What up with this? I’ve come out to lots of people, in my personal life, my community and my work life. With few exceptions, the people who have the most issues coping with the idea of transition, or more recently
surgery, are men. Generally women are not threatened.
In a prior entry I talked about some friends and their shifting perceptions and that’s one aspect of this. Most people, male or female, don’t understand someone being trans at all. I’m not convinced that even those who work with us fully understand, but they obviously have a clue.
For men in particular I think there are two huge factors. The first is homophobia. Given that men are at some level excited by all women, imagine that a passable trans woman might cause some arousal. The internal dialog might be the man questioning his own sexual orientation, and even now being a homosexual male is not something most men are comfortable contemplating about themselves.
This combines with a misunderstanding of who we are as trans people, or in this case trans women. If he doesn’t understand that we are mentally women and in many cases physically women for all intents and purposes, then he’s thinking he’s attracted to a man.
The second factor is a poor understanding of what’s going on with a trans woman. A man might well be thinking “why is he giving up being stronger, more privileged, etc.?” and if you think of us as men who are choosing to be women the question makes a certain kind of sense. The key to understanding is realizing we’re much more like a woman who was born with a birth defect, in our case male genitals.
This second factor is made worse by the common understanding of SRS, i.e. a “sex change” operation. Sex change isn’t that bad a description for it, certainly our gender doesn’t change.
Many people consider that the operation is just a form of castration. In a literal sense that’s true since the testicles are removed and discarded. Then they feel that the penis is removed, but in that sense they are really wrong. The male genitalia are used to form the female genitalia with little going to waste.
For a man, considering castration is pretty much the worst thing that can happen to you. So men, regardless of their understanding of SRS, think of a transwoman getting SRS and see that as a man being castrated. They cringe thinking what that would mean to them as a male, and miss that if they were female those selfsame bits would be misplaced.
I don’t know how these problems can be fixed directly. Indirectly the younger generation is largely free of such hangups regarding sexual orientation or gender identity. Time will cure the problem, but too late for my generation.
What can we do? Some men are perfectly willing to hear the information about what’s really happening and to change their perceptions. The ones that can’t obviously aren’t as desirable as friends.