There is an article in the NYT about Renée Richards, her life now and her new book. In the article she says that not transitioning is preferable, but she had to become “an imperfect woman”, and repeats her opinion that allowing transsexual women to compete as female in the Olympics was “particularly stupid.”
This raised some discussion on a list, how she could hold these views. I offered my view.
I think Dr. Richards makes that clear.
She both believes that without transition she may have committed suicide, so it was right for her, and also seems to believe that MTF transsexuals aren’t fully female, or and are, at best, imperfect women — they should not be allowed to compete against people born female in the Olympics, for example.
Together, she seems to believe that if there is any way to avoid having to live as a surgically altered transsexual that is the best choice, but if you have to do it, it can also be a good life.
My biggest issue is the assumption that late emergence transsexuals — those of us who have lead an adult life as men, and who some call “secondaries,” — are the same as early emergence transsexuals, who transition early before full body sexing as male and full gender immersion as men. It is extraordinarily difficult to be a woman without having been a girl, so any experience of girlhood is beneficial.
From my own experience I have seen differences between early and late, as well as differences between the gender expression of transsexuals. I find that many late-emergence transsexuals who are out as TS tend to be more butch than femme, which shapes their expression in the world.
It would be fascinating to know how Dr. Richards would have turned out if her early emergence as a transsexual woman was supported, rather than having to live as a man until the pressure got too great. Would she be more assimilated as a woman in body and mind, and have different views about the possibility of transsexual women living as women and females?
We will never know how that would have changed her and her views. All we know is that she is a very strong indvidualist, with strong views — she had to be to live the public life she has lived — and that those views may seem contradictory, and her behavior towards reporters may seem dismissive and defensive.
But I suspect that also contains truth about the wearing cost of living as a visible tranny in the world.
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I hate the term “male privilege.” It presumes the idea that everyone else is in the shadows, with no privilege of their own. There is, no doubt, power in walking in the world as a while male professional, but I don’t believe that means that others have no power, in their own way.
I remember the first tranny conference I went to, Southern Comfort in 1994. The first question I asked was “Men and women take power in the world in different ways. How have you changed the way you take power?” I got answers from Sabrina Marcus, Holly Boswell, and our own Renee Chevalier, who was there the first night I came out at Club 154.
We learn how to take power, how to defend ourselves and how to get people to go along with us, to do what we want. That’s hard. But if we have to unlearn all that, get naked, and learn new ways to do that at an advanced age, well, I’m not sure we really can.
I don’t know what Dr Richards path would have been if she assimilated as a woman earlier. There certainly were women dentists then, but fewer. But would she have had different goals if she was a woman? Or as a stealth transsexual, would she have stayed more in the woodwork?
Your point is right on — there is no way we can know “what if?” We can just stand in front of the mirror and say the serenity prayer, serenely accepting what we have now, changing what we can, as much as we can know the difference.
But the challenge of changing the way we take power in the world, well, that’s hard. Every woman my age can remember when they were young and hot, can act on the lessons they learned then. Those are lessons I will never have, which is one reason I collect so many narratives, learning from the experiences of others.
But Dr. Richards and others tell us that we can create a life that is honest, peaceful, accepted and supported as as transwomen, and that, I suppose, will have to be enough.
4 thoughts on “Imperfect Woman”
One thing I notice is that many Transsexuals seem to feel that they can speak for all Transsexuals based upon their own experience.
I notice it in other blogs, other forums, even the support groups I’ve attended.
We all have our own paths to follow, our own way of making our way in the world. What is right for one may not be right another.
Dr. Richards may have her opinion, but she should apply it to herself and not paint a broad brush across all Transsexuals. She doesn’t know us all. This goes for others as well.
I have my experience and it is mine alone.
I expect others to respect that and not attempt to invalidate it by sweeping generalizations.
If trans isn’t a journey into powerful individual expression, what the hell is it?
That’s why I identify as queer, supporting other’s expression even when they make choices I would never make for myself, as long as they are within the bounds of consent.
While I understand how frustrating it is to be asked by others to be reponsible for the expression of all trannys, some of which I know isn’t healthy, I get angry at those who want to show how good they are by explaining how bad the choices of others are. And I get frustrated by those who just assume that other trannys are like them, never opening up to the range of individual expression that makes diversity so beautiful.
Thanks for your comment, Tamara.
i have to wonder the if the prior commentor is the same tamara who has become rather infamous for exactly the same behavior sie condemns other transpeople for.
i do hope not.