10/1/08

Pay and Prejudice: Gender Change Means Loss of Pay for Some

A recent blog post at the NY Times site discussed the impact of gender change on one’s economic status. The post was based upon a B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy article prepared by Kristen Schlit and Matthew Wiswall found here http://www.bepress.com/bejeap/vol8/iss1/art39/ . What Schlit and Wiswall found was that much of the stigma behind gender change tended to be very different for transwomen versus transmen. Transwomen faced greater stigma and prejudice than transmen and this was often reflected in the economic impact of the shift. For instance, transwomen tended to have a greater number of pay cuts, and tended to loose their jobs more often than transmen did. Schlit and Wiswall theorized that the issues might be more about male/female prejudices than those based upon transgender perceptions.


The article got me to thinking about the variety and level of prejudices that may exist towards the LGBTI community. After all, most of the time, prejudice is based upon a number of complex rules that often stratify society based upon varying degrees. If you watch the Mel Brooks movie Blazing Saddles, you hear an echo of those prejudice when the townsfolk try to refuse having any Irish join them in Rock Ridge.

As a lesbian transwoman, I have had to wonder how the stratification of prejudice against the LGBTI Community works, and how much the perceptions of me prior to my transitioning affected the attitudes after I went full time. Prior to going full time, the majority perception that others had of me was that I was a gay man. After all, I was feminine. My clothing and mannerisms were more female than male, and I was not dating any woman anyone knew about. What I never said to anyone was that I did not date because of my dislike and even disgust with heterosexual sex and an inability to engage in sexual expressions which felt more normal and natural to me. But, pegged as a gay male, I found my transition time far easier than the horror stories that I had heard. Except for hitting some entrenched prejudices with certain professors, I found that most people accepted me without batting an eyelash. I chose not to tell them I was lesbian, and let their assumptions go unanswered. Except for a few friends in the very small LGBTI community where I lived, no one knew about my sexuality, and I decided it was for the best. At least my friends never had an issue with this.

I have wondered after that if I had inadvertently stumbled into the way that society perceives gays, lesbians and transpeople. Is it, shall we say, more alright for women to love women than for men to love men? Is it more acceptable for a ‘gay’ man to become a woman than for a ‘straight’ man to become a woman? Is a transman more acceptable to society than a transwoman? This is a complex issue. I have certainly seen the patterns that this issue make. It can be little things like how DeGeneres and DeRossi’s wedding got a full, multipage write up in People Magazine, but the wedding of Takai and Altman got two pages and around two-thirds of a column. Could there be other issues regarding why they chose to do that? Certainly, after all, DeGeneres is a big star right now, and Takai’s stardom is far more muted. They may have also chosen to do more on DeGeneres rather than Takai because People’s core audience is women. However, you still have to wonder. . .

I will, as time goes along, write more about this, but I am also curious to hear from others. This is something that, truthfully, I have not seen a lot discussed about. Are there subtle differences in the prejudices that the LGBTI community faces?

7 comments:

Paula Brooks said...

Oh positively there are... if you are gay you just have to work harder to prove you are "just as good"

~Julie Phineas~ said...

Sei I have to say that you are right in the subtle difference in prejudices, such as lack of representation in the media - I didn't even know Takai got married! I am glad that as a lesbian transwoman you are letting us see your side of this issue because that is what we really need to break these stigmas in the community. You are definately helping break the cycle by giving us a look into your life as a trans lesbian and I look forward to reading more from your perspective.

Sei said...

Thank you both. And, yes, Julie, I do hope to help break down the prejudices. There are a lot of them out there, even within the LGBTI community. There are a lot of stories I plan on telling about the prejudices I've faced.

Anonymous said...

bein a transguy, im fairly certain it is much easier for society to understand why a woman would 'want' to be a man. since that is largely how non trans people see the issues, both gay and straight non trans people. i guess it comes from a patriarchal mindset that americans have, which says, men are 'the Man'. its sexist, but its how it works, i think.

Sinnerviewer said...

I noticed that the nations largest trans conference is here in Atlanta this week. (www.sccatl.org) As I was reading about it, I realized how little I know about transgender issues. We all need to work harder to understand each other. Thanks for the education.

Sei said...

Anon,

I have to agree. Even though our society has changed a lot in thirty years, there is still a greater feeling that, somehow, men are better than women. My best friend is a transman as well, and sometimes we butt heads over his attitudes and over MY attitudes.

Sinnerviewer,

Yep, the Southern Comfort Conference is the largest in the nation, and I never could afford to go when I lived in Georgia. And, you are welcome. I have a lot more to write, and I'm starting to wonder if I need to start at the basics and build upward. I have to say, though, that I have always tried to educate people about transgenderism/transsexuality and other LGBTI issues.

Anonymous said...

Being a transwoman jerks more people's chains than being a transman does, by reason of "CHOOSING" to give up a higher perceived social class for a lower one.

A transman is almost URGED to do so, and the changes are generally more successful than MTF transgendereds experience.

A male's brain is generally poorly prepared for being what society demands of women. The inability to access and express emotional issues, (and other things caused by the daily basting with estrogen instead of testosterone) are generally easier to fake for FTM than they are for MTFs).

So a woman of whatever orientation and however achieved, can fake being a man, better than a man of whatever orientation and however achieved, can fake being a woman, and society rates them as failures in pretty much everything for "Choosing" to be that way.

So its not {/bold}all{/endbold} pure prejudice. Its about fulfilling percieved social roles as well.

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