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Being submissive vs. assertive

Hello. I am new here. Smile I've read the boards a little and noticed there were a few transgender related topics, and so hope I found a good community to be part of. Just to get it out of the way, and it might help you understand the topic at hand and why I ask this question, I am a trans girl (MtF), who has been transitioning for nearly six months (taking hormones for almost 5 of those months).

I find that, for obvious reasons, there are a lot of things I must un-do and un-learn, and learn new things, if I will ever be able to successfully live as a woman. One of these things, and which brings me to my question, came up with one of my girl friends recently, and is the topic of if women should be more submissive or assertive when it comes to men, well, others in general.

I'm someone who is definitely more of the assertive type, and one thing I said to my friend and how I really feel, is that I feel that being submissive means being a doormat and allowing others to walk all over you. That is one thing that I've had a hard time with, because in a way I do think that being a woman I will have to learn to be a little more submissive and yielding to others, and I kind of feel like that goes against everything that I am. You know? But is it proper? Should a woman be more submissive and yielding to men? Do men find assertive girls less attractive?

Long before I ever began transitioning, I've seen so much in my life and always hated the way that men typically treat women (not trying to sound like a feminist, honest). While this is just my opinion and I can't speak for all men, I see time and again how men seem to have to dominate and control women, and treat them as more objects than they do human beings, and that is something that I have never been able to understand (even when I was living as a male) and have always been vehemently against. I know that not all men are creeps and there are some very decent guys out there, it just leaves me with me the question, is it ok on the opposite side for women to be assertive?

So I would really love to hear from other women (and men too!) your thoughts on this if you would be so kind.

Thanks! Smile

Re: Being submissive vs. assertive

  • I guess what I'm trying to say is (I'm sorry I'm never good with opening letters), is that I feel like relationships should be equal partnerships. In a way I feel like women get the shorter end of the stick, in that (atleast from my perspective) we/you are expected to be those perfect little obedient 1950's housewives, that cleans the house, gives hubby what they want and obeys, and that just goes against everything I am.
    One example that my friend brought up, was that her husband hounds her every year to take the xmas tree down right after xmas, when she would rather leave it up for longer, and I told her that I probably wouldn't make a good wife because I'd tell him, if you don't like the tree, then *you* take it down, lol, and that's how I feel.

    But as a burgeoning young woman, should I learn to let some of that go and be more yielding to others? Am I wrong to feel the way I do?

     I hope I'm not being too "out there" and I hope someone like me would be welcome here (I'm not married for one thing), but I would really like some advice please from other women.

  • I am not sure what area of the country you are from, ( I am in CT) but most women I know vary how submissive or assertive they are depending on the situation. The story you tell above about the Christmas tree could be your friend being submissive, but it also could be her choosing her battles. She might prefer the Christmas tree up longer, yet it is a compromise she is willing to make for the relationship. Every relationship has compromise on both sides if it is successful long term. 
  • Well, I do agree that relationships should be about compromise, about learning to work together and meet halfway. But I was only giving that one example because that's what my friend gave, but I don't mean just in relationships but generally speaking.

    For example, and I see this so often. Like if I'm at Walmart or a grocery store, and if two people meet in the isle, the women always yield and let the man pass. Like 95% of the time. Is that something that is inbred, or are we raised to just accept that women should yield to men?
    Which brings me back to my original point. When it is ok for a woman to be more assertive and not so yielding? Should a woman be more yielding and submissive? That applies to any situation, relationships, at the work place, anything really.

    It's just that as I'm unlearning everything and relearning new things, I'm just trying to figure out where I fall into that. How should I conduct myself?

    It goes without saying that I see so many blood thirsty soccer moms (especially during sales, my god) that plow through the isles at such places lol, but what is more proper for a woman?

  • I think you're making a mistake here in focusing so hard on stereotypical actions/attitudes of women. Be yourself. You identify as a woman, so that's what you are, with all your own traits. Those traits can't make you more or less of either gender, they just make you you.

    I also think there's a big difference between 'submissive' and simply politeness. Of course everyone should treat others with courtesy, regardless of gender. In your example of yielding in the aisles, that's politeness. I frequently encounter people (usually male, but also sometimes female) who will step aside or hold a door or what have you. It's good manners. 

  • I think you're right. I'm still discovering myself and my place. Thanks. Smile

    Is there by chance an "off topic" forum here where we can just shoot the breeze with others? I just see more topic specific forums.

  • I was going to recommend GBCN, but I see you've already found it. I only lurk, but the ladies there are very open-minded, so I'm sure you'll be welcomed. I think the most active boards there are MM and ML, and they rarely stick to their topics anyway.
  • image artbyallie:
    I was going to recommend GBCN, but I see you've already found it. I only lurk, but the ladies there are very open-minded, so I'm sure you'll be welcomed. I think the most active boards there are MM and ML, and they rarely stick to their topics anyway.

    Yeah. I don't know how I end up where I do on the net, I just find places. Stick out tongue

    I may or may not ask this question there, but I think I already have my answer. You were really right what you said and it had me thinking a lot last night. Thanks again. Smile

  • I mostly lurk here, but your questions touched me and I wanted to respond to you. Artbyallie is right. You are changing your body to match how you have always felt inside - womanly. That does not mean you have to change one iota of your personality or behavior.

    As a woman I am sometimes assertive, sometimes passive or submissive and sometimes aggressive. It depends completely on the situation and how invested in it I am. 

    Being assertive or even on rare occasions aggressive does not make me any less of a woman. It doesn't make you less of one either. Be yourself. Isn't that what your change is all about?

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic IN July 2011 Siggy Challenge - What I miss most: Panera Cinnamon Crunch Bagel!
  • No problem. I'm glad I was able to help. :)
  • Thanks bluegirl. :) I think you are right too. I realize that I'm trying really hard to fit that gender binary of a girly girl and in the process losing myself.

    I lived a lie my whole life as a male, and now that I'm transitioning into a woman, I was once again trying to live as something I am not.

    As I was just telling a friend, I am not a girly girl, in that I don't like heels and skirts, and pink fluffy things and saying "like oh my god" every other sentence, and that kind of thing (please nobody take offense if you might be like that), but that makes me no less of a woman. You both are so right, and thank you. I really needed to hear that.

    In a way I have a need to be affirmed and accepted as a woman, and so in a sense I started putting myself into a box and trying to fit the mold of a cis gender girl (genetic woman), and I was forgetting who I really am.
    I don't have a lot of support in real life, and definitely not from family at this stage.

    I present a lot more androgynous. I'm tom boyish for a girl, but effeminate for a boy if that makes sense.

    Thank you both!!! I think I really needed to be reminded of that.

  • Well it sounds like you already got the answers you were looking for, but I just wanted to add that I am an assertive woman and always have been.

     I asked my husband to marry me, I am the breadwinner in the household and my husband does the dishes and the housework....but being assertive or submissive has absolutely nothing to do with gender. I agree with the PP's that you really just need to focus on being yourself, especially in such a transitional period.

     Best of luck to you! 


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  • Part of being a woman is realizing that it's a bad idea to try to mold yourself into what someone else, or a lot of other people, will like.  Most women go through exactly this thing that you're going through, trying to figure out how to be what they're squeezed into by others without losing who they are, and many of us just decide to stop letting other people tell us who we should be.  This is just an unfortunate, inevitable struggle when you're female  :(
  • If it helps at all, not even all women who were born women are confident of their womanliness. I know, that I myself have, at times, struggled with the fact that I am not more girly. I like comfortable clothes, not heels and short skirts. I am not very domestic either - don't love to cook or do housework.

    And I also proposed to my husband. :)

    It's just a matter of becoming comfortable in your own skin and not worrying what others think of you. That is the most important thing in life is to not let others opinions influence your own. Don't worry about male/female stereotypes. Just be you in whatever way makes you most comfortable.

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  • Thanks, that's really helpful. Smile I admire assertiveness in others and I think that's awesome that you proposed to your husbands. Cool

    I do see now that I was drawing the wrong distinctions with gender, when it's really not related at all.

    All of you have been a big help, thank you!

  • Gender presentation comes in a spectrum. There are super girly girly girls and super butch 'stereotypically male' girls. Both are girls. Both can be on the assertive or submissive side (but they come with different nicknames).


    I fall pretty far on the butch end of female. I wear comfy jeans, hardly ever heels, I carry a pocket knife, I work in engineering, I like to build things with tools, I can't cook! My fiance is taking my name, I proposed to him, I am often considered 'one of the guys', but I'm still a woman. Very much so. I'm thrilled to become a mother soon. I have taken a slow arc to understand my own identity and don't want anyone else's definitions to rule.  I am very assertive, but I can also be kind, patient, caring, and willing to compromise.


    I think gender presentation and assertiveness often correlate, but they don't have to. I am comfortable speaking my mind, but I'm also glad to learn from others and be open to what they want/need/suggest. I think that's the perfect blend of assertive and submissive and really needs a whole new present? who knows.

  • These are not the only two options. Whether a person is male or female, the objective in a relationship shoudl be mutual respect, common priorities, and willingness to compromise when necessary. When two people consistently focus on lifting EACH OTHER up and elevating EACH OTHER, than no one has time to try to dominate. Be selective with your partner and look for someone who compliments your personality and hopefully you'll never have to worry about being submissive.

    One of the graces of being an adult (not just being a woman) is being clear and confident about what you want without being uneccesarily offensive or abrasive. You don't have to have your way all of the time, but if it's important to you then always speak up for it.

    Best of luck in your new life. I hope it is everything you are hoping it will be.
    Break cycle BFP on 11/6/12 after 17 cycles and a failed IUI - TTC/BFP details in bio
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  • I really don't think that women have to be more submissive. That could be detrimental to your health. When I was younger I used to be more timid and submissive than I am now. After many anxiety attacks I learned that I couldn't live that way anymore. I now feel much better about myself now that I'm not so yeilding. In reference to the shopping cart example my husband always gives other people that right of way. If someone is blocking the aisle with their cart he will wait until they move it whereas I will firmly ask the person to move it. My husband is pretty assertive however and is much more laid back and patient with people.
  • As a woman you may well meet or date a man who would prefer you to be submissive. The obvious answer seems to be, don't date him. He's not the guy for you.

    Find a man who loves who YOU are.

    There are plenty of men and women who are submissive, passive, assertive, aggressive, and few of us are any one of those things all of the time. 

    Personally I sometimes struggle to not be aggressive when I mean to be assertive. Equally I sometimes find I regret not speaking my mind and being too passive or submissive. I love being able to walk away from a situation and think, "yes, I spoke my mind. I made myself heard but was not offensive or aggressive. I was dignified, honest and uncomplicated." But those are the things that matter to me.

    Behave in a way that fits your own values and you'll find people to bond with as friends and romantically. 

    Elizabeth 3yrs old Jane 1yr old

  • Thanks, you all have great advice. Smile

    I honestly don't know where I fall on the orientation scale. As I said at the other forum sexually I'm very A sexual, and present as more androgynous/bigender (but I identify as female). But relationship wise? I don't know. I'm still figuring that out and am kind of fluid right now as far as attractions go.

    When I was a male I identified as a straight male and never had any thoughts or attractions toward men. But as a burgeoning young woman? My feelings have changed somewhat. I notice guys in a different way, and can appreciate attractive men.
    For instance, shortly after I started hormones, my feelings and perceptions began to change in a really big way with everything, and the first few times I noticed men in a different way, I'd have passing thoughts like "wow, he's really cute" and it really took me by surprise, and I was like, 'wtf did I just think????'. You know?

    I don't know ultimately where I might end up. I don't know if I'm lesbian, straight or bisexual. I don't have any desire right now to be in a relationship, plus I think at this stage in my life I think I need to be able to focus on ME and transition and get much more established in my new role before I could ever be ready for something like that.

    Since I started hormones what sex drive I did have tanked and packed up and left, and I've really gravitated towards A sexuality (and have been researching it extensively), but if the right person ever came into my life, who knows? I'm open to the possibility that could change and I may want to be in a sexual relationship, but I'm totally happy as I am right now and am fine if it stays that way.

    Thanks again. Smile
    @MrsMcC; I'm loving every moment of transition and it's more than I ever hoped it would be. I'm happy for the first time ever in my life and for once in my life feel I'm right where I belong. Smile

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