Monday, July 12, 2010

Ovulation: The Ultimate Insult?

Matt Kailey is a transman living in Denver, Colorado, and an author, public speaker, and trainer on transgender issues. He blogs at Tranifesto. In his ideal world, no one would be equal to anyone else – everyone would just be equal.

I've suffered my share of insults in my life. I've been called stupid, ugly, fatty, spacey, weirdo, and slut – and those were all in the first 18 years. But it seems that the supreme insult was saved for adulthood (and manhood) – being asked if I was ovulating.

A while back, on the night before Mother's Day, I apparently committed the ultimate transgression – I dared to go into a gay bar without wearing my "Just to warn you – I'm a transsexual" glow-in-the-dark T-shirt.

I actually had the nerve to enter this bar with my friend, order a drink, dance, talk to people, and do the usual things that you do in a bar without having the disc jockey announce over the loud speaker that a transsexual man had just entered the premises.

Now, I go into gay bars all the time, and nobody really seems to care one way or the other. But on this particular night, my presence so incensed a friend of my friend's (they are no longer friends) that he felt compelled to attack me with what he must have considered the most hideous, degrading, and dehumanizing concept that he could possibly come up with – ovulation.Your browser may not support display of this image.

He apparently discovered during the course of the evening that I was trans, because the conversation suddenly switched gears from boring small talk to a heinous accusation.

"Tomorrow's Mother's Day," he said. "You must be ovulating."
The statement was so bizarre that I didn't have a ready response. I mean, besides fertility specialists and women trying to conceive, who actually even thinks about ovulation, let alone uses it in a sentence?

But to him, it was apparently a really big deal, because he kept the subject alive for at least the next half hour. When I danced with someone, he asked me if I had started ovulating because I had danced with a sexy guy. When a woman came around selling flowers, he asked me if I wanted one because I was ovulating.

And then the Mother's Day thing kept coming up – I would, of course, be ovulating because it was almost Mother's Day (the connection is sketchy, but you can't expect logic under these circumstances).

My friend didn't know this was going on, and I didn't bother to tell him until the next day, thus effectively ending their friendship, which was not my intention. I just wanted to know what the hell was wrong with his friend.

I could only surmise that he had a) issues with women; b) issues with his mother; and c) issues with reproduction – and that he thought that the ultimate shame would involve anything related to "female" anatomy.

I know quite a few gay guys who think that women's bodies are kinda gross. But it doesn't matter, because they rarely, if ever, have to deal with them. But this was the first time that I had ever met a gay guy who thought that accusing someone of having female body processes was an insult.

I could blame it on misogyny – there are whole cultural rituals, taboos, and legends built around female "uncleanliness," which amounts to fear of women's bodies and women's sexuality. I could blame it on transphobia and the absurd but persistent notion that we are trying to "fool" people by being ourselves. I could blame it on homophobia and his own self-loathing over not being "masculine" enough to meet the standards of society.

And in this case, I think it was a combination of a little of all those things, plus a lot of something really horrible that had happened at some time in his life that I know nothing about and never will.

The bottom line is that I wasn't particularly insulted and my feelings weren't hurt. Being accused of femaleness has never wounded or offended me. Apparently, though, femaleness – or being accused of it in some way – has wounded or offended him, resulting in his obvious belief that anything having to do with womanhood is the ultimate insult.

And this I do blame on misogyny. And this I do blame on homophobia. And this I do blame on a culture that equates femininity with failure and makes womanhood wrong.

And I hope that he can reconcile it, because I haven't ovulated since January of 1998. So the next time he sees me, he's going to have to come up with a different insult – which will teach him not to put all of his eggs – or mine – in one basket.