I am a Woman. You are a Trans Woman. And That Distinction Matters.

A friend posted this on Facebook and I wrote the below response. I care about this issue enough that I thought I’d repost it here. (LivLife&Wolves — sorry for referring to you in the third person; thought it would be awkward to rewrite the comment to address you directly.)

As a cisgender woman with a transgender [redacted for public post on Medium], I definitely think this writer is missing the point and coming from a place of deep cisgender privilege. To the extent that this article argues that there are important differences between the experiences of these two groups of women, I can agree. To the extent that it argues that the most important aspect of those differences is that cisgender women experience problems transwomen do not, I think the author is totally missing the mark. In practice, the most important difference between being cisgender and transgender as a woman is that although all women experience difficulties not faced by cisgender men, transwomen have it SO much worse in terms of oppression, discrimination, harassment, violence, etc.
For example, she talks about locker rooms and how seeing a transwoman’s penis would be traumatic for her as a rape survivor. I don’t wish to minimize her trauma, but it seems like she hasn’t even considered the implications of forcing a transwoman to use the men’s locker room instead just because she has a penis. It’s virtually certain that it will be more traumatic for her because of the prevalence of transmisogynistic behaviour among many men, up to and including shockingly elevated rates of violence, sexual assault, and even murder of transwomen relative to cisgender women. Not to mention the guaranteed psychological anguish transgender people experience when their gender identity is invalidated, as recognized by the existing consensus among psychologists and psychiatrists on gender dysphoria.
There are some crappy things that come with being a cisgender woman that transwomen do not experience, like early childhood steeped in sexist social programming, and assaults on reproductive rights. But those frankly pale in comparison to the crappy things that come with being transgender in addition to being a woman, and pushing these women out of women’s “safe spaces” makes them very very unsafe. I for one would never in a million years trade my cisgender privilege for the traces of male privilege a transwoman like my [redacted for public post] might marginally benefit from, and I doubt a single TERF would either, because it’s very obvious to anyone willing to look at the situation objectively that being a cisgender woman is a whole lot easier than being a transwoman in today’s world.”

Addendum: an important detail I left out is that by definition, transgender exclusion requires outing transwomen who aren’t publicly open about their status, and that’s very very un-OK.

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