You’ve accused me of colonizing womanhood. I’d like to address it.
For a few years now, many transgender women like myself have been inundated with online abuse from lesbians who define as radical feminists or pro-lesbian but anti-trans. I don’t want to sound like I’m self-victimizing. I understand that most of you who engage in these missives believe it’s warranted. You are moved to defend yourself because of an opinion you’ve developed regarding transgender women. However, I, and those like me, perceive these exchanges as an onslaught of baseless, unprovoked attacks.
It took me some time to wrap my head around the rise in anti-trans sentiments from lesbians that I though we shared common ground with. We share a common oppressor. We have in common a lack of social equality and our communities each experience violent hostility from people who are offended that we occupy space in their proximity.
While transgender women are murdered in disproportionate numbers, lesbians are often beaten bloody on the street, even on public transit if they hold their girlfriend’s hand or demonstrate affection that your straight counterparts do daily, without challenge. Without fear.
Despite the progress we have made politically, we’re both still thriving on the peripheral. We’re chastised by evangelicals who weaponize the Bible against us; By conservatives who don’t believe we have a place within their world view because they deem us as unnatural. We’ve both been hypersexualized by men; those who think lesbianism is a construct solely designed for their arousal and satisfaction. When it comes to transgender women, we experience a male demographic who want to fetishize us or experiment with their own sexuality using us as props rather than people. We both offend men who feel diminished or emasculated if we’re not interested, whether we’re lesbian or not. That, too, has lead to violence against both of our communities.
I respect that our lived experiences are unique, but they also run parallel and in synchronicity with each other. We have, historically, been besieged as a group. Whether in the 40’s, 50’s 60’s and 70’s we were raided together, we were frightened together, we were beaten together, even prosecuted then jailed for having the audacity to be who we were; brave enough to live authentically when the world outside the shadows of alleyway bars forbade it. To our critics, our differences were irrelevant. We were abominations; Criminals. Politicians made laws to excise us from society and far too many of our sisters died in secret. They never knew a day of awareness or a month of pride.
Disturbed by this division, I actively sought answers, desperate to fully comprehend when and where this division occurred. At what point did you think your detractors were different than mine? When were your rights safer than mine? When did you feel safer in society than I do, and when did you elevate yourself to the ranks of my enemy instead of my ally against a common threat?
It took quite a bit of time before I realized where the root of this fracture not only originated, but has been exploited to both of our detriment.
There is a minority in the media, such as The Times, and a collective of extremist groups and caustic individuals that portray themselves as lesbian saviors. They posture themselves as advocates for lesbians and spout fear-inducing rhetoric that, today, is consumed blindly with any discernment or requirement of facts or evidence to crutch the statements made. This has led to the radicalization of some lesbians who are the victims of manufactured theories that prey upon anxieties they never had before. Now, their ire toward transgender women doesn’t come in pursuit of justice, of freedom, or even safety from the big bad “Trans lobby” or a mythical “Trans agenda”- it comes in pursuit of vilifying transgender people for the sake of a few who sit back and laugh as you launch arrows at us from your boughs.
Times Journalist Janice Turner recently wrote an article that perfectly illuminates this manipulation of lesbian women. “Lesbians face a fight for their very existence,” screamed the headline. This comes in company with more than 100 articles published this year alone by The Times,Turner herself, Andrew Gilligan, also of The Times, and other writers who run a vicious, anti-trans publications and websites that peddle hate-for-profit.
Janice Turner is not a lesbian. Andrew Gilligan is not a Lesbian. Other journalists who write hit pieces designed explicitly to inspire anxiety, anger and fear, they’re not lesbian. They use the lesbian community as personal pawns. They drive a wedge between lesbians and transgender women to satisfy their own deep-seated prejudices. They light the wick and have you carry the bombs of fury toward us. They sit back, they watch, they laugh and print another article to further distress lesbians who read it and then gear up for a war that is entirely unnecessary, but for those who benefit.
Graham Linehan is a straight cisgender man. Yet, he has made an entire career out of attacking transgender women claiming it is for the sake/safety/liberation of lesbians. Twitter is his detonator and his 650k followers sit and wait for his dog whistle. The reality remains true no matter how he attempts to cloak his intention; He hates transgender women and therefore wants you to as well. Ultimately, he has parlayed his influence into amassing a small army of women of who he feeds a steady stream of toxic lies to in order to stimulate their rage. It fuels his ego when he witnesses lesbian women in his stronghold exact a revenge on a target he has chosen for them. They don’t even realize that they’re being leveraged as instruments to act on his personal bigotry. Yes, Graham Linehan has weaponized lesbians against the transgender community he detests. He has masterfully gas-lit women who think they’re acting on behalf of themselves when they’re only allowing their own views to be shaped by a misogynistic wizard of hate, pushing buttons and pulling levers behind a curtain to create the machination of an enemy that you don’t even have.
There have, unfortunately, always been women on the fringes of activism who dislike transgender women; Women like Germaine Greer. Greer is an author and radical feminist who holds very anti-trans ideologies, but she never claimed to represent or speak for lesbians, not being one herself. Her form of activism began in the 70’s, and her feminism, while admirable, wasn’t inclusive of transgender women. Yet, to her credit, she never took to the masses to place a target on our back and a weapon in your hand so she wouldn’t get any blood on hers. She never sought to inspire hatred, in the same way atheists don’t seek to inspire hatred toward Christians. She held her beliefs firmly, spoke unapologetically, but didn’t need a posse to hand out marching orders too as she sat back, tittering and guffawing at the power she wielded.
It is modern extremists who began this trend. With transgender women, they set aside reality to create a machination that would portray trans women as a dangerous, violent, terrifying dragon that craved lesbians and must be slain for the good of all women and girls. Some lesbians, so mobilized by their rage, further radicalized and made it their mission to proselytize this new gospel to other lesbians. Julie Bindle, for example, is just one of the many lesbians who took up a sword against transgender women and has not only disseminated venomous lies to promote the Times/Linehan agenda, but has fallen so far down the rabbit hole of gifted bigotry that she’s been caught falsely accusing trans women of physically attacking her. So did Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull (Posie Parker) who attacked a transgender woman working in the offices of the Human Rights Campaign. Groups like MumsNet and One Million Moms have latched onto the claim that their concern are for the children of the world, however, their actions in effect hurt innocent people, especially children. They want us all to buy the theory that they have good intentions, yet, their activism is, in practice, pure hate on parade. They use lesbians and their fear of transgender women- fear they have incited- to bolster their numbers and amplify their own voice for personal gain. That gain is usually more power, further reach and a more substantial influence on society to shape it in their own image. The mega-churches of social discord. They love more members. They tell you who you should be angry at, who you should protest and condemn for the sake of “yourself.” It’s not for you at all. It’s for them.
The language this wave of “Gender Critical” activists like Julie Bindel, Graham Linehan, Janice Turner, Andrew Gilligan, Posie Parker, Meghan Murphy and other anti-trans activists have used should make it plenty obvious to anyone paying attention that their animosity isn’t motivated by social justice, but of indoctrinated phobia- transphobia. Odd how these lesbians holding such perspectives and are often the victims of homophobia themselves would subject other marginalized, vulnerable communities to their own incendiary brand of it. That’s why I don’t believe your hatred of me is burgeoning from your personal need or desire to see to our own undoing, but of someone elses. Bindel calls us the Trans Taliban. Linehan calls us Nazis. Others use derogatory slurs when referencing us. “Bepenised bodies,” “Woman Identifying Males.”
I am so tired of a disproportionate emphasis placed on the genitalia and sexuality of transgender women. These have been flouted by controllers as mere buzzwords to shock or disgust you, conjuring up imagery and ideas that are both inaccurate, but more so, crude and inappropriate.
And this is where, from where I’m standing, it has gone off the rails entirely. The anti-trans mafia that has been molded from straight people winding up lesbians against transgender women- the idea that we want to infiltrate your sexuality- is nothing more than propaganda.
Your sexuality, to me as a transgender woman, is irrelevant. It only ever matters to me when straight people attempt to demonize your for it or disallow you the right to it. I kept hearing from angry lesbians commenting on my articles- regardless of the topic- that they are “Sick of Transwomen not respecting lesbians and not taking no for an answer. WE DON’T LIKE PENIS!” And dozens upon dozens of messages expressing the same or eerily similar sentiments.
I’m not sure when lesbians fell under the impression that they owed sex to anyone, thus had to fight against transwomen for agency over their sexuality. Friends, if anyone forces sex on you, that’s rape; That’s a crime. Crimes are not exclusive to transgender women, especially rape when you consider that we are both disproportionately victims of sexual assault or rape when compared to cisgender, straight women. A 2015 study found that 47 percent of transgender people are sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime. 44 percent of lesbians experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, compared to 35 percent of heterosexual women. We’re not raping lesbians. This is another myth that you’ve been fed to perpetuate more hatred and violence toward transgender women as a favor to some straight, cisgender bigot acting as puppeteer rather than a legitimate ally concerned for your safety.
Lesbianism, or pride in being lesbian, is not something that can be stolen from you. This bizarre notion that Transgender women are stealing lesbians from their beds at night and forcing them to have sex with transgender women is a fiction that I cannot believe I’m finding myself in the position of needing to debunk. The whole concept is grossly offensive, not only to transgender women, but to any lesbian or bisexual person in a relationship that reflects those identities. This bigoted viewpoint makes you no better than old white guys who sneer and berate inter-racial couples- still today- because they disapprove. There are no lesbians in chains at a transgender woman’s bedside. It is embarrassing that so many of you have carried this fallacy so far that I- a straight person- am accused of it in comments by my readers. And that I have to defend myself against it is preposterous. Yet, I see where it’s stemming from- a veritable circle of the same manipulators posting each other’s articles and retweeting each other’s attacks- they all follow each other; they all work in concert- they treat the likes of Bindel as their attack dog and she travels the country to train others to react in the same manner. The bidding of others who sit on lofty thrones and moves us around in a game of minority battleship.
Also, Trans women are not attempting to colonize lesbianism, or co-opt it to gain access to lesbians like jewel thieves staking out a store on Fifth Avenue. Simply put, transgender women take nothing from you, nor is your lesbianism compromised by the existence of transgender people. Are there trans women who identify as lesbian? Yes. Are all trans women sexually identifying as lesbians? No. Actually, trans women who identify as lesbian are a minority in our own community. Still, there is no reason they should be subject to cruel and bitter criticism for possessing a sexuality that, scientifically, is separate from their gender identity. These are not men pretending to be trans in order to infiltrate lesbianism and force women to engage in sexual acts. So many anti-trans lesbians are playing minority report with transgender lesbians, convicting them for crimes they have never committed. Lesbianism is not a pie, provided only in limited portions and requiring one to give up theirs for someone else to have. A woman born in tact suffers no injustice from sharing the world with a woman born into a body that has betrayed her mental mapping. You don’t have to concede anything to exercise kindness or compassion for a plight not your own. Life, for all involved, is hard enough. You’re engaging in this unnecessary competition of “Who is a real lesbian/better lesbian” but you’re the only player- transgender lesbian women aren’t comparing themselves to you. No one is given a medal for being the best lesbian. Everyone, including you, maintains sovereignty over their own identity and sexuality and that belongs to you. That can’t be co-opted or taken away.
Finally, another damning accusation levied broadly toward transgender women is the implication that we want to invade “Women Only” spaces. Again, you’re taking our identity, removing our humanity and reducing us to a presumed sexuality. So many tweets have crossed my feed claiming that “Men pretending to be women want in our locker rooms and bathrooms!”
This is what evangelists used to do to gay individuals and before that, white people did it to people of color. Different drinking fountains, different schools, different churches, designated seats on the bus according to skin pigment because white people believed that black people were a threat to their safety or their morality. In fact, all that really scared them was the idea of losing their place in the social hierarchy. If their supremacy were challenged, they risked be treated as a lesser, the same way they had treated others for hundreds of years. They didn’t want equality. They wanted the promise of elitism and priority they felt entitled to by virtue of being born white.
You were born a woman, and by virtue of that you have different experiences throughout your life that we trans women cannot lay any claim to. We never had a first period, nor did we develop breasts in sixth grade. For the most part we didn’t experience sexual objectification in the same way you did early on. We will never carry a child in a womb, nor do we know the unimaginable pain and absolute joy of giving birth though many of us have children. Being a woman born into a body that misrepresents who we are is our own sort of unimaginable pain, and it’s not followed with a reward that makes it all worthwhile. We struggle, all of us in one sense or another, to come to terms with experiences we can never have. We feel an overwhelming sense of loss over what we know we should have been, but see what we are not when we gaze into a mirror. We are not trying to be lesbian women. We’re trying to live our truth, as women, full stop. It is true, most of us would love to have had what you have by circumstance- or sheer luck. We didn’t get to wear dresses to church or put our hair in ribbons or play with paper dolls, or even something as simple as inserting our first tampon- things that may seem ridiculous, even cumbersome to you, are things we feel we missed out on as a part of inherent womanhood we can never claim.
It’s true, some of us envy women… but none of us hate women. Our commitment is to be the best version of ourselves we can manifest in this short lifetime. That doesn’t involve sneaking into your dressing rooms or locker rooms to gawk at and molest you. The truth, if you’ll consider it over the lies you’ve been told that shaped your disdain, is that we are your allies. The same as we’ve been for decades, back when we locked arms against a police barricade and were hauled off to jail together as social rejects; freaks, deviants, perverts, mentally ill degenerates that pearl clutching conservatives claimed were the downfall of a moral society. Throughout history we have been on the same side of the fence, isolated from those deemed normal, rejected by friends and family, abused by a man-made construct that taught women how to dress, how to behave, what rights they were permitted and who they were allowed to love. The same construct that told transgender women they were sick, forced to dress in baby blue bow ties for church, join the Boy Scouts and pursue women- even if we preferred men. All in order to avoid being persecuted.
Yet, in 2019, you are our persecutor. On a soapbox claiming ownership of feminisim that you allow men like Linehan to claim instead. Men who use you. Men who warp your perceptions to serve their own agenda. Trans women have never asked other women to step aside so we can speak on their behalf. We aren’t sexualizing lesbians in the same way that we are being defined, not as transgender women, but sexual predators, grotesque “Women with a penis.” While you deny us our own womanhood, we have stood in defense of yours. I have fought for women’s rights, for the equal pay for equal work, for marriage equality, for those who came forward in the #MeToo movement. I have stood alongside you, not in front of you. I have used my voice not to drown yours out, but to lift yours up.
I am a transgender woman. I am not your enemy.
We both have enough of those that we should not be distracted by fighting each other, but instead the forces of oppression still very much threatening us both and benefiting from our fixation- yours on invalidating us, ours on defending ourselves from your efforts. Who is benefiting, you ask? The ones who would find themselves weaker by our realization that, as demonstrated in the past, we are, indeed, stronger together.