The pecking order of femininity


Following the literature out there, it becomes clear that there are levels of how different people draw the boundaries of who qualifies as feminine. There is a lot of conflict going on out there, and anyone taking the step into transgenderism risks, not only ridicule and stigmatization on the part of the gender they are leaving, but also treading into a minefield or stirring up a hornets' nest in the gender they are aiming for. Whether we like it or not, not everyone on the "other side" is as welcoming as we might wish.


For at least some genetic girls (like Alice Eve in her reaction to Caitlyn Jenner), a transwoman is someone who is "playing at being a woman", i.e. someone who does not really qualify as a woman. Some feminists view transgirls as a threat, in that they claim to be feminine and desire to lead a female life, thereby directly undermining the idea that women are only treated as second-class citizens (can there be anything to envy?). This is often referred to as the Gender Slumming analysis of transgenderism. Also, the idea that gender identity can be something different from both biological sex and gender as a product of socialization is a severe challenge to the world view of some feminists. Finally, being genetically female implies risking unwanted pregnancy if she is not careful, and facing the pain of childbirth at some point during her life, as well as the recurrent discomfort of menstruation and the hormonal storms of menopause. How can anyone who is immune to all that have the right to call herself a woman?


For transwomen, who have fought against gender dysphoria and finally transitioned, and are now happy as women, is can be equally disturbing to see that a man who has been happy as a man, and who has maybe been married and fathered children, while at the same time dressing up occasionally to fulfil some inner dream, can end up transitioning and can qualify as a transwoman on an equal level. How can we equate the "luxury value" of the transition of an autogynephile with the survival value of early transition of young people with gender dysphoria who transitioned to maintain their sanity and avoid suicidal depression, and who have been female all their adult life? Of course we can't, from one point of view. From the point of view of an early transitioner, autogynephile transition must seem to be a recreational game, rather than a survival strategy.


For an autogynephile who has actually transitioned, taking the final step across the gender divide ranks her higher than a cross-dresser who dresses regularly, but who still maintains a masculine persona in reserve, to pay the bills and give the privileges of society. After all, the autogynephile has actually burned her bridges to maleness and made the ultimate choice. The cross-dresser is trying to balance on the fence, not willing to give up the privileges of masculinity, but having femininity as an extra hobby.


The regular cross-dresser still can claim that she is taking side with femininity in some way, trying to live out her desired identity in full at regular intervals. Lowest down in the pecking order is the occasional more or less fetishistic transvestite, whom one can describe in some way as simply being in it for the kick, rather than ascribing any meaning to femininity at all. These are no better than men, really, they are just looking for easy kicks.


The problem is that we can't place ourselves in our hierarchy, and admire upwards or kick downwards. In many cases, we start with something that feels like the bottom of this pecking order but progress upwards as we grow older and wiser (rapidly if we are unsuccessful in our masculine role, or more slowly if we manage to find a way to survive in a masculine world). But every step we take we have to face a new set of challenges. I am more or less at the bottom, but am striving upwards with every fibre of my existence. I will not make the top in this life-time, but I am willing to believe in reincarnation to give me the hope that next life will place me at the apex of this pyramid.