It’s always hurtful when cis people make trans-misogynistic attacks on trans women’s gender expression, and I doubt I shall ever understand why they think they are entitled to do so. The barbs are bad enough when they’re aimed specifically at me as an individual, but when they target my entire community they inevitably seem only to add insult to injury.
I’ve just seen an example of this mindless hatred emanating from Apple computers; a company which makes products of which I’ve been a long-time fan – indeed, I’m writing this on my much-loved PowerBook and I’m soundtracking my blogging with music played on my iPod. So to then view the cheap shot that is their latest commercial is a huge disappointment, to say the least.
The ad features model Gisele Bundchen, who is supposed to be the embodiment of a home movie made using iMovie. After the Mac presents Gisele, the PC presents a person wearing a dress identical to Gisele’s, in a wig, with no breasts, a five o’clock shadow and an abundance of exposed chest hair.
The ad ends with the line:
“Work in progress?”
For me, perhaps the worst thing about this is the perpetuation of a stereotype founded on pure ignorance. The point that so few cis people ever seem to understand is that transsexual women like me transition as a way of managing the intense morphic dissonance we experience. Do you not think that if we simply wanted to be cross-dressing caricatures as depicted in the Apple ad, then we would? Does it not occur to you that we turn our lives upside down, we lose families, friends, loved ones, jobs, houses, cars – everything – because that is what we need to do to survive? Do you really believe we “choose” to be transsexual, that transitioning is nothing more than a “lifestyle choice” that we could freely reverse if only we would see things your way?
And really, the idea that every transsexual woman wants to look like some fictitious ideal of a femme-y woman is as much of a stereotype as the “bloke in a frock” image on which it’s founded – and I say that both stereotypes are wrong. Transsexual women’s gender expression is every bit as varied as cis women’s; a fact conveniently ignored by the oh-so-cool hipsters in the marketing department in Cupertino, CA.
There’s a very pertinent quote in “Crossing: A Memoir” by Deirdre Nansen McCloskey (link here), when she was asked why trans women learn stereotypical feminine gestures.
She said: “It’s to keep from getting murdered, dear”.
And, certainly for me, that’s the main reason I wear skirts and dresses. Camouflage. Self-preservation. It’s not the perfect match for my gender identity – but it’s damned close, close enough for comfort. My comfort. To blend in; to merge with the background; to be just another face in the crowd. I do it so I can get from A to B without winding up in A&E. I don’t do it to meet some dumb-ass enforced criteria of how I should look. I’ve spent my life doing just that, from one side or other of the binary divide. And I’m sick of cis people imposing on me their unreasonable preconceptions of how I should look – and then attacking me for failing to meet their frankly ludicrous standards; standards which they never seem to apply to themselves. Funny, that.
Like all of us, cis or trans, I am who I am and I let my presentation reflect that. But apparently this is such a huge big deal to the advertising staff at Apple Inc that the only way they can deal with the existence of transsexual women is by ridiculing us in this hateful, hurtful way.
I say it’s time to stop the trans-misogyny once and for all. Like my PowerBook, it’s old and tired; and like Apple’s advert, it’s not even vaguely amusing.