Young Feminists have been adept at calling out transphobic attitudes and words, particularly the demeaning phrase "tranny". Sometimes the line between acceptable and unacceptable usage is easy to decipher. This makes it easy to identify a problem. However, when gender, sexuality, and fantasy converge, the results often end up complicated, controversial, and in hot debate. Throw into the mix the concept of reclaiming epithets, especially those turns of phrase with an especially painful history, and the waters are further muddied. What is offensive to the ears can sometimes have a universal application although others can only be judged on a person-by-person basis.
Within gay, particularly gay male culture, is found the concept of the "sissy", though it isn't exclusive to the community. The word is most often used as a particularly hurtful synonym for an effeminate male, and its application in this particular context is meant to produce shame and derision. Sometimes it refers to a man who exhibits a particularly stereotypical notion of effete homosexuality. In a transgender context, however, it most often refers to a biological male who willingly mimics and eagerly takes on hyper-feminine attitudes for the sake of sexual gratification. This is a behavior known as Feminization and often contains an aspect of cross-dressing. The trans umbrella is the broadest one of all, since gender is often one of the most poorly defined aspects of human expression.
It should be noted that there is a sharp definition between those who practice transvestic fetishism or cross-dressing, and those who identify strongly with the opposite gender in ways that go well beyond a sex act. The two are often related, though, particularly when one contemplates that feelings of humiliation linked to a reversal of traditional gender roles are present. It is worth considering how easily trauma can be incorporated into sexual desire and the act itself, even taking on a paradoxically pleasurable quality. Sissification, as it is also known, can be found in a BDSM context, but I'd rather not go into it here. That topic alone could be an entire post in and of itself.
What I will say is that though I take great pains to allow individuals the right to make their own bedroom choices, I also worry about re-victimization and with that a lack of basic safeguards. With so many misunderstood factors present, it can be difficult to distinguish between that which is healthy and that which is unhealthy. Certainly in my own life I have inwardly questioned whether a few practices I found appealing in the abstract were either healthy or unhealthy for me.
"Sissy" as I observed it, took place in a gay male context. I wasn't ready to see the mirror reflection of myself as I was then. What I observed simultaneously horrified me and appealed to me. Still, if this is what was meant by "sissy", then I couldn't take part. Maybe it was just the word itself, but along with the term came other offensive words unlikely to be reclaimed for anyone's purposes, terms intended to put women in their place. Now that I was a woman, I was to be treated as such. But I was not willing to be anyone's slut, nor anyone's bitch, whore, cunt, and all the rest. I was not going to be little more than a servant following orders, a practice supposedly justified once I cast aside my right to be considered male. It was the dirty underbelly of male privilege, and I felt nauseated at the realization. Patriarchy has many faces.
I chose this topic because, based on my past life experiences, I found myself instantly taking an ambivalent stance regarding the very notion of the "sissy". Growing up as I did, one was never supposed to be such a thing, and the word found its way into many a schoolyard taunt. Even now I can't hear it and not cringe a bit. It still defines notions of who I am, drifting somewhere on a vast gender continuum. But it's not always a good kind of feeling. In these situations, it's an emotional response shot through with guilt, discomfort, and sordid need. Starting years ago, I used to fantasize that I was female, (and still do) but also acknowledged that what I felt did not conclude when purely sexual needs had been satisfied. Had it been a temporary condition quickly reconciled through direct action, then I think I might have been better able to handle it. Instead, it opened up a whole world to me, one where I found myself forcibly having to come to terms with my own reservations, phobias, and fears. I couldn't handle it at the time. It was too much too soon. Now, I'm methodically making my way along, taking stock of what I see. This may take a while, but I've got a whole lifetime ahead of me.