After You, Miss

I wrote a post a while back comparing the way men treat me now compared to how they did before. It’s a complicated thing, but it can be mostly summarised as men that know me treating me more gently and politely than they did before, some men on the street treating me like a piece of meat, and men in general speaking with less of a natural connection to me (we’re not “bros” anymore, you see)

I talk a bit more about each in my previous post on the subject, but today I want to delve into one of these in particular: the way some men treat me with a courteousness and gentleness that wasn’t there before.

One of the hardest parts of coming out was accepting my identity. For several reasons, it can be very difficult to be okay with being gay, or asexual, or transgender. In my case, it had to do with understanding life would be very difficult for me no matter what, but it also meant overcoming a sense of shame that came up every time I thought about femininity.

You see, most men are conditioned to both be attracted to femininity in others, and to reject it utterly in any form that relates to themselves. It’s why really unhealthy things like boys being beaten for crying end up happening: emotions are seen as feminine, and we can’t have a boy being at all feminine. That toxic aversion to femininity that’s slowly (and artificially) built inside men tends to hurt them more than they hurt women, but it also affects transgender women a ton.

We grow up being treated as men and so subjected to the same sort of brainwashing, which means that after a few years many of us end up with that unhealthy relationship towards femininity. Some of us never let it build up much, and others can cast it off easily. It wasn’t so easy for me. I would dress up in a dress and feel both calm and joy at expressing myself in a way I couldn’t articulate, but a part of me would also feel ashamed and guilty about it. It took me years and years to slowly knock down all those walls that had been built inside me.

Even now however, I have the odd reaction to some things. For example, the kind and gentle way some men treat me.

Particularly in the last few months that I’ve looked more and more feminine, I’ve had guys step aside when I’m entering or leaving a room or the elevator, smiling at me and going “after you, Miss.”
Well, they say it in Spanish, but you get the idea.

I remember how conflicted and weird I felt when it first started happening. I was so used to men being indifferent or bro-y towards me. This sort of thing was completely new.

I talked to my best friend about it, and she told me how for her it’s just nice and sweet when guys do that. I tried looking at it that way and sure enough, I got used to it fairly soon. In fact, and I feel pretty ashamed saying this, it’s gotten to the point where when I’m entering the floor just as a guy is leaving, I won’t wait and do the “you first!” dance, but will go right up and starting to walk through before they ask me to go first.
It’s not that I feel I’m entitled to it, but more that so often I lose time asking them to go first only for them to insist I go first until I finally give in and step through, that it’s simply more practical to assume they’ll ask me to enter before they leave.

Why was it so hard to get used to, though? It isn’t just that it’s different, because while just about everything is different to me now, not everything makes me feel as uncomfortable. I guess it’s related to what I said before about being raised a certain way.

I’ve grown used to femininity and embracing my inner girliness (and I’ve discovered there’s a lot of in me.) However, that is not the same thing as getting used to being seen as feminine by others. It might seem like an arbitrary separation of ideas, but it really is very different.

Exploring my femininity has been a ton of fun, and I’ve been pretty much in charge of it. I choose the clothes I wear, I play around with makeup, try out new ways to wear my hair… I remain in control.

However, being seen as a woman, and being treated (especially by men) as a feminine woman leaves the other person in control. Sure, I can always speak against that sort of treatment and refuse to accept it, but it ends up being reactive rather than proactive. The power dynamic is completely different.

The power thing in general has been interesting. I want to write a post about what femininity is and what it entails, because it’s such a difficult to define concept. However, one thing I’ve noticed is that femininity is a lot less concerned with the appearance of power in a situation than masculinity is (or the type of femininity and masculinity I’ve been exposed to, anyways.)

Masculinity was about doing favours for girls, acting jokingly tough around guys, trying to make your voice sound all deep and whatnot. Femininity has been more about laughing at guys falling over themselves to lift a chair you could move yourself. There’s a power there in and of itself, but it’s not as overt.

I know this might sound a little bit sexist. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot, but haven’t had much luck defining in concrete terms.

As far as this particular subject goes, though, that idea holds true. Presenting as a guy commanded a sort of cold respect, while being seen as a woman means I get treated with… not disrespect, more a completely different style of respect. Instead of being seen as an equal, I’m seen as someone who has her own merit, but doesn’t warrant that same distant treatment. Guys can treat me delicately and kindly not because I’m weak, but more because there’s no need to affect wariness. I’m not a threat, you could say.

A part of me is still in the old guy mindset, of needing to project security and a vague sense of competition with other guys, and it’s having trouble adjusting to my current reality, in which no guy sees me that way, and instead speaks to me with more warmth than ever before. I’m happy to lose that old part of me, but it’s slow going. Even after a year, it still sticks its head up.

The other day I got on the lift and immediately closed the doors because I was in a rush to get upstairs. I didn’t realise there was a guy walking in right behind me, and nearly closed them in his face before hurriedly pushing the ‘open doors’ button. He’s been teasing me for the last few days about closing the door on him, and honestly, it’s been really enjoyable.

I always used to be the one that would tease a girl in a friendly, not-really-flirtatious-but-sorta-flirtatious way. Suddenly I’m on the other side of that dynamic and it’s just… nice. I get all smiley when he says something about it, and feel happy sticking out my tongue at him in reply, or just giggling and teasing him back.

For some reason, the younger, pre-transition version of myself that tried imagining every part of post-transition life never pictured a scene like that playing out.

I’m not sure what this post is about. I guess I wanted to write this down somewhere. There’s a guy I greet every day with the traditional guy-girl cheek kiss thing. I’m getting doors held open for me. Guys on the bus have given me their seat without being asked. I got complimented by a guy improvising a song on the bus a few month back. All of these things have been so wonderful to get to experience; they’re just so… different.


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