Where do gender roles come from, with particular reference to transgender people.

This may in the future become a longer more in-depth post, but for now it is really just a question I am considering but finding it hard to get satisfactory answers to, so I would appreciate input from others.

Often female’s/women’s gendered behaviour is explained as being the result patriarchal societal conditioning. Te patriarchy has decided that women are caring and that they are therefore best equipped to be primary caregivers, women cook and clean because they are best suited to these tasks and realise that dirty homes and malnourished people get sick more easily, women have body issues because men objectify them and impose unrealistic expectation on women etc.

It is argued that women have internalised these beliefs as a result of the structure of society. women;s voices are downplayed (if heard at all) outside of the home. Men’s opinions count more than women’s. Educational systems are designed to help men and jobs that women excel at (teaching, nursing etc) are of lower status than jobs that men are typically better at (engineering, accounting etc).

Now of course these are very wide and general statements and in many societies a lot of work is being done to make sure that men and women are treated fairly with less discrimination in the workplace, more inclusive educational systems etc but in the main the broad argument still holds true and it remains a persuasive explanation.

However, how do we explain it when transwomen exhibit  these same behaviours, values and judgments as other women? In the main, transwomen were not socialised to be women. They were socialised to be men. Their voices were heard and valued. They were taught to be aggressive, domineering and to a degree uncaring. They were seldom conditioned themselves to think and act in the same way that girls were. So why is this? Is it because both genders subconsciously see the socialisation happening and internalise the roles to be played and then act on this upon transitioning? Is it an innate human response to the societal conditions we find ourselves in: you cook and clean because that is what is expected of you? Do we want to assume these ‘subservient’ roles (as perhaps witnessed by some of those crossdressers who want to imitate the ‘1950s household’ by assuming a highly subservient gendered role in a fantasy world where they are financially cared for but bake, clean and look pretty for their man)? Is it that we have been so indoctrinated society that we think that this is the way ‘real’ women behave and we are so desperate to be ‘real’ women that we embrace this role? Are we projecting our sexist preconceived ideas (as conditioned as boys and men) onto ourselves as women? Are body issues in fact innate in us because we always have been on at least some level ‘women’ or are they rooted in dysphoria. What comes first bad body image or dysphoria, are they the same thing?

I really have many more questions than answers. Please feel free to suggest reading, studies and your own comments.

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  1. I may have been ‘socialized’ as a man but let’s not forget I was raised by woman, have a sister, have had female teachers etc. To be socialized as a man does not deny the contribution of women in my childhood development and later life. I’m sure I’m channelling elements of those women who were positive role-models to me in my life – I don’t think those elements are preconceived or indeed sexist – why would you adopt/accept those? Yes, some transwomen do appear to present a strange interpretation of what they perceive to be female – that usually manifests are inappropriate clothing or mannerisms. I find that dealing with men in the practical sense as a transwomen is the best way of finding out what works and doesn’t.

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