Subject: the scariest thing is. . .
Date: Sun 25 Jul 1999 - 12:42:36 BST
The scariest thing for any transgender person is being attractive.
We know that it is people who are attracted to us, sex partners and their own
partners who offer the most physical risk to transgendered people. We know
that men who act out of homophobia are the most likely to be attracted to
what they have been taught to fear and be disgusted with in themselves.
We have learned to be wary of those that are attracted to us, as the
widespread revulsion over "trans-fans" on the newsgroups makes clear. We
want people to be attracted to us for who we wish to be, not who we are,
because attraction for who we are feels like getting our dreams stuck in
cement, a butterfly admired for her big caterpillar rather than her beautiful
To be attractive is to be potent, not neutered, and it is the potency of any
human being that makes them a target, both of love and of fear, both of
support and of destruction.
The "homosexual defense" theory, that it's excusable for men to kill people
who are attracted to them, is still around. Many women find this amazing,
because if they killed everyone who came on to them who they didn't fancy,
the world would have a far smaller population.
Women have to know how to enter a room with a red dress and a smile, trusting
their own power of attraction and seduction in the world. Still, women know
the cost of being attractive in a more real way than men, being raped,
stalked, and faced with domestic violence, being hurt or killed by someone
who professes love and attraction for them. They know what its like to be
blamed for what happens to them because they were attractive in the first
I know many transgendered people who live their lives in shadow, because they
know that the way to be safe is not to be attractive, to stay hidden from the
attentions of others. We learn to keep our light under a barrel so we don't
draw weirdoes, but in the process, we don't draw lovers, friends and
This is the challenge of attraction, the notion that being attractive is
scary because it is potent, exposing us to the world, exposing us to people
who find us powerful and compelling, exposing us to those who make us a
target to act out their own fears and rage on. We need to deal with people
who are attracted to us for the "wrong reasons," too focused on our surface
and the role they imagine for us, rather than on our spirit and the role we
Relationships are a dance, and gendered symbols are the way we show the part
of the dance we know how to do and the role we are willing to play. For
trans-people, who never took the dance lessons of adolescence, dance lessons
that are often oppressive, we often have difficulties doing that dance,
knowing how to play our role. Each part of the dance is both potent and
terrifying, with powers and risks.
To be richly gendered is to be richly potent, attractive. To be neuter is
often to be neutral, without potency. To be without potency often seems a
good choice for the transgendered because the risks of being potent are made
very clear. Being seductive is something that is terrifying, and rightly so,
so many of us avoid the potency of rich gender roles in many ways.
Gender is a system of desire, and we know that to shift gender is to shift
where we stand in that system of desire, how we feel and code our own
desires, and how others desires are focused on us. A big challenge, though,
is when our gender expression -- our advertising -- and our content don't
match in the way that is expected, and we fear that people will be angry at
I know even well known transgender people, who stand in the spotlight, who
fear being attractive, because they are very aware of the risks of someone
who finds them attractive, then feels the need to destroy what they are
attracted to because of their own fears and pain. Gays & Lesbians negotiate
this in different ways, gay men flaunting attraction, which makes people feel
uncomfortable with them because their "lifestyle" looks attractive, and
lesbians finding attraction to other lesbians while also ducking the
attention of heterosexual men.
How do we learn to engage the power of attraction, to stand and shine in the
spotlight? Where are our mentors and our practice sessions, the kinds of
things that we are supposed to get in high school? How do we open ourselves
to our own terrifying power of attraction -- attraction of the body, of the
emotions, of the mind and of the spirit?
The scariest thing for any transgender person is being attractive. Maybe its
the scariest thing for any person, full stop.
But until we are attractive, we can't be visible in society, moving people to
our side. Until we are attractive we are not potent.
How do we find ways to trust our own attractive nature?
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