you look like a woman” is a compliment and “you look like a man” is an insult — or in other words that “you live up to our culture’s expectations of what women should look like” is a compliment and “you do not live up to those expectations” is an insult — and I wanted to prove them wrong. I do. I so, so do look like a guy sometimes. And furthermore, I don’t understand the experience of being trans, but I do understand the experience of being androgynous, and I reject the concept that gender is inborn, or that women must be one thing and men must be another.

The only thing I can think to respond with when people call me mannish, a tranny, a trap, or a dude in drag is this: “I <3 trans people,” or “I <3 dudes in drag.” Because I do. I’m not going to argue with them, because I’m not going to validate it as an insult. I’m going to respond with love and respect for the people I love and respect, and hope that in the future, if anyone has a rational and objective criticism for me, they’ll share it with me diplomatically and with that same love and respect.

Rebecca Vipond Brink is a writer, photographer, and traveler. You can follow her at @rebeccavbrink or on her blog, Flare and Fade.

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