A Letter To My Sisters
“Since we live in a society that promotes faddism and temporary superficial adaptation of different values, we are easily convinced that changes have occurred in arenas where there has been little or no change.” — bell hooks
As a transgender woman, I often find myself at the margins. The Women’s March on Washington was just one of a lifetime of marginalizing experiences.
It’s difficult to describe the alienation I felt—at a gathering which, for many white, cisgender women signified empowerment and unity. The Women’s March released an “unapologetically progressive” platform which was further lauded as “beautifully intersectional” by the Huffington Post, but this (particularly with the removal of Janet Mock’s statement of solidarity with sex workers) wasn’t enough to change the overwhelming atmosphere of cisgender, class-privileged, heterosexual, white feminism.
It’s taken a while to put my thoughts into words, and in that time trans women and women of color have made their voices known in the post-march discussion, for the most part coming together to criticize a march that cis white women have praised.
“As we commit to each other to build this movement of resistance and liberation, NO ONE can be an afterthought. We have a chance to be stronger and better than we ever have before — and that starts with having hard conversations and being held accountable.” — Raquel Willis
I am tired of being an afterthought in the women’s movement. While TERFs and other overtly transphobic (and certainly, racist) groups were certainly active in marches around the nation, the overwhelming majority very clearly didn’t think of trans women (and women of color) at all. My impression was that there was no space for us at the march for pink pussies.
Signs like this were ubiquitous in the nation’s capitol. It seems that, regardless of their feelings on trans women and our validity as women, we simply weren’t on these women’s radar at all — despite trans women being among the most marginalized and most silenced women.
When black trans women came up to talk about black trans liberation, they fell on deaf ears — speaking to a crowd that was more than willing to cheer cis white women but much less enthusiastic about hearing from others. For Janet Mock, this meant delayed and lethargic claps. For Raquel Willis, this meant cutting her mic completely.
Merriam-Webster defines “marginalize” as “to relegate to an unimportant or powerless position within a society or group”. Marginalization is a subjective experience felt by all oppressed peoples. It is not necessarily an active process, and has relatively little to do with the overt use of slurs. Our challenge to marginalization — with the solidarity of our cis white sisters — must be both personal and intentional.
“What woman here is so enamored of her own oppression that she cannot see her heelprint upon another woman’s face?” — Audre Lorde
Marginalization is not just the strategy of cis white men, it is also the bread and butter of cis white women. There is nothing about being a woman that precludes one from using misogyny, transmisogyny, misogynoir, homophobia, and other oppressions against your sisters — intentionally or unintentionally.
You, cis white women, are hurting the rest of us. Until you realize you are agents of our oppression just as much as cis white men, things will not change.
I recognize that you have a lot to lose. Some effects of misogyny have been to your benefit.
As someone who is often read as one of the cis white women I’m writing about, the misogyny cis white women experience is heavily sheltered by offloading structural violence onto trans women, women of color, disabled women, and queer women. You have been cushioned from the amplified violence that other women face.
I am not asking for allyship, I am asking for comradery in a broader fight against oppression.
“Individuals who fight for the eradication of sexism without struggles to end racism or classism undermine their own efforts.” — bell hooks
This is not a call-out, this is a call-in. Your ideology and your practices are actively impeding not just our liberation, but your own as well. Are you fighting for #BlackLivesMatter? #BlackTransLivesMatter?
If the sisterhood you so often talk about is real, it’s time to sit down and hear your sisters. We come in every color, with all genitals, from every class and from every country. Our oppression may not be the same, but we are all stuck within the confines of imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy.
“Our approach to freedom need not be identical but it must be intersectional and inclusive. It must extend beyond ourselves. I know with surpassing certainty that my liberation is directly linked to the liberation of the undocumented trans Latina yearning for refuge. The disabled student seeking unequivocal access. The sex worker fighting to make her living safely.” — Janet Mock
We are linked. I am asking you to extend your analysis and I am gifting you my emotional labor to guide you to our collective liberation. Black and trans feminist authors have written extensively about their experiences and these works are easily available to you.
We’ve got a lot to say, and cis white feminism has a lot to learn — not just about us, but about yourselves. It’s time to listen.
“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” — Audre Lorde