Although I enjoyed reading Virginia Vitzthum’s article “A Change of a Dress” (5/7), I was disappointed in the manner in which Vitzthum generalizes the male-to-female transgender experience. In one paragraph, she dismisses the female-to-male experience as somehow less socially transgressive, as if it were a simple matter of throwing on a pair of Dockers. Pity the male-to-females, because they are the ones who truly suffer.

Citing the existence of a few masculine actresses does not prove this opinion, because the existence of femme actors like RuPaul and Harvey Fierstein would just as easily prove the converse opinion. Many in the gender studies field, including myself, would view this opinion as an extension of the masculine-normative bias often found in social research: that the experience of the men is somehow more important than that of the women.

Women who can pass as men must surmount constant attempts to control and change them, ranging from parental punishment to physical assault and rape. Up until the ’50s, it was illegal for women to wear men’s clothing, and this was often used as an excuse for police raids on lesbian bars. Girls who do not outgrow their tomboy phase are often diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder, as noted by the book cited by Vitzthum, Gender Shock. Another recent best-selling book somehow missed by Vitzthum, Daphne Scholinski’s The Last Time I Wore a Dress, recounts the experiences of a young girl who was warehoused in an insane asylum for not exhibiting an appropriate level of femininity. Her treatment consisted of makeup lessons and lectures on how to flirt with boys. In the military field, “butch” women are singled out for investigation into their sexuality and can be branded as lesbians and discharged.

No single type of transgenderism is easier than another—all open up the trans person to various dangers. The original biological gender has no bearing on whether someone will face acceptance or approbation, so long as Western society remains invested in the “two-party” system.

Washington, D.C.

Dupont Circle

via the Internet

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