The New Girl: A Trans Woman's View Of White Male Privilege

She's a transgender woman but has never experienced white male privilege. Does that make her less of a 'real' woman? And what is a 'real' woman anyway?

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When I was offered the position of ELLE's transgender columnist, I knew that I would have plenty of poignant, serious and laugh out loud stories to share about my experiences of transitioning from male to female.

At the time, no other UK publication had recognised that a trans voice was missing from typically cis-gendered aimed magazines. And things needed to change.

I happily accepted this role because I wanted my voice to be heard within a women's magazine. As I believe it's hugely important that the collective of female voices be acknowledged and represented across all forms of media.

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But with such media exposure, visibility and an awareness of trans issues came an - arguably inevitable - backlash.

For some-time, I've been dictated to and told what I am or rather what I'm not by others.

Nigerian novelist and feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie rocked the LGBTQ community when she commented, and then went on to re-clarify, why 'trans women are trans women' and not just 'women'.

'I think if you've lived in the world as a man with the privileges that the world accords to men and then sort of change gender, it's difficult for me to accept that then we can equate your experience with the experience of a woman who has lived from the beginning as a woman and who has not been accorded those privileges that men are', she told Channel 4 News.

I appreciated her point of view, which didn't completely dismiss me, but I couldn't agree.

Warming up winter @kontakthair with my orange & black number today.

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Chimamanda's comments are the latest in a string of remarks that call into question the 'realness' of transgender women.

Recently Woman's Hour presenter, Dame Jenni Murray accused women like me of not being 'real' in an article published in The Sunday Times Magazine. Starting her tirade with 'I am not transphobic or anti-trans' – which felt like a kick in the teeth. As I knew what was about to come.

Back in 2012, the author Julie Burchill wrote, 'Trans women are big white blokes who cut their cocks off' in an article originally published in The Observer.

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A couple of years later Germaine Greer made headlines when she attacked the transgender community on Newsnight by telling the world that Trans women are 'not women' because we do not 'look like, sound like or behave like women'.

I don't know why I'm transgendered. I don't know why I feel more comfortable in a female identity

By suggesting I'm not 'real' is implying that I'm fake. And I'm tired of this debate.

Why am I always being asked 'What makes you a woman?'

I feel like I'm constantly having to explain myself, to justify my words and actions, to define and redefine who I am in the hope that others will accept me – so that my existence is in some way validated.

When I read Murray's comments I immediately jumped onto Twitter to see what responses it evoked from my trans friends, many of who seemed to be rolling their eyes, as if to say 'Here we go again, time to explain myself once more'.

Transgender journalist Paris Lees directly addressed Murray's comments - tongue firmly in cheek. 'Thank God someone has *finally* had the guts to tell trans women we're not real women. Groundbreaking & completely necessary comments,' she tweeted.

I don't know why I'm transgendered. I don't know why I feel more comfortable in a female identity. I don't know why after 30 years of living as a man I knew I had to transition. I've explored all of these questions and have yet to come up with an answer. It just is.

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#fridaynight #vibes all is well.

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I find it hard to understand why these women are so convinced that people like me can't lay claim to being a 'woman'. Who decided they get to call the shots and say who's 'real' or not?

I don't demand to know what makes them a woman, I wouldn't be so crass, or disrespectful.

Here's what I think.

I'm told that I can't know what's it's like being a 'real' woman because I was born with a penis. It means that I can't know what life is really like as a woman because I have grown up with something called 'white male privilege'.

Society therefore has treated me differently to other women since the day I was born, until I decided to become one anyway. But everyone, and I mean everyone, has a different life experience.

I had to ask myself if I thought I really had experienced white male privilege.

Because, with being born with a penis, I should have right? That life was a breeze, because I was a boy. Is it true then, that my sex dictates how society interacts with me, and how I have experienced life?

To assume I had the same privilege as the boy who lived next door to me is misguided. The differences between us couldn't have been more obvious. He grew up with people patting him on the back for denoting masculine characteristics and traits. His athleticism and studious nature at school meant he was praised and honoured as a 'golden boy'.

In contrast, my feminine characteristics and traits, my lack of sexual desire towards girls and my long hair prompted people to call me a 'sissy' and a 'fairy'.

I was shunned by those around me for being too 'girly'. I didn't fit into the very narrow idea of masculinity and therefore I wasn't treated like my next door neighbour or any other boy I knew.

So I observed male privilege, but that doesn't mean every man has the same experience.

To assume I had the same privilege as the boy who lived next door to me is misguided

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I wouldn't dare define a 'man' by whether he has a penis, because that undermines every man that doesn't have a penis - and I know many men that don't, because they transitioned from female to male.

Gender identity transcends the anatomical and goes beyond physical characteristics.

I'm not denying altogether that I have experienced privilege, because I can say that I have experienced 'white privilege', and unfortunately still do to this day.

I began transitioning in 2012 aged 30. In April of that year I adopted a female presentation.

At this point I also adopted the role of 'trans woman' within society. Being trans was less accepted back then, so unfortunately I had the role of a freak and an outsider. I confused people.

Trans superstar Laverne Cox echoed the same thoughts on twitter: 'The irony of my life is, prior to transition I was called a girl, and after I am often called a man.'

In 2012 I was abused on the streets, with people demanding to know if I was a girl or a boy.

Two women in Hackney shouted 'batty man' at me in a bus stop and a man followed me around my local supermarket telling everyone in ear shot 'That's a man!' while pointing at me.

This is my experience. It's my experience of abuse, which is how it feels right now, with people telling me – you can't really be a woman. This is called bullying. These people, who accost me on the street, are bigging themselves up, and making themselves feel more secure about who they are, by putting other people down.

Trans activist and writer Raquel Willis recently tweeted: 'Trans women have been hypersexualized in the media, exploited for our bodies, paid less, denied healthcare and told our voices are invalid'.

Which to me, sounds like an experience shared by all women, regardless of genitalia, colour or sexual orientation. I think we should be tackling these experiences united and with solidarity as opposed to splintering off into sub-groups and attacking each other.

It isn't helpful or progressive. In fact, it's damaging and hurtful.

I wouldn't dare define a 'man' by whether he has a penis, because that undermines every man that doesn't have a penis - and I know many men that don't

So to answer the much asked question, 'Why do I think I'm a woman?'

I'm a woman because that's the identity that I have constructed. It's what I want to be.

It's up to me how I decide to live my life. I'm not wanting to take away from womanhood, I'm learning to navigate the world in a way that I feel comfortable.

My visibility, my presence, my voice and my experience are valid. They enrich the understanding we have of womanhood because we accept that 'women' are not one thing.

I want to continue this exploration in my own time, without having to reach a defined conclusion about my identity for somebody else.

It's not up for debate any more. Sorry.

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