This essay starts from the assertion that trans and cis women are equal in their determination of feminism, yet trans women’s agency is systemically marginalized within it. It critiques cissexual feminist entrenched positions about the relations between trans women, male privilege, and women’s space, showing how taking trans women’s perspectives and herstories seriously dramatically alter the terms of debate, providing new insights and making room for a new generation of feminists.
One excerpt (follow the link above for the rest):
When I listen to people ‘debating’ ‘letting’ trans women, trans men, and/or trans people as a whole into women-only [sic] spaces such as the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (Michfest) and domestic violence shelters, the experience is profoundly frustrating, even when it’s my allies I’m listening to. It’s the wrong structure, the wrong conversation, and the wrong participants. When a cissexual1 woman or a trans male spectrum person says “all woman-identified women/all trans people should be allowed into women’s space [sic],” I feel almost as disempowered and silenced as when they say that we shouldn’t. Though well intentioned, they represent independent moral/political judgments and statements of principle—not the voices of trans women.2 Do their statements correspond to the wishes, needs, and priorities of trans women? Do they empower trans women’s voices, or contribute to their erasure? More to the point, do cis women (let alone trans male spectrum people) legitimately have that power, to decide whether or not trans women should be allowed into “their” spaces?
Inclusion is important, and I’m happy for every voice that demands it. But the fundamental problem is not the exclusion itself. Trans women are regularly the targets of [cis] feminist misogyny (Serano 2007, 16-7; Califia 2003, 86-119) and misogyny against us is frequently tolerated in “women’s,” “women & trans,” and “queer/trans” space (Serano 2007, 352); even in so-called transfeminist work, anti- trans woman sentiment may be seen as a legitimate expression of diversity within the transfeminist movement, and not inherently anti-feminist (ex. Scott-Dixon, ed. 2006, 154-160; 170-181.) Even the term “transfeminism” itself frequently marginalizes and erases trans woman feminists.3 The problem is that even when trans women’s participation is allowed or encouraged, our concerns, comfort, and safety are almost universally secondary.
Let’s make the record clear: there is virtually no women’s space extant today. Michfest is not women’s space, nor would it be even if trans women were allowed—it’s cis, white, middle class, able women’s space. When one group controls a space or institution, when only its members’ voices, concerns, and perspectives are relevant to the determination and organization of that space—that is to say, when that group ‘owns’ the space—it is their space, regardless of who else may enter. So when allies to trans women demand our inclusion without simultaneously demanding that that space be accountable to us—including that trans & cis women be equally in charge of what constitutes women’s space and feminism—they are not demanding fundamental change, only a softer supremacy.
To get a copy of the essay, Cedar asks for a donation of $5 plus postage:
So, now that you’ve read pieces of the essay, I hope you’ll feel moved to donate, and I’ll send you the whole shebang in the mail. Yes, the USPS, I’d much prefer to keep it offline. I’m asking for $5 plus postage, roughly, but it’s also pay-what-you-can.