oWOo I just remembered one of my first interactions with a TRA.
I was about 10 I think, it was around the time “SJW” and “tumblr” cringe compilations started coming out on YouTube but terms like “cis” weren’t really used yet, and me being a questioning lonely bisexual + dysphoric child, I managed to somehow get sucked into it (debating in the comment section, researching stuff about LGB and trans communities, trying to understand gender and “nonbinary” stuff, etc).
Anyway I found a video of a TIF teaching on a video how to put on a binder, I think it was (or bandages, I don’t remember), and what I noticed was that she had a very bended to the side spine. I didn’t know what scoliosis was at the time, I also wasn’t aware that some things shouldn’t be pointed out, but I knew that chest binding can cause back problems or worsen them so I reached out in the comments.
All I remember was being as nice and gentle as I possibly could, and in a small paragraph I pretty much just said that she should be careful because I noticed her back is bend and binding can cause that + that perhaps she should bind a little less.
To say the least she wasn’t happy and she wrote an entire paragraph back, pretty sure she even called me transphobic. I wrote several replies back apologizing as much as I could while adding on I didn’t know what scoliosis was + I didn’t intend on being rude or demanding what she should do to her body, followed by mentioning I’m 10 years old. Cursed me out for 2 days straight, mind you she was a full grown adult. I’m also pretty sure she admitted that her back got more bended when she started binding but that I’m still an asshole.
Didn’t commented under a TIF’s video/post till like 2 years later💀
TRAs have been assholes since the very beginning of the 2010s TRA movement, they were just less open about it.
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I'm never going to date a man
Feels weird to actually type that out, but... there it is. I'm never going to date a man.
Even after getting into radical feminism, there was a part of me that felt like I had to remain open to dating a man just because I'd never done it before. I thought to myself: "Well, I read all of these bad stories about boyfriends turning out to be abusers and significant others slowly taking over their girlfriends' lives, but if I just follow FDS maybe I'll find a high value man."
But... even when I had a HVM messaging me and proposing all sorts of dates to me, I just wasn't all that interested. After the giddy moment of "Ooo, he's hot and he likes me!" faded away, I realised that I didn't really want him, I just wanted to feel desired. I think it's hard to make a distinction between the two feelings sometimes: in order to be desired, there has to be a person doing the desiring, and in that sense the two come hand-in-hand. I think part of it does come from my upbringing: being a dark-skinned black girl, I distinctly remember being viewed as less "desirable" by my peers just because of my skin colour. I remember being belittled, mocked and insulted by men for my appearance - if I put on makeup, it was a spiel about how it was "unattractive" but if I had my natural hair out, it was called "nappy", but then if I got crochet braids it was "horse hair, you look like a horse girl" and I just couldn't win. I was in a losing battle where I was struggling to be viewed as desirable, and the ramifications of that defeat stuck with me through my teenage years.
I came to terms with my bisexuality around the same time, but as my friends weren't all that supportive of it as a whole, I never fully embraced my attraction towards girls. It was a difficult time: even before I became a radical feminist, I used to struggle to picture myself actually building a life with a man. I'd sit with my friends and describe idealised scenarios from romantic movies, and yet I was subconsciously aware that there was a reason I could only picture myself being happy with a man in the context of some idyllic, story-like setting. I recall my former best friend -- the only other bisexual I knew -- constantly lamenting how she wasn't attractive to men because of her body hair, how she hated herself because men didn't flirt with her, how she wanted nothing more than for men to see her -- and in the back of my head, all I could think was that being attracted to men felt more like a curse than anything else. Her eyes were constantly fraught with sadness, voice heavy with the expectations thrust upon her. The insecurities that spilled out from her lips inscribed themselves into my mind. And the more time I spent around her, the more I became aware of the cage that had slowly materialised around me -- a cage of male expectations that I longed to break free from. I didn't want kids; I didn't want marriage; I didn't want to be expected to pander to the male gaze by shaving and wearing makeup all over again. I just wanted to be with another woman. However, there was a part of me that rejected that because you haven't even been in a relationship with anyone yet, how can you know what you really want?
And -- well, it's true. To this day, I still haven't been in a relationship with either a man or a woman. But nonetheless, what I want hasn't changed since I came to terms with my bisexuality. The only thing that has changed is my willingness to accept what I want. With my friends being painfully male-centric and my desire to reverse the curse of my teenage years being the two major themes in my life, I clung excessively to the idea of being in a relationship with a man.
Now, I understand that the craving I felt for desirability wasn't really healthy. When I was desired, I didn't even like the feeling all that much. I'd built it up in my head as something that would feel great -- someone finally pledging to treating me right and bestowing their attention upon me -- but in reality? It wasn't what I needed. My life is already fulfilling. Talking to men on top of that always felt like "too much". I'd tell them about all the things I was doing, all the hobbies I was into, and they only ever had the same generic hobbies to offer in response. It felt like I was a bursting metropolis compressed into a single body while they were these lifeless villages of little renown, gasping for talent and relevance with every passing second.
I knew I didn't need them in my life.
Even now, there is a part of me that wants to believe that somewhere in the world, there is a man out there who might deserve my time. I want to believe that there are good men out there that would treat me right. But the thing is, as women, we're taught to hope. Profusions of hope overflow from our hearts, and yet, it's hope that isn't fully merited -- we put our hope into the same half of the population that is hellbent on crushing it. They are the ones who subjugate us, who benefit from our oppression, who cannot fathom the scope of the social discrimination that we face. They want us to blindly put our faith in them. Knowing that the supply of women will never run out, there is no real incentive for them to change. There's no shortage of women just like me who lack confidence, who want to feel desirable, who want to be wanted. They won't hesitate to throw themselves into a poisoned dating pool. And the longer they remain, the more they're able to convince themselves that the toxic fumes engulfing them aren't actually toxic, but the smell of roses luring them into the relationship of their dreams.
Hope is something that we cling onto because we don't want to accept reality, but there comes a point where we have to wake up and smell the flowers. Even the best of men are complicit in misogyny, knowingly or unknowingly. They are taught to objectify us through oversexualised media and porn, and we in turn internalise this through self-objectification. If this can happen with any man we meet, then just how more extreme does the effect become when we enter into relationships with them? When we enter into marriage with them? When we commit ourselves, body and soul, to them?
My tipping point was when I was with my current best friend and she was telling me about a book she's been reading. It spoke about how most violence against women took place when they were in relationships with men, particularly when they were pregnant. Men would wait until they'd trapped the woman into marriage and put a baby inside of her before revealing their true selves: knowing that the woman wasn't in a position to leave without giving up significant chunks of her life, they would ramp up the violence. It didn't matter that the woman was dedicating herself to growing this new life inside of her and that she needed her husband's support more than ever -- for the men, it was naught but power play. It was then that I fully understood that there is no way to differentiate between a good man and a bad man. From the looks of it, even "good" men were just bad men with a new layer of polish.
I'd seen many people make this point before, but it was only in that moment that I actually understood what that meant. It wasn't just a point that I would glance at sympathetically before distancing myself from the possibility -- it was a point that I heard, and I felt it in my heart that it was correct. Not a single woman in my life has had a good relationship with a man - all my female family members have either been in unhealthy or abusive relationships; a startling amount of my female friends have male-related trauma and in my personal situation, the male influences in my life have been overwhelmingly negative. There is a desire that exists within a lot of women to find a man who doesn't abide by the rule, a man who is able to turn this perception on its head and prove that it is possible to have positive male influences in life. It's almost like a compulsion: you get burned by a man, so you keep searching in the hopes that eventually you'll find your diamond in the rough.
But, this behaviour just... isn't healthy. In the same way you wouldn't keep holding your hand over a burner after getting burned once, it's nonsensical to keep dipping your feet back into that poisoned dating pool when the chance of not getting hurt in return is so miniscule it might as well not exist. Even when we consider examples of happy het relationships: how many compromises did the woman have to make just to be happy in that relationship? Does she have to begrudgingly tolerate occasional mansplaining? Does she have to gently correct him whenever he makes a misogynistic comment? Does she do more of the chores in the household? These are all things that most women will do without complaint, just because we are conditioned to accept men's faults so that we can be happy. But is that true happiness, or is that just the effect of being taught to aspire from marriage from a young age?
Asking myself these questions made me realise that I didn't actually want to date men. It made me realise that it wasn't a logical action to take, that my idealistic view of "finding the right man" wasn't grounded in concrete reality. Even if the right man was willing to unlearn his misogyny and move forward with me... I don't want to be a teacher. I'm sick of being the one who has to explain things to men, the one who has to open their eyes, the one who has to debate my own experiences as a woman just so they understand me.
I want to be with someone who understands my experiences without me having to say a single word.
I want to be with someone who I know isn't going to stop seeing me as a human the second I take off my clothes.
I want to be with someone who doesn't make me want to regress back into harmful beauty practices.
I want to be with a woman.
There's something liberating about being able to think about the idea of letting go of men and not being filled with visceral fear. It's hard not to feel anything but fear when I consider the fact that my home country would sooner see me dead than happy with another woman. When I consider the fact that my parents will expect to see me at the altar with a man rather than a woman. When I consider the fact that clinging onto my male attraction is the only thing that's kept me from fully exploring both sides of my bisexuality.
Being a bisexual is important to me -- don't get me wrong. It's a label I wear with pride. But deep down, I've always felt like a fraud. Knowing that my attraction leans more towards women, and yet hinging my hopes on men just to satisfy some secondary school whim about wanting to feel desirable. Every single one of my female crushes never going anywhere while my male crushes always seemed to be closer in reach, more attainable. As I've decentred men from my life, I've felt more and more of an urge to tap into the other side of my bisexuality. Centring my life around women has been so liberating. It wasn't "drama" like so many people tried to convince me it was -- it was liberating. I didn't realise how uneasy and how unsettled the male presences in my life made me feel until they were gone. I didn't realise how often I was on edge, constantly analysing every interaction for misogynistic dogwhistles and looking out for red flags. I didn't realise the amount of fulfilment that could come from prioritising the women in my life and tapping into our shared female experiences together. By entering a relationship with a man, that would mean giving up a portion of my comfort. And knowing what that comfort feels like, I'm not prepared nor willing to do that.
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