I’ve been reading and re-reading Jennifer Burke‘s post Many men are unconscious of the privileges that come with being male. (Jennifer maintains a great blog with consistentintriguinging and informative pieces on trans people and issues.)
I think a lot about straight male privilege in regards to “ex-gay” experiences. I believe that for some men, becoming straight-acting and identifying as straight (or at least no longer gay) opens doors of privilege, particularly in the white Protestant church. I doubt that is the primary reason why men seek change from being gay, but I believe it is one of many factors that have pressured us. I do not believe this is necessarily a factor with trans men, at least from the trans men I’ve known and dated, but it does create a change in how privilege works for some.
Jennifer quotes from the Washington Post’s Male Scientist Writes of Life as Female Scientist, an article that features Neurobiologist Ben Barres, who nine years ago at age 42 transitioned from female to male. Barres speaks about the differences he notes in his life and career since the transition.
And as a female undergraduate at MIT, Barres once solved a difficult math problem that stumped many male classmates, only to be told by a professor: “Your boyfriend must have solved it for you.”
“By far,” Barres wrote, “the main difference I have noticed is that people who don’t know I am transgendered treat me with much more respect” than when he was a woman. “I can even complete a whole sentence without being interrupted by a man.”
Barres said the switch had given him access to conversations that would have excluded him previously: “I had a conversation with a male surgeon and he told me he had never met a woman surgeon who was as good as a man.”
The article goes on to talk about women in science and reflection on “former Harvard president Lawrence Summers’s assertion that innate differences between the sexes might explain why many fewer women than men reach the highest echelons of science.”