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Harm Under the Umbrella

I want to be able to perceive the crossdressing community as a natural ally to trans people, especially for trans women, but I see harm happening under the umbrella.

While some trans people may be crossdressers, not all crossdressers are trans. Many trans people come to the realization that they are trans through experimentation in the crossdressing community, hence the connection, but at the end of the day, many crossdressers identify with their assigned birth gender and simply enjoy an opportunity to express the feminine from time to time.

There was an article reposted on Kandi's Land, a crossdressing blog, that really talks to this: Is a CD Necessarily Transgender? The article I linked talks to one of them and that is tied to the concept of "convincingly be perceived as a woman." That actually has a lot of potential harm tied into it that I think a lot of crossdressers don't really see. 

There's an old joke out there: What is the difference between a crossdresser and a trans woman? Answer: The former can't wait to get home to put on her bra, the latter can't wait to take it off.

That may seem like a funny joke, but it's harmful. Why? The difference is way deeper than that: The former is a man, the latter is a woman. As a result, we're truly not the same.

In other words, while I may look forward to taking off my bra at the end of the day, I cannot take off my womanhood. My identity as a woman is not something that comes off like clothing and makeup. In fact, clothing and makeup have nothing to do with my identity. I am not creating an illusion here, I am simply existing.

Yet, we're linked, a function of gender assignment at birth and societal perceptions. That linkage gives enormous power to the crossdressing community to cause harm because the average cis person will not see the difference and will accept the perspective of a crossdresser on trans issues as equally valid as that of a trans person. 

Case in point, and I have talked about this a couple of times before, is the use of terms like transwoman or transman (and similar) that compound the adjective with the noun. These terms are very othering, they deny us our gender and place us in a seperate category all together. I see this a lot in the crossdressing community and it feels very much like men are policing my womanhood because that's what it is, quite simply. If I can't get a crossdresser to recognize the harm in these terms, how can I perceive them as anything other than the patriarchy at work? 

Connected to that, I saw a recent post on a crossdressing blog about how they saw a couple of "transwomen" (sic) in public. Oof, harmful assumptions there: "I could be wrong, but in both cases the women were tall, big-boned, wide-shouldered and spoke with male voices." What I see is yet another man policing a woman's appearance and voice, where have we seen that before? This same blog will routinely post pictures of people, presumed to be crossdressers, who are in a public space without evidence that the person truly is a crossdresser or is okay with their photo being used as such. While a right to privacy doesn't exist in public, as such, one would hope that we wouldn't emulate hate sites by outing people.

Another one I see is "transgendered" as though being trans was something done to me instead of being an essential part of my existence. I was not transed, I am trans. Yet, again, I see this a lot in the crossdressing community and it feels like men defining our experience because, well, they are. It's like they perceive their ability to apparently (though not actually) switch between worlds voluntarily as a universal and so assume that we can as well. I cannot, my identity is not an illusion to raise and drop as needed.

These behaviours coming from a community perceived to be inside the trans umbrella is truly harming trans people. Bigots pick up on these, the weaponize them, and they inflict harm. Stop giving them free ammunition, I beg of you. 

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