The Femisphere: Trans Feminist Bloggers (Part 1)

The relationship between the trans community and the feminist one has been riddled with frustration, anger and accusations of exclusivity. Despite myriad challenges, however, there are those who feel that trans issues and feminist issues can co-exist and even that they naturally intersect. I recently conducted a roundtable with four trans feminist bloggers on this topic; here’s the first part of that discussion.

Meet the bloggers:

Emily Manuel, 31, lives in U.S. and Australia
Emily Manuel is a Greek-Australian becoming-Jewish writer, editor and sometime academic. She is editor-in-chief Global Comment and her work has also appeared at Questioning Transphobia, Tiger Beatdown, Billboard magazine, Bitch magazine and elsewhere.
Blogging for: Most of a decade.
When not blogging: Works as an adjunct academic, freelance journalist and does housework.
Post Pride: Post on Breanna Manning, and a story she did for Alternet on the stealthy privatization of Medicaid.
Twitter: @emiliawrites

 

Monica Maldonado, mid-late 20s, lives in U.S.
A Latina & queer trans woman, she writes on trans feminism “from my lens, sometimes in a critical theory kind of way and sometimes very informal and casual tone.” Read her work at TransActivity and Cisnormativity
Blogging (about trans feminism) since: February 2012
When not blogging: She does things. Also, a former sex-worker.
Post Pride: Democrats: “Shhhh, Don’t Mention The Trans Women!”
Twitter: @TransActivisty

 

Avory Faucette, 27, lives in Baltimore and works in Washington, D.C.
Radically Queer is an opinion blog where I talk about queer/trans identities & movements, intersectionality, law, policy and human rights. Queer Feminism is a collaborative website that frames feminism as radical opposition to patriarchy and challenges “feminist” positions that actually support patriarchy by engaging in oppression against various groups.
Blogging for: About four years in the social justice sphere.
When not blogging: Director of Operations, National Center for Transgender Equality (any opinions expressed in this round table are not NCTE’s)
Post Pride: Day of the Girl: The Right of Trans* Girls to an Education & Queer 101: LGBT Terminology and Saying What You Mean
Twitter: @QueerActivist

 

Stephen Ira, 20, lives in Yonkers, N.Y.
“I write about power structures and privilege as they relate to gender and sexuality and I’m committing to being intersectional or being bullshit!  Since I’m an anthropology and literature student, I try to bring analytical tools from those disciplines as I look at trans bodies and voices in media and various social spaces. I bring my perspective as a gay trans man, often talking about the alienation gay trans men experience from cis gay male spaces and communities. I also speak about my efforts to work in solidarity as an ally with people of color, physically disabled people and many other marginalized groups whose oppressions I do not share. Right now, I am spending a lot of time asking my fellow trans men to check their male privilege within the queer movement.” Stephen writes for Supermattachine! and blogs for the trans male quarterly, Original Plumbing.
Blogging since: About 2011, but it was his piece criticizing Chaz Bono for misogyny last November that drew attention to his writing.
When not blogging: He writes poetry and fiction, with poems forthcoming in Specter Magazine and the online component of an anthology of trans and genderqueer poetry. Also a full-time college student studying anthropology and literature.
Post Pride: This post on alienation and estrangement between gay trans men and gay cis men and this one about why trans men shouldn’t try to reclaim the word tranny.
Twitter: @Supermattachine

Ms. Blog: How did you come to call yourself a feminist, and what challenges have you found in identifying as both a feminist and somebody outside the traditional gender binary?

Emily: I honestly don’t remember a time when I didn’t feel outraged by the inequitable treatment of women in this world, but I grew up when the backlash was already full in swing so I don’t remember calling myself a feminist until I went to university and met other badass feminists.

Monica:  It took me a very long time to feel comfortable with the feminist label. Feminism’s long history with being transphobic, cissexist, heterosexist, racist and ableist put me into a position for quite some time of feeling that it “wasn’t for me,” and besides, I’d rationalize, all [feminists] wanted to do was live on some lesbian-only island and reassert old power dynamics with them at the top! Sure, I was outraged at the way that not only I was treated as a trans woman, but how all women were treated. But I wasn’t going to go that far! I’ve never had formal higher education, so I was never afforded the opportunity to engage with feminism in that context. My context was through my library card. Being a lone girl, with no family, and resources on the streets can kind of lead one to curse the entire world rather than just one subset of it. (Hey, I was already thinking intersectionally and about the kyrarchy and I didn’t even know it!)

Then as I came of age, I slowly was exposed to more of the human side of feminism vs. the straw-feminism that “outsiders” often see. Ultimately, I became ambivalent towards it, still feeling that the movement wasn’t for me. [I felt my] intersecting placements put me squarely outside [the feminist] mission. But, Emi Koyama’s “Transfeminist Manifesto” kind of changed all that for me. When I read that, I’d say, is the moment I became a feminist. Once I realized it wasn’t as monolithic, that feminism could be for me too, I began calling myself a feminist.

These days, however, I’m far more likely to call myself a trans feminist than a feminist, as it helps to clarify that I think about intersectionality, trans/gender theory, social context and pressure, and other areas of interest from a point of view of inclusion rather than exclusion. I feel that if I call myself a trans feminist, people are more likely to understand [what] I mean and that helps me distance myself from the trans-exclusionary feminists or just that history in general (history that is still very fresh, and we still experience repercussions from).

Emily: I’m going to be difficult here and state that I am not outside of the gender binary. I’m a woman, a woman who is trans. I occupy a different space in the cultural imaginary than that of a cis woman, but I am a part of that binary nevertheless. That my female life/body/psyche is invalidated and placed outside of the binary is an effect of relative powerlessness, not of the truth of my sex-gender. So to answer the question of challenges, I think that combating the vast amount of misunderstandings about what transness is and is not is first and foremost. These misunderstandings reach right to the heart of how we imagine sex, gender, culture, biology and sexuality.  So it is a long, painful, but necessary work.

Ms. Blog: I struggled with how best to frame/word that question (and clearly did not achieve success with it!). I ended up wording it “traditional gender binary” with hopes of focusing more on the “traditional” part, but I can see how even that isn’t the best way to phrase it. What would be a better term/phrase to use?

Emily: Well I think “trans*” would cover it adequately–that covers transgender and transsexual, and hence both binary and non-binary positions.  I can see where you were going with the emphasis on traditional, but the assumption that trans men and women are outside the binary (nonconsensual third-gendering, as Julia Serano calls it) is itself a common enough idea that I definitely want to redirect away from. But hopefully productively so.

Monica: Just like Emily, I’d like to mention that I as well have a placement that fits within the di-gender system. I place myself as a woman, and I, typically, am placed there by others. Though I’d disagree that “trans*” necessarily includes non-binary identities, as I’m loathe to coercively label anyone, or at the very least the little star doesn’t seem to add much inclusion as without, since it all seems largely contextual.

I’d also like to mention that I have a contention with the term ‘identification.’ For example: I’m loath to make racial analogies. I don’t identify as Latina, I am Latina. Even [if] not a single person in the world recognized me as such (or placed me as), it wouldn’t change the point of fact that I am Latina, and I place myself as Latina. It is, perhaps, the fuzziness of the term “identify” that makes it a bit contentious to me.

My earliest exposure to feminism was some awfully transphobic and cissexist stuff. And many of the writers of that content are not only still active in writing but still very active in being listened to as feminists and authorities on trans lives and experience. So I have a lot of internal struggle with that. My placement as a woman demands I’m a feminist, but my placement as a trans woman facilitates and sometimes necessitates my exclusion from it.

There are remarkable obstacles to overcome as a trans woman in this world, and reduced access to financial liberation, education, academia [and] ownership of one’s own body often times creates a systemic and institutional exclusion of trans women from the feminist conversation before we can even say the word. So, since so many cis feminists have politely and not so politely asked me to leave ‘their’ feminism, I’ve become fairly content fighting to smash the kyrarchy and root for all women, cis and trans, from the lens [of] trans feminism.

Stephen: I was raised by a staunchly feminist mother! From when I was very small she and my dad talked to me about feminist heroes like Abigail Adams and Emma Goldman. So I’ve been calling myself a feminist from day one. While I’m grateful that I knew from a young age about the evils of patriarchy, I’d like to note that the ability to have identified uncritically as a feminist is a sign of privilege, considering the problems with white privilege, able-bodied privilege and various other oppressive tropes in feminism.

When I came out as a trans man I briefly felt alienated from feminism–but keep in mind, I was 14 and was thus feeling alienated from pretty much everyone! I saw people out there who believed that I hated myself and had internalized misogyny sheerly by virtue of my identity. Nonetheless, the belief that feminism had ideals of justice at its core carried me through that time. Nowadays, I describe myself as a trans feminist because, well, I’m trans and a feminist, and also to make clear that I’m not one of those dodgy female-assigned trans people who’s cool with playing Mich Fest. By saying “trans feminist” I align myself with the people who are fighting cis supremacy in feminism.

Sometimes I am terrified by feminism.  That has been my biggest challenge–fear.  For myself, I fear bloggers like Dirt, who outs (and violently bullies) trans men on her blog at great personal risk to them. And far more so, I fear for my trans woman sisters: I fear people like Mary Daly, Janice Raymond and their acolytes, who wish to morally mandate trans women out of existence.  In the process, they undermine the feminist project for all women, cis and trans, by supporting biological essentialism and failing to recognize the fundamental right all humans have to control their own bodies.  The dominance of this kind of thought scares me because in it I see the potential demise of a movement for justice through its refusal to grow, change and include everyone.  It scares the hell out of me that I might one day have a daughter who would inherit a cissexist, non-intersectional, biologically essentialist feminism.

I’d like to problematize the term “gender binary” a little here. While I am a man, I am a trans man and I am a fag, and these identities impact and modify my maleness.  So I feel that I’m located on a spectrum of maleness, rather than simply occupying one space in two categories. That said, I’m perfectly comfy checking the little “M” box on paper, and I do carry binary privilege! I just wish that we had an understanding of maleness that was more expansive, that’s all, because I don’t think I’m doing the same thing as other men gender-wise, with my ensembles of workboots, red lipstick, ties and lace gloves.

Avory: I didn’t identify as a feminist until I was 24 or so and in law school. I couldn’t relate to a movement I thought was mostly about things like equal pay between men and women. I started reading blogs like Feministing and I began to connect feminism with my passion for human rights and things like queer issues, immigration, prison reform and critically challenging all kinds of structural oppressions. I then had a couple of years of obnoxiously telling everyone that they were feminists because of their beliefs whether they liked the term or not, because I thought everyone was like me–they really cared about feminist issues but just didn’t realize it.  It wasn’t until I got involved heavily with trans rights that I realized how completely valid it is for folks not to identify with that term, and how badly some feminists have treated people of color, trans people and others, particularly those with intersecting identities.  I also realized that many of my third wave feminist heroes aren’t so heroic, and that it’s my responsibility as a privileged white person to make feminism better by addressing crappy behavior even when the perpetrators are my friends, prioritizing the needs of the most marginalized within and without the movement and addressing structural inequalities.  Creating the Queer Feminism site is part of how I’m doing that, but there’s a lot more I need to do, and a lot of listening I need to practice.

I could answer this in either the original or the updated wording, since I do happen to be a nonbinary trans person.  I’ll do a bit of both.

I’ve found that feminist cis women tend to forget about trans people a lot when it comes to language.  Trans people are seen as allies, not an important part of the movement. To me, it’s very obvious that ending patriarchy includes ending strict gender roles–meaning that all genders are okay, from the high femme trans woman to the macho macho cis man to the loosey goosey agender androgyne. Part of that is thinking carefully about whom an issue actually affects. So when you’re talking about menstruation, not all women menstruate and not all menstruators are women. Nor are all feminists women. Feminists tend to get in trouble because we talk a lot about intersections but feminists are constantly saying things like “women and people of color.” We need to be very thoughtful and intentional when we think and talk about identity.

I also find that talk about gender inclusive feminism focuses a lot on men, or on battles of the sexes. That leaves nonbinary people like me out.  It’s hard to know where I fit there.  Not only do I feel excluded sometimes, but sometimes I feel inappropriately *in*cluded.  If you hold a feminist party, tell me I’m welcome and then exclude trans women, I don’t want to be at your fucking party.

I, too, now always add qualifiers to feminist and say I’m a “radical transqueer feminist.” It pisses me off so much that I have to do that!  It pisses me off that everyone doesn’t automatically hear “feminist” and think about trans people, queer people and “radical” things like prison abolition, socialism, fighting ongoing colonization and imperialism, disability justice, fat positivity, etc. It pisses me off that those topics are radical! And it pisses me off that the word “radical” has been co-opted in the feminist world by transmisogynists so that I have to put radical and trans back to back to avoid being misunderstood.

Stay tuned for Part 2, a discussion of cis dominance in the feminist movement.

Photos courtesy of the bloggers.

Comments

  1. I’m really hoping that part 2 of this series will be a discussion among a few of the many feminists who find the queer theories presented here problematic for feminism but have suggestions on how we can work together in the fight for women’s liberation.

    • I would like to see that too Rusty. Although I do not want to work with people who express so much contempt for my incredible sisters like Janice Raymond and Mary Daly. Is Ms. blog claiming that radical feminists who do have a feminist analysis of transsexuality and transgenderism are not feminists? If we think that trans feminism is an oxymoron that our feminist position is irrelevant and not of interest to Ms. blog? I would like to hear the stories of women whose lives have been threatened by transactivists. The women who were exposed to penises at Michfest, the 11 year old girl who was threatened by a 17 year old trans at Michfest. Why are you telling their side of the story and not ours? For all the claims of inclusivity around these issues… I am just not feeling it. People born with penises, or who identify as having penises, seem to have much louder voices than those of us with clits and cunts… Hmm… wonder why that is?

      • Discordia says:

        Will you stop with the hate? Mary Daly and Janice Raymond were nothing but bigots who harrassed trans women…honestly, yes radical feminism needs to go out with the dodo bird…neuroscience has proven that trans people exist and your theories don’t hold up to scruitiny. BTW harrassing, outing and body shaming trans women is anything but feminist.

      • clockworkerin says:

        “All transsexuals rape women’s bodies by reducing the real female form to an artefact, and appropriating this body for themselves. […] As the male-to-constructed-female transsexual exhibits the attempt to possess women in a bodily sense while acting out the images into which men have molded women, the male-to-constructed-female who claims to be a lesbian-feminist attempts to possess women at a deeper level, this time under the guise of challenging rather than conforming to the role and behavior of stereotyped femininity.

        I contend that the problem with transsexualism would best be served by morally mandating it out of existence.”
        Janice Raymond, “The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male” (1979)

        “The insane desire for power, the madness of boundary violation, is the mark of necrophiliacs who sense the lack of soul⁄spirit⁄life-loving principle with themselves and therefore try to invade and kill off all spirit, substituting conglomerates of corpses. This necrophilic invasion ⁄ elimination takes a variety of forms. Transsexualism is an example of male surgical siring which invades the female world with substitutes.”
        Mary Daly, “Gyn⁄Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism” (1978)

        We have our reasons for comtempt, wouldn’t you if people said your existance was one of necrophilia and rape, and so decided that we would be best “morally mandating it out of existence”?

      • Kate LBT says:

        Why that is? Because trans women are the ones directly affected by others’ prejudice.

        • Canaduck says:

          …are you seriously suggesting that born women AREN’T directly affected by others’ prejudice? Wow, way to make it appear that you really don’t understand what it is to be born female.

  2. A ftm individual writes “Right now, I am spending a lot of time asking my fellow trans men to check their male privilege within the queer movement.”

    Why not ask men to check their male privilege? And frankly, I wasn’t aware that trans men HAVE any privilege to check — unless you’re referring to the “privilege” of sitting down, shutting up, and letting the trans women be in charge of everything?

    • “unless you’re referring to the “privilege” of sitting down, shutting up, and letting the trans women be in charge of everything?”

      …um, actually, as it stands in trans activism, the “trans community” is largely being steered by white men. to some degree this is also true of the “queer women’s community,” too, despite the fact that trans men are not women and they often don’t even check their privilege about staying in that community and using their voice to make it more inclusive. actually, it’s totally amazing how Janice Raymond was right that men would be running everything in the lesbian community sooner or later, she just got the details wrong.

      tasking trans men to check their male privilege shouldn’t seem that preposterous unless you believe that trans men have some divine right to be running things within the “trans community.” if you think white men have a divine right to run things, chances are you slept through Feminism 101 or you don’t believe in feminism at all. we as trans women, especially trans women of color, are dealing with that we have little voice in the “trans community” and some of us are kept out altogether for silly things like too much feminist thought (as anti-feminism is alive and well amongst some of the token trans women that these white men bring in…sad, sad, sad), disability, social class, etc. so yes, you’ve been made aware that trans men have privilege to check, Cheryl.

      because if you think the “trans women” are “in charge of everything” perhaps you’re thinking of 1985, when that was true, not 2012…or perhaps you just have some animus towards trans women that you’d like to discuss instead?

    • Hi Cheryl–I don’t identify as ftm! That is not an okay initialism to use for me. In future, please don’t!

      • Ah, very sorry Stephen! This is all very confusing for me but I want you to be comfortable! As much as I hear people use the word “queer” it feels very much like an insult to me so it’s awkward…

  3. Heather says:

    There are two glaring omissions in this piece.

    The first and most important is the omission of non-trans feminist bloggers. If an article is going to examine whether trans issues and feminist can co-exist or even intersect, it seems obvious that this should be a discussion with (at least) two sides – trans bloggers and female feminists. How about presenting both sides of the story so your readership can draw its own conclusions?

    The second is the omission of anyone with historical perspective. Your roundtable of experts most senior member is 31. I’m only a few years older than that and even I recognize that a discussion such as this requires a far more significant sense of historical framework than an expert panel of this age cohort can provide.

    • I think the majority of the feminist blogosphere can provide a cisgender person’s perspective. The fact is many people, even feminists, rarely listen to trans women’s voices on this subject, and we should listen.

    • Heather – I can certainly speak to the first part of your comment. This is not an article in the traditional sense. The tag line “can trans feminist and feminism co-exist/intersect” was not written by me, nor was it a driving force behind this post. This post was one of many other profiles I have done for the Femisphere series. The point of the series is to highlight and profile various sub-genres within the feminist sphere online. You can read others linked above, or by searching “Femisphere” on this site to see what I mean. There is no “both sides” to this story because it is a profile – allowing the people being highlighted to share *their* story.

    • Emily Kunstler says:

      Regarding your first omission, every day on Ms. Magazine we read articles from non-trans feminist bloggers. I’m happy that Ms. Magazine had the good sense to only have trans feminist bloggers!

    • You seem to be suggesting that trans people can’t be feminists, and that feminists can’t be trans? Is that right? If so, why?

    • As others have pointed out, cis perspectives are more than well represented in feminism. Drowning out or erasing others’ voices is the opposite of justice. And please don’t speak for others in defining who is or isn’t a “female feminist.” I’m a cis woman and a feminist, and I’m terribly proud of Emily, Monica, and other trans feminist sisters and think it’s an absolute gift that they have shared their experiences and insights in this space, especially knowing the kinds of criticism and hatefulness they’d face for it.

      Those of us under 31 are in fact capable of studying and commenting intelligently on history that we haven’t directly experienced.

    • “…it seems obvious that this should be a discussion with (at least) two sides – trans bloggers and female feminists.”

      This discussion did include female feminists. Trans women are female.

      This reminds me of the complaint about Black History Month: “Why isn’t there a White History Month?”
      Answer: Every month is White History Month. Every feminist blog is from the cis female perspective. Now we’re seeing the other perspective.

    • Heather says:

      @Avital – Then maybe you should consider rewording the heading to indicate that this is not at all about coexisting and intersecting since clearly it isn’t.

      For the others, females continue to be an oppressed population. Equating the need for the female feminist perspective in this discussion with the desire for a white history month completely ignores that fact. Saying that we don’t need to hear any more from females because they already say enough is a decidedly anti-feminist statement.

      • Kate LBT says:

        We deal with more than enough cissexuals demanding for trans* people to demean ourselves and make ourselves less-than or subservient to cissexual-focused feminism enough already, thank you (the use of “females” to describe cissexual women is rather diagnostic, since in doing so, you are setting yourself up as more-woman than trans women).

        It’s NOT ok for cis people to demand a right of response to articles about trans people’s experiences and trans feminism. Cis people get more than enough of that already. In fact, if I can be so bold, you missed the point of the article the moment you hit the comment box to say that you thought trans people couldn’t talk about our feminisms without a cissexual getting to put us in our place.

    • Hear hear!

      Some objectivity, please. This piece is dripping with subjective trans bias.

    • This is a list of trans feminist bloggers, presented as a list of trans feminist bloggers. By the logic that a list of trans feminist bloggers should include cis feminist bloggers, a list of lesbian feminist bloggers should also include straight feminist bloggers. I’m sure you’d balk at such a suggestion, and quite rightly so.

  4. Lindsey says:

    “…I’m loathe to coercively label anyone…” – Monica

    oh, of course, UNLESS you’re coercively labeling women-born-female “cis,” then it’s perfectly okay to coercively label folks.

    • That’s about as coercive as calling heterosexual people heterosexual. Straight people were totally shocked, too, when it turned out they could have a label, too, because they were used to thinking of themselves as just plain “normal”. Cis isn’t an insult.

      Fabulous, looking forward to the rest of this roundtable! Such smart things said already.

      • Yeah, big old facepalm at that. If you identify as female and you were born assigned female, then you ARE cis, that’s EXACTLY what cisgendered is. It’s not derogatory. It’s a synonym.

    • Trans women are women born female, too.

      • gender slayer says:

        No, transwomen are born biologically male, with reproductive organs that males have (penis, testes), XY chromosomes. Female is the term used specifically for those of us born with reproductive systems that are female (vagina, uterus), XX. Please do not deny this basic fact or attempt to distort the reality that everyone who has taken a basic biology and sex class is able to recognize. Can transwomen get pregnant? Can transwomen menstruate? No? I wonder why that is?

        • No, there is no such thing as “biologically male.” XX does not deem you female – some people born XY are assigned female at birth by their doctors, and vice versa with XX. There are other chromosomal combinations as well. Women can be born with a penis, men with a uterus, etc. There is no single definition of male or female.

          Sex, like gender, is socially constructed. Please educate yourself. http://tranarchism.com/2010/11/26/not-your-moms-trans-101/

          You are promoting gender essentialism with this nonsense, and that is the opposite of feminism.

        • This is not a comment that a biologist who understood human sexual differentiation would write. There are a couple of great books out there that explain how the human species is actually way more complicated and wonderful than you’re making it out to be: _Evolution’s Rainbow_ by Joan Roughgarden and _Biological Exuberance_ by Bruce Bagemihl. Julia Serano’s _Whipping Girl_ also talks about the difference between neurological sex (which she calls “subconscious sex”) and morphological sex. Your comment reflects a common assumption that people only have one sex (morphological sex) and it’s always assigned correctly at birth (which it’s not), but actually, every person has two sexes. When they conflict, neurological sex is authoritative, because our brains make us who we are.

          All three of these books were written by biologists with Ph.Ds in the field. Hope you enjoy educating yourself more!

          • So should we just forget that globally, it is overwhelmingly men who rape women and children? Should we just stop naming the perpetrators in order to not be binary?

            And what about FGM? Should we just say that happens to “people,” because, after all, we don’t know their exact chromosome status?

            If we are going to name names, who exactly benefits from NOT naming who does what to whom?

          • womononajourney: Sorry, I’m not sure what your comment has to do with my comment? Maybe you meant to reply to somebody else?

        • Is your entire basis of womanhood based around the ability to get pregnant? Why are you on the Ms. blog, then?

      • Ooh, excellent reply.

  5. This sounds like a excellent series, and I (white, cis, het) look forward to hearing more from this round-table. I must confess,I’ve fallen away from the cis-dominated feminism blogs lately – after awhile, it gets repetitive to me – and I think fresh, diverse perspectives are just what the doctor ordered. Clinging to old, narrow definitions of feminism won’t help the movement.

  6. mkambui says:

    Interesting discussion. Looking forward to reading more.

  7. “accusations of exclusivity”? Because it’s not like cis feminists haven’t, you know, testified to Congress that transgender men and women should be “morally mandated out of existence” or anything. Silly “accusations!”

  8. gender slayer says:

    Thank you for these interviews. One question I have after reading them is – why does transfeminism contain the word “feminism”? Feminism is about liberation of FEMALES/WOMEN from the system of MALE dominance (patriarchy), so I would expect any term containing the word “feminism” to have at least *some* connection to females (the majority of women in the world are those of us born assigned female and raised as girls/women – transwomen are biologically still males, please do not deny this fact in any response to this comment). And yet, from what I gathered in these interviews, transfeminism seems to be narrowly focused on only a few issues that are specific to trans people only, and not even exclusive to transWOMEN. It is not just enough to proclaim oneself a feminist or a transfeminist, and then use that term to describe every action one takes from there on out. One must first analyze one’s own behavior and how that behavior may contribute to or support patriarchal systems, so that one can change that, before moving on to analyzing and changing the behavior of others and ultimately, the whole system. All women are not automatically feminists, even though most may agree that they should be liberated from patriarchy. This is the area in which I think transfeminism could use the most improvement.

    One of the main issues for transfeminists currently, as stated in these interviews, and an area where they clash with feminists, is the demand that transwomen be included in all women’s spaces, everywhere. Many transwomen refuse to acknowledge the VERY REAL differences between themselves and WBW that affect our behavior, attitudes, and sense of safety. Many transwomen also demand inclusion without acknowledging the patterns of male-socialized behavior by some transwomen that, whether intentional or not, is misogynist and therefore, uncomfortable for many women to be around, especially those of us who are survivors of male violence. Some transwomen/transfeminists go about attaining this goal in extreme and misogynist ways – by criticizing, policing, suing, and sending death threats to WBW (womyn-born-womyn) for wanting to have WBW-only space or or when talking about feminist issues that they feel are exclusionary to trans people. http://www.rapereliefshelter.bc.ca/learn/resources/chronology-events-kimberly-nixon-vs-vancouver-rape-relief-society

    One of the main issues for feminists is calling out and changing misogynist behavior, but where are the transfeminists (especially the ones interviewed) on record denouncing the misogyny, lesbophobia, violence and death threats that women and feminists have received from some transwomen? There are hardly any to be found, and the ones who do speak up get denounced and threatened by their own trans community. Avery Faucette, one of the interviewees in this article, is on record supporting transwomen’s misogynistic and lesbian-hating Cotton Ceiling workshop sponsored by Planned Parenthood and held in Toronto this year. The “cotton celling” – ironically, a play on the feminist term “glass ceiling” – represents lesbian’s underwear as a “barrier” that transwomen need to break through to achieve full inclusion in women’s space. Avery says, “Radfems, you’re not just missing out on great sex. You’re confused about what it means to be a lesbian, or a woman. I don’t care what your physical preferences are or what gender identity you prefer. I do care that you confuse those two things, and thereby insult trans women. I care that you don’t bother to interrogate the origins of your phallus-based distaste for transwomen, and think about whether it’s actually a dislike of the organ that’s happening here or whether transphobia and a refusal to view trans women as women is involved. I care that you assume describing yourself as a lesbian tells others that you prefer what you call a pussy, as if everyone has the same definition of lesbian, woman, or pussy.”
    http://radicalhub.com/2012/03/27/an-open-letter-to-the-national-center-for-transgende%E2%80%8Br-equality-on-the-cotton-ceiling-debacle/
    http://queerfeminism.com/2012/03/27/the-cotton-ceiling-is-real-and-its-time-for-all-queer-and-trans-people-to-fight-back/
    If that’s what inclusion means for transfeminists (lesbians getting over their “phallus-based distaste for transwomen”), I want NO PART OF IT, and neither should any other feminist who supports lesbians and our right to define our sexuality and attraction to female-bodied people.

    And where exactly are the contributions of trans people to FEMINISM? If they genuinely wish to be included and work alongside us in this movement, how are they showing their support for the issues of the 99.9% of the women in this world, like reproductive rights? I’m not seeing any support by transwomen on these issues. Why should feminists work to include any transfeminists in our movement who are not only openly misogynist in their activism, but focusing on policing feminists’ wording and trying to silence feminists from speaking about our issues? For example, prominent transfeminist Julia Serano, said “as an infertile woman, all this contraceptive-centric feminism over the last month has been alienating for me…” http://appropriately-inappropriate.tumblr.com/post/21368543998/julia-serano-thinking-that-womens-reproductive, and Joelle Ruby Ryan, transwoman and professor of Women’s Studies at UNH, stated that using the words/terms “sex class” and “female” was passé and offensive http://gendertrender.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/joelle-ruby-ryan-the-word-female-is-offensive.jpg.

    Feminists created the concepts of gender and sex class to describe and name our oppression and subsequently, our oppressors, and now transfeminists – many of whom were were raised as white, heterosexual males for the majority of their lives prior to transitioning – demand that we change our language because our terms do not describe every individual under the trans umbrella. In doing such, they are acting exactly as the patriarchy has done for millennia in trying to control and water down the language that we have created, effectively erasing any means we have to describe the evidence of the existence of our oppression. Instead of feeling alienated and seeking to change our language, why can’t transwomen acknowledge the differences between us and yet still support their “cis” sisters in our fight for our reproductive rights? I know plenty of lesbians and infertile females who support these issues, regardless of whether they have need for those services, because they are about the rights for ALL WOMEN.

    If transfeminists are genuinely seeking inclusion within the greater feminist community, rather than changing it to suite their needs, or destroying it altogether, I believe it is necessary that they first spend some time analyzing and working to change the misogynist behavior within their own community first, rather than focusing on protesting and blaming women/feminists for their oppression. We do have a common enemy : the patriarchy. If transfeminsts would acknowledge that basic fact and focus their energies on dismantling the system that oppresses both of us, we could all move forward in support of one another.

    Here is a relevant piece of advice for how to go about doing that, written in 2002 by Jenny Roberts, a transwoman who clearly understands the conundrum of transwomen’s inclusion in feminism, as well as women’s struggles, someone I would be proud to call sister and feminist : http://www.annelawrence.com/buildingbridges.html

    • I am somehow completely unsurprised that someone who writes a long multi-paragraph comment arguing that people are really the gender they were coercively assigned as at birth would choose to post it under the pseudonym “gender slayer”. It’s not even ironic really.

      • Yeah. I kind of had the impression that feminism is about gender not mattering… so believing that there are only two genders and people always have to act as if they’re the one corresponding to the sex they were coercively assigned at birth isn’t exactly feminist. You can’t have it both ways: either gender is really important, or the shape of genitals a person had when they were a baby means nothing for the rest of that person’s life unless they choose to find meaning in it.

        As for the username “gender slayer”, I can’t laugh off eliminationist rhetoric anymore. Someone saying that they want trans people to be denied transition and denied the right to be seen as the gender they are, in some kind of misguided attempt to make trans people into cis people (hint: it doesn’t work — that just makes us into very unhappy and/or angry trans people), is only superficially different from someone saying that trans people should be killed. There is a difference between psychic death and literal death, but it’s not as great as people who haven’t been perilously near the former kind would like to think.

        • Discordia says:

          Feminsim is supposed to be about gender not mattering…also about not body policing or snarking.

          • Queer Woman With Questions says:

            Gender Slayer, I will not take the time to re-hash the argument I made on Monica’s blog, so I will simply re-post the pertinent excerpts here. I know that you discriminate based on chromosomal status so let’s make it clear right now that I am an XX-born queer and gender-queer woman. Here we go:

            “Many radical feminist blogs I read maintain that all people with XY chromosomes inflict violence on all people with XX chromosomes with no exceptions. However, I am one of those exceptions. First, I was abused by my mother from childhood until I moved away for college, and was removed from the home for a period to live with my grandmother and dad. Secondly, I have been in emotionally abusive relationships with other XX-born queer and lesbian women, and worse, I know women in the LGBT community whose relationship violence has escalated to where they need to go to the shelters. This presents a problem: The shelters available for them are all-women shelters, and their abusers, being female, have tried entering those shelters under false pretenses to access their victims. Finally, the trans women I am friends with and have dated have faced much more threatening episodes of violence on the streets, including rape and death threats, than I have.

            long with our abortion rights being chipped away, inappropriate standards of ob-gyn care, the rising rates of HIV/AIDS among women and children, rape/sexual assault, and the true medical dangers of hormonal contraception, violence against women is a top feminist issue. It seems though that unless the episode of violence in question involves an XY male abuser and an XX female victim, it doesn’t count. You are accused of derailing, or accused of aligning with patriarchy, and are banned from the community.

            But I am not derailing. I have experienced as much abuse from XX-born women in my life as I have from XY-born men, owing to my sexual orientation, as well as who my mother was. I was raped by a man, so I absolutely know what that’s like. But the longer-term abuse from my mother and one ex-girlfriend in particular was more insidious and did more damage in aggregate. At present, it seems that radical feminists’ preferred solution for women who are victims of any violence that does not neatly fit into the XY male abuser/XX female victim model is silencing, shaming, and ordering them to go away.

            [I]in radical feminist spaces, silencing those of us with this experience leads to the rejection of productive discussion and the creation of authentic solutions. “Get rid of all non-radfems” is not a solution. Radfems wonder why women do not shun men as a whole and form female-only communities. The reason we don’t is because female-only communities are also problematic. The rate of domestic abuse in lesbian relationships is identical to the rate of abuse in all other relationships. The only way to eliminate violence is to expose it and treat it with the seriousness it deserves. But whether a woman has been abused by a female parent, a female partner or both, there is virtually no place she can turn.”

            Tell me why you deny XX-born woman-on-woman violence like I’ve experienced and order me into silence and disappearance, and we’ll talk. Until then, I have nothing to say to you.

    • Naradra says:

      Actually “Gender Slayer” I couldn’t keep reading past the middle of the third paragraph. It doesn’t actually surprise me, I mean someone opening is statement saying “don’t use your argument”, is kinda like creationist of religious people asking to not quote science, evolution or anything actually verifiable and mesurable, when arguing on just about any issue really.

      Your comment reek of bigotry, trans phobia and trans misogyny, and border on outright Hate speech if you ask me. And by going on about gender and how not legitim trans woman are, you are actually doing exactly what you denounce of patriarchy you are dehumanizing people based on there sexual characteristic, what a good way to preach by example by perpetrating exactly the system you are trying to take down.

    • Awesome response, thanks Gender Slayer!

      Ask not what feminism can do for YOU, but what YOU can do for feminism :)

      Here’s an expanded version:

      http://liberationcollective.wordpress.com/2012/06/12/transfeminism-what-does-it-have-to-do-with-feminism/

    • Gender Less says:

      Excellent post, Gender Slayer! And to others…. Gender Slayer is a truly excellent Name*. “Gender” doesn’t exist. “Gender” is how the oppressing patriarchy socializes Females into the oppressive sex roles which Males defined for Females. As Feminist Females, we are eager to slay the socially-construed concept of “gender”. That IS the point of Feminism.

  9. Avery Thyme says:

    Gender Slayer … Thank you so much for this post! You hit the nail on the head and made sense of all my own frustrated thoughts on this topic. These bloggers say such insulting and inaccurate things about feminists. I refuse to apologize for being a feminist and fighting for women’s right to live free of misogyny.

    • “These bloggers say such insulting and inaccurate things about feminists.”

      …do you care to provide examples? or is the entirety of your argument that “trans women are icky”? because seems to be the gist of the argument provided by someone with a nice, disturbingly violent name like Gender Slayer.

      i refuse to apologize for being a feminist, too, but i also refuse to apologize for being a trans woman.

  10. How about Natalie Reed? She’s a really great blogger!

  11. Is “intersectionality” even a word?

    • Karen S says:

      Of late it has been a word…

      • Kate LBT says:

        “Intersectionality” was coined in the 1970s to describe the ways that oppressions intersect. The classic example is companies that would hire white women before black women and black men before black women, and then when layoffs came, the black women, who had the least seniority due to the intersecting bias against women AND people of color, would be fired first.

  12. MS magazine didn’t even print last year’s Merlin Stone death announcement and the homage that was sent to them them both in letter form and in email, from Gloria Steinem office with recommendation. . Merlin Stone didn’t get in, but the transexual bloggers did??

  13. Whispers_of_Undrentide says:

    To the transphobic Fundamentalists posting here: do you really think perspectives like those of Sheila Jeffreys are valid for a legit feminist/trans dialogue? Would you invite white nationalists to a serious discussion on race relations?

  14. PureEvilObviously says:

    I got here by googling ‘is feminism transphobic’. I’ve been trying very much so to find the non-bigoted elements of feminism, being that my first experience with the movement was one of those teachers that makes sure every man in her classroom knows he should feel ashamed of his gender. I’ve found some webpages like Autostraddle and some others, which I respect dearly, read and adore.

    I find, sadly, most feminism is preoccupied with making me and my wife antagonists, being that we both where born with a penis. (Purely evil people we must be, right?) We got together as a ‘gay couple’, or at least that’s how society viewed us at the time. I can say that the more my wife passes, the less discrimination is directed at us, in general.

    Once I lost a job we REALLY needed the money from just for bringing her in. And I say this not lightly, I absolutely KNOW without a shadow of a dought that it was because i brought her into work. We went for dinner, as it was a restaurant. I’ll never forget the look on my bosses face. I thought it was weird that he came personally to our table, he just looked confused. The next day I had no job. And I have to qualify this, my coworker less then a week earlier had been bailed out by the same guy because he visited his wife that he put in the hospital… she freaked out and called the police (rightfully) and they had no problem bailing him out. Just bringing my wife (then girlfriend) into work was enough to get me fired though. I remember the sinking feeling that was the realization that just being in love with someone was worse then putting your wife in the hospital (and calling THEM up to bail him out) in their eyes. I remember we had train tracks behind our place, we made plans to just hold hands and jump in front of one together. (We had both spent over 3 months of passing out resumes and not getting work. Starving, stealing food to survive.) The world isn’t very nice very often to effeminate ‘men’, and to be honest we had both had enough of being poor and physically and emotionally abused… My wife got a job offer the next day, on the other side of the country, and that is literally the only reason both of us are alive today.

    When I was younger, I was beaten over and over again for my sexual identity, even by members of my own family. Once I hid in ditches, bare feet bloodied from running on gravel as I thought my father had gone in the house to get a weapon to finish me off. That night I told the police nothing, feeling that I was protecting my family. When I informed my mother of this, she called me a liar, and yelled at me. I had stood up to the cops, in my head my father getting arrested would have made him loose his job, and damaged the rest of the families lives. I remember the sting from my mother yelling about it being worse then the physical blows, even worse then the fear of death. I remember it was the moment my childhood died.

    I’d actually say I had the ‘fag’ beaten out of me, over and over again, I felt myself become less and less outwardly identifiable as queer. One time 4-5 people in the town I lived in threw trash at me from their truck as I was drinking coffee. They yelled something about me being a faggot or something unintelligible. I had grown up with these people, some of them had been friends. Somehow something subconsciously bleed out of me a little every time, until now I mostly have to tell people (even gay people) I’m queer at all. Except in Thailand that is, it seems gay bois in Thailand can spot me from 500 yards away. It’s massively freeing being in Thai society whenever my wife sees her doctors. Being queer or trans is just such a non-issue, sometimes it feels like the first time I ever really breathed was there. As if no one was trying to keep me down for just being who I was. The amount of respect I’ve gotten from the culture, and the doctors there… almost brings a tear to my eye.

    The sad thing is, as my wife passes more and more, feminism acts as if I understand oppression less and less. You see, because of replies to posts like this, and lets be honest almost all of American societies general disdain and stigmatization of trans people… my wife is not comfortable telling people her past.

    I actually could care less if she gets FFS in terms of physical attractiveness. I’ve always loved her for who she is and was. For her mind, and her soul; not for her face or her body. But to be honest, once she has that surgery taken care of, I will breath a sigh of relief knowing that my wife will be safer. You see, the amount of death threats she has gotten for being the cute trans girl I couldn’t count on one hand. I’ve stared down at least 4, one of which came from a man I later understood had just gotten out of prison for murdering a man by stabbing him over a hundred times as a minor. In fact the more she passes the less discrimination she faces categorically. (At least in our present geographical location.)

    I’m saddened. So many times I hear “Yeah but what about the menz.” whenever men bring up that men are the victims of sexism and bigotry as well. It’s odd how much “But what about the REAL womensz.” I see in the replies of comments here…. To be honest, when desperately searching for allies in feminism (or the gay community for that matter) against the very real bigotry me and my wife have faced… and instead finding rhetoric that would fit in completely with a Nuremberg rally… I can defiantly say it leaves me with a heavy heart. But a renewed interest in things like supporting groups that free sex slaves in south east Asia, as it seems that much of feminism would rather argue about what an abomination my wife is, which women count as people, and statistics; then roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty in the trenches.

    I’m sure though, when most radical feminists see me in the street, they think “straight white man, better check his privilege, what could he possibly know about oppression”. But I’m okay with that, my wife is worth any amount of discrimination from anyone… even people that wave the enlightened flags of ‘gender equality’. I don’t want a part in that kind of ‘radical feminist culture’, in the same way that I doubt ethnic minorities want part in white supremacy groups.

    I’m sure they would lovingly accept my wife into their cultures arms though… being she passes as well as she does now. Yet if the found out her past, I imagine it would go down much like how that Jewish grandmother you didn’t know you had would go down with your local grand dragon.

    Meh enough internet for today… there’s only so much of this kinda of crap my heart can take.

  15. “transwomen are female”

    er… no they are not – they are WOMEN but they are not female. Sorry but a female is defined as:

    FEMALE DEF: Female (♀) is the sex of an organism, or a part of an organism, which produces non-mobile ova (egg cells).

    Feminism gets it’s name from females.

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