Sunday, February 21, 2010

Male privilege for transmen

How the Unconscious Mind Can Act Out Our Prejudices
From The Hidden Brain, by Shankar Vedantam: Transgendered people allow us to scientifically apply the research on sexism to the lives of individuals... There is compelling empirical evidence to show that when men transition to becoming women, they experience all kinds of disadvantages that they did not experience when they were men. Their incomes, on average, fall. When women transition to becoming men, they find they have all kinds of new privileges. Their incomes, on average, rise. Transmen -- people who transition from female to male -- often report aspects of their professional lives getting easier. Transwomen -- people who transition from male to female -- often report the reverse...

The sociologist Kristen Schilt has tracked this phenomenon. Between 2003 and 2005, she followed the lives of twenty-nine transmen in Southern California. The transmen were white-collar and blue-collar workers, professionals, and retail salesmen. They ranged in age from twenty to forty-eight. They included people who were white, black, Latino, Asian, and biracial. Eighteen of the twenty-nine were open, meaning their co-workers knew they had once been women. Eleven of them were 'stealth' transmen.

Overwhelmingly, the men told Schilt that they were being treated better than they'd been treated as women... One thirty-nine-year-old white man who worked in a blue-collar job told Shilt: 'I swear they let the guys get away with so much stuff! Lazy-ass bastards get away with so much stuff, and the women who are working hard, they just get ignored.'...

Cal, a thirty-four-year-old 'stealth' transman, told Schilt about the hardware store where he worked after he made the transition: 'Girls couldn't get their forklift license, or it would take them forever. They wouldn't make as much money... I would never have seen it if I was a regular guy. I would have just not seen it.' A Latino attorney told Shilt that an attorney at another law firm had complemented his boss for firing an incompetent woman and hiring a new lawyer who was 'just delightful.' The attorney at the other firm did not know that the incompetent woman and the delightful new lawyer were the same person.

One transman told Shilt that he was not asked to do different work after the transition, but doing his work suddenly became much easier. He recalled that before the transition, he would often be told that crews and trucks were not available when he needed some help. 'I swear it was like from one day to the next of me transitioning. I would say, 'I need this, this is what I want' and -- the man snapped his fingers. 'I have not had to fight about anything.'

'While transgender people have the same human capital after their transitions, their workplace experiences often change radically,' Shilt and Wiswall wrote in a paper they published in The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy.... For many male-to-female transgender workers, becoming a woman often brings a loss of authority, harassment, and termination, but that for female-to-male workers, becoming a man often brings an increase in respect and authority.' These findings... illustrate the often hidden and subtle processes that produce gender inequality.'
Image source here.