Thursday, October 11, 2007

Coming out story time!

I came out about being trans when I was seventeen. The woman who I was dating at the time took it pretty well, and we continued dating for about a year until we broke up for unrelated reasons. My parents and other family members didn't take it quite as well.
My mom didn't believe me, and later told me that I'd made her want to commit suicide for about one half of a year through being the way I am.
My misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic stepfather promptly began to dislike me; a couple of times, he punched me because something I was doing was "too gay" or too "girly."

I had to move out of their house shortly after coming out.

When I moved to Albany from the fairly rural area I was living in, I was very excited! I though that it would be great and I'd be meeting a ton of other queers and would be able to find some people to relate to as far as my experience being trans goes.

Think again!

A reflection of the Albany queer community can be fairly accurately seen in the Capital District Gay and Lesbian Community Counsel, or the CDGLCC.

To begin with, the organization caters nearly primarily to the concerns of, and only makes itself present for, the middle-class white queers in the area, essentially ignoring and actively excluding everyone who isn't.

It also pretty explicitly excludes trans women.
Please note, for example, the difference between the men's group and the women's group. ONE OF THESE THINGS IS NOT LIKE THE OTHER, YOU GUYS!
That's right, there's a glaring omission of trannies in the women's group.
Trans women are actively discouraged from being present.

Every time I've been to CDGLCC's community center and other assorted places of meeting organized by the CDGLCC, I've felt- and have been made to feel- extremely uncomfortable.

And it's a feeling of discomfort that I felt a lot around the local cisgender queers at the time (and still get from some). I was visibly trans, and that made most of them visibly uncomfortable.

I broke down and cried the first time I met another trans person. I'd started to think that I was the only one in my locality!
It turns out that trannies were just rendered fairly invisible in the area.

So what does any of this have to do with feminism?

A major part of the justification that these people used was that I, shemale that I am, am not like them.
This is because they’re cis. Which, FYI makes them a member of a privileged group.
Now, what’s it called when the privileged are convinced that they need a space away from the oppressed again?

So some of you have probably noticed that there sure have been a whole lot of posts lately which have either been explicitly about trans people or which have spawned comments sections in which trans people became the topic of occasionally heated discussion.

So I’ve decided, in light of that and the fact that there's a significant push against trans inclusion on the ENDA, that now would be a really great time to share my thoughts on transphobia- especially transmisogyny- among cisgender feminists.

I'm always hearing trans people and allies criticizing transphobic feminists' grasp of feminism.

This is inaccurate.

Things like putting quotation marks around the word feminist in reference to them or more explicitly saying that they're not feminists at all palliates Feminism's transphobic history

Janice G. Raymond's infamously transphobic 1979 book The Transsexual Empire: The making of the Shemale didn't spring forth from the earth fully-formed; there were and are plenty of transphobes who choose to, sloppily and in a reaching, misguided, bigoted fashion, make an attempt at using feminist theory in whatever way possible to legitimize their hatred for trans people. Many of these people grabbed onto Raymond's conclusion that trans women were working together with the medical and psychological professions to construct an idealized image of what women should be by using men (i.e. trans women) to supplant any "real" women who don't live up to that image and used it, along with other arguments, to silence trans women, make a case for restricting trans women's access to spaces and services for women (many homeless shelters, the prison system, rape and domestic violence shelters, organizations and gatherings, restrooms, and so on), and to perpetuate hateful, negative images of trans women.
And transphobia interacts with other bigotries among second-wavers- for example, the RadFems are frequently classist and anti-sex-worker, and because trans women are so disproportionately involved in the sex industry, this leads to their further marginalization.

Today most of the transmisogyny is couched in less overtly hateful lines of reasoning:

"Trans women's experience is just different from "real" women wom*n-born-wom*n's"

"What about the women who go to DV shelters after being assaulted by a man who may possibly associates trans women's 'masculine' features with male violence?" (or “it would be safer to exclude them for the time being”)

"Women (read: cis women) should be the ones who decide who belongs in women’s space and who doesn’t."

Or, my favorite classic,

"Don't trans women just perpetuate stereotypes about women?"

Frankly, I don't give a fuck about convincing anyone who thinks those claims are reasonable of anything and at this point I'm just tired of responding to those arguments. I mean at least they could be a little creative and come up with something original instead of parroting the same old bullshit over and over again.

That isn't to say, of course, that this kind of transphobia is uncommon and isn't worth addressing. Bigoted bloggers like Heart write things along those lines all the time.

They’re all based on the assumptions that:

a) Cis women all have the same experiences in the first place- as someone here in this very community has noted as a second-waver, this is a popular presupposition among RadFems. It’s a reflection of the domination of Feminism by white, middle/upper-class, cis women. Not all women- not even all cis women- have the same kind experience with patriarchy, and trans women don’t all have experiences with it or with being trans which are identical (something which trans women more intelligent and eloquent than myself have written more than a few wonderful thoughts on, to give one blogger as example)

b) Cis women and cis women’s concerns > trans women and trans women’s concerns. Of course, this attitude is hardly an exclusive to feminism, as we saw in the indignation with which people responded to this cis woman being treated like a trans woman (and that's horrible! no human should be treated like a tranny!), but it's still very alive and well among many cis feminists.

c) Making generalizations about trans women is okay because trans women operate under a monolithic form of groupthink and therefore all behave, think, and live alike.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard someone say something like "come on, we’ve all seen or heard trans women who get loud, obnoxious, aggressive, and bellicose and make things uncomfortable for everyone."
Naturally that makes it okay to suggest that all trannies are threats to women and women’s space or something. And goodness knows that I’ve never had the experience of a cis woman being aggressive or obnoxious or anything.

I’m so tired of people making those arguments and claiming that it’s part of a legitimate feminist critique.

In fact, I’m tired of all kinds of theoretical analysis by cis people of the "concept" of being trans. It’s really not just a concept, and while there may be notions of the "right way" to be trans that are socially constructed, cis people’s need to share their "objective" opinions (their opinions, let them show you them) of the impact of being trans makes my fucking brain itch. The only reasons y’all do it is to
1) try to legitimize your transphobia,
or
2) try to seem oh-so-socially-conscious or whatever so that you get points added to your progressiveness rating or something. And there are people who try to do both by acting as neutral arbiters of what is "realistic" by sharing with everyone your decisions on what is and isn’t transphobic and what kinds of bigotry toward the trannies is a-okay. I’ve known people who say they’re allies who do this- who say that trans women should be welcome in women’s space but then in the same breath say they don’t understand why MichFest is so important when there are other, "more important" places trans women should be trying to get into (yes we do exist so that we can be champions for the causes you think are the best! True fact!) and then complain that trannies aren’t doing enough for the women’s movement or something (hooray for anally-produced factoids), sometimes even while suggesting that I and/or other trans women are exercising our male privilege.

I am sick of people, in the name of (transphobically applied) feminist theory, trying to characterize me as an embodiment of a patriarchal, male-privileged perspective of what women are supposed to be, or assuming that I must be seeing the world from a misogynistic paradigm in order to be trans in the first place, or trying to find a "purpose" for my being trans to legitimize it (to whom? "No you guys, it’s okay for her to be trans- she’s deconstructing gender/showing that /[insert credit to all trannies everywhere] merely by existing!"),

When I came out about being trans and started talking with other trans people, I got my one of my very first impression of what the Feminist movement was: transphobic.
While I obviously don’t agree that feminism- especially third-wave feminism- is intrinsically transphobic (what with my being a feminist and all) that notion of what feminism is has its foundation in real life experiences with transphobia which really has been rampant in many feminist circles. I can’t think of anywhere else I could go to find as much anti-trans rhetoric as there is in some feminist places of discourse, like, for example, the MichFest forum page, which has pages and pages and pages and pages and pages and pages and pages and pages and pages and pages and pages of this kind of bullshit (and you guys, keep your eyes open, you may recognize some names! You've also, btw, got the pleasure of one of these people complaining about how she's being oppressed because someone said to her "that's awfully white of you." OHNO POOR CRACKERS!!), or, to use another example, I Blame the Patriarchy here, here, and here.

While these kinds of analyses of "trans" may seem very appealing and innocuous to the privileged, cis feminists who are just opening their eyes to the existence of trannies or to whom transphobia has been fully incorporated into their ideology (whose opinions don't matter anyway, since they're completely comfortable in their positions as oppressors), this is more than just rhetoric and argument for trans people- it may mean the difference between homelessness and shelter, rape or murder and safety, access to necessities or discriminative lack thereof, ostracizing, bigoted exclusivity or inclusion.

Happy Coming Out Day!


And before anyone gets defensive and assumes that I'm launching an attack on feminism, please to be noting that I'm not attacking feminism, I'm attacking bigoted, privileged feminists



Oh, and peoples who read my blog (mostly, I'm thinking, from LiveJournal), please to be feeling welcome to make suggestions about corrections, inclusions of additional info, etc. that I should be making. Thanks!


*Correction: The caption on the photograph in the Z Magazine article is incorrect- it states that the women are outside of MichFest when in fact they are inside. (Source)
Thanks Pandapajamas!

8 comments:

Christine said...

I would not go after Twisty so much. She is better than you think and you may want to hold back criticism. She has a very odd use of language and particular perspective, but she has taken a very positive, and I will say well informed stance on trans issues. You would know this if you read the comments on some of the feminist blogs other than her own writings a bit more. Her blogs are well...weird to say the least.

I know it is a general knee jerk reaction of many transwomen to go after feminist (not necessarily feminism). But please put things into a historical context. There is a BIG difference between Jessica Valenti, Pam Spaulding and Twisty Faster, and the late second wave feminist who largely demeaned transwomen. So to generalize all feminist in the same light...is just a bad idea.

I understand what you are trying to put forth but please really look into peoples standpoints a bit more before attacking them. Twisty is not our enemy.

That Fucking Shemale said...

Twisty was very dismissive.

And the link there wasn't just to Twisty, it was to the commentators to that post- and the welcoming space Twisty provided for them. That part was an illustration for readers who weren't involved in and were unaware of that whole dramasplosion (I cross-posted this, since I know that this blog doesn't particularly have a lot of readers).

Transphobic cis feminists don't get an easy out just for being "not as bad" as the feminists of yesterday.

I wasn't generalizing about all feminists.

I was generalizing about cis feminists who think it's a-okay to theorize about "what trans means" or to- as Twisty has done- position themselves as the neutral voice of moderate, authoritative reason above trans people over trans-related issues.

Twisty may not be an enemy to trannies, but she's still got some privilege of her own to address and shouldn't be immune to criticism for it just because she's made nice comments elsewhere. I'm not interested in digging through obscure comments all over the internets to find out whether or not someone is "really" transphobic whenever they say or do something problematic I've stumbled across.

Also, thanks for commenting!

Sorry about the harshness of my response, but it bothers me when people try to excuse their mistakes by saying "BUT I'M REALLY NOT THAT BAD U GUIZE LOOK WHAT I SAID HERE" (although it's not as annoying when someone else does it for them like you have done, it's still frustrating).

I'd be happy to join your blog collective :)

Veronica said...

Thought I'd say hello, as I made it through the whole entry.

And, Twisty is more nihilistic than neutral, I think.

Colleen said...

I love your blog. Thank you for providing this resource. You've laid out a pretty well versed commentary on the situation transgender people face in most LGBT groups.

Colleen

bint alshamsa said...

Twisty's site is indefensible, in my opinion, and is worthy of the criticism it received. How in the world could other people's interpretations of Twisty be a better representation (of her stance towards transgender issues) than her own words? That's just nonsense.

Oh, and what you said you know seems pretty odd to me. As far as I can see, there has been no knee jerk reaction coming from transgendered women (or men) when it comes to feminists. It is (mostly) white, Western feminists who are exhibiting the knee jerk reaction. I can't even count how many times I've seen self-described feminists spouting transphobic bullshit. It disgusts me to the core and I'm cisgendered. I can only imagine how I'd feel if I were transgendered and saw some of that stuff every time I looked at a "feminist" blog.

That Fucking Shemale said...

Hi Bint Alshamsa! I added you back to my list on LJ but my blog reading is really unorganized; I don't have a blog roll to add you back to and tend to just read different ones at random. I've come across yours a few times before and ♥'d it :)

"Oh, and what you said you know seems pretty odd to me. As far as I can see, there has been no knee jerk reaction coming from transgendered women (or men) when it comes to feminists. It is (mostly) white, Western feminists who are exhibiting the knee jerk reaction."

I agree! Most of what I've seen in terms of knee-jerk reactions to feminism has come from white trans people (particularly early-in-their-transition white trans women who still haven't processed their loss of male privilege or from crossdressers who live most of the time as men).

I hope that my entry didn't come off as a knee-jerk one; that part of Christine's comment totally slipped by me the first time and, looking at it again, what a condescending thing to say >:|

At first I had no idea that you were referring to because I thought you were responding to my entry, but then I noticed that Christine said, in her comment, "I know it is a general knee jerk reaction of many transwomen to go after feminist (not necessarily feminism)" and realized your comment was to her. Shame :x

bint alshamsa said...

That fucking shemale,

the next time you drop by my blog, leave a comment! ;)

I'm sorry I wasn't clearer with regards to who I was talking to in my last comment on this post. In my opinion, Twisty is definitely the enemy...of all those who don't revel in their bigotry.

Ainslie Podulke van der Stam said...

Hey, I got here by a link in Monica Roberts' blog. I'm relieved by your vitriol about the feminists. Needed to hear that stuff. As far as this:


{While these kinds of analyses of "trans" may seem very appealing and innocuous to the privileged, cis feminists who are just opening their eyes to the existence of trannies or to whom transphobia has been fully incorporated into their ideology (whose opinions don't matter anyway, since they're completely comfortable in their positions as oppressors), this is more than just rhetoric and argument for trans people- it may mean the difference between homelessness and shelter, rape or murder and safety, access to necessities or discriminative lack thereof, ostracizing, bigoted exclusivity or inclusion.}

goes, i find myself complaining to god/dess-

Why is it so that the people who have enough comfort and privelege to get ambitious about changing the world also are creature of comfort and privelege with whom exposing realities behind assumptions is so much like pulling eyeteeth?????????????????

grrrr.

happy to meet you, then.
Ainslie :)