Until the Erasure Stops

Radfem 2012 has been big news in the blogosphere for a while now. I’ve been trying to avoid trans-exclusionists and people talking about them, because I find that the fact that this divide still exists, that we as feminists are not united against the patriarchy on important issues like access to medicine specific to us or the trans men often mistaken for us, the glass ceiling, the gender wage gap, and the day-to-day sexism that we all experience.

I think we as women, trans or not, have a vested interest in an alliance on healthcare. We must not permit the patriarchy to restrict our ability to control our own hormones, such as with birth control and hormone replacement therapy. We cannot accept a system which physically or economically restricts our access to extremely important surgical procedures representing control over one’s own body, such as abortion and genital reconfigurative surgery. We must rise up against a society which denies us routine medical care like breast, cervical, and prostate exams. We have nothing but common ground on this, and we can’t let theories on the ideal form of a movement divide us on this–we simply can’t afford it.

I do not believe that men should be allowed in women-only spaces. I have gone out of my way to question the presence of trans men in our spaces, because they look, sound, act, and think like men do, and have the same effect on women-only spaces that any other men would–stifling our authentic interactions and creating a zone of patriarchal control. I am an extremist on the matter–I do not believe that any trace of male presence can exist in a women-only space if we are to find a place where we can be free of patriarchy, but trans women are not my enemy, even if they bear a physical resemblance to him.We need all the free female minds we can get, and my sistren are ready and willing to dedicate our lives to our mutual female liberation.

I think we can agree on sex work if we look at it the right way. Your desire to end the victimization of women at the hands of an industry that sells us is compatible with my desire to end the victimization of women at the hands of an industry that sells us. I simply ask for the right to my own personal dignity, self-autonomy, and possibly feelings of pride in my work, when I voluntarily choose to be a sex worker of my own free will. Pimps, johns, police, and attackers are the targets we must choose, and we can choose them together.

I have nothing but contempt for the gender binary system and forced gender roles and forced gendering. I tire greatly of a system that has contempt for me because I am a woman who does not dress or act femininely. I desire a system where butches and androdykes are accepted and valued. I desire a system where having a soft face and a tough swagger is okay.

Perhaps most importantly, I am not a fan of mainstream trans or queer politics. I find trans and queer activists every bit as sexist as you do–I have left queer organizations because of how they treated lesbians, and I have left trans organizations because of how they treat women. I think we can tackle these issues in activism together, as sisters in a movement that is for, about, and by women.

Please, for the sake of so many much more important issues, let us stand by your side as female activists. Remove anyone from those spaces if they, as an individual, jeopardize the safety of the space, but please, don’t paint my sisters with the same brush you used for those of us who do have crimes against other women to answer for. Certainly don’t paint us with the same brush you paint men with, because men have oppressed me for my femaleness just as they have for you, for just as much of my life as for yours. We are every bit as committed to our co-liberation as females, liberation from a patriarchal system, as you are. Punish those of us who personally do wrong. Exclude all the men you want. Just don’t exclude my sisters and our other feminist allies, because we have too much to gain from an alliance.

I would like to send out a warning to all of my friends, lovers, and anyone else who will listen, that I have received information stating there is a new location for an organization called “Women for Aryan Unity” somewhere in Brooklyn. These are dangerous skinheads and because of their focus on kyriarchal women, they may pose a special danger for trans or queer women, jewish women, and women of color. If you fit in any of these groups, please be careful.

Let’s save the self-serving crap about me coming back for the end of this post. I’d like to talk about pronouns, which is something on which I think we, as a community, have allowed our ongoing conversation to stagnate. It’s now accepted as trans 101 that you refer to a trans person (or any person, for that matter) with the pronoun(s) they request, and if you don’t know their pronouns, you ask,  or avoid pronouns entirely. In the extremely rare cases where you are unaware of a person’s pronoun, unable to ask them, and are required to use pronouns–an example of this is if you are a journalist writing about a murder victim or otherwise unreachable person, and need to use pronouns for literary form or your work won’t be published–then you use the best information you have available to you on what pronoun that person most likelywould want, and use that.  Obviously, the exception clause tends to lead to binarism, and that’s bad, but serves to counter outright biological essentialism, which I think it’s fair to say, would be worse. There needs to be a way to talk about trans people whose voices can’t be heard, or to show proper respect to trans people we have not yet spoken to, which minimizes our binarist and cissexist assumptions about individuals. However, those aren’t the only isms that we need to be aware of, and to realize this, we need to take a trip down history (or, more accurately, unsettling present) lane to critically examine the relationship between trans* women and binary/nonbinary trans politics. The reason I would like to force this conversation again is that we solve the binarism inherent in assuming a pronoun for people by simply calling people we don’t know the pronoun for “zie,” which I would like to argue is harmful to trans* women.

Read the rest of this entry »

I know what it’s like to feel like your voice is being marginalized by the louder, more privileged voices around you, like others are trying to speak for you and failing, and like you need to break off and form your own movement. I really do–I’ve been transsexual and heavily involved in LGB(t) rights groups. I’ve had people literally say to my face that they don’t need trans representation to honestly claim to be a trans rights group as well as a gay rights group. I’ve been in conversations about disability where my experiences as a transgender person were appropriated by a cisgender male as misguided analogies, and to have even other radicals be too blinded by their cisness to listen to me when I pointed it out. Read the rest of this entry »

I know that I tend to write about how terrible the world is. I’d even hazard a guess that might be what most trans* bloggers–especially women–tend to find themselves fixated on, and rightly so, because of the legal and social state of affairs for trans* (female) people in general, but I think it tends to cause a lot of burnout (and might be the leading cause of my own burnout), because we get so caught up in how terrible the world can be. I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the state of affairs in my own life, and some of the good things that have come about for me in the last couple months.

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So, lately we’ve been seeing a lot of progress in legislatures regarding trans rights. Massachusetts has been kicking around a trans rights bill. Maryland failed to pass one, but it looks like they’re going to try again. Connecticut passed one. Since I was last regularly blogging, New York passed marriage rights–which DOES affect us, and while I have mixed feelings about assimilating into the heteronormative world at large, it’s a big deal to me that I can marry another woman someday when that comes to be the right choice (contrary to popular belief, New York did not permit this before, nor does New Jersey–and DOMA would still prevent myself and any wife I have from receiving proper benefits from marriage). All of these things are progress, they really are–again, not because I personally think assimilation is the proper way to go, in the case of marriage, but because this means we’re moving up in the world. The world’s becoming a more accepting place, and laws both reflect and ensure that. Make no mistake that marriage equality, hate crime law inclusion, housing rights, and job rights are good signs, although hate crimes laws are probably not the best thought-out idea from a legal standpoint.

However, the recent trend of rights laws being exclusive of public accomodations is unfortunate. It has far-reaching consequences that affect our housing and job rights. First of all, we are already protected from being fired for being trans, strictly speaking, by laws banning discrimation based on sex. The strategy used by employers to thrust us out is to make us use single-stall restrooms that are so far away from our working environment that they impact our job performance, and set us apart as second class citizens in a workplace. If we seek to use any other bathrooms, or if we petition for any change of our situation, we are fired for insubordination. It may seem like an avoidable situation, but it happens to all of us sooner or later. Yes, the reason we are fired has nothing to do with there not being an employment law on the books. That horrifying rate of unemployment? It’s all about public accomodations laws. For everything else, we’re already covered by the same law that covers cis women. I’m not as familiar with the causes of housing discrimination, but my understanding is that sex stereotype interpretations cover us there, too.

Now, let’s talk about public accomodations themselves. They aren’t peanuts, like the dworkin-worshippers seem to think they are. It’s not just about the right to not be embarassed, although that’s very important–how often do you go into a public bathroom? Are the trans-haters aware of just how dangerous it is for me to go into a men’s bathroom? I haven’t tried in some time, since I pass as cis 99% of the time and that should tell you the reactions I would get in a men-only space. I’ll give you a hint–if you’re cis and female, imagine what it would be like for you to walk into a men’s bathroom. If you need an imagination aid, friends of mine who chose to keep going to the men’s room while passing as cis have told me horror stories of men banging on their stall doors, demanding to speak with them, creepers hitting on them, and having to run out for fear of their lives. All to take a piss. Many of us don’t even use locker rooms pre-op, we’re so terrified of what might happen. I’m lucky enough to live in New York City, where I’m legally entitled to use the women’s bathrooms, changing rooms, and such and such. I still enter them terrified that somebody will read me who has a problem with me, and decide to take it into their own hands. May not be likely to be murder, but with 4 psychiatric diagnoses and counting (not counting transness, since it’s not a disorder), getting beaten up is something my psyche really doesn’t need right now. And yes, it happens. And it’s much worse when men enter the equation.

 

As I’ve mentioned before, I get the transgendernews daily digest in my email. It’s an absolutely horrible choice for my personal mental health that I have nonetheless made on two separate occasions, once many months ago, and again when the college I happily waltzed out of in May stopped delivering my email (an admittedly expected occurrence). Sure, there is the occasional bit of awesome in that digest, wonderful stories that I can’t believe were written by people I didn’t have to yell at about my rights myself. But those are the minority of stories. The very small minority.

There are a lot of terrible stories where the pronouns are all fucked and nobody seems to give a damn that the person they’re reporting on is a human being–stories where our narrative doesn’t exist. There are even worse stories where people write things about us, mess the pronouns, and try to act like it’s our life story–stories where our narratives are given by others. Read the rest of this entry »

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