First off, Stewart has frequently and unapologetically used transmisogynist humour in his show. Let’s be really clear about who we’re praising here, especially when trans women have been talking for decades about the same phenomenon Stewart is highlighting, and we have been providing much more insightful critiques of both the cis gaze and the male gaze than he can possibly provide with his cisnormative lens. I guess our womanhood is finally useful to Stewart.
It’s shocking how quickly people will jump to blatant misogyny as soon as they gender me correctly. A guy once asked a friend of mine if I was really a girl and upon learning that I was in fact a girl he said “Oh, okay then… well, she’s sure got a great ass!” This kind of stuff happens to us all the time and we sure as hell don’t need cis people to patronizingly educate us about our own lived experiences. We also don’t need our experiences co-opted for the benefit of cis people.
Second, the idea that trans women suddenly experience womanhood once we transition implies that we weren’t really women before; Stewart even says that Caitlyn “used to be a man,” which he would know better than if he had bothered to read GLADD’s very clear media guidelines.
As a trans woman I know a lot about womanhood that cis women do not know. I know what it’s like to be a woman who was literally brainwashed into believing she was a man. That’s a kind of womanhood which is as authentic and real as any other. I haven’t been introduced to womanhood, but HOW I do my womanhood has changed drastically.
Transition hasn’t been primarily about hormones, or clothing, or makeup, or pronouns, or my name. It’s been about transforming a crushing shame that was ground into my soul over decades. It’s about reclaiming my power as a woman, a power which was unjustly torn from me as a little girl. So, misogyny isn’t new to me; I’ve experienced shatteringly violent misogyny all my life, but HOW I experience misogyny has changed.
For just one example, I now get cat-called regularly. It’s the standard leers and wolf whistles and skeezy comments. You know how I feel when I get cat-called? Disgust at being objectified, certainly, but more than that I feel afraid. I am afraid that after that man has sexualized my body he’s going to then clock me as trans, and I’m afraid that once he starts to panic about his masculinity that he will escalate to more severe forms of harrassment or direct violence. I look over my shoulder quite often.
My femininity is at once held to a higher standard than that of cis women, and if I fail at femininity not only am I devalued as a woman but my very womanhood (and thereby my personhood and humanity) itself is attacked. That is a whole other level of misogyny that I would never welcome any woman to.
So, don’t welcome me to your garden-variety cis misogyny when I’ve been crawling through the trenches of transmisogyny for decades trying to hold on to my womanhood for dear life.
Don’t welcome me to my own damn womanhood, it is for me to welcome you to my womanhood. Stay for a spell and maybe you’ll learn a thing or two.
[EDIT: response to criticisms about this article]