Special treatment

Transgender man says finally being perceived as a man by society has its benefits — and its drawbacks

Trystan Cotten. (Facebook)

For many transgender men, hormone transition therapy not only allows them to look the way they’ve always identified internally, but also to experience what it’s like to be seen as a man by a society in which gender-based stereotypes and presuppositions can play a significant role in one’s career and personal life. Speaking to The Washington Post for a fascinating feature story, four transgender men recalled the difference between how they were treated before and after transitioning.

Trystan Cotten, a 50-year-old professor of gender studies at California State University Stanislaus, said that one of chief drawbacks of transitioning to a man for black people such as himself, is that black men are more heavily profiled by police and society. One night after calling the police due to a car accident near his home, he recalled, the officer panicked and forced him to lay on the ground when he tried to come out to greet him. After the fact, the officer justified his behavior by saying that Cotten was “moving kind of funny.” Racial issues aside, he added, he was also shocked at the difference between how harassment is handled for men and women. When a female grad student started hitting on him constantly and stalking him, Cotten said, he reported her but was told by his adviser and dean — both women — that it wasn’t a big deal.

“I felt very worried that if the student felt I was not returning her attentions she would claim that I had assaulted her,” Cotten admitted. “I felt like as a guy, I was not taken seriously. I had experienced harassment as a female person at another university and they had reacted immediately, sending a police escort with me to and from campus. I felt like if I had still been in my old body I would have gotten a lot more support.

Below, listen to Cotten discussing his experiences in his own words.

Read the full story and hear from the other three men at The Washington Post.

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