The View is Different from Venus to Mars

“If I realize I am making someone feel like a shadow, I will move out of the way so they can feel the sun.”

Gender roles and gender differences have always fascinated me. I’ve written about these subjects several times. Most recently, I wrote a post entitled What Do You Do? about the many steps women take to avoid sexual assault. Men rarely have to think about these things.

If you search my blog for posts about gender, or click on my feminism heading, dozens will come up. Some of these include: Sworn Virgins in Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo; Secure in My Manhood; Buying in to Gender Violence Phraseology; and Gender-Specific Jobs? Pffft.

Recently I had the opportunity to have a very interesting conversation with someone who has a unique insight into gender roles. To protect his privacy, we’ll call him Mr. Anonymous. As you will soon see, he has had the opportunity to contemplate this topic even more than the majority of us have. I learned a great deal from this conversation, and so I asked him if he’d be willing to be a guest author for today’s post. He was kind enough to agree. So without further ado, here’s Mr. Anonymous.

_____________________

Today I was in the grocery store looking for this herbal tea that I usually find in health-food stores. As often happens, a woman approached, needing something on a nearby shelf. I was far enough away for her to easily pass me, but she still felt the need to apologize and grab her item quickly. I assured her that she was not in the way. She replied, “That’s good.”

She said it like it was a relief. Here I was, needing a haircut, and I hadn’t shaved in several days, so I looked kind of rough. I felt rough in that store today. Yet this woman, who was about my age, saw a man looking at the items from afar and apologized for getting in my way when she had no reason to.

Not everyone is like that. There are rude types of people in all walks of life. But there is also an obvious pattern of male privilege that I experience every day. I was not born with this privilege, since I am trans person from female to male.

I have gotten some odd vibes from dudes working in hardware stores. As a man, I’m expected to know about tools and such, and I’m not really up to par on these things. So I have learned to do a little online research before I venture outward. Men don’t expect to have to explain things to another man. On the other hand, it’s assumed that a woman would need help. Women are almost treated like children. I find it insulting. I was often insulted before I started passing as a man.

I have seen butch hardcore lesbians more mechanically inclined than I am. Sadly, in the Deep South, there is a great deal of pressure to maintain the stereotypes of men and women. Because of this, I see transmen put on acts to be like the guys. (In other words, work on cars and be an ass.) Well, I think, “Ask Sally, that butch woman. She will help ya out with that transmission.”

I dress masculine and never had an impulse to carry a purse. I remember things I used to do without realizing that they were “what men do”. I was told that I walked like a man when all I was doing, as far as I was concerned, was walking. My sisters wore makeup. I tried against my will to do the female thing, but it just doesn’t cut the mustard with me. Just give me a big loose flannel shirt and some jeans and I am ready to walk out the door.

One of the most alarming things about being on the other side of the rainbow is the fear I create in women just by walking down the sidewalk. If a woman is walking alone in front of me, she picks up her pace. I can feel her fear. I slow down, take detours, or sit down if there are steps or a bench until I feel she is far enough away from me so that she can relax.

A part of me wants to tell her that I know how she feels. I was born female. I know that fear. I was someone who was looked at and hit on by strangers. I felt degraded by people asking to pay me for sexual favors. That was disgusting.

I remember, in my early twenties, riding the bus home from work every day. It wasn’t the best neighborhood. I’d be standing at a bus stop waiting for the bus and several times men stopped, thinking I was a street walker. They would try to get me to go with them. Even after telling them I was only waiting for the bus to go home, they still persisted until the bus showed up.

I remember men asking me if my husband is home when I had no husband. I would reply yes. I would paint the imaginary husband as some rough around the edges redneck that didn’t take any BS. That was my life in Louisiana in my younger years.

I was not brought up and treated as male because I was born female. It’s most heartbreaking to me that women are often raised to be so passive and molded into being the shadow of men. They shouldn’t feel the need to apologize and get out of my way.

On the other hand, when I was seen as a woman, women would treat me quite rudely. I guess it has something to do with the pecking order or something. I don’t know. I never understood it. But wow, those same types of women became passive and apologetic once that they saw me as a man.

People make different assumptions about men and women. As a woman, if I told people I had bought a power-tool, I was always asked why. As a man, I can say the same thing and I get an OK.

As a man, I can add my input to conversations without being contradicted. Women get contradicted no matter how right they are. Many men do not want to be intimidated by the intelligence of women.

I am not a very social person, but I observe and feel compassionate about the issue of gender roles that are forced upon people. How many female geniuses in history, prodigies even, have been passed up and never given the chance? Women are half of humanity, lest we forget.

Evolution seems to be in the favor of men more than women because men are physically stronger. Men use that strength to their advantage. The bad ones belittle women because those women do not have the strength to physically defend themselves. (Although in fairness, some women will rip a dude a new ass. Even after years of my being on hormones, these same strong women could whoop my ass easily.)

Generally speaking, though, that feeling of power can bring out the worst in a man. Because of this, women are conditioned to be less, be passive, obey, and act like perfect good girls.

Sometimes I wonder if I am the shadow or if I am casting the shadow. It can be confusing. I might go to a bar and have a drink or go home and sip on hot tea. Either way, I’d like to be respected as a human first. But if I realize I am making someone feel like a shadow, I will move out of the way so they can feel the sun. That applies to all the women who have apologized to me when they had no reason to.

Everyone should be entitled to simply be respected as a person. It should be that easy. But it’s not.

Venus Mars

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Actually, No.

Here’s the thing. (Yes, there’s always a thing.) I was raised to be a good girl. My default position is to respect authority. Be cooperative. Don’t make waves. Accommodate others. And above all, always, always be polite.

Well, you know what? Fuck that. All those values are great if everyone is playing by the golden rule. But it’s been my experience that most people do not. As a result, I’ve been bullied and taken advantage of my entire life.

I’ve had it up to here. (No, not there. Much higher than that. Here.)

I’m over it. I’m done. I will not be pushed around anymore. Not by strangers, not by loved ones, and definitely not by politicians. I am establishing the sharp boundaries that I’ve always allowed to remain fuzzy at best. This far, and no further.

I’m not planning to become a bully. I’m not going to be gratuitously rude or selfish. But I won’t be passively stepped on. I am learning to stick up for myself. I’m learning that I have a right to say no. It’s frustrating that it’s taken me so long to figure this stuff out.

We need to teach our children to be respectful, yes, but also not to take any crap. Because as the world becomes more crowded, there will be plenty of crap to go around. And then some.

It is possible to be kind and strong at the same time. It’s okay, and very necessary, to stand in your power. It may take practice to reach that acceptable balance. But it can be done.

kindness

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“Look at me! I’m miserable!”

I used to know someone who would never, ever smile in photographs. He said it was because he looked funny when he smiled, but he didn’t look any funnier than the rest of the world. If you looked at his vacation photos, you’d swear he always had a horrible time. But I think it was less about an unattractive smile and more about his “I’m a victim” philosophy.

He used to dress in black from head to toe as well. He wanted the world to know he was angry. He was still upset about how people treated him in high school, even though he was in his late 40’s, so heaven only knows what other long-standing grudges he held.

Yes, all these things were cries for help, and he definitely needed help, but what he didn’t seem to realize was that by turning himself into a completely passive sad sack, by making no attempts to help himself, he turned people off. After a certain point, the world gets a little sick of feeling sorry for you.

I’d see this recurring pattern with him. Someone would meet him, think he was a nice guy, pity all that he goes through, and maybe even come to his defense. For a while. Then they’d start to avoid him. Once you realize that a very large adult male has figuratively put himself in diapers and a pacifier and expects you to carry him wherever you go, you suddenly think, “Hold on, I didn’t sign up for this.”

I think the fundamental problem with his mindset is that, yes, martyrs are often revered, but they usually have to die to reach that point. And he is not only alive, but he’s also an emotionally draining black hole. No one wants to approach his event horizon, for fear of being sucked in.

Yeah, he's cute and all, but would you want to spend an entire day with him?
Yeah, he’s cute and all, but would you want to spend an entire day with him?

Intentional Helplessness

A friend once told me about his aunt, who, as a teenager, decided to sit down in a chair and not get up, to the point where months later, she couldn’t. She never walked again. Stuff like that pisses me off. It’s manipulative and counterproductive and, frankly, mentally ill. But she had to have had help in her stupidity, because she must have eaten and defecated during that time, and someone must have dealt with that.

This reminds me of the many adults I’ve encountered in my lifetime who refuse to learn how to drive a car. I have little respect for these people because invariably they expect family members to chauffer them around or run errands for them. By rendering themselves helpless, they actually are controlling others. I believe in dominance and submission circles this is referred to as “topping from the bottom”, and I find it infuriating.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not attacking people with anxiety disorders or those who have mitigating circumstances for their behaviors. I’m only going after those passive aggressive manipulators and the people who enable them. There’s sometimes more to the story, and I realize that. But back to my rant.

I don’t know who annoys me more, the people who feel they have the right to place all that extra burden on those around them, or the people who enable them in their efforts. Stop doing grocery runs for mom and see how quickly she either grasps the concept of public transportation or learns how to freakin’ drive like the rest of the adult world.

I’ve also crossed paths with people who have grown their fingernails two to three inches long. I’m sorry, but I am not going to pick your nose for you. I refuse. Can’t pick up the credit card you dropped on the floor? What a pity. Here’s a nail clipper.

Back in the dark ages, before internet, when we shared one computer for the entire office and it had a black screen with green, ectoplasmic lettering, I had one coworker who absolutely would not learn the few simple key strokes required to retrieve the data that was essential to have at various times throughout the day. She’d wait until I was at the computer, and then she’d ask me to do it. I did it once or twice, but then I said, “Look, write these steps down, because next time you ask me to do it for you, I’m going to say no.” She didn’t write it down. Next time she asked me to do it, I said no. And she got angry. I’m sorry, are your fingers broken? No? Maybe it’s your brain, then.

I guess I just don’t make a very good enabler. It would be impossible for someone to live under my roof and grow to 600 pounds, to the point where first responders have to remove a bedroom wall in order to cart their butt to the hospital. No. To get to the point where you’re too fat to walk, someone has to be willing to shop, pay for, and hand you the twinkies, and I’m not your girl.

I even get irritated with women who wear 5 inch heels and then complain they can’t run. Yes you can. You just choose not to. There’s a difference.

Life is going to throw you plenty of curve balls. Why on earth would you want to place obstacles in your own path?

Helpless

[Image credit: healthylifestylesliving.com]

Bully for You, Maybe, but not for Me

Brace yourself, dear reader, for I am in a foul mood.

I am gratified to see that there are now many campaigns out there designed to stop bullying in our schools. Three very good ones, but by no means the only ones, are www.stopbullying.gov/, www.stopbullyingnowfoundation.org/‎, and www.meanstinks.com/‎ .

I wish there had been programs like these when I was growing up. I was the smallest kid. I wore glasses. And I was often the extreme minority in schools located in very rough neighborhoods. I learned to curl up into a ball and let them beat on me until they got bored and walked away, the whole time praying that my kidneys would emerge from the fracas intact.

And except for one brief shining moment when I snapped and beat the living crap out of a girl who had been beating me up for months, the passive route has been mine, either literally or figuratively, my entire life. If stuffing one’s anger were an Olympic sport, I’d definitely have a chest full of gold medals.

Always be polite. Don’t make waves. Pick your battles. Take the high road. Do unto others.

But this morning I woke up furious and thought, dammit, WHY? Why should I just take it and take it and take it?

I am beginning to see a clear pattern, and it has me outraged. Bullying, you see, takes on many, many forms, and it’s not simply reserved for childhood. It’s not as if people suddenly start treating you decently once you graduate.

Have you ever experienced one of these types of bullying?

  • Being picked on or manipulated by a sibling,
  • humiliated or beaten up by a schoolmate,
  • beaten by another adult,
  • harassed by a coworker,
  • intimidated by someone,
  • treated like crap by a supervisor,
  • or raped (and yes, in my opinion this falls under the bullying umbrella because it’s a form of violence and aggression in the extreme)?
  • Have you been on the receiving end of road rage,
  • treated rudely by a stranger,
  • or treated rudely by a loved one on such a regular basis that you begin to think you deserve it?
  • Has anyone ever tried to make you feel crazy for feeling the way you feel,
  • or tried to make you feel stupid or silly for not sharing their opinion?
  • Has anyone ever robbed you,
  • cheated you out of money,
  • lied to you in order to get an advantage,
  • or manipulated you to make you do something you didn’t want to do?
  • Has anyone put you at risk and expected you to keep quiet about it?
  • Has anyone gossiped about you to damage your reputation,
  • gone out of their way to ruin an experience that you were enjoying,
  • or gotten drunk or drugged to have an “excuse” for their unacceptable behavior?
  • Has someone you loved or trusted told you to just sit back and take outrageous behavior so that they themselves don’t have to deal with the drama?
  • Have you ever been a victim of a troll on Facebook or your blog?
  • Has someone ever hidden behind their internet anonymity to behave obnoxiously when they wouldn’t have the courage to do so otherwise?
  • Has anyone ever cut in front of you in line?
  • Has someone scammed you out of your hard earned money? (For my personal experience with that, see “Andy Johnson, SHAME on You!!!“)

I have experienced all of these things at one time or another. And I’ve made excuses for people, looked the other way, maintained my dignity, done the right thing, taken one for the team, or thought, “Okay, maybe I deserved that,” my whole freakin’ life. At one point or another I have been a welcome mat for every douche bag within a 50 mile radius.

I have also spent an inordinate amount of time sticking up for the underdogs of this world, never truly recognizing that I was one of them and that I should put as much energy into sticking up for myself as I do for others.

Maybe all of this is coming to the surface for me now because I have been catching it from all directions recently. Maybe it’s because I feel like we, as a nation, are being bullied by our politicians. Maybe it’s just that at age 48, the scales have finally fallen from my eyes.

Whatever it is, I think people may start seeing a side of me that they have never seen before. I’m done with expecting respect and being sadly mistaken. Now it’s time to demand it, require it, and accept nothing less.

I am done with curling up in a ball. Now is the time to realize that not only do I deserve respect, but also that those who do not give me respect do not deserve to be a part of my life.

junkyard-dog-a19426112

Humbly Reaching Out

From a recent conversation with my boyfriend:

Me: All of a sudden so many good things are happening in my life! I’ve got that job interview, I got a promotion in my captioning job, I got my 100th follower on my blog, and I just saved a couple hundred bucks by transferring a credit card balance. Could it be that the pendulum is swinging back the other way, finally? Could my luck be changing? I should buy a lottery ticket.

BF: Just remember that this is from YOU reaching out. Not the other way around. Keep reaching out and the way will show itself to you.

Me: You’re right. But, too, it DOES seem like it is the very times when I step back and surrender and stop trying to force things…that’s when things start to get better. Sometimes I just have to get out of my own way.

BF: I learned that from hitchhiking. The more you want and NEED a ride, the less chance someone will stop.

Me: Exactly! So, reach out by sticking your thumb out, but don’t add desperation into the mix. Don’t insist. Don’t expect everything at once. Just make yourself available to the abundance should it come your way, and then see what happens.

————–

That’s a difficult balance to maintain. Reaching out but not clutching, grasping, forcing it. Being humble without being passive. Being open without having expectations. Trying to reach a goal without anticipating an outcome. Having faith but taking responsibility for yourself.

I think finding the right balance will be something I’ll have to work on my entire life. But as it stands now, I did wind up getting the job!

On the other hand, I only matched two out of the six numbers on that lottery ticket. But hey, that’s one number more than is usual for me! Which is probably why I rarely buy them.

Hitchhiker Jericho

[Image credit: solanotempest.net]

P.S. Please do not take this as an endorsement of hitchhiking. In this day and age it’s entirely too dangerous. Getting across town, let alone across the country, isn’t worth your life. Unfortunately, this is not the world of my youth.