Dear Editor of the Village Voice:
I am writing you in reference to the article “Transmale Nation,” by
Elizabeth Cline that was published in the
Numerous erroneous facts, assumptions, and interpretations occur throughout Cline’s article, which reveal how little Cline is familiar about transmasculine identities and culture. For instance, where did Cline get this term “transmale” much less “transmale nation,” in the first place, since I have never heard this used in the several years I have been involved in transgender and FTM community organizing? Cline’s conflation of “transmen” and “genderqueer” is also inaccurate, since there are some transmen who identify as genderqueer but transmen often do not identify as genderqueer. Cline’s assertion that five years ago most FTMs only wanted to be seen as “real men” is also completely erroneous since FTMs and transmen started complicating the gender binary and publicly coming out en masse as transsexual/transgendered since the late 1980s and early 1990s—this is evident in community organizations such as FTMI, American Boyz and the True Spirit conferences. Cline also states that there is “now” pornography that includes transguys and genetic men sexually engaged with each other—apparently she is unaware that FTM filmmakers Christopher Lee and Del LaGrace Volcano have been making such porn since 1996.
From my understanding, the Voice is interested in new and interesting cutting-edge movements within social and popular culture, yet Cline’s framing of transgender identity is totally conservative. Similar to crass mass media news and talk shows, Cline sensationalizes her subjects with such terms as “hip kids,” “au courant,” and “hottest queer parties.” Cline also fails to incorporate any of the up-and-coming strains within the transmasculine movement, such as the intersections of race and class within gender identity, especially in relation to access to hormones, surgery, and passing (what she calls “realness”), or not passing. In fact she does not even bother to elaborate on the term “transfags of color,” and I wonder if that is because she, herself, has no clue on what that means.
Finally, Cline ends her article with an
egregious discussion of “masculinity,” in which she projects her own white,
privileged, myopic view by writing that the “attributes of manhood reign
supreme” and that there is a “macho obsession” within contemporary U.S.
culture, in which masculinity dominates over femininity.
Since most men of color in this world would gladly trade in their privilege for
1/10th the privilege of a white, middle-class woman, Cline’s presumption
is entirely false and ignores the actual power dynamics that exist in the
This letter was written with input and suggestions from Lala Endara, Bran Fenner, and Ian Lundy.
Sel J. Wahng