Gender Courtesy and Gender Privilege

Posted: January 2, 2009 in Uncategorized

I love these jeans. I got them at Clobba a trans friendly womens clothing store in the upper Haight. I recommend it. The shirt is from the womens cotton basics section of Old Navy, which is the cheapest way of adding color to your wardrobe.

I am reading Julia Serano’s Whipping Girl. It is a thought provoking transsexual feminist manifesto. Although I disagree on many points, it is an important work and engaging her thinking is pushing my own further.
It has gotten me thinking about gender privileges which may or may not be extended to trans women (MTFs). One example is the right to be in womens spaces like public restrooms, womens groups and lesbian spaces. Some women extend the privilege and some do not. My fear of rejection me not to even ask in many cases. For instance, I would like nothing so much as to be in a womens support group, just to be able to open my heart to other women and give and receive support, but I would never risk rejection by requesting to be included. It would hurt to much. Serano calls this extending cissexual privilege, though I find the term gender privilege much less technical and equally valid.
Looking back at my recent experience I would like to add another concept ‘gender courtesy.’ When the girls at the BaGG dance party invited me to go pee with them, they were extending gender privilege. They were accepting that I had the right to be in the womens restroom because I was identifying as femme that evening. But, they are also extending me a courtesy that was never extending me when I presented as boy. They are including me. I am invited to come with the girls. They are performing a social act of inclusion. When women are making eye contact with me, touching my arm when they talk, being the first to say hello, and dancing with me on the dancefloor they are performing acts of trust which they extend to members of their own gender. I cannot stress how important this is to me. It might be the biggest single reason I am presenting as femme. It is related to what Serano is calling privilege but I think the word courtesy captures the voluntary nature of the interactions. They are extending me a gender courtesy that they may extend to some but not all women. At the same time this gender courtesy of inclusion was rarely extended to me when I presented as a boy.

  1. lesfriendly says:

    i hope more instances like this happens to you in the future. best wishes!

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