Forced Masculinization

CW: misogyny, sexual violence

Alright. Let’s talk about my experience gender socialization. The first thing TERFs like to pull out to deny trans women rights is that we were “socialized as men.”

Let me very clear up front: I was not socialized as a man. I was socialized as a genderqueer trans woman, because that’s who I am.

I’ve spent a lot of time in my first year of transition thinking about this, especially as I dig deep into trauma therapy and unlocking memories from childhood.

The earliest memory I have is one from elementary school. We had a fire drill and lined up outside on the soccer field. On our way back in, I was behind a teacher who was walking with a bit of pop in her hips—very feminine-coded. I was in my head, and I unconsciously started to emulate her movements, adding a pop to my hip as I walked. Until a classmate behind me broke my trance as I overheard her say to her friends, “Ewwww, Jade is walking like a girl!” I, of course, stopped walking like that immediately. And for the next three decades, I learned to be still, stoic, and robotic in my movements of all kinds, as anytime I tried to move my body in any way that broke away from this, I was ridiculed and often called a fag. This wasn’t being “socialized as a man." This was being the victim of misogyny as a closeted transfem. This was forced masculinization.

In middle school, boys would pick on girls they liked. When she rejected him, he’d go to his friend group of boys, all in bewilderment as to why she didn’t accept his advances. And she would go to her friend group and get empathy and hugs for her friend. I saw this and intuitively wanted to empathize with her. I saw,  felt, and empathized with her discomfort over the boys' confusion. But I also intuitively knew I would not be a welcome support. Because I was a boy, of course. 

This continued into high school, where at every turn I was being taught to participate in toxic masculinity in all-boy spaces like “locker room talk” about girls in my class. I never directly participated, as it made me deeply uncomfortable, but I also never called it out, fearing social ostracism. This was not me being “socialized as a man.” This was being a closeted transfem experiencing misogyny and not calling it out due to social fears. It is an experience that plenty of cis women are also familiar with, as it turns out.

I grew up around a lot of men who frequently objectified women in male-only spaces frequently. “Look at the tits on that broad.” I was deeply uncomfortable because I was a closeted transfem experiencing misogyny. I was also internalizing all this as a woman the whole time. Furthermore, I am not surprised my body image problems got worse when I came out, and all the feminine beauty standards I’ve been internalizing for three decades came bubbling up. Likewise, I am also not surprised to have a sex object/objectification kink. In fact, I can see and say pretty clearly now that all of my kinks developed as trauma responses to decades of internalized misogyny. Because if I can find pleasure in the dehumanization, it hurts less.


I also want to be clear: that doesn’t mean I somehow didn’t internalize any patriarchy or toxic masculinity. I absolutely did. And I’ve spent a lot of time unlearning those behaviors. But this is hardly unique to people born with penises.

I have been sexually harassed in queer spaces by trans and cis people alike more times than I can count or even remember, and I have been raped twice—both times by cis women. Because everyone has toxic masculinity and patriarchy to unlearn. All of us have at times been both victims and enforcers of the patriarchy. And we all have a responsibility to work on our relationship with it.

I was socialized as a genderqueer trans woman because that’s who I am. Part of that socialization looks on the outside as the socialization of a cis man. It wasn’t. And you know what? It’s also gender essentialist and TERFy as fuck to suggest that men, both cis and trans, are inherently dangerous because of “male socialization.” Fuck off on that shit.