Archive for the ‘transsexual-hating feminism’ Category
Guest post by Lucy, who originally posted here
Just when I was hoping that Julie Bindel had moved on from being actively transphobic, she’s appeared in an, at-best, centre-right magazine called Standpoint (What the heck is a feminist, especially a self-proclaimed radical lesbian feminist, doing cosying up with the right?) with an article entitled “The Operation That Can Ruin Your Life“. Three guesses as to what operation she’s referring to and the first two don’t count. I hate being a puppet dancing to strings being pulled by Ms Bindel, but I also can’t let this sort of hate pass by uncommented. I’ll mostly be snarking, so fair warning. I’m skipping large parts of the article because a full fisk would be interminably long. It’s also worth noting that in many ways this article is sort of her “greatest hits” on trans stuff in that she’s stitched together material from previous articles she’s written. She even includes the quote about trans people and Grease that she later apologised for, showing just how insincere she can be when apologising. That said, let’s get to her article.
Almost immediately one has to wonder what world Ms Bindel lives in. Referring to last year’s Stonewall awards she says that “I, along with a police escort, walked past a huge demonstration of transsexuals and their supporters, shouting ‘Bindel the Bigot’.” This should concern everyone. In that I mean it should concern everyone that a protest of about 150 people is a huge demonstration in Bindel’s eyes, that she remembers a chant that was not chanted, and that she also remembers having a police escort while others don’t. Of course since she also refers to the demonstrators as a “powerful lobby” who have been “hounding [her] for “five years”, the real point here is to establish that: a) trans people are possibly dangerous, b) there are a lot of trans people, c) trans people are not activists trying to assert their rights (as feminists might be described) but are like industry lobbyists, and d) trans people are personally out to get her. Notice how this is reinforced at the end of the same paragraph: “I now find that a number of organisations are too frightened to ask me to speak at public events for fear of protests by transsexual lobbyists.” Trans people are boogeypeople that scare people away from Bindel with their lobbying, ehr, protests.
“Feminists tend to be critical of traditional gender roles because they benefit men and oppress women.” Yes, yes, we do. I couldn’t agree with you more, Ms Bindel. Glad we could find common ground. Of course, then she completely rips that ground away by immediately following up by saying that “[t]ranssexualism, by its nature, promotes the idea that it is ‘natural’ for boys to play with guns and girls to play with Barbie dolls.” By talking about the “nature” of transsexualism (as though it somehow exists independent of actual transsexual people) and what is “natural”, Bindel is trying to hit us over the head with the usual “You naive fools, you don’t understand it’s all socially constructed!” thing. Just in case we were unclear on that she goes further with: “The idea that gender roles are biologically determined rather than socially constructed is the antithesis of feminism.” Again, I couldn’t agree with her more since I am a feminist. Gender roles are socially constructed. How could they not be? Of course the problem is that as a feminist and a transsexual woman, I see a difference between gender identity, gender expression, and gender roles. For Bindel, like other radical feminists, gender identity, if it even exists, is the result of the imposition of gender roles as is gender expression.
Now, tell us how transsexual people came to be, Julie! “Gender dysphoria (GD) was invented in the 1950s by reactionary male psychiatrists in an era when men were men and women were doormats.” Get that? Transsexual people did not exist prior to the invention of the psychiatric definition of gender dysphoria. Just like lesbians did not exist prior to Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis in 1886. Gender dysphoria was also invented by reactionaries making transsexualism reactionary as well and unable to be changed by transsexual people from those roots. Just like feminism can never change from its roots as a movement only concerned with the rights of some women. Hmm, maybe she does have a point there, after all. It’s also vital that we remember that the psychiatrists were male because this also makes transsexuality, and thus transsexual people, forever the handmaiden of patriarchy, eternally opposed to feminism. No transsexual person can really be a feminist (I’m a sparkly pink unicorn with a false consciousness).
“[Gender dysphoria] is a term used to describe someone who feels strongly that they should belong to the opposite sex and that they were born in the wrong body.” Yes, it does describe people who think that. Of course, it also no longer exists as a diagnosis anymore, having been replaced quite some time ago by “gender identity disorder”. But if Bindel used the current term she couldn’t as easily ignore the difference between gender roles and gender identity. Also, a number of transsexual people disagree with the whole “born in the wrong body” thing. My body is not the wrong body, it’s my body. What other body would I have been born in? Also, I don’t believe I should belong to the “opposite sex” as this implies that there are only two sexes, that these are natural and not somehow socially constructed, and that intersex people do not exist (or exist only as “mistakes” of one of the two sexes). I do claim that I have issues with my body, but I have a hard time being able to articulate these issues in a way that is comprehensible to cissexual people, as it can not reach them unfiltered by societal and personal prejudices.
“[Gender dysphoria] has no proven genetic or physiological basis.” And your point is? Neither does sexual orientation or bipolar disorder (Thank you, Arwyn!). Does this mean that lesbianism doesn’t exist? Wait, I forgot, Bindel is a political lesbian who appropriated a lesbian identity as a result of her politics. Actually, I suspect that Bindel’s point is that this means transsexuality must be a mental (read: “not real”) illness with all the bad connotations that being “crazy” carries with it.
“But no oppressed group ever insisted its emotional distress was the sole basis for the establishment of a right. Indeed, transsexuals, along with those seeking IVF and cosmetic surgery, are using the NHS for the pursuit of happiness not health.” Bindel makes a complete disability fail here. People with mood disorders? They need to stop being treated by the NHS, because they’re only pursuing happiness not health. Women who’ve been emotionally abused? Not a health issue, because they’re just pursuing happiness not health. I could go on, but I think I’ve made the point. The idea that happiness is somehow independent of health is a privileged notion, expressed by those for whom happiness is not a health issue. Honestly, I don’t think transsexual people would be all that emotionally distressed if we didn’t have to deal with a world where Bindel’s views are the norm. The emotional distress arises mainly from the rejection of our autonomy, the insistence that we are bad, that we are wrong, that we are the symptom/cause of societal problems, that we are to blame for the prejudices of others. Speaking of autonomy, I base the establishment of a right to treatment not on emotional distress but on bodily autonomy, the same basis for the right to choose whether to carry a pregnancy to term or not. My body, my choice. But, of course, Bindel wants to portray transsexual people as emotionally disturbed, vain, and unnatural (don’t think I missed the comparison to IVF and cosmetic surgery) just the same as has been done to women seeking the vote and queer people seeking the right to live openly.
Speaking of treatment, can you tell us about it, Julie? “Treatment is brutal and the results far from perfect.” Wow, brutal. Why exactly is it brutal? Is it because it sometimes involves surgery? Do they not use anaesthetic? Or, is Julie just using inflammatory language? I’m glad that Julie is there protecting transsexual people from the mistaken belief that we can evaluate for ourselves if surgical results are acceptable enough for us for those contemplating surgery. But, no, surgery must be perfect. BTW, what exactly does perfect mean and who decides what is perfect (if not Julie, since I’m sure she can’t be called in for a consult for everyone considering surgery)? We already ruled out transsexual people. Maybe we should have a poll on the Daily Mail’s website? Also, I would say that hormone replacement therapy, which Bindel significantly fails to mention at all for transsexual women, is neither brutal nor far from perfect. It hasn’t hurt a bit and I’m fairly happy with my breasts (though not as happy as my fiancée is; ahem). Bindel’s preoccupation with surgery is typical of cissexual fixation on “the surgery” (which usually only means surgery for trans women) as though it were the defining event in all transsexual people’s existences (I’m certain she wouldn’t bring up the removal of facial hair for transsexual women at all if she couldn’t characterise it as painful). She willfully ignores the fact that not all transsexual people undergo any surgery, since some never desire surgery, some decide that the results aren’t acceptable for them, and some don’t like the pain that any surgery involves (I was personally less-than-thrilled with the pain of recovering from my emergency appendectomy).
Since Bindel has made clear she is totally not transphobic, she’d never misgender someone, a transphobic act. So this never appears anywhere in the article: “In other words, a pre-operative man could apply for a job in a women — only rape counselling service and, if refused on grounds of his sex, could take the employer to court on the grounds that ‘he’ is legally a ‘she’.” Nope, that does not appear in the article at all. Again, note the preoccupation with “the surgery”. After all, we all know that one of the requirements for counselling is that the counsellor expose her genitals to the person being counselled. Oh, hang on, no, it’s not. And, it’s not like such a trans woman would know anything about being raped because she might have been raped. Oh, hang on again, a trans woman might well know. So we’re left with the simple transphobic assertion that trans women aren’t women. Because “woman” is socially constructed and absolutely based on the determination made about the woman’s genitals at birth. It’s socially constructed on biological essentialism. As we’ve already seen above, physical sex can not be socially constructed. Pull the other one, it’s got bells on.
Now we get to where Bindel clearly misrepresents a quote while failing to properly attribute it. She introduces it with “A definition of transsexualism used by a number of transsexual rights organisations reads:” which is then followed by a paragraph which I will reproduce in a moment. I tracked down where the paragraph of quote came from since I’m always suspicious of direct quotes loosely attributed to unidentified organisations. It turns out she copied it from Beyond the Binary: A Tool Kit for Gender Identity Activism in Schools which was put out in 2004 by the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, the Transgender Law Center, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (notice how only one of those is specifically a trans rights organisation and it’s not exclusively for transsexual rights). The paragraph Bindel quotes in her article comes from a section at the beginning entitled “What is Gender?”. Bindel quotes the paragraph thusly:
Students who are gender non-conforming are those whose gender expression (or outward appearance) does not follow traditional gender roles: “feminine boys,” “masculine girls” and students who are androgynous, for example. It can also include students who look the way boys and girls are expected to look but participate in activities that are gender nonconforming, like a boy who does ballet. The term “transgender youth” can be used as an umbrella term for all students whose gender identity is different from the sex they were assigned at birth and/or whose gender expression is non-stereotypical.
She then uses it to say that “According to this definition, a girl who plays football is trans-sexual.” Harharhar. Only Bindel is being intellectually dishonest. She doesn’t quote the whole paragraph which continues on to say:
Some transgender students transition or change from one gender to another. Transition often means changing the way you dress, selecting a new name, and sometimes getting help from a doctor to change your body.
But, wait, I thought this was a definition of transsexualism? Why would they say that some transgender students transition since that’s what transsexualism involves? It’s simple. This is not a definition of transsexualism, it’s an explanation of gender non-conformity and transgender (including transsexuality). In a nifty sleight of hand, Bindel uses the explanation of gender non-conformity as though it’s explaining transsexualism. Which lets her make her snarky little comment, which isn’t even that original (WARNING: link to trans hate site). Of course, last I checked, football (that’s soccer to North American-types) is played by girls and women. World Cup? Olympics? Is any of this ringing any bells? Maybe Julie could catch a match at the London Olympics in 2012? Heck even when I was a child (centuries ago) girls played to a remarkable lack of comment. Anyway, moving on from the fact that Ms Bindel seems to be completely clueless about girls’ participation in sports, there’s the far more important issue that she feels that twisting, warping, misrepresenting… Heck, let’s be honest. The far more important issue is that she lies. This was not simply misunderstanding. She went to some effort to twist what was said to be able to use it to imply that transsexualism causes transsexual people to mistake one thing, lack of conformance to norms of gender expressions, for another, having a gender identity that conflicts with one’s body. We have a false consciousness. Except, of course, we don’t. But Bindel is hardly one to let reality stop her from getting her way.
Of course Julia next trots out Claudia, the same woman who she’s been using as an example of how damaging transsexual treatment is since 2003. However, the problem with using Claudia as an example of trans regret is how Claudia ended up transitioning. I’m not going to go into it here, but looking at the article Bindel originally wrote about Claudia in the Guardian, the facts are more complex than “Here’s a trans woman who regretted her surgery.” In fact, Claudia’s case reminds me of the sorts of situations whereby lesbians and gay men can end up married to someone of the “opposite” sex and with children before they come out.
Skipping a bit, Bindel again lays down the unalterable facts of biology for us. “Medical science cannot turn a biological male into a biological female — it can only alter the appearance of body parts. A trans-sexual ‘woman’ will always be a biological male.” I could go into how even the most ardent of transphobes, Janice G Raymond, acknowledged that what defined male and female in a biological sense was a combination of chromosones, types of gonads, primary and secondary sexual characteristics, hormone levels, and so on (although she, like Germaine Greer and others ultimately fetishises chromosomes) and the fact that we’ve already covered the erasure of intersex people, but I’d rather just say, “So what?” Even if we grant what she says is true, that there is some sort of absolute, non-arbitrary measure of biological sex, what does biological sex have to do with social gender? By using the case of a trans woman rapist, Bindel implies rape is only by penis and no penis means no rape. This erases the fact that some FAAB people rape (even though English law does not classify it as such) and shifts the blame from people to body parts. More insultingly, it erases the fact that trans people are far more likely to be victims of rape (eg, when trans women are placed in men’s prisons) than perpetrators.
Next, we move back to the “trans people are big meanies” line of argument with which Bindel started this article. “There is a handful of radicals in the world today who have dared to challenge the diagnosis of transsexualism.” I agree. That’s why there have been so few people at things like protests of the APA’s lack of reform of the diagnosis in the DSM. But, of course, what Bindel really means by challenging the diagnosis, as she has already made clear above, is challenging the rights to autonomy of trans people. Because if she was only challenging the diagnosis she would find that a lot of trans people would join her in doing so. I would. But in demanding that we submit to her ideas of what we should do with our bodies, she is not radical, nor is she challenging a diagnosis. She then goes on with examples of what big meanies trans people are and frankly I’m bored with that sort of thing and won’t address them (beyond saying that I do not endorse wishing a painful death or harm on anyone).
Now we come to the conclusion, where Julie shows her true opinion of trans people: we don’t deserve to exist. Or, as she puts it: “In a world where equality between men and women was reality, transsexualism would not exist.” To her, we’re a symptom of social inequality between the sexes. We lie when we talk about who we are not having to do with that (and, in fact, making it harder for getting people to understand who are because people assume it has to do with the fact that men are treated one way and women are treated another). She has decided what the truth is, and we’re not going to change her mind even if she has to lie to herself and others to insure that she doesn’t. Speaking of which: “Sex-change surgery is unnecessary mutilation.” She has not proven this because she can’t prove this even as she can’t prove trans people won’t exist in a world of gender equality. She can only assert it and ignore what trans people say about the matter, because, to her, we lack the knowledge of our own lives, our own bodies, society and so on to choose for ourselves. We need her paternalistic concern, her protecting us from ourselves, to replace the paternalism of the current gatekeepers of psychiatrists and others.
Finally, there’s this: “Using human rights laws to normalise trans-sexualism has resulted in a backward step in the feminist campaign for gender equality.” I keep seeing this assertion made by Bindel and others. I’ll be frank. I don’t see this. When people assert this they never point to examples of how this is happening that don’t involve the assumption that the advancement of trans rights is a defeat for gender equality, something I don’t buy at all. Only if one subscribes to the twisted fable of transsexuality that Bindel pretends is a reality does this make sense. The reality where I transitioned to wear pretty dresses and make up and am demure when I stay at home and cook for a man. The reality of a fantasy world. Here in the real world, I wear jeans and t-shirts, no makeup, am not demure at all, am a university student, and am working on learning to cook for a woman. Oh, yes, and I try to work towards actual gender equality.
Still, I’m sure all of this won’t change Julie Bindel’s views. She lives in that elaborate constructed fantasy where there’s a theory that explains why I’m trans (just like the psychiatrists have theories) and anything I have to say has no bearing on it. Instead, I write this to point out that in pushing this malarky, Bindel argues not for a world of equality but for a world where she gets hers and others pay the price for it. Her words also support treating trans people as incapable, incompetent, as less than others, as deserving the treatment we get. In other words, she may not directly encourage harm to us, but she certainly gives intellectual cover to those who do.
Lu’s Pharmacy rejects transgender customerA Vancouver transgender activist says that the pharmacy owned by the Vancouver Women’s Health Collective has refused to fill her prescription. Jamie Lee Hamilton told the Georgia Straight on July 14 that Lu’s: A Pharmacy for Women denied her service because she wasn’t born female.
“I’m a member of the Downtown Eastside, a long-time resident,” Hamilton said. “I should be able to access my community pharmacy.”
According to Hamilton, the collective’s executive director, Caryn Duncan, explained that the pharmacy won’t serve male-to-female transgender people. Hamilton said she told Duncan that this policy is discriminatory. “She then said, ‘No, you have to be born female,’ ” Hamilton claimed.
In a July 15 phone interview with the Straight, Duncan said she told Hamilton that the collective is committed to its original vision for the pharmacy and its other services, which is to work with “women born women”. Duncan said that the organization has specialized in meeting the health needs of these women for more than 40 years.
“It is how we would like to continue to approach the work that we are providing women,” Duncan said.
She added that she isn’t sure that she would describe what happened as “refusing her service”, and claimed that Hamilton tried to force her way inside. Duncan also said she feels “very overwhelmed” by the pressure she’s received to provide service to transgender women.
“I have felt that people are employing intimidation tactics, and it’s hurtful to me personally,” she said. “As I said to Jamie Lee Hamilton, we want to help women here. We want to focus on the work that we do that’s very important to us and to the women who want to use our services. That’s where I want to put my energy.”
I need to find a linkable source, but reportedly, Duncan threatened to call the police on Jamie Lee Hamilton, while at the same time saying that protest tactics are intimidation and hurtful to her personally. That’s nice to know, Ms. Duncan, but somehow I think the pain of being criticized for an exclusionary policy quite measures up to the experience of being excluded.
I would further add that the intimidation tactic of threatening trans women with police (and the potential for arrest and being locked up with cis men) pretty much outweighs the pain of being told “Hey, you’re being transphobic.”
Video of the protest, with Ms. Duncan talking about how they discussed the decision to exclude trans women for years, and claims that it comes down strictly to reproductive health. Plus neglecting to mention how trans women were excluded from the decision-making process.
Queen Emily posted about Lu’s Pharmacy, a pharmacy that’s only for cis women (or the trans misogynist dogwhistle, “women born womeny”) on Feministe:
Did you know there’s a women-only pharmacist in Vancouver? It opened yesterday. Only, “women’s only,” doesn’t mean all women. A number of bloggers have been posting about how this new pharmacy has from its birth held onto some old prejudices – excluding trans women from access to its services.
What the pharamacy is supposed to do is this:
Caryn Duncan, executive director of Vancouver Women’s Health Collective, said a lot of women told her they do not go to pharmacies in the troubled neighbourhood [Vancouver's Downtown Eastside] because many of them focus on dispensing methadone to heroin addicts.
“Women felt, ‘I want a woman pharmacist. I want to know that when I walk in the door, I’m going to be getting sound women-centred care from a pharmacist. I can talk to her about emergency contraception or a vaginal infection, something that is very personal and intimate,’” said Duncan
Ok, that sounds alright to me. So why exclude trans women? We don’t have personal and intimate needs? WE don’t need protection?
More at Feministe, of course.
Helen G posted more at Bird of Paradox:
Vancouver Women’s Health Collective has just opened a new pharmacy called Lu’s: A Pharmacy for Women which claims to offer a “full-service pharmacy” as well as “advice on your medication and your healthcare”. (Via VWHC website – Lu’s Services)The website continues:
By opening a women’s pharmacy, the VWHC is once again providing health care services to women along with health information and our continued advocacy work, from a model that is informed by a feminist perspective. We know that women are still underserved by the current health care model, and we know that certain women face considerable barriers to accessing quality health care, which include poverty, addiction, racism, and sexism, among others. We see Lu’s: A Pharmacy for Women as a unique opportunity to organize in a new way, by bringing together health care professionals both traditional and holistic (in the form of pharmacists, doctors, and holistic practitioners), volunteers, community activists, and community members in one space.
(Via VWHC website – A Brief History of Lu’s: A Pharmacy for Women)
Which all sounds great. A much-needed resource offering access to “quality health care, which include poverty, addiction, racism, and sexism, among others”. A laudable aim, unquestionably.
However, according to The Vancouver Courier (link here):
Starting Tuesday, any woman who was born a woman can visit the pharmacy to have prescriptions filled.
It’s unclear where the phrase “any woman who was born a woman” has come from – The Vancouver Courier is the only source I have seen which uses the term explicitly; note that the VWHC website (link here) refers simply to “women”. Not “womyn born womyn”, and not “self identified women”; just “women”. The contact page of the VWHC website (link here) states that “our Centre is a space for women only”.
However, history has shown us many times that the default meaning of “women” is, in reality, “cis women”, so the use of “women” is a cause for concern if trans women are likely to be excluded.
Today, some women (both cis and trans) protested the pharmacy, and a trans woman was going to attempt to fill a prescription at Lu’s Pharmacy, but apparently it was more important to keep trans women out of this space than it was to attempt to serve the any women at all.
Transgender protesters bring positive message to Lu’s: A Pharmacy for WomenApproximately two dozen transgender women and their supporters held a protest this morning (July 11) outside Lu’s: A Pharmacy for Women.
Earlier this week, the Georgia Straight reported that the Vancouver Women’s Health Collective, which owns Lu’s, will not allow transgender women to be served. The executive director, Caryn Duncan, said at the time that Lu’s would be for “women born women”.
The protest leader, Elizabeth Marston, urged members of the crowd to stick “prescriptions for change” on the window of the pharmacy, which was closed. They included words like “inclusion”, “equality”, “love”, and “diversity”.
“Some of the most vulnerable women in this neighbourhood have been discriminated against and are going to be discriminated against by the policy of Lu’s,” Marston said. “The women who need health care the most are often the ones that are in the most vulnerable situations and often, thanks to transphobia, that’s trans women.”
Jamie Lee Hamilton told the Straight that she planned to bring her prescription into the pharmacy this morning. However, she couldn’t do this because it was closed.
“I guess they realize it was maybe too much of a political event and they didn’t want to be seen in that light,” Hamilton said. “I guess I’ll just have to come back on Monday with my prescription quietly.”
She added that if Lu’s doesn’t fill the prescription, she will file a complaint with the Pivot Legal Society and with the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia.
However, she added that this issue could only way to know this would be if somebody filed a complaint.
Also, Holly pointed out on Feministe that the pharmacy’s intentions are more problematic than initially thought:
A couple of the linked blogs also pointed out something that bears repeating: this pharmacy has also established itself as wanting to help “women” without “women” having to encounter drug addicts or sex workers. In other words, women with chemical dependencies and women who do sex work are not “women” of the kind that the pharmacy wants to serve either — despite the obvious and pressing needs of those women, in this area of Vancouver. They want to be a pharmacy for “nice women” — no druggies, no trannies, no hookers. That’s a great mission statement right there — provide for “women” with one hand, and hold a big fat “NOT YOU, YOU’RE NOT THE RIGHT KIND OF WOMEN” sign in the other. There are all sorts of reasons that we “wrong women” ought to be banding together to oppose this kind of patronizing, essentialist, racist, classist, sex-worker-bashing, transphobic bullshit.
This article in The Province provides more details (emphasis mine):
A pharmacy focused solely on women’s needs is scheduled to open in the Downtown Eastside next month.
Lu’s: A Pharmacy for Women will serve female clients uncomfortable at the existing 19 licensed pharmacies in the Downtown Eastside. Those small pharmacies provide daily methadone to 1,400 heroin addicts, of whom about 500 are female.
The implication is subtle, and it’s difficult to tell if the problem is that some women are comfortable around drug users and want a space away from all of them, or if the problem is that women who are drug users and need methadone are uncomfortable at those 19 licensed pharmacies. So I guess the question is: Does Lu’s provide daily methadone?
This part as well:
There are several women-based Downtown Eastside non-profits offering a range of services, including shelter beds and outreach and sex-worker support — but no pharmacy.
The largest of the women’s groups is the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, while the United Church operates a women-only drop-in facility and Bridge Housing Society runs a women’s-only shelter that is much prized by marginalized women in the community. There are also three agencies offering help specifically for sex workers.
Duncan supports diversity of services in the Downtown Eastside because of the nature of the community. She said some marginalized women who are not sex workers will not use services that may imply they are in the sex industry.
Again, kind of ambiguously worded. Is this pharmacy’s services available to sex workers, or is the point of the pharmacy to provide women who aren’t sex workers a place to go where they can make use of certain services without the implication that they’re sex workers. I mean, I think it’s important for women (trans and cis) to be able to access needed services without being judged for seeking them, but at the same time I get a very strong “but sex workers already have services here” sense from this passage.
This strikes me as another instance in which trans women’s needs and safety are sacrificed for the comfort of cis women. That somehow, being trans means our own experiences of misogyny and sexism are not really as important, just as when we’re raped it’s not as bad as when cis women are raped – seriously, an allegedly feminist website aimed at helping rape survivors spends that many links defending their decision to exclude a trans woman, and crowing about their supposed victory for women-only space, and I’ve had one VRR volunteer have the gall to claim to my [internet] face that she was a trans ally, and that excluding trans women was necessary for the safety and comfort of cis women in the shelter. And Lu’s pharmacy is trying to build their policy on this foundation.
If you’re going to comment about how trans women’s health needs are from outer space, I’ll either delete the comment or replace it with pictures of pandas (taking a page from Queen Emily). If you really believe trans women’s needs are so strange as to require special training beyond “treat them with the same dignity you accord cis women, and don’t deny their womanhood” then you need to do some research.
Kristen J. adds more context on Feministe:
I think article helps to explain part of what is going on here. Its class warfare of the ugliest and hateful-est kind. Gentrification driven by the 2010 Olympics. Good times, good times.
Gudbuytjane added this in the comments, and if you want to participate in activism about this, you need to read it:
I’d really like the AROOO digression to stop here, though.
Thank you, Lisa!
The Vancouver Sun has an article on their website about the protest (note: the comments section is pretty gross, as one might expect with a mainstream daily). There was quite a lot of mainstream media present, but I haven’t seen much of the other coverage yet. I’ll add links when I find them.
Allison Hamilton, a 39 year-old transgendered woman, said there are different “views” held by women in the collective.
Mental note: Remember, mainstream reporters are going to struggle with nuanced concepts of gender and disagreements within feminism, and probably quote you in a way that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. *facepalm* Ohwell, the reporter seemed nice and was trying to understand, but I think this is maybe the advanced class and he needed 101. I will email him a follow-up to explain some concepts more clearly, in case he writes more on the protests.
An important part of this discussion is the intersection of class, poverty, and race as well as being trans. Part of what the failure on the part of the pharmacy is not just denying services to trans women, but that they have come into the neighbourhood from outside and told residents how things are going to be. I worked in the DTES for many years in community-led job training, and it is important to remember not just that this is Canada’s poorest postal code, but that (I would imagine) most of us don’t live there.
The DTES is often overrun with well-paid ‘poverty advocates’ creating a seemingly endless stream of studies on poverty in the neighbourhood, while successful (for residents) programs and initiatives lose funding because they don’t meet the funding bodies’ requirements for “success.” Government promises for public housing have been broken (the Woodward’s building betrayal a prime example. It had been bought by the city for social housing, but is now a condo development with no social housing units at all), and police and private security routinely harrass people in the neighbourhood. Residents are thus rightly suspicious of government/academic/activist ’solutions’ coming from outside.
So I’d suggest we keep that in mind, otherwise we risk being another group of middle class people from outside the neighbourhood (and in relation to the DTES, if you have access to the internet, etc., it’s probably accurate to call yourself middle class) who are using the DTES as a place to debate with other middle class people not from the neighbourhood while ignoring the voices of those who live there.
I was impressed that this is understood by the Femininjas (who organized the protest, and did an awesome job of it. I was glad to meet y’all yesterday!). They are actively working at ensuring inclusion of residents to drive the protests, and finding offline ways to communicate the issue.
Keep in mind that while this is part of the debate of a larger-reaching concept – the inclusion of trans women in cis women’s spaces – the lived reality of a community of people who are often used as statistics or anecdotes to further external agendas. The primary purpose of this protest and in seeking inclusion at the pharmacy should be to improve the lives and experiences of the residents.
Also important to remember, especially as the DTES has such a high percentage of residents who are of First Nations ancestry, is that Vancouver as a whole is on unceded Coast Salish territory, so show respect (i.e. if you’re one of those white folks who like to tell First Nations people how you feel like you’re two-spirited or that you really relate to their spirituality you’ll probably sound like a colonizing asshole, just saying)
Short version: Keep the signal boosted about this, but remember to show respect and acknowledge than many of the women directly affected won’t be reading your blog, internet forum, etc. Keep in mind that compared to residents of the DTES we are very privileged in that we can have this conversation in comment boxes.
With a bridge on my back points out:
Yes. I cant also help but note that the legacy of violence against indigenous people in the area seems to not even have been noted by most of the outsiders debating this issue. Where does Lu’s ‘nice cis women’ policy fit within the context of this kind of violence towards indigenous women, cis or trans?
From the linked article:
We are writing to you today to demand a full public Inquiry into the ongoing issue of murdered and missing women from aboriginal communities, in particular surrounding the murdered women in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver and the missing and murdered women who have disappeared along the “Highway of Tears” in northern British Columbia.
The aboriginal community and the community at large has heard many public statements from Attorney General Wally Oppal and spokespeople for him concerning the potential for a public Inquiry into the murdered and missing women of the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. On multiple occasions, he or his spokespeople have suggested that those concerned with this issue must wait for the criminal trial of Robert Pickton to finish before the government is able to publicly inquire into the lack of response of police to missing person reports in that neighbourhood.
The first and only expected trial of Robert Pickton is now complete. We understand that the matter is now under appeal and is expected to be heard in March at the B.C. Court of Appeal. We understand further that, following this hearing and the judgment of the Court, it is quite likely that the matter will be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada. The case, at any of these levels, may be sent back for trial again, and that trial may be appealed again. Given the frailty of human memories, the loss or destruction of relevant evidence with time, and the retirement or death of key witnesses, both of our organizations share an equal concern about this approach taken by the Provincial government. It is inappropriate to ask the aboriginal community to wait for years to have these matters publicly discussed and rectified based solely on government speculation that a public Inquiry could affect issues on appeal or at a second trial.
And I do think someone (gudbuytjane?) did bring up that a lot of indigenous people live in the area, and the ways organizations that set up in DTES help or fail to to help them, but I don’t recall correctly. I didn’t point it out, and very little of the discussion has so far.
It does strike me that Lu’s: A Pharmacy For Women’s policy doesn’t really discuss in much depth the kinds of oppression that play out in DTES against women marginalized in other ways. They exclude trans women, and talk about women who don’t want to be associated with sex workers or drug users, but how does race fit into their policies? Indigenous women in BC face formidable barriers to receiving respectful, timely, and effective health care. Vancouver Women’s Health Collective (the organization behind Lu’s Pharmacy) acknowledges these difficulties, but do they create an atmosphere in which indigenous women feel welcomed?
And I can’t make assumptions here, but I know, when I read about any particular group of women not being served well in any context, my immediate first thought is “I wonder whether they bother with trans women?” I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask “if they’re this quick to take a prejudiced view of trans women, how do they deal with race?” And what about indigenous trans women? Denied care for being trans in addition to the aforementioned barriers?
But I’m not writing about the post itself, which is beautiful and painful both, but about the cis woman who tried to make little light’s experience of growing up trans about cis women and cis girls, and a comment by someone named Jane, who says:
I cannot believe that Margaret has effectively been silenced here for merely pointing out some valid views.
I am a woman born trans, however, to try and suggest that I was still a girl when I was younger is just utterly ridiculous. Whether I felt I should have been a girl is not the same as having been raised as a girl.
And to suggest that somehow, ‘being a girl’ is really about wearing dresses, or socialising with other girls over boys is simply buying into gender contruction of patriarchal societies.
I can empathise totally with your post littlelight, but at the same time, I am continually appalled at the silencing of radfem women.
What sort of valid views did Margaret point out? You can read the comments if you like. They include her denying the existence of cis privilege, and a sustained appeal to “think about how bad cis women have it” as if little light (or any other trans woman) is blind to the sexism cis girls are raised with.
But Margaret ran off to her own blog to write a post mocking little light. A post referring to trans women as body snatchers, describing a dark future where there are only trans women seeking to harvest organs from cis women. Don’t follow these links if you don’t want a face full of unbridled, unreasoning hatred.
And this is what Jane defends, this is what Jane says it is wrong for little light to remove from her blog. This is, of course, ridiculous. We don’t establish blogs to be platforms for those who view us with contempt, as barely human (if that), as barely deserving of even minimal respect (if that), for those who think that slandering and libeling our lives, our bodies, our actions, our beliefs, our mental states. To defend the idea that our blogs should be open to those who proudly proclaim their hatred for us is just another avenue of attack on our lives, our bodies, our actions, our beliefs, our mental states.
This has come up before, and will come up again – Queen Emily has brought it up, Cedar has brought it up, I have brought it up. No one of conscience should welcome this hatred on their blogs. It shouldn’t be allowed to flourish. Let them have their private forums and their own blogs where they can thrash around in their various bigotries. But their virulent transphobia (and, frequently, homophobia, racism, and ablism) simply should not be welcome elsewhere.
We do not have an obligation to provide a platform for anyone else’s hate. No one does.
Another aspect of Jane’s comment is rubbing me the wrong way – the way she buys into the idea that trans women who talk about knowing ourselves as girls at a young age means that we have some kind of horribly naive, uncomplicated perspective of what girlhood and womanhood is. As if being left to the cis boys to experience their misogynist, homophobic, transphobic violence and acknowledging how horrible this was for any of us is exactly like equating womanhood with wearing a dress? That, Jane, is simply a standard diversionary tactic to recenter trans discussions on cis concerns. Congratulations on your collusion with transphobic radical feminists.
Are you simply ignorant to the fact that Margaret Jamison commented on little light’s post with the intention of silencing little light? Are you unaware of the history? That in the past, radical feminists have tried to silence little light for having too loud a voice? That your accusation that little light is silencing radical feminists is in fact a defense of those radical feminists who have chosen to try to silence little light? Where are your paternalistic lectures for Margaret Jamison and E. Kitty Glendower’s fantasies of a future run amuck with trans women carving ovaries out of cis women? Why are only trans women being held to this imaginary standard of behavior?
This post is directed at Amananta, but what I have to say in it is more universally applicable to anti-trans feminists.
If you were ever really a supporter of trans people, you wouldn’t have found it so easy to back off that support and change your tune. You wouldn’t have quietly withdrawn your public support for your partner after you couldn’t use your appeal to estrogen to justify that your transphobic actions weren’t really transphobic.
But then you come trolling around my blog under a pseudonym to tell us all how trans women are really acting from male privilege, that we were ever “really cis men” before transitioning:
So basically, you aren’t going to answer her question, which is, why do transactivists focus almost soley on trying to force their way into women-born-women-only spaces, and claim born women should have no right to any space of their own, instead of actually combatting real oppression?
Oh wait, that’s right, you’re the oppressed ones, after getting the benefits of maleness you’re whole lives until you transition, and then want all the energy of women to be focused on your needs. Just like when you were men.
I really wish I could say that this was quite a change from your attempts at peacemaking, but truthfully, your “Radical Feminism and the Transgendered” post was pretty offensive:
I’ve seen a lot of transphobia (prejudice, misunderstanding and delberate hurtfulness directed towards transsexuals and transgendered people) flagrantly displayed by some radical feminists. I’ve also seen some distinctly anti-feminist opinions held by transfolk. Both of these attitudes are counterproductive, hurtful, and divisive. Neither of them make much sense. I don’t even think they are topics worthy enough of serious discussion to have people spend the amount of time and energy on them that they do, and maybe the time and energy I am putting into this post is also part of that wasted energy.
In this paragraph, you establish that you consider the rabidly anti-trans actions taken by feminists since the early 1970s to be rhetorically equal to trans people’s reactions to that violence. To being forced out of feminist spaces, to being denigrated as “surgically/chemically altered men,” to being equated with serial killers and rapists, to Janice Raymond’s call to commit cultural genocide upon trans people, to being described as “Frankenstein’s monsters” by Mary Daly. That trans people’s reactions to all of this hate speech, to all of these exclusive actions, are somehow on the same ideological ground as the insistence that trans people should not exist.
You then say that these reactions make no sense, that they’re not worthy of discussion, and that any energy devoted to that discussion is wasted energy. And please forget that trans women have been a part of feminism since the second wave, please pretend that we’ve never contributed. Please pretend that our participation was not forcibly and violently ended whenever possible – no, act like trans people are being divisive for criticizing this history and demanding accountability from feminism. That trans women are the unreasonable ones for wanting full participation in the women’s movement.
Why do I say these topics are a waste of the energy spent on them? I guess I just have to start off playing hardball here. Dear sisters in radical feminism – there is a tiny percentage of the population that feels they were not born into the right body and wishes to change their gender presentation. They are not your enemy; they are not the founders of the patriarchy; they are not the masses of men who are beating and raping women; they are not, as a group, supportive of violence against women or unequal pay or the anti-abortion movement. Dear transpeople – radical feminist groups that do not let MTFs into women only meetings or gatherings are not the defining issue of your oppression. I have yet to see any radical feminist say it is okay for you to be discriminated against in jobs and housing and beaten to death by roving packs of homophobic/transphobic men.
The first two-thirds of your paragraph is okay. But then we get to the second half – at which point you start explaining – as a cissexual woman – what should and should not be important to trans women. You completely dismiss any responsibility that feminism as a movement has helped perpetrate and reinforce the notions that trans women are really cis men and that trans men are really cis women, and how that is the foundation of violence against trans people – trans women especially, trans women of color, especially.
You also completely elide the fact that “women-only space” that excludes trans women count domestic violence and rape shelters among their number, and that these are a refuge from male violence. While cis feminists themselves may not directly engage in violence (please ignore the fact that cissexual feminists sent death threats to Olivia Records when they were demanding Sandy Stone leave), the fact that these spaces are set up to actively exclude trans women means that we’re that much more vulnerable to violence from men – in other words, your “women-only spaces” that exclude trans women are reinforcing that violence.
Also, by setting up women-only spaces to exclude trans women, you are declaring who is a woman and who is not a woman, and every space that’s set up to exclude trans women reinforces the core trans misogynistic notion that “trans women are not real women.”
Finally, it is not your place as a member of the oppressor class (cissexual people) to tell the oppressed class (trans people) what our priorities are supposed to be. If you were really a supporter of trans people as you claim at the time you wrote this, you wouldn’t be lecturing trans women on what causes we’re supposed to care about.
I’m skipping the next few paragraphs, as I believe they are genuinely supportive of your wife in specific and trans people in general. And, really, you should’ve stopped there, because:
But in other ways, many transgendered people fall prey to patriarchal ideas and attitudes, just as many non-transgendered people do. FTMs in particular seem so anxious to identify themselves as men that they sometimes throw out sexist stereotypes or behave in a very anti-feminist way, perhaps in order to prove they are “one of the boys”. I have seen the very good point made that of course FTMs have “gender dysphoria” – and so do almost all other women, because our culture, as a whole, hates and reviles women and femininity. What woman doesn’t hate being female for at least part of her life? Where is the line between really feeling you should have been born a man and wishing you had the privileges accorded to men in our society?
First of all, no, cissexual women do not have “gender dysphoria” and it’s both trivializing and tokenizing toward trans people to claim that discomfort with being a woman in a patriarchal society is the same thing as living with being trans – that is, with the fact that you know your physical sex isn’t right.
The line between feeling you should have been born a man and wishing you had the privileges accorded to men is a strong, bright line for trans people. Trans men aren’t doing it for the privilege, they do it because they know they’re male down to their bones, and their bodies clash with that expectation so thoroughly that the best answer is to transition. I, as a woman, wish every day that I had the privileges accorded to men, but living as a man was not something I could do and maintain a healthy life.
And yes, some trans men are sexist, and they should be called out on their sexism because sexism is wrong, and their being trans men shouldn’t reflect onto that at all.
I have seen many MTFs get extremely excited about getting to be “real women” who can – go SHOPPING! and wear frilly things! And heels! Until I sometimes wonder if to them, being feminine is nothing more than a fashion statement. I have known FTMs who explain that they knew they were really boys because they wanted short hair as children, hated Barbie dolls, and were very athletic. These kind of statements reveal that they don’t think girls or women who behave in this way are “real women”, and you can’t really get much more anti-feminist than that.
Oh, man, I thought that the previous paragraph was offensively tokenizing, but this, oh my god. These statements don’t reveal anything of the sort. You’re cherry-picking a few statements and behavior, taking them completely out of context, and then using them as evidence that trans women apparently view being women as some kind of shallow, superficial, artificial exercise – and I think that has more to do with how society views femininity than how trans women view womanhood.
It’s like this: Pre-transition life is like a prison. You’re expected to live according to your sex assigned at birth, even though every part of you knows this is wrong. Transitioning means so many things on so many levels, and that includes being able to do things appropriate to your proper sex without being labeled as a freak (although the labeling still happens). Trans women who are excited about shopping for clothes and shoes aren’t excited because this is the breadth and depth of the experience of “womanhood” to trans women, but because it is one of many things that we can finally do as women.
But to know that, you’d have to listen to trans people, rather than impose your own assumptions on us.
I do think it is a real problem that the only way little boys are allowed to express the softer and gentler sides of themselves is if they are seen as “not real men”. And it is definitely a problem that little girls are supposed to be shy and retiring and obsessed with their looks or “something is wrong with them.” I do not think these things alone are at the root of transgenderism. But I think in some cases, these cultural attitudes have pushed people into surgery and other medical treatments because behaviors outside of the strictly gender normative are seen as, literally “sick”. I have had some transpeople become very upset with me for daring to say these things, and while it is not my desire to hurt them by reiterating this, I have to call it as I see it.
And this goes back to the incorrect idea that trans people transition because we think that some things are only for men to do and some things are only for women, “thus, if I want to wear dresses, I have to be a woman.” While I appreciate your concern that people are pushed into surgery, I find it a grotesquely inaccurate distortion of the truth: That the WPATH (formerly HBIGDA) Standards of Care are intended to convince trans people that we don’t want to transition. How ignorant do you have to be to insist that people are being pushed into transitioning by cultural attitudes? Have you taken a look around lately? Society hates trans people.
You do hurt people by saying this, because you are saying something that is demonstrably false. You’re making unfounded assumptions based in your own cissexual privilege, and then asserting them as if they’re true, without (as privilege allows) even backing these statements up. You may call it as you see it, but you’re seeing things that aren’t there.
But the fact remains that it *is* easier to get along in life if one appears to be what others expect. In this regard, FTMs have a bit of an easier life, as the taking of testosterone makes them indistinguishable from men born men in a fairly brief amount of time, at least in public settings, or while clothed. Their masculine behavior will then pass unnoticed by society unless they wish to make an issue of having been born female. MTFs face a different set of variables, however. Depending on several appearance factors, some MTFs can be taken as a woman by most people without comment, but some will never succesfully “pass” as female, but will be seen as “a man in a dress.” While feminism has made some avenues open to women which were never open before, such as the freedom to wear either pants or a skirt/dress, men as a group have clung to the idea of dresses as women’s clothing and go out of their way to torment any fellow male who dares break the masculine code of dress and behavior. When an MTF, or for that matter, any crossdressing man, hippie boy, or goth boy, goes out wearing a skirt, s/he is exposed to, at best, whispered mockery and ridicule. At worst, men will beat him/her to death for breaking the male code of behavior. Male privilege comes with a high price, and those who visibly reject this code, even with something as petty as changing one’s clothes, sometimes pay that price with their lives.
This paragraph is problematic for a couple of reasons:
- You assume that trans men have an easy time passing. While it is true that testosterone over time does masculinize trans men rather effectively, a large number of trans men do not in fact pass perfectly well.
- You talk about “passing as female” when trans women are female. I think what you mean is “passing as cissexual.” Because trans women who fail to pass as cissexual are incorrectly gendered as men – that is to say, it’s the people who insist they’re men, not the trans woman’s fault for not looking female enough.
This is mostly plain old cissexism at work here, which is ignorant, but forgivable.
Which brings me to male privilege.
Many MTFs I know minimize the effect male privilege has on their behavior. I suppose it is like the proverbial fish who asks “what is water?” – being the benficiary of male privilege during one’s formative years, even if one begins to question one’s identity as a man, confers benefits upon one that are invisible to the recipient (although obvious to women, who do not receive these benefits.) Since MTFs do not want to be male, they would like to imagine they can just toss male prvilege away along with their unwanted boy’s clothing. The human mind does not work in this way, however.
Because growing up as a trans girl is exactly the same thing as growing up as a cis boy, right? Because when you know you’re a girl, even though the world insists you’re a boy, you’re totally socializing in exactly the same way as the cis boys are. You can’t possibly be picking up gendered messages intended for girls and absorbing them. And of course this in no way affects how trans girls interact with male privilege, right?
It’s cissexist supremacy that claims that trans people’s lives are identical to cis people’s lives pre-transition, that our state of mind and how it affects us in no way affects how we interact with the world or how the world interacts with us. So, before you start lecturing on how the human mind works, you could at least try to understand how trans women’s minds work throughout our lives.
Discussion by cissexual women of trans women’s “male privilege” is a silencing tactic, used to tell us that behavior that would be completely acceptable from a cis woman is unacceptable and essentially male from a trans woman. By explaining to trans women what our lives are really like, and how we really experienced male privilege, you’re doing the same thing that men do to women:
Men explain things to me, and to other women, whether or not they know what they’re talking about. Some men. Every woman knows what I mean. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.
This syndrome is something nearly every woman faces every day, within herself too, a belief in her superfluity, an invitation to silence, one from which a fairly nice career as a writer (with a lot of research and facts correctly deployed) has not entirely freed me. After all, there was a moment there when I was willing to believe Mr. Very Important and his overweening confidence over my more shaky certainty.
You’re exercising your cissexual privilege to shut trans women up. I’m not arguing that trans women have never received any male privilege, here. What I am arguing is that your assumptions about what that means are wrong, that you’re using this assumption of male privilege as a way to explain that trans women are essentially not really women, and carry an indelible mark of Cain that can and should be used against us when we start saying or doing inconvenient things – like, for example, protesting discrimination and segregation directed against trans women.
It is ironic that those resorting to violent, invasive tactics in order to enter the Michigan Women’s Music Festivial, for example, with the excuse that they are NOT men and should be accepted as women, are resorting to an ingrained male privilege which tells them they have a right to go anywhere they want to go. Also ironic in their insistence that they are no different from women born women is their seeming inability to understand, or their willingness to brush aside as insignificant, women’s very real fears of rape, from which follows the concept of a safe space for women being male-free. Thus the “cutting edge” protest method some have developed, that of passing succesfully as female until they get to the shower area and then showing everyone they have penises in a sort of “Neener, neener, I have a penis and you didn’t guess but I’m showing it to you now so you’re a hypocrite ha-ha-ha you’re wrong about transwomen!” sort of gesture really only proves the point that they DON’T belong in a women’s only safe place, as they have no clue how frightening it is for a vulnerable naked women to suddenly be confronted by an angry naked man.
The story about trans women exposing penises in the showers has been debunked many times:
Tony entered the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival in 1999 and took a shower inside, inadverdantly exposing his transplanted forearm, which was made to appear like a penis. This is considered to be the origin of the myth that “men walked around the festival exposing themselves (which has no concrete eyewitness reports besides Tony’s story itself).
In other words, the tactics you’re saying trans women used in the Festival never happened. But, there’s so much more buried here:
- You’re saying that trans women represent a threat of rape by being present at MichFest. How is it not trans misogynistic to insist that trans women are potential rapists?
- You’re saying that trans women should be ashamed of our anatomy, even though the only control we can exert over it is via hormones and surgery, since we can’t will our penises away. You’re saying that it must be hidden at all times. The truth is that a trans woman who reveals her penis is not putting cis women at risk for seeing it, but herself at risk because people who see her as “not a real woman” may commit violence upon her.
- You’re coopting survivor voices to justify continued exclusion and ejection of trans women from women-only spaces.
- Aside from the debunked rumor about trans women flashing penises in the shower, what “violent, invasive” tactics have been deployed to protest MichFest?
- Earlier in this post, you asserted that trans women are at great danger from male violence. Now you justify excluding trans women from MichFest because the women there need to be free from male violence. How can you not see that trans women may need this space as much as cis women?
- You’re assuming that the default is that trans women shouldn’t be allowed in. MWMF is for all women, which means that trans women are automatically included. It was an act of violence to expel Nancy Burkholder, and maintaining the policy in the years since has been continued justification of that violence against a woman.
- Penis or no, trans women are not “men” ever. Saying so is the core of transphobia – that trans people’s genders are not valid.
Transwomen – if you are serious about transitioning and serious about feeling like a woman, you have to stop insisting that female fear of men is sexist or unreasonable. Every time you do this it just proves the point of why women do need some women born women only space – so they don’t have to deal with you, as a newcomer to living as a woman, to tell us how we are doing it all wrong. Every time you think or say something along these lines, you are acting on male privilege, whether you like that idea or not. Question – if you are transgendered and pre-op or non-op, would you feel safe in a prison with men? Of course you wouldn’t – and for the exact same reason, in general women are not going to feel safe if you invade a space where they are naked and vulnerable. You can be as unhappy about that as you like – trust me, I am unhappy about it too – but until the epidemic of male violence against women ends, this is how it is going to be. You cannot blame feminists for this – they did not invent an irrational prejudice against men as violent rapists – the high number of men who are violent rapists is what is responsible for this very realistic fear.
Now this is where Amananta’s putting trans women in our place – we’re “newcomers to living as women” and thus need to understand that our presence, as a minority of women around women is exactly like putting a trans woman in a prison full of cis men (and yay, comparing trans women to violent criminals who are cis men – you go, Amananta!). She throws in the “shut up” bit by invoking male privilege yet again.
And here, she flips things – at the beginning of her post, she tells trans women that cis women are not responsible for the violence inflicted by cis men on trans women, to show that cis feminists are not enemies to trans women. Here, she basically says that trans women are responsible for the violence inflcited on cis women by cis men, and that to keep cis women safe from male violence at MichFest, trans women must be excluded. She says that “until the epidemic of male violence against women ends, this is how it is going to be.” What that means is that trans women are scapegoats for cis feminists – that cis feminists attack trans women as substitutes for cis men. Trans women are safer targets to attack than cis men, being as we’re oppressed in relation to cis women. Heart even says this on her own blog:
When a radical feminist female uses insulting words in the direction
of transwomen, she understand this to be no different from using
insulting words in the direction of males. It might be rude, crude,
and socially unacceptable, it might be insulting, but it isn’t hate
speech. It’s not discriminatory. Because given power differentials as
they exist between males and females, females aren’t situated socially
so as to be able to discriminate against males, or to be bigoted
towards males or to be phobic against males. To the contrary, our
experience as females is that males *are* to be feared because they
hurt females and to say so, and behave accordingly, is not “phobic,”
it is based on female reality.
Also the way Amananta excuses prejudice against trans women by talking about how a prejudice against men as violent rapists is rational, due to the number of men who violently rape.
Hey, Amananta, can you point to the apparently extensive pattern of trans women who rape cis women?
Finally I want to tackle what I think is the most hidden issue in all of this but perhaps the root of it all – the question of “who defines womanhood”? I have seen the very good point raised that women ave never been allowed to define what makes a woman. Men have defined womanhood for us for centuries. When I see transgendered women questioning the refusal of some to refer to them as women, there is again an unexamined male privilege in their questioning at the same time as that there are some very good points. The unexamined privilege comes from them setting up patriarchal societal objections to accepting transpersons as they wish to be accepted and smashing those admittedly unfounded ideas, thus concluding that radical feminists are wrong to ever exclude them from anything at all.
This is a vacuous question – the answer is “no one defines womanhood.” There is no single, universal, experience of womanhood. The idea that trans women are demanding to define womanhood for all women is as ridiculous as the assertion that cis women get to decide whether trans women are really women. It doesn’t work that way. You and every other radical feminist in the world can line up and tell me I’m a man, but that doesn’t erase the sexual harassment I’ve experienced, the misogyny, the violence I’ve risked and experienced. It doesn’t erase the boss who offered to give me rides home in exchange for blow jobs, and it doesn’t erase the fear of rape and violence I felt when a man followed me across three bus transfers and right off the bus at the same stop. Do those experiences define womanhood? I don’t think they do – they don’t define the men and women I’ve dated, who have all accepted my womanhood, they don’t cover the fact that 99% of the people around me do use feminine pronouns. They certainly don’t cover my own self-perception, which has been unassailable for my entire life.
You’re trying to encapsulate “womanhood” into this commodity that can be defined or withdrawn by individual people, and it’s not. No one can define what it’s like to be a man or a woman for another person. Not Heart or Lucky and their appropriative lists of oppressions, no one.
The real unexamined privilege in your question is cissexual privilege: The idea that cis people have the authority and right to gender trans people incorrectly based on standards that don’t apply to cis people.
To demand full acceptance into a group which has little power to define its own boundaries is invasive and insensitive. Furthermore, if you are a transgendered woman, no matter how badly you may want it, unless you were incredibly lucky you were not raised as a girl in this society. There are some experiences you will never have, and there are some things that will never quite match up between your experiences and those of girls who were raised as girls. I understand well this is a sore point for many transwomen, who feel they have missed out greatly on something very special, and maybe they have – but the fact remains that they did not have these experiences and many of the bonds between women who are born women are based on the assumption of shared experiences.
Trans women are women, just as cis women are. It’s not a matter of demanding acceptance. Acceptance should be a given. It’s demanding that you stop excluding and ejecting us for arbitrary and unfalsifiable reasons.
For example, you raise the point that trans women aren’t raised as girls, and you tell us that this is why we should be excluded from women-only spaces and not complain about it. I want to ask you: Do you not see how abusive, how violent, how alienating it would be for a girl to be raised as a boy no matter how much she protests? And would this woman be welcomed into women-only spaces, knowing she had endured such an abusive upbringing?
That’s what trans women grow up with – it’s abusive, violent, and alienating. And now, this abuse, violence, and alienation that was forced upon us as we grew up is used as a reason to justify further abuse, violence, and alienation from a movement that is allegedly for all women, but is really only for some women. Not only do you deny that trans women are women, but you hold the violence inflicted upon us against our will as something we must be held responsible for.
And when confronted with the extensive and fundamental transphobia of your statements, do you – as a self-proclaimed ally to trans people say “Oh, hell, I screwed up?” No, you blame trans people for getting rightfully angry with you:
The content of this post removed because I have been silenced by transgender activists who ignore everything else I write in order to take what I have written here, twist it out of context and proportion, and make me out to be some horrible transphobe who dehumanizes all transpersons everywhere and abuses my supposed privilege over transpersons. In fact, the only links my blog gets anymore is from angry transactivists vilifying me. Everything I write about women’s rights? Completely ignored. The irony seems to escape you all.
Yes, you were silenced. You were unable to voice your opinions without being criticized, and that is exactly the same thing as being censored out of having a voice, which is why you took your blog down, never to post to it again, right? How trans people actually set up a rule on the entire internet that “Amananta is not allowed to speak on trans topics,” and it is now a physical law of nature.
Spare me your bullshit about being silenced. No one silenced you – you even dropped a trolling comment in my blog, as linked above. This “I was silenced!” rhetoric is just more privileged whining about how people won’t let you say bigoted things in peace.
I also like the false opposition set up throughout the original post, where trans activists were set up as being solely interested in trans rights and needs, while feminists were set up as being properly concerned about women’s rights. This is simply not true. A large number of trans women and men identify as feminists and are in fact actively focused on feminist issues. A large number of feminists understand that women’s issues apply to both cis and trans women. There is no divide. Both trans people and women experience gender-based oppression, and if feminism is really about ending gender-based oppression, then feminists would see that it’s just as important to fight transphobia as it is to fight misogyny
Of course, most transphobic and anti-pornography radical feminists seem to understand intersectionality about as well as they understand trans people – which is not very much at all. So, getting the above across seems about as easy and likely as communicating that racism, immigration, disability rights, poverty, and more are themselves feminist issues because women experience all of those things.
Note: Some of the concepts described in this post were inspired by Cedar’s Beyond Inclusion zine.
Caroline answers this hypothetical question with characteristic aplomb:
Part of me can’t help but wonder if the real question is, “Why won’t those people ignore all my hate speech and give me a cookie for posting on their pet issue?”
I’m also wondering who, exactly, is uttering the word “transphobic” with every other line?
Those are real blogs. And when you read them, that’s not really belledame responding.
A part of me cannot also help but wonder why, if calling out these trans-hating radical feminists is a waste of time, why wallowing in all this trans hatred is not itself a waste of time for all these trans-hating radical feminists?
That’s sarcasm, by the way.