I am a Woman. I am a Trans Woman. I Matter.
There’s a toxic piece of writing being circulated this week that couches transphobic rhetoric in a package disguised as civil discourse. I’m not going to link to it, because poison spreads fast enough on its own, but I feel compelled to address it, because there seems to be this sense among some that the author ‘makes some good points.’
At the start of her piece, the author pretends to be an ally. She states that she respects people’s pronouns, their safe spaces, and their right to human rights. She then spends the entire article demeaning and attempting to delegitimize the trans identity, starting with the very title of the article:
I am a Woman. You are a Trans Woman. And That Distinction Matters.
From the word go, the author makes her intent clear: Cis is the definitive womanhood, and trans women are something else. When you look at the url for the article, you can see an artifact of a perhaps earlier draft, wherein it had a different title: I am not a Cis Woman. I am a Woman. And That Matters. A nice, quiet confirmation of her stance, no matter how polite her wording is going forward.
The author begins by saying she just wants to have a conversation about the differences between trans women and cis women, but at every turn following that, the conversation is about something else entirely.
Early on, she questions why it’s wrong for cis women to have safe spaces from trans women. This very question ignores the fact that safe spaces, at their very core, are a concept created to give groups room away from their respective oppressors. There are safe spaces for people of colour, because they are oppressed by white people. There are safe spaces for LGBTQ people, because they are oppressed by straight people. Cis women, then, have no need for safe spaces from trans women, because trans women have never in history had enough societal power to oppress cis women. The only reason to even entertain this logic is if you are of the mindset that trans women are men.
One of her big hang ups is in language. She has a problem with trans men wanting inclusive language like chest feeding, instead of the more traditional breast feeding. She has a problem with trans men wanting inclusive language like expectant parents (or people) instead of expectant mothers. She had a problem with these requests, she says, because cis women are still fighting for breast feeding to be seen as natural and not taboo, and for basic rights like maternity leave and job security during early parenthood. That these are the same battles facing trans men seems to either escape her or mean nothing to her. Instead, she focuses on what she decides is language policing.
Where she really plays her hand and shows her staunch transphobia is where she literally equates the presence of a trans woman in a change room to an act of sexual assault (being sent unsolicited dick pics, being flashed). The wrongheadedness of such a comparison cannot be underestimated here: she is saying that not knowing she will see a trans woman’s penis in a change room is the same as a cis man’s sexual power play. She also seems ignorant of the fact that trans women are just as susceptible to receiving dick pics as cis women.
Then, she goes on to list some examples of negative behaviour from fringe elements of the trans community, and passes them off as the norm in order to paint us all as crazy and/or unreasonable. This is a tried and true strategy used by MRAs who cherry pick examples of radical behaviour in order to invalidate the entire feminist movement. It’s not a new move. It’s tired and boring and predictable.
She continues: “Don’t call me transphobic when I fight for your rights to your surgeries and tolerance, and your pronouns, while also asking to still have my womanhood recognized as different than yours.”
This is disingenuous at best.
Trans women, by vast majority, understand the difference between cis womanhood and trans womanhood all too well. Julia Serano, author of Whipping Girl, a seminal book on trans identity, coined the term trans misogyny specifically to describe the distinct brand of misogyny that trans women face. We do not need to be reminded of the differences between cis and trans women.
The author goes on to make a complaint about an unnamed trans woman who transitioned at the age of 50, who is now winning women’s awards and being hailed as a role model. She concludes “women were left to feel like they were being told that now men are better at being women than women.” Again, the author uses very specific language to code the idea that trans women are men.
We then get to this:
I am watching my birth control rights, my abortion rights, my rights to toplessness, fall away. I am watching sexual predators strut around the white house. I am watching women feeding their children be yelled at harassed and shamed for the most natural act. I am being forced to see my own body as only sexual every fucking day when I get catcalled or try to go online dating. I am forced to either conform to men’s standards on my body or risk being ostracized by them. Even choosing not to wear makeup, even choosing not to want motherhood, brands me as not woman enough.
Its not ok for the 1 percent of the population that is transgender to add to those oppressions. And it is not ok for you, in your fight for rights, to ignore my voice and trample on my rights.
I have nothing against that first paragraph. Everything she says there is absolutely spot-on. However, she is willfully ignoring that trans people are facing literally all of those issues themselves. Trans men do not have magic access to abortion. 50% of trans people have experiences domestic violence. We must conform to cisnormative beauty standards or be victim to harassment or judgmental stares in public. Being a trans parent is wrought with societal complications when so many are willing to concern troll on behalf of the child, because “what are they being taught?” 50% of trans people experience sexual assault. Cis women’s struggles are trans women’s struggles, and the author’s attempt to separate the two fall apart at the most basic examination. That she legitimately believes asking for inclusive language somehow adds to the oppression of cis women is not just incorrect, it’s laughable. There is nothing, literally nothing, that she has accused trans women of that classifies as infringing on rights.
The author concludes her piece thusly:
“The transgender women’s movement, cannot be another movement that oppresses women, but thats what its seemingly becoming. There is space for both of us in womanhood, but only if you are willing to hear my side too and acknowledge my needs here too.”
After all her transphobic us vs them rhetoric, she has the gall to say there is space for both of us. What she really means, though, when taken into the context of the rest of the piece, is that there is space for both of us, “but you have to sit over there and do as I say.”
This piece is the most insidious kind of writing. It is a trans-exclusionary manifesto framed in language that suggest trans people could have more support if only we would be more reasonable in our fight for liberation and acceptance. It pushes the responsibility for the author’s reprehensible views away from them and puts the blame on us, framing us as villains, and her, the hero, who wants to help us ‘if only we’d behave.’
If you think the author is perhaps just not using the right wording to get their point across, and that they really do have something legitimate to say on the subject, I kindly invite you to visit their Twitter page (www.twitter.com/yesnomaybesex), where you will find endless posts and retweets mocking, dehumanizing, and misgendering trans people. They may be putting on airs about some fucked up sense of allyship in this article, but they are making no such effort on their timeline.
In closing, this article is not for the author of the original piece. She is not misunderstood, or an imperfect ally. She is the worst. This article is for the people that mistake her even keeled tone for that of a person with opinions worthy of your time or respect. This article is for anyone who considers themselves an ally who believes maybe, just maybe, that article is sparking ‘a conversation that needs to be had.’ This article is for anyone sharing that article who has trans friends.
We see you.