I’d like to be able to call myself a feminist

2012/11/04

I’d like to.

I really would.

But doing that would feel like a lie.

Because if I say I’m a feminist, what I’m saying is “I feel like I belong, like I’m safe, in feminist spaces”. And that, except for spaces which are specifically trans, is not true.

It’s because of a barrage of micro (and macro) aggressions conflating having a penis with receiving the material benefits of patriarchal manhood. Because so many feminists don’t care enough to know if someone they’re praising or quoting has a history of active transmisogyny and cissexism. It’s those constant microaggressions that tell me, continually, that feminism is not for me, even when feminists say otherwise. Sometimes even from feminists who say otherwise.

It’s because¬†posts like this¬†have to be written, among other reasons.

But, unlike some very dear friends of mine, I want to be able to call myself a feminist and not feel like I am lying, or, at best, oversimplifying.

When I first came out, I was a very staunch feminist. I don’t really want to say whether I was or wasn’t before. I believed a lot of feminist ideals, but I also believed myself to be a man, and acknowledged that a lot of feminist women believed that men shouldn’t claim feminism (which is a belief that I now hold, quite strongly. Men should not call themselves feminists). I’m staunchly opposed to sexism, but I don’t have feminism as a place to stand from which to work against it.

It wasn’t until some months, almost half a year, after I came out, facing microaggression after microaggression in feminist spaces (and, of course, having my anger at them, when expressed, invalidated behind my back), until I saw that so many feminist spaces worked like this, at best (at least, the ones created by white cis women almost always were like this at best. My friend Christine points out that this is, specifically, a white tradition). When I saw that not only was I hated in these spaces, but also that depth of analysis was hard to find (not even the ones who called thesmelves “radical” spend nearly as much time advocating radicalism as they do promoting bigotry against trans women), I left.

And so, ultimately, I gave up trying to call myself a feminist, or call what I advocate feminism. Too little depth of analysis. Too much self-centeredness. Too little critique of the cissexism and transmisogyny handed to them by society, or handed down by their foremothers.

For me to call myself a feminist would require cis women creating feminist spaces in which I can let my guard down. In which I can feel like I belong, like my status there is not tenuous, like people will have my back if conflict happens.

So far the only spaces I’ve felt that way in were spaces that defined themselves as not feminist but otherwise anti-sexist.