On Trans People and the Male Privilege Accusation

Published November 9, 2012 by Sarah Thomasin

There’s a thing I keep hearing about trans women. That they approach life with too much male privilege. That their assigned male upbringing informs their behaviour – in short they act like they have more rights than cis women and like the world somehow ‘owes’ them.

There’s a thing I keep hearing about trans men: That they are sort of abortive feminists: instead of joining the good fight for gender equality they have elected to break ranks and join the winning side. To identify as male purely to get their hands on some of that male privilege the trans women are having such a hard time letting go of.

Now. Odds are that you interact with and live in a society that glorifies the gender binary and, by and large, treats women worse than men. You will be aware of certain traits and roles that men and women respectively are ‘supposed’ to have and, if you’re reading this, you have probably questioned those gender role assumptions to some degree or other.

So it’s not a big leap to assume that if you were assigned male at birth, you had a different experience of being brought up than if you were assigned female at birth. If the former, you might have had more emphasis placed on your career choices. You might have been encouraged to be less emotionally expressive. If the latter, you might have experience d people having lower expectations of you. You might have found yourself more objectified and sexualised from a younger age. If, at some stage, you found that your gender identity was not what people had originally assumed it could be said that you were likely to have learned some of those ‘male’ or ‘female’ traits, withut even consciously realising that’s what they were.

This leads to an idea that trans women have something they shouldn’t and that trans men want something they shouldn’t have: male privilege.

I can see the allure of this idea. I can see why it’s got some traction. I know trans women with a confident, entitled manner and I can imagine that their upbringing contributed to this. I can totally see that being constantly told they were something they felt deeply and certainly that they were not absolutely infused them with privilege.

I know trans men who have gone from shy, withdrawn “girls“ to confident, cocky lads. High on massive societal approval showered on them when they came out as transgender, no doubt.

Here’s the thing. It is not wrong for a woman to have a sense of entitlement and self confidence. If, regardless of gender, you have been brought up to value yourself, that’s good. If you’ve been brought up to disregard others, that’s bad and you need to fix it but it’s got tit all to do with your gender. I hear women who call themselves feminists complaining –COMPLAINING!- that some women are too confident and assertive, because they are trans. “You’re not a proper woman, you’re not oppressed enough.” As well as being patently ridiculous (since when are trans women known for their high, oppression-free status in our society?) this is horribly misogynist. Why aren’t such ‘feminists’ looking at how ALL women can be more empowered, not how some women should be “taken down a peg or two”? Maybe that would be too radical?

The thing about trans men cynically exploiting the medical system to get hold of this elusive male privilege is equally surreal. Going by that trans woman male privilege idea, surely all trans men should be shy little mice who enjoy embroidery and self deprecation, no? All that female non-privilege should inform their every movement, and be totally insurmountable, right?

Then there’s the frankly bizarre supposition that trans men decide to be trans men. No. They are trans men. They decide to tell you that, or not as the case may be. It’s not a ploy to get privilege. If it was it would be the least well thought out privilege-getting ploy ever.

It’s almost like these people get angry whenever trans people display signs of happiness, empowerment and confidence. Classy.

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2 comments on “On Trans People and the Male Privilege Accusation

  • I wouldn’t say trans woman have male privilege but unlike women and trans woman who’ve never had male privilege or had it from a very short time,(Ie they came out young with a supportive family) who have internalised misogyny, late to come out trans women in my experience tend to have a odd attitude to anyone with a Uterus, woman or not.

    I’m not cis myself but I do have a uterus, I’ve had trans activitsts misgender me, sneer at me for needing health care, slut shame me, outright say that they support taking away my rights, and it’s always those who came out later. It’s like subconsciously they’ve absorbed societies “you’re better than them” message given to them, especially if they’re also white, and even though trans women are women, those with a Uterus remain in the minds of some as a “them”, rather than an “us”.

    Confidence isn’t the problem, it’s the trans women who vehemently oppose reproductive care, and reproductive screening for disease/illness for impoverished people. It’s trans women opposing therapeutic abortion for people with a Uterus because someone -might- develop a test for trans babies and some people -might- abort if it was positive, while ignoring that the test for Downs has had no effect on Downs births and nobody is researching a pre-natal test for being trans much less has one.

    Feeling entitled isn’t the problem, but some trans women feeling entitled to treat others like dirt is, especially when they then turn around and demand better treatment from others than they dish out.

  • You’re so right. I often feel a little crappy as a trans guy because of the internet back-and-forth privilege wars thinking that if I show the slightest bit of confidence and desire for respect publicly I’m just trying to be a “typical entitled man.” But then if I don’t, I’m shaming myself or something along those lines. Can’t win!

    There’s lots of trans people with rotten personalities and beliefs yeah but… That’s because people in general often do, it doesn’t change no matter what someone’s situation in life is. Thanks for this, I’m really enjoying your blog!

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