I’m a trans boy, and I’ve spent my life wanting to be one of the guys. I acknowledge that’s weird if only because the guys are not that great. I mean, I know that my obsession with bro comedies is questionable from a feminist standpoint and also just from a standpoint of trying to be an intelligent human being.
Their vision of male bonding is often heavy on weed, beer, and talking about women’s bodies in derogatory ways. But it’s also something I’ve never had, and the grass is always greener on the other side, even if that’s because the grass is actually fake and made of plastic. I understand that you’re not supposed to watch the guys playing cards in the 40-Year-Old Virgin and think, god, I wish I had that. But at age fourteen, I did.
I felt like I understood its hero Andy. My body was starting to come in conflict with my vision of who I was, and it began to make me deeply uncomfortable. I noticed my comparatively high voice and diminutive height as boys younger than me shot up and grew shitty mustaches. I wore two shirts and a pair of cargo pants to go swimming. As a younger kid, I was able to pretty much avoid the question of why I thought playing baseball with the boys was so important, despite the fact that I sucked at baseball and didn’t give a rat’s ass about it. As I entered puberty, I rapidly became a teenage boy with few friends, fewer reasons to live, and no dick.
Enter comedy, specifically comedy about men’s insecurities. I basically had the problems every other guy was having, except turned up to a million, so a guy who hadn’t had sex at forty made a kind of fundamental sense to me. We were both awkward nerds who didn’t have a clue about the workings of conventional masculinity, although I was a lot more informed on what boobs felt like.
My life hasn’t been lacking in male role models in the sense that my dad is very present, but he doesn’t see me as his son, and he might never. When I have had male friends, there’s always been a palpable sense that I am The Girl, and they’re behaving a little differently for my benefit. When I came out as transgender, I realized that I had no fucking clue how to “be a man”, and so I turned to the refuge of everyone who can’t function in the real world: watching a whole lot of TV and movies, hoping this will help them figure it out.
It did not help, and it mostly just made me intensely jealous. Look at those guys on Silicon Valley, and how they treat each other like shit, I thought. Why was I such a half-assed excuse for a man that I wasn’t cool or tough enough to have friends that hated me? I started deliberately dressing like the show’s main character, who is manifestly not a fashion icon or a role model of any kind. But Richard Hendricks was a nerd nobody liked, and was also constantly having his manhood questioned, so I guess I figured his look and attitude were attainable. Anyway, that’s the backstory for why I own so many hoodies and collared shirts.
There’s a kind of catch-22 inherent in being transgender, at least the way some people tell it. Either I could conform to traditional masculinity, which would make me a misogynist and a traitor to my biological gender, and leave me longing for a body and a life experience I would never have. Alternately, I could decide not to change who I was, which made me basically a girl and not really trans at all.
My compromise at first was identifying with a sad, self-deprecating kind of masculinity. I was a guy for sure, but I hated myself for it, so I was okay. Right? Right? Well, then I figured out that it’s kind of suspicious for there to be a dominant cultural narrative requiring trans people to either utterly hate themselves or be attention-seeking fakers. I was pouring so much heart and energy into being one of the guys that I didn’t consider that technically, all I had to do for that to be the case was exist.
Also, just as a note, I have no clue why comedy revolving around men is so thoroughly based around people who rarely seem to have much in common or even like each other much. Female friendship comedy, even when it gets dark or weird, is usually at its core about love and bonding and working together. The Hangover, one of the most popular and beloved “bro comedies” of all time is about a group of guys who mostly make each other miserable.
More positive stories are of course told, but there sure are a lot of jokes about how men can’t acknowledge that they have emotions beyond anger and horniness. Also jokes about how they’re Definitely Not Attracted To Other Men, Even A Little, That’s So Gross. Jared Dunn from Silicon Valley is such a good character simply because he goes out of way to help his friends and has faith in their endeavors, although the show of course feels the need to emphasize how overwhelmingly straight he is. Moving on.
In the 40-Year-Old Virgin, Andy is pretty much okay the way he is. What he ultimately needs to do is grow a spine and live the life he wants to have, because hiding the truth about his experiences and trying to change himself only makes everything worse. Yes, I was raised as a girl, and I suffer from a difficult hormone imbalance that involved being born with two X chromosomes and a vagina. That makes me different from the guys around me in a lot of ways. That doesn’t mean I have to strive to be like them, instead of being the person I actually am. I collect My Little Ponies, women’s pants usually fit my legs better, and I was a Girl Scout for 11 years.
There’s nothing wrong with any of that, because there’s nothing shameful about being trans (or being an effeminate guy, for that matter). Also, god, did they have to have a scene about a trans woman prostitute in The 40-Year-Old Virgin? It adds literally nothing to the movie besides brazen homophobia and transphobia presented as humor, you could skip it and the whole film would play out exactly the same. Somebody do me a favor and make an edit of the film where everything is the same, but that scene is just fucking gone. Happy trans day of visibility, everyone.
(Image credit to broodmother.tumblr.com)