Dudes and sexual violence, Part 2
February 28, 2012 § 2 Comments
When I posted my most recent blog to facebook, a conversation ensued that made me think the issue of transguys and sexual violence through some more.
In response to another friend’s comment on my page, Max Attitude responded with the below:
I’d be careful about generalising about transmen’s manliness. My experience is that trans men are often conflated with nontrans men in ways which are inappropriate. I’m interested to know why you think ‘trans male culture’ is “a space where it really needs discussion”; I can’t think of a space where it doesn’t. It seems likely some transmen would enact sexual violence in order to prove their manliness – this is how most man/woman sexual violence takes place, and there is a particular context to transmen’s manliness that warrants discussion/investigation. There’s are historical contexts for expecting transmen to “be better men” than nontrans men, (to be “better” feminists) – just as there are for transwomen – that are not politically savvy.
Sexual violence, its consequences, causes, social power it points to, should always be talked about. And talked about in ways which are useful. perps should own up and be dealt with. As perps (who can be of all genders/sexualities). Sussing out how someone’s social position factors in to their abusive behaviour is relevant, important, urgent. But trans people deserve for their transness to be dealt with with care (obviously not as an excuse), because it is a really fucking hard way to live – and nontrans people fuck up all the time. Just don’t blame the transness, I suppose. That does a disservice to all transmen, many of whom are freakin’ amazing, feminist, women-loving, nonabusive men.
This was my response, which I’ve expanded a little here:
I think that in any masculine gendering, trans or cis boys and men and masculine women, there are valid concerns about extricating misogyny from masculinity. What does it mean to be a dude and not be misogynist? It’s a hard question, but one of the reasons that I love Dude is that I think it – and even the post I linked to – does try to be that very thing (as well as heaps of other stuff of course). In my experience it is really hard to call out misogyny though, in any community, and especially in the face of (my own) ingrained ‘feminine’ behaviours, so I can understand those concerns.
Actually though, that wasn’t what I intended the original post to be about. Something I didn’t get into there was the idea of the gender of the survivor of sexual assault. Perhaps obviously, I was thinking when I was writing, that it was possible the survivor being spoken about was a trans guy or a woman. Of course it’s also possible that the survivor was a cis guy but that isn’t really what I want to get into here, either.
When I made a comment on the Dude post and wrote my post here, I was most interested in what sexual assault means for trans guy survivors. Amongst other things, what does it mean in terms of how masculinity is then experienced or expressed? I don’t have the answer to that question. But again it is important because I think if we can understand what sexual assault generates, we can start to communicate more effectively why it’s so important and why it’s not ok.
What I didn’t say in my first post is that when I was thinking about this ‘idea of the survivor’, I started to realise the extent to which that persom is gendered feminine. Which is obviously problematic given the intense violence that is directed toward trans people both because a) like women, they are not cis guys and b) they threaten the gender binary and power structure (and heteronormativity by association, thanks Judith Butler).
So, at all stages of transition (some more than others) trans guys are affected by sexual assault. And that is a big part of what I was attempting to ask questions about. Again, in my view, these questions are important in any discussion of sexual violence in any community. What does sexual assault create and destroy, for both perpetrators and survivors?
Thinking through this reminds me of how much potential there is for solidarity amongst trans guys and women. Although perpetrators can be of all genders/ sexualities as Max says, with the exception of certain incarceration systems, survivors are far more likely to be female-bodied or trans people. So while feminism has a history of being really shitty at acknowledging the (in my view overwhelming) need for solidarity with the queer and trans communities around sexual violence, I think it’s a hugely important and positive opportunity.
This is a community of men that has an interest in stopping sexual violence. At the same time it’s also a community that has particular (and not so particular, of course people have sex everywhere) vulnerabilities to violence of many kinds – normative, physical, sexual, the reiterated violence of the everyday.
So, important questions, and important solidarities are what I take from this.