With apologies to Cedar for forgetting to link these,
Cedar writes about forming coalitions around combating oppressive tactics as opposed to focusing on specific identities:
But why do we need to found anti-oppression groups on the basis of identity at all? If we were to look at oppressive tactics rather than oppressive targets, we’d see a very different, connected picture. If, for example, we took control of the body as our example of an oppressive tactic, we’d immediately see the connections between fat phobic harassment and medical incitement to anorexia, prison medical experiments, the incarceration epidemic/prison-industrial complex, the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, abortion/reproductive rights, the Standards of Care for trans medical treatment and medically-based criteria for identification, gender coercion, rape & rape culture, forced institutionalization & sterilization, male circumcision, intersex genital mutilation & coercive gender assignment, denial of legal/economic/sexual agency to children, kinkphobia, sex-negativism in general, the marketing of control of women’s bodies through BDSM products like The Toy, etc etc. It leads us right into coalition building, because if we really are to attack all forms of public control of the body, we *cannot* be a single-identity group, and all those involved have very good incentive to deal with their racism/transphobia/misogyny/etc.
Cedar also has a criticism up about the format of privilege checklists, as well as the draft of an open letter to LGBT organizations:
I am quite moved to see the recent upswell of support among LGBT orgs for trans inclusion in ENDA and Hate Crimes bills….As important as all these are, there are huge gaps in the legal documents/resources/information available to trans people, which make your websites of considerably less use to trans people than we should be able to expect from community organizations. Here are some of the most pressing.…1)A by-state listing of procedures for name change, Drivers’ License gender change, and birth certificate gender change, as well as links to any relevant forms. A discussion of complications…4)A document describing trans people’s rights under sexual harassment law and law banning the creation of a hostile work environment. Do trans people have the right to contest intentional and/or repeated misuse of pronouns? …What statements/questions about a trans person’s body count as sexual harassment–and what are “curiosity”? …Documents to provide to employers explaining said rights
5)Police, criminal law, & arrests
5.1)State prison policies re: gender. What are your rights for prison placement, what are your rights if those get violated, and what level of accountability to guards/police have for the consequences of placement? What are your rights vs sexual harassment/humiliation by guards/police?
5.2)What to do if you get arrested. Trans specific info, or just at all. Please.
5.3)Police brutality law, by state. State organizations against police brutality.
5.4)List of potential legal contacts to ensure safe treatment in prison.
5.5)Prostitution/sex work law, by state. …What are trans people’s rights against gender profiling by police? Link to law code.
5.6)What to do if you’ve been attacked by police for being trans/24-hr hotline.
5.7)Work to reform/abolish prison system
I want to make this a real open letter, with real signatures, and really send it to the organizations we know and love feel ambivalent about. Do you have things to add or change, or other edits?
(Note, most of this was actually written almost a year ago, so it was actually before (and I think was partial inspiration for) this post (similar and also worth reading) but I never got a big circulation for it or edits/signatures.)
My name is Mia Nikasimo. As a volunteer for Changing Attitudes at the Lambeth Conference I found myself in an opportune position to reflect from a translesbian (i.e. a transsexual woman who identifies as a lesbian not to be confused with above or beyond “lesbians,” or a transgender man) standpoint on the Anglican Communion and attempts to exclude the LGBTI.
I have purposely mentioned my trans status here because “transgender” as an umbrella term (for transsexual female, male, sister, brother, mothers, fathers any of the following might choose to cross dress, are intersexed, queer, kings, drag queens and more) can easily loose ones identity in the mix and because I can only share this reflection as a translesbian in the full awareness that some, like my LGBTI African brothers, sisters cannot. As the founder of an online support group call Transafro I aim to give voice to our various narratives Anglicans or otherwise, to promote, empower and raise consciousness in Africa, the Diaspora and allies.
Transgender, contrary to what is often believed to be the case, is not about sexual orientation. Rather it is about gender identity which, for instance, in the case of transsexuals (i.e. female or male), sexual orientation is something that gradually happens as birth sexuality goes through a sort of transformation and so on and so forth. Even some transsexual people do not fully understand this so I am not surprised that most members of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual community do not understand the “T” or transgender enough to change their attitudes towards us never mind the wider Anglican Communion of Bishops which is why education, dialogue and reflection is important.
The consensus will always be that: WE DO EXIST, WE ARE TRANSGENDER AND WE ARE PROUD!!!
Read the entire post,
She has other posts up as well. Make Amends Now or Fail:
When the acronym LGBTI hit the headlines the first thing a friend’s sister said was, “I don’t give a toss about all that Lesbian, gay, transgender, transsexual stuff if you ask me. We are all human, all that is about identity”. I wasn’t asking her but she said it, anyway. When I told the friend’s aunt that with a traumatised life like hers that it did not befit her to talk about other people’s identities in such adverse terms, she admitted. “I do not know anything about it!” Talking about something you do not understand to those that shared your transphobia is overt participation in a hate crime. But what happens when members of the LGBTI themselves engage in internalised homophobia or transphobia?
Events are often used to propagate some of these subtle criminal acts as I have found of late but when an online magazine known as Topix asked the question, “are gay men and lesbians transphobic?” finding that the answer is a simple, “YES!” was a gut wrenching turn of circumstance. Is this what mainstreaming the LGBTI does to gay men in particular and lesbians in general at the expense of everyone else? When the gay community bind together in homosexist indulgence in the very abuses we are still exposed to?
Transpeople and the question of procreation or reproduction depending on what side of the fence one finds oneself was a mute point but when it finally found voice in Thomas Beatie’s experience I felt for the much unsung persons in Africa or even in the Diaspora. Although I felt like cheering, HURRAH but the words got stuck deep down in my throat. It is anyone’s guess why transwomen cannot rejoice in the same way the Beaties of the world can.
As I thought about reproduction, I felt a sudden lurch. I discovered how difficult things could get with floating questions such as: Do you have children? or Are you going to have kids? as someone asked me at the transgender evening at the Lambeth Conference; in this life, nothing gets easier or so it seems at the moment.
Apart from the paranoid reaction of the hetero-normative system that seems maddened at every opportunity there is no reason why transpeople cannot have children or for now be efficient wet nurses. Or is there? If there is then the paranoia claim has not been settled yet. On the other hand try again in one hundred and fifty years in the future, Africa might have joined the club of progress and proudly so.
The funniest things happen when you out yourself as a translesbian (i.e. a transsexual woman identified woman; a lesbian.) I, for one, am an African translesbian and I have a beautiful girlfriend who is virtually more African (if I may use this as an honorific) than I am and she’s a lesbian as far as being a lesbianism goes. Although all this is happening in Europe as I speak; African LGBTI is condemned to the underground while the “religiously righteous” seems to prefer repression to sex, sexuality and gender identity truths. Yes the strangest things still happen in the twenty first century. In Africa, for instance, as a translesbian, I will be so far underground the light of day will only emerge as a virtual spectre and how sad is that? All these stem from the deluded assumption that transphobia or homophobia is of African origin. Nothing can be further from the truth, according to Dr. Sylvia Tamale, the moral order (as applied in Ugandan Law) in its ascribed hatred and fear of transgender and gay people exposes its own selfishness. 
I linked to a post by Monica Helms about trans anger the other day, which was really me dodging writing a full post – however, Helen G pointed out that its focus is quite narrow and doesn’t really cover the reasons trans people have to be angry. And, I agree with her. I do not yet feel up to writing that full post yet, so I want to cover something that should help provide context:
I haven’t really done this before, but I wanted to go over what transphobia is and what transphobia is not. Quite a few cis people feel qualified to tell trans people what qualifies as transphobia, which always conveniently excludes whatever transphobic behavior they’re exhibiting at that particular time. It’s not unlike what I said to Uppity Brown Woman the other day about white people defining racism:
. . . white people shouldn’t be the ones to define when a racist act has occurred, because the answer will nearly always be “never,” . . .
What I mean by that is that without any reason for white people to check our privilege, we’re just going to do what we do and refuse to acknowledge that we’re hurting someone else. Part of privilege is that the pain we cause is either invisible to us, or we believe that the target of that pain somehow brought it upon herself or deserved it. Another part of privilege is interpreting events in our favor whenever possible, and expecting the dominant social forces to support that interpretation.
Also, read Uppity Brown Woman’s full post I linked, because it is all about privilege:
A dramatic metaphor:
Imagine you’re riding your motorcycle down the street. The car in front of you slams on their breaks to meet a stop light, and you swerve to avoid smashing into them, only to end up hitting a telephone pole. It’s your bike that’s a goner, but thankfully the other vehicles have no significant damage. You’re also the one bleeding internally from faceplanting. Only one ambulance has arrived so far. The paramedics are trying to help you in whatever way they can. The other person involved in the accident walks over and demands medical attention because they could be bleeding internally as well. They stopped really suddenly! Their airbag went off!
No doubt, they could be injured. Although it is a possibility, the biker is visibly in pain. The driver makes the point, “but sie must have known the hazards of motorcycles!” In this metaphor, the paramedics stop paying attention to the biker and start looking after the driver. The biker uses up a ton of energy just trying to say, “hey, wait a fucking minute! This is supposed to be about me!” and is only met with “when we’re done here, we’ll get to you. Just calm down and quit being so angry.”
This is what happens when conversations about issues surrounding disability, race, trans people, and other oppressed classes of people start: Privileged people walk in and demand to make the conversation about them. They ask to be educated, they demand justifications, they insist that they can’t be good allies if they don’t understand what’s going on. In the three threads I linked, one is about a girl with cerebral palsy whose family denied her life support machines that would improve her quality of life, and also arranged for a “do not resuscitate” order; one is about how white people often make use of work done by people of color without crediting them; one is about how a feminist made a pointed jab at the Transgender Day of Remembrance. In each case, able-bodied, white, or cis people came into the discussion and made it about them. In each case, this was highly inappropriate because the topic matter was itself sensitive to the people it directly affected: The perception of people with disabilities living incomplete lives that leads able-bodied people to think it’s reasonable to let them die; the fact that people of color do so much work and white people feel entitled to claim it; the fact that trans people cannot even talk about the fact that we have a 1 in 12 chance of being murdered, at least in America – the victims predominantly women of color. The average person has a 1 in 18,000 chance of being murdered. That we cannot talk about this fact that this is happening, and that we remember our dead once a year, and how we cannot even do this without a cis person begrudging the fact that we do remember our dead – and we cannot have this conversation without cis people blasting into the discussion and demanding that we justify our lives and our decisions and the medical procedures we’ve undergone before they’ll consent to both mourn and express sympathy that our mourning is begrudged.
And that’s privilege, or rather what privilege does to those who do not have it.
Nothing listed past this point is meant to be definitive, the sum total, the limits of the ways that cissexual privilege or transphobic actions manifest. They are examples, and are only the tip of the iceberg.
Cissexual privilege is the privilege of having a body that matches the sex your brain expects. Cissexual privilege is the privilege of having a body that matches what society expects. Cissexual privilege is the assumption that your sex, your gender are superior and more valid than trans people’s sex and gender, that you have the right to tell trans people who and what they really are, what their motives are for transitioning, to deny that their most basic realities are false because you cannot imagine how they can be true. Cissexual privilege is the sense of entitlement that tells you that you have the right to discuss my genitals at any time and then claim I’m the one bringing genitals up all the time. Cissexual privilege is the belief that you can declare what “being a transsexual” really is because you’ve thought about it a lot after rejecting what actual transsexual people and the entire medical profession have said about being a transsexual person. Cissexual privilege is the insistence that you have the right to shift the meaning of what trans people say about ourselves so that you can then use the reinterpreted arguments as easily destroyed straw men. Cissexual privilege is the attitude that you can interrogate and criticize everything a trans person does even though it’s no different from what a cis person does simply because the person is trans, and thus her sex and gender are not as valid as yours. Cissexual privilege is what makes you think that you can berate trans people for reifying gender roles and reinforcing the gender binary while at the same time remaining comfortably ensconced in your life as a man or a woman. A trans person claiming to be a man or a woman is doing it wrong but you claiming to be a man or a woman is only natural.
Cissexual privilege is the insistence that being called cissexual is othering and demeaning and implies that trans people are trying to make ourselves the norm and you the other, when it is simply a matter of equalizing cis and trans, defining both as normal and neither as other. It is no more othering and demeaning than distinguishing straight people from gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.
Cissexual privilege is the fact that you do not have to pay thousands of dollars for hormones, electrolysis, surgery, a new wardrobe, you do not have to risk losing your job, your family, or your friends. Cissexual privilege means that you don’t have to take hormones or undergo surgery to be comfortable – to be able to live with - your body’s sex.
Transphobia is the exercise of that privilege. It is not restricted to violence. It is not restricted to men. When you refer to a trans woman as a man, or a trans man as a woman, you said something transphobic. When you say that all trans people are fetishists, you said something transphobic. When you say that trans people are mentally ill, that is not only transphobic but also ableist. When you say that trans women should be excluded from domestic violence shelters, you not only said something transphobic, you also said that trans women should suffer emotional abuse, battering, or even die instead of possibly inconveniencing a shelter.
When you say that trans women should be placed in a men’s prison because their male history means they might rape someone, you have not only said something transphobic, but you have also said that the trans woman should be placed into a situation where she will be raped repeatedly. You have profiled all trans women as dangerous to cis women. When you say that trans women reify the gender binary, you absolve yourself of your own responsibility for reifying that same binary by simply existing and hold trans people to a standard that you simply do not demand of cis people. Plus, you said something transphobic. When you make a blog called “breathing is transphobic,” you did something transphobic, and you did it in a way that allows you to blame trans people for being too angry and bullying when we point out that you said or did something transphobic. That positions you in such a way as to dismiss everything that trans people say to you when they criticize your words and actions.
When you say that trans people should be denied access to hormones, surgery, and social transition and insist that we should instead seek therapy to help us stop being trans, you’re ignoring our voices and telling us what our real lives are like. You’re ignoring all the medical literature to date that says that the best treatment for trans people is to allow transition. You also said something transphobic. When you say that trans people are walking stereotypes of masculinity or femininity, you’re applying a double-standard to trans gender expression vs. cis gender expression – where a feminine trans woman is seen as a caricature of femininity while a feminine cis woman who presents exactly the same way is seen as natural and normal. You also said something transphobic.
When you claim that you have trans friends and that they agree with you, you said something transphobic. You also tried to claim that your friends’ voices and opinions should be more important than the voices and opinions of trans people who call you out on your cissexual privileged shit. You’re trying to establish that there are good trans people and bad trans people.
If you’re a trans person, and you participate in the bashing of other trans people, you have done something transphobic. Being trans does not make you immune to playing into cissexist normativity. It does not make you immune to saying hateful things about other trans people.
If you try to raise the spectre of men pretending to be trans women to gain access to restrooms, locker rooms, showers, shelters, or any other space set aside for women, you have not only said something transphobic, you are trying to hold trans people responsible for what other people may attempt to do (and something other people have not yet attempted to do).
If you try to raise the spectre of trans women triggering cis women survivors because of their assumed masculine appearance or penises, you are not only saying something transphobic, you are appropriating survivor voices to justify your transphobic statements. You are also holding trans women – and trans women only – responsible for managing triggers that are not theirs. You are also defining trans women by their appearance, as if what a woman looks like somehow reflects on her womanhood, as if it’s something she can control.
When you grab for a trans person’s genitals to find out what they are, you have committed sexual assault. When you attack a trans person because he or she is trans, you have committed battery. When you kill a trans person because he or she is trans, you have committed murder. These are all transphobic acts, but they are not the sum total of transphobic acts. They do not define transphobia. You do not get a free pass out of saying and doing transphobic acts because you are not out there personally running trans women over four times in a row, or shooting them, or stabbing them, or suffocating them, or bashing their heads in. The fact is that people who commit these atrocities upon trans people believe that they can get away with it because of all of the insults, the denial of trans people’s agency, the belief that trans people are really their birth sex and gender, the belief that trans people aren’t really men or women at all, the belief that trans people are so different from cis people that the accommodations made for cis people cannot be extended to trans people, the belief that what a trans person looks like discredits his or her sex or gender, justifying ridicule and abuse on that trans person.
When you say or do the things I have described here, you are supporting a cissexist society that justifies killing trans people, that justifies slapping our murderers, abusers, rapists, on the wrist. That justifies the idea that we’re not really human. And if you insist that your own words and deeds have no importance because you are not personally out there raping, beating, stabbing, shooting, strangling trans people, then you are part of the same problem that creates Andrade, Oates, Hyatt, Blake, and men who have murdered numerous other women and men just because those men believed that transphobic words and deeds that so much of the world accepts as reasonable justified their decision to erase women and men from the world simply because they existed.
This is the system you support – a spectrum of words and deeds that ranges from “You’re really a man/really a woman” to “Man is charged with manslaughter for deliberately hunting down and killing a trans woman.”
You reify and reinforce the oppression that affects me and all other trans people.
You can’t really help it, mostly. You’re born and raised in a cissexual society, a society that programs you to believe that people who change their sex are less than you. However, once you realize that this is the case – once it is brought to your attention, once your privilege is pointed out to you, once the fact that you – like all other cis people – are complicit in oppressing trans people, if you choose to deny that such privilege exists, deny that you are doing and saying transphobic things, while deliberately increasing the intensity and frequency of these actions? You are no longer at the point where you are simply complicit due to privilege. You are now an active participant.
You can always choose to stop.
Edit: I forgot to write about what transphobia is not: Just having cissexual privilege does not mean that everything a cis person does comes from that privilege or is transphobic. For example, treating trans people with respect, treating trans people as normal human beings? That’s not transphobic, and I see cis people do it all the time.
Polly Styrene has made an epic attempt to put us mouthy trans activists in our place. Check it and the discussion out.
This was my response to her list and some discussion in the comments:
1 – Since when are trans people of any kind speaking for other people (like intersex people)? Sure, some have an awareness of intersex issues and refer to them (I do), but I don’t pretend to speak for them. This strikes me as a distraction and an evasion. A sort of tu quoque as it were.
2 – This doesn’t even make sense. Where has anyone said you’re not born female? Witchy Woo claimed that the cis- words implied that, but the torture required to coax that meaning from cisgender or cissexual is pretty epic.
3 – If, as a trans person or activist, I had the privilege of telling you that you have to accept me in all of your private spaces, I wouldn’t need to point out how excluding trans women from women-only spaces is discrimination – you’d just let us in because I, or Marti, or Zoe Brain, or Dyssonance, or Autumn Sandeen – just to name a few – said so. It is discrimination, and it’s not a privilege to experience discrimination or be dismissed when that discrimination is pointed out.
4 – I hate the word trans, but it’s the word everyone knows and uses, often against my will. I stick with it now to distinguish my experience as a woman from a cis woman’s experience as a woman. Believe me, I’d rather do away with both entirely, but since cis society won’t let me forget, I need a way to describe cis people without centering them as normal and leaving people like me on the fringes as aberrant freaks. The insistence that “cis” is an imposition, a redefinition, and offensive is not unlike the concept of – in English – male being the assumed, neutral gender. That is, that the default for human must be male and female only noted as a difference from male. A more blatant expression of this would be if only men get to be human, and women are explicitly noted as different from default humanity. Not something I believe, just to be clear. But, it’s similar to how cis people sound when they insist that we have no right to distinguish them from us as equals.
5 – The truth is, I have used a similar argument, but not this argument. What I have said was not what you describe in point 5. My argument is, if you insist that there’s no possible way that I can relate to or understand your upbringing as a girl who was born female, please do me the courtesy of not telling me what my upbringing as a girl born with a male body was like. If I can’t know what your life was like, you certainly can’t know what mine was like.
In other words, It goes both ways. Telling us that we can’t have any idea what it’s like for you, but telling us extensively what it’s like for us is a double standard. I’ve only said this in response to women who use that argument.
You’re getting into the existential blackmail (see Nezua’s/The Unapologetic Mexican’s glosario – Wite-Magik Attax) concept here, where if it’s not okay to define trans people’s experience for us, then how can we have a conversation at all?
6 – You’re conflating sex and gender, or you’re trying to say we do. Maybe both at the same time. I’d draw a flow chart if I could in this comment, but I’ll have to settle for just text:
A transsexual person is someone who knows that his or her body should be the other sex. Someone born male knows her body should be female, and someone born female knows his body should be male.
Society tells us that female-bodied people are women, and male-bodied people are men. Society treats women in a set of ways and men in a different set of ways. So, if you see yourself as female, your participation in society is in that context – you may choose to embrace, reject or ignore what society presents as womanhood, or aspects of womanhood.
Now, transsexualism is not specifically about how society sees you, but about how you see yourself. It ultimately includes how society sees you because if you know your body is wrong, and everyone treats you according to that wrong body, you know they’re treating you incorrectly, and this causes stress, depression, anxiety. Fun stuff.
Now, I’m not reducing womanhood to body parts here, before anyone assumes that, or decides to assign it to my argument. I’m saying there’s two things here – the physiology, my body – and society. It also doesn’t mean that I am happy or agree with everything society assigns to women. If I were, I wouldn’t identify as feminist, nor would I get into bitter arguments with anyone who even implies that there’s something wrong with abortion, or that male privilege doesn’t exist, or that MRAs have even a modicum of a point (rather than simply mindlessly bashing women in revenge for feminism and losing custody of their children to their ex-wives).
If we removed the trans distinction, we’d have a lot of common ground.
7 – This isn’t really a valid complaint. Everyone can endlessly carp. You’re endlessly carping here about alleged trans privileges, after all. At some point, everyone does endlessly carp about a minor disagreement. Your other post, about cisgender privilege and how you don’t have it, was carping, although it had an end. Some of my posts are carping. That’s not the primary substance of what I write, or what any other activist writes. I assume that the majority of your writing isn’t carping. To be fair, I don’t think any of your other complaints are valid, either. I just wanted to point out the double standard implied in this one.
8 – This is pre-emptive dismissal. It is, itself, non sequitur. You’re calling our arguments hysteria, or overly emotional. I’m sure if you knew what that was like, you’d be a little more sensitive about applying it to someone else.
Yes, that was sarcasm.
9 – Possession of certain body parts are privileges as well as accidents of birth. That’s why there’s male privilege, am I right? That’s why, there’s white privilege? That’s why there’s able-bodied privilege? If it’s possible for a man (who sees himself as male, and doesn’t want to transition) to be privileged just for being born male and growing up with that, it is absolutely possible for a man or a woman who is comfortable with his or her body and doesn’t want to transition to have privilege over those who do transition. This is why so many trans people have trouble getting jobs, why so many end up working as prostitutes, and have trouble finding a place to live. This is why so many who do have jobs or go to school are asked to use unisex bathrooms, even if it means taking a long circuitous walk to get to those bathrooms. This is why many cis women believe that trans women don’t deserve to be around “real women.” This is why so many cis people try to put us in our place by referring to us by our birth sex – calling the women “boys” or “men” and calling the men “girls” or “women.”
The privilege is real, it’s there. You know that men deny until their faces turn blue that male privilege exists. You know that white people deny until their faces turn blue that white privilege exists. Saying that you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there, especially if you’re treated as cis – as if you’ve never transitioned and you don’t want to transition. That’s what the cisgender privilege checklist is supposed to point out, just as the male and white privilege checklists point that privilege out.
10 – This is accusing trans people of playing the trans card, that we try to use prejudice as a reason to criticize anyone who disagrees with trans people. It’s another preemptive dismissal, saying that pointing out actual prejudice against trans people is somehow frivolous or a crutch. It is exactly like talking about playing the race card or the gender card. It’s a silencing tactic meant to shut down talk about that prejudice, it’s not a criticism.
11 – Gender exists, although holding that perspective doesn’t equate to holding essentialist views. Gender is a social construct, but so are taxes, laws, government, marriage, civil rights. All of these exist despite being something collectively created by society and not having an actual physical existence.
Also, you distort the arguments. If I argue that a particular radical feminist is an essentialist, I’m referring to the fact that she insists that once born a male, always a man. That any experience of male privilege must taint and corrupt the possibility of a trans woman’s life, preventing her from ever actually being a woman. She ignores that woman’s lived realities and experiences in favor of her own prejudices that reject that woman as a woman.
Meanwhile, I, who feel that a person can change physical sex, and interact with society as a member of that sex, am somehow an essentialist? When I do in fact believe that the “binary” is permeable and that people can live outside that binary. At least in their definitions – society, by way of people, will continue to try to put them back in the binary as well as their so-called “places.” Society constantly tries to put me back in my place – either indirectly through slurs about transsexual people in general, or directly, like your trans privilege checklist.
12 – I’m not sure how you can say this. I talk about the oppression that women experience quite frequently, as do other trans women. We’re really quite aware of it. I’ll admit, there was a time when I knew that sexism existed and had seen it in action, but I hadn’t really experienced it – or rather, what I had experienced was minor enough that I wasn’t really aware of it, because I didn’t know what to look for. Believe me, though, I got the message when I asked the owner of a business I worked for if he could give me a ride home because it was after the buses stopped running, and he said “Sure, if you give me a blow job in the back seat.”
That was blatant, it was disgusting, it was offensive and insulting and objectifying and I don’t even have enough words to describe it. But at that point, I understood so many things, and the daily sexism I got to deal with became that much more visible. And I try to talk about sexism, because I do experience it, as do other trans women. We get that, on top of the prejudice for being trans, or if you’re lesbian, you get that. If you’re a woman of color, you get that. It’s intersections, so you can have privilege or lack of privilege in more than one category. I’m not just a transsexual person, I’m a white lesbian woman who is also trans, and I’ve had to deal with the sexism, the homophobia (both for being seen as gay prior to and during transition, and for being seen as lesbian), and I’ve continued to benefit from my white skin.
The ability to create a woman-only space and define it as exclusive to one kind of woman is a privileged position. The fact is, that because a large part of society doesn’t except trans people’s sex and gender as valid, that our inclusion anywhere is precarious. If we’re read to be trans, then we could end up getting mocked, bullied, assaulted, ejected, murdered. No space is safe around cis people – we really do have more to worry about from you than you have from us.
But the truth is that we’re (trans women) also women, we’re interested in and a part of women’s culture. We have a place in women’s culture – setting aside those who see us as not having a place around them. In setting up women-only spaces, you’re saying that the trans aspect is far more important than the woman aspect. That we must be forever defined by our history that amounts to an accident of birth – something you use to defend the idea that cisgender privilege doesn’t exist.
So, why should we be judged as unworthy because of an accident of birth? I couldn’t control being born in a male body any more than I could control the fact that I knew I should have been born with a female body. Neither of these facts were under my control, so why is my womanhood so situational that I must be excluded from spaces set aside for women?
13 – This is like characterizing trans women as hyperfeminine flouncing girls who dress too flamboyantly to be proper women. While there is no doubt that trans people exist who hold rigid and outrageously essentialist views about womanhood, manhood, femininity, and masculinity, this is also true of the greater populace, and it’s not a fair criticism to level at just us, or treat it as if it’s some indelible characteristic of being trans. It’d be more accurate to lob this petard at society.
14 – Speaking of essentialism, I have to ask why “assigned at birth” is the definitive feature you use here. Obviously, trans women are assigned male at birth, but that’s an accident of birth as I point out above. What you use in your response above is a slippery slope. “If we let those who were born male but have done everything in their power to become female to enter women-only spaces, then what stops actual men from entering?” I would answer, “They’re actual men.”
Rich doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He’s a sexist prig, and I can only imagine that he’s tolerated around radical feminists because he’s a rabid dog when it comes to talking about trans issues. Seriously – he was raped by Zoe’s response to him, he talked about trans women as if we’re commonly rapists – or he resorted to an extreme argument to make a fallacious point. He talked about how unfair it would be to not let him into women-only spaces because he had the fortitude to not transition, when the fact is that he probably doesn’t know or care why trans women (or trans men) transition in the first place.
I’ll take commentary about trans women from a man who refers to us as freaks under advisement when I can buy tickets to the Inferno Ski Resort.
Actually, no, not even then.
15 – It’s good that you linked that. Some of the transphobic comments attached to that article are a good example of what passes for “gender analysis” around some radical feminists.
I like the comment that says that women were under a curfew that wouldn’t apply to trans women. I don’t know about you, but if my community were under a curfew for women only, I’d be stopped if I walked outside my door, and I’d enjoy it just as much as any other woman.
More generally, the specific nature of how many women disagree with me about the definition of “woman” is that I include myself in that definition. Since many other women agree with me, I guess it could come down to our word against yours. I’m not sure why you’d think that just because some women think that other women can’t really be women, that those women have the final word – especially when those women aren’t every woman on Earth.
Maybe the next time an employer demands a blow job, I can have y’all come down and tell him I’m not a woman and so he shouldn’t be objectifying me like that?
16 – Right, of course. See my reply to point 12.
17 – Okay, this is pretty patronizing. You’re not allowing these men their own agency to decide to transition on their own. Instead, you’re assuming that they’re pressured into it to conform with straight society – a nightmare scenario Catherine Crouch put on film in The Gendercator, but not related to reality. People who seek transition do so because they feel it’s right for them. It’s true, some people start transition and discover it’s not right for them, and it may even be possible that they were pushed/convinced into doing it, but this doesn’t mean that trans activism is homophobic or that the majority of trans activists want people who shouldn’t transition to transition.
Also, a lot of trans men who formerly lived as butch lesbians turn out to be gay men. A lot of trans men who formerly lived as straight women turn out to be straight men. But if someone transitions and ends up straight, so what? It’s their sex life. No one is stealing people from the lesbian community. It’s up to people to decide whether belong in it or somewhere else.
18 – No, but as a trans activist, it is my prerogative to focus on trans issues.
Amananta’s post fails at what it sets out to do, as it privileges the radical feminist/cissexual point of view by presenting both the trans woman and radical feminist sides of the argument as equal.
As for women invading women-only spaces to legitimize our gender? No, that’s not how it works. Our gender is already legitimate. You’re telling us that our gender is in fact not legitimate and that we do not belong. When we say that “Yes, we think we do belong, and we’d like to participate” you call that invasion.
Also, being as these trans activists are women, I don’t think they’re denying that women suffer from sexism, because they likely experience sexism. It’s just that trans issues tend to take priority when they mean you can’t find work or a place to live.
And finally – As a trans activist I am wholly entitled to whinge, cry, and scream “you’re oppressing me, you big meanie” if anybody criticises me in any way whatsoever. Particularly if they do to me the stuff I do to everybody else. I will get away with this because certain trendy liberals who are desperate to appear cool and edgy will go along with anything I say, no matter how ridiculous. I have the privilege of being able to tell everyone else they can’t see their own privilege while not being able to see my own privilege.
This is just a big dismissal of any complaint any trans person dares to make. It’s like the tone argument – “I’d listen to you if you weren’t so mean,” or perhaps the fallacious flip – “can’t see their own privilege.”
I don’t do to other people the stuff that many radical feminists do to transwomen. Not all criticisms are valid, and dressing prejudiced declarations as criticism doesn’t magically make them not prejudiced. I know I have privilege – white privilege. And I experienced male privilege for the first 18 years of my life, but that somehow doesn’t help me much now. I also know that when people tell me my place is not among women, that I’m not the one exercising privilege or prejudice.
To quote nexyjo on my blog,
oppressed groups do have one privilege; we get to label our oppressors with whatever name we choose. as one example, jews have been calling non-jews “gentiles” for thousands of years. and we don’t give a rats ass whether they like it or not.
Maia, a radical feminist blogger posted Transphobia and Radical Feminism – a challenge a couple of days ago, calling out radical feminists for transphobic policies and prejudices. Her post (and her preceding posts linked in that post) are worth reading.
Predictably – as the comments demonstrate – several radical feminists came in to deny that they’re transphobic, to defend the site “Questioning Transgender,” to explain that cisgender privilege doesn’t exist.
In true transphobic radical feminist form, Stormcloud defends a male commenter who implied that many trans women were rapists prior to transition and compared reading a response to his comment to being raped. Because, of course, a man who casually reduces rape to something that reading a negative post feels like is surely a good feminist ally, am I right? Well, he is so long as he denounces trans women – as Heart demonstrates, she’ll agree with anyone who says that, even if he’s a eugenicist who’s all for preventing homosexual births.
I mainly want to address the argument that cisgender privilege doesn’t exist. Specifically, Polly Styrene claims:
On the subject of “cisgender privilege” Cis gender is defined in Wikipedia as:
a type of gender identity formed by a match between an individual’s biological sex and the behaviour or role considered appropriate for one’s sex.
I don’t know any woman born woman who identifies 100% with and is happy with her gender role (ok I know a lot of feminists). But I personally certainly get loads of shit for not acting out the expected gender role of ‘woman’. So I don’t see what this cisgender privilege I’m meant to have is. If it’s not physically wanting to change the external appearance of my genitals, then I’m afraid that will have to be taken up with goddess, or whoever you believe gets to decide these things because it sure as hell wasn’t me.
‘Privilege’ is only relevant when it is one person who is part of a privileged group in society using that privilege to disadvantage another person. Which brings us to:
“Gatekeeper of the class of women”. The problem here is that if we say some transwomen are women because they’re living full time as women, or legally defined as women, or any other definition you care to mention, we are STILL DEFINING WHO IS AND IS NOT A WOMAN. You can’t get away from that. The only logical alternative position is to say anyone who self defines a woman is a woman. Otherwise we are still acting as ‘gatekeepers of the class of woman’. Which I don’t believe we do anyway, but anyone who wants to read my full opinion can go to
That’s it – I’m outta here.
The bolded part is the important part. Now, I’m fascinated that she, as a cissexual woman, is defining whether or not she experiences a privilege in the first place. After all, we know that we can trust men to acknowledge – or in many cases, even see – the privilege they experience for being male. And the same is true of white people and white privilege – no one ever denies their white privilege, right?
More to the point, just as women cannot trust men acknowledge their male privilege and how they experience it and use it, I as a trans woman cannot trust a cis woman to acknowledge her cis privilege and how she experiences and uses it. She also doesn’t acknowledge intersections of multiple forms of privilege or lack thereof – She lacks male privilege, and she uses this as an argument that she has no other privilege. Her demand to take it up with the goddess could just as easily be used against her by men in response to commentary about male privilege, because it’s much easier to lay the blame on someone for not having privilege than accept responsibility for having privilege.
Here’s a starting point for understanding cis privilege. Of course, to understand cis privilege, one must accept that it’s privilege that’s handed to you by society as well as presumed authority to treat the oppressed class in a demeaning way. It is true that men have privilege over women and it’s true that it’s largely privilege handed to men by society, as well as presumed authority to treat the oppressed class in a demeaning way. Polly Styrene tries to mislocate the privilege as being the fact that one is born in a body one is comfortable with vs. not being born in a body that one is comfortable with, rather than how society treats people who are comfortable with their sex vs. how it treats people who need to change their sex. She also tries to conflate it with sexism, in that she points out her experiences of sexism as a counterpoint to the idea that she has cis privilege. That has nothing to do with cis privilege – I don’t have cis privilege and I also experience sexism. Many trans women experience sexism due to being women.
She also tries to disclaim any responsibility for cis privilege (while denying it exists) by saying that it’s a matter of birth and beyond her control – but her being born female is also a matter of birth and beyond any man’s control.
The truth is, she experiences cis privilege. She lives it, breathes it, and assumes it. The fact that she’s willing to discuss at length whether trans women have a place around cis women without any input from trans women is a pretty privileged viewpoint. Is her cis privilege uncomplicated? No, she’s a butch lesbian – and having presented as even moderately butch (or maybe femme butch) I’ve caught criticism for wearing clothes that were seen as too masculine (jeans and a t-shirt).
This is the primary frustration when dealing with men who refuse to believe that male privilege exists (especially MRAs), white people who refuse to believe that white privilege exists, and able-bodied people who refuse to believe that able-bodied privilege exists. They refuse to meet you anywhere, they just define you as less than and subhuman in relation to them, and your truths as lies you use to get sympathy. Race cards, gender cards, and so on. It’s not ever surprising when I get this stuff from white men, who are just about as clueless as it gets when it comes to privilege, but it’s doubly frustrating when it comes from women, people of color, gay men and lesbians, all of whom have experienced prejudice and hypothetically know what it looks like to be on the receiving end, and yet are completely blind to it when they dish it out.
And Polly Styrene is completely blind to it when she dishes it out, at least the cis privilege kind. As a woman, as a lesbian, as a butch woman, she really should know that the arguments she’s using to deny her own privilege exactly mirror those used by straight people and men to deny that they’re being homophobic and sexist.
If you feel that cisgender does not apply to you, but you do not feel any urge to alter your body’s sex to match your brain’s expectation, feel free to read all occurrences of “cisgender” as “cissexual.” On the other hand, if the privileges listed apply to you, you do receive cisgender privilege, whether you feel it should apply to you or not.
Also, you might feel that you do not have some of these privileges, and that’s fine. There’s a lot of overlap in privilege and lack thereof among various minorities. The thing is that not all of these things are true for you, but they are true for trans people.
1) I expect non-discrimination acts that apply to me to cover the most prevalent vectors of discrimination against me. I expect laws banning the creation of a hostile work environment will ban the use of offensive language about me.
2) I expect my government-issued identification to accurately represent who I am.
a. If my identification does not, I expect to be able to remedy this quickly and easily, without added expense, undue delay, arbitrary criteria, or a necessity to present evidence or medical documents. I expect change procedures/criteria to be clearly outlined in readily-available documentation, and for those procedures/criteria to be followed consistently, independent of the political beliefs and gender, racial, etc prejudices of individuals serving me.
b. I expect all my forms of identification to “match”—to display the same value in any fields held in common. If they do not I expect to be just fine, anyway.
c. My identification does not reveal private information that I may not want others to know.
3) I expect my private medical information to remain private if I am attempting to non-healthcare-related government services, or if I am involved in a lawsuit/criminal investigation that does not involve healthcare. If the government is making decisions based on my medical history, I expect the persons making the decisions to be medical professionals grounded in the relevant medical literature.
4) I expect access to healthcare.
a. I cannot be denied health insurance on the basis of my gender.b. I expect that I will not be denied medical treatment by a doctor on the basis of my gender.
c. I expect that if I am treated inappropriately by a doctor, my concerns will be taken seriously, and I will be able to find another doctor who will treat me appropriately.
d. Treatments which are medically necessary for me are generally covered by insurance.
e. Treatments which permanently or semi-permanently change my body are available to me immediately, based on my informed consent, ability to pay, and, if applicable, medical need.
f. If I am accessing medical treatment, my informed consent is verified in, at most, a one-hour consult made before the beginning of treatment.
g. I expect that medical professionals competent to treat my conditions exist outside of major cities, and in proportion to the demand for them. I expect no undue delay in access to routine medical services, and for such services to be available (at least) five days a week.
h. I expect that the specialists in medical conditions affecting me have received formal training about them, and are abreast of current medical developments in the subject.
i. I expect that there exists formal training about medical conditions affecting me. j. I expect that medical therapies offered to me have been the subject of rigorous medical studies & approval processes.
k. I expect that medical studies are being done to improve & approve treatments available for people with my conditions.
l. I expect that my access to medical treatment that I need and can afford will not be affected by:
i. My sex life
1. How much, how often, and with how many people I enjoy sex2. Whether or not I am sexually stimulated by a mode of dress
3. What sex acts I enjoy
4. The gender(s) I am sexually attracted to
ii. The story I tell about my condition
1. My adherence to gender roles2. The length of time I have wanted treatment
3. My desire for a different, but related, medical treatment
4. My definition of my gender
5. The gender in which I live
iii. My age, independent of parental consentiv. Local politics
v. Subconscious racial prejudice
vi. The opinion of a therapist (other than the medical provider)
vii. My willingness to accept side effects which could be avoided by lower dosages
viii. My willingness to reveal my private medical information to the government, family members, employers, and friends
m. I expect that medical care will be crafted to suit my own particular needs. I expect to be able to access treatment A without accessing treatment B, if treatment B will do nothing to advance my particular needs.
n. I expect that I will be able to access medical care without lying.
o. Accessing respectful STD testing and reproductive care is (relatively) emotionally and logistically easy for me.
5) There is information about the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and other diseases in my community.
6) Clothing works for me, more or less.
a. I am a size and shape for which clothes I feel comfortable wearing are commonly madeb. Clothes are designed with bodies like mine in mind.
c. If I am unable to find clothing that fits me well, I will still feel safe, and recognizable as my gender
d. If I have a restriction on what clothing I will buy (e.g. vegan, allergy, non sweatshop), I can expect that specialty stores will have them in my size/shape.
7) I expect my gender to not unduly affect my ability to travel internationally.
a. My gender presentation is legal in all countries.b. I expect that information on a country relevant to travelers of my gender will be readily available, and supplied to me by travel guides, travel agents, and study abroad officials.
c. I expect that a visa and passport will be sufficient documentation for me to enter any country, however difficult these may be to obtain.
d. I expect that my documentation will decrease suspicion about me.
8) Information important for me to keep private will not be revealed by:
a. Pictures from my childhoodb. My identification
c. My diploma, transcript, or other educational document
d. The language used to refer to me
i. Greetingsii. Pronouns
iii. Gendered relationship words (e.g. daughter, boyfriend*, father)
iv. My legal name or previous name
e. My voice
i. Having a coldii. Coughing, sneezing, yelling
f. Seeing me naked
g. Accidental pregnancy
h. My face and neck
i. Greetings, missives from people/organizations I have not contacted recently
9) Perception/acceptance of my gender is generally independent of:
a. Anything mentioned in #8b. My clothing choices, how my clothing fits
c. My adherence to traditional roles of my gender (both “too much” and “too little”)
d. Holding sexist, sex-negative, or rape-culture beliefs
e. Holding feminist or sex-positive beliefs
f. My sexual choices/desires
i. With whom? (gender, number)ii. Frequency
iii. Circumstance (marriage, love, one-night-stand)
iv. What (e.g. penetrating/enveloping, fetishes, dominance)
g. Being assertive, aggressive, or passive
h. Being in a position of power
i. Being intellectual
j. My dietary habits
k. My weight
l. My height
m. My occupation
n. My musical taste
o. My hairstyle
p. My hobbies
q. Wanting gendered things/actions labeled “immature” or “childish”
r. Whether or not I have had a medical procedure
i. My willingness to risk loss of sensation in my genitals/chestii. My financial resources
iii. My willingness to accept an unknown amount of health risks
iv. My ability to access treatment that is deliberately made hard to access (see #4)
10) Bodies like mine are represented in the media and the arts. It is easily possible for representations of my naked body to pass obscenity restrictions.
11) I expect the privacy of my body to be respected. I am not asked about what my genitals look like, or whether or not my breasts are real, what medical procedures I have had, etc.
12) Wronging me is taken seriously*
a. Those who wrong me are expected to know that it is hurtful, and are considered blameworthy whether or not they intended to wrong me.b. I have easy access to people who understand that this wrong is not acceptable, and who will support me.
c. I have easy access to resources and people to educate someone who wronged me, if I am not feeling up to it.
d. If I am being wronged, I can expect that others who are around will notice.
* (This is common to many forms of privilege. While it is also true of white privilege, male privilege, heterosexual privilege, able privilege, etc, lacking one form of privilege in this arena does not equal lacking any others.)
13) I expect that a short term arrest (e.g. for protesting) will not have serious consequences.
14) I expect access to, and fair treatment within, sex segregated facilities
a. Homeless sheltersb. Domestic Violence shelters
d. Drug Rehabilitation
g. Locker rooms
j. Juvenile justice systems
15) Institutions and authority figures do not force me to adopt a different gender presentation, or deny me medical treatment.
a. Parents, foster careb. Juvenile justice systems
c. Schools (all K-12 schools, some religious universities)
d. Drug rehabilitation
e. Nursing homes
g. Hospitals/Mental Hospitals
h. Close relative/spouse unless otherwise specified, in the event of a medical emergency
16) Commonly used terminology that differentiates my gender from other genders/sexes implies that I am normal, and that I have unquestionable right to the gender/sex I identify with. The implications these terms make about my gender, my body, my sex, my biology, and my past are all acceptable to me.
17) The sex/gender dichotomy does not have consequences in my life.
a. Insistence on strict adherence to one interpretation of difference between “sex” and “gender” (if the dichotomy is used “accurately”) does not mean that different words should be used to describe me than adherence to another interpretation does (if ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are “conflated”).b. “Accurate” use of these terms, when heard by people who subconsciously “conflate” them (i.e., all people), does not imply false or offensive things about me.
c. “Conflated” use of these terms does not imply false or offensive things about me.
d. I am not categorized differently if someone categorizes by “sex” when “gender” is more relevant. (e.g. my ID will read the same thing whether it says “sex” or “gender,” no matter how the authority interprets the dichotomy; I will have the same access to sex segregated facilities, etc.)
18) I expect no medical evidence to be necessary when changing my name.
19) For me, there is little-to-no conflict between being recognized as a member of my gender, and resisting sexism. (see #9)
20) My control of my body is independent of the good will of oppressive institutions.
21) Recognition of my gender is independent of the good will of oppressive institutions.
22) My gender is acknowledged universally, immediately, and without hesitation
a. My birth certificate, drivers’ license, social security card, etc are correct from the moment I get them.b. I do not have to establish that I am a different gender than someone already thinks I am.
c. I lived my childhood in a gender that felt appropriate for me at the time, and still does. I lived my childhood in the gender that I want to have lived it in.
i. I was trained into whatever gender was appropriate for me, and so I am prepared to live in my current gender, without having to go back and learn vital skills I was not taught when I was young.ii. I experienced puberty, and being an immature girl/boy, at a time in my life when there were allowances for puberty and immaturity.
d. My preferences for my gender have been honored my whole life, by my doctor, my parents, my teachers, my professors, my relatives, my classmates, my bosses, etc., except before I was able to state preferences, when I was forced to adopt the gender which I now inhabit.
e. If someone is uncertain about how I am gendered, they are likely to use criteria that will influence them to choose the gender I identify with.
f. I expect be referred to respectfully without stating my preferences, or even being asked, no matter where I go, how I dress, or whom I’m talking to. If this does not happen, whatever level of anger I express will be acceptable, and the offense will be immediately corrected.
g. Regardless of my gendered behavior as a child, or how I felt about being forced into the gender I inhabited then, if I require medical treatment to keep up an appearance that matches my gender, it will be granted immediately and without question.
23) I have unquestioned access to all appropriate sex-segregated facilities.
24) My potential lovers expect my genitals to look roughly similar to the way they do, and have accepted that before coming to bed with me.
25) I expect the privacy of my body to be respected.
26) I expect to be able to shower at public facilities such as gyms and pools.
27) Others accept my control over when, whether, and how I talk about any given event/period in my life, according to what meets my needs and desires best. Others accept my determination of what events and periods in my life I wish to talk about or deem significant.
28) My gender, and my access to gender-specific services and medical care, are upheld no matter how important or unimportant I consider that to be. Even if I consider medical treatment to maintain an appearance matching my gender to be inconsequential, it will still be available to me, covered by health insurance. Likewise, even if I find the use of the appropriately gendered language about me inconsequential, it will still be taken as a serious, unproblematic need by others.
29)My right to inhabit my currently chosen gender is universally considered valid, regardless of my gendered behavior as a child, or how I felt about being forced into the gender I inhabited then. If I require medical treatment to keep up an appearance that matches my gender, it will be granted immediately and without question.
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