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.


Cisnormativity Constructed as Respectability Politics

2012/10/17

This is the big post that I’ve been taking forever to work on. It’s been consuming most of the executive function that I would be spending on writing more frequent updates. Now that it’s done let’s see if I can get into that habit.

Cisnormativity and heteronormativity were made into separate structures by cis GLB people as a strategic decision. The cis norm, as its own structure, is very much a product of the Gay Rights Movement. Prior to this separation, non-cis and non-het people (together, Gender and Sexuality Minorities, or GSM) were essentially viewed as the same bunch of sexual and gender deviants by the EuroAmerican white hegemonic culture.

The motive for this separation is fairly simple. Cis gay men, lesbians, and bisexual people created the division in order to narrow the group of people they were advocating for, and to present a more “acceptable” face to heteropatriarchy. This “acceptable” face could only be taken by the most “presentable” GSM people. Because presentability means being gender-conforming, class privileged, and white, and the split was created at a time (soon after the Stonewall Riot) when poor and working-class trans women of color such as Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson were extremely prominent, separating off trans people was an obvious path to take at the time the tactic was employed.

Further, being able to position themselves as enforcers of cisnormativity gave cis sexual minority people further upward mobility. This position as enforcers is taken when a gay Congressman removes trans protections from a rights bill, on the grounds that trans women must not have a legally acknowledged right to use the appropriate restroom. This position is taken when a lesbian “radical feminist” demands that trans women not exist, or that trans men not transition. This position gives cis sexual minority people advantages because it allows them to shift “unacceptability” off onto trans people. It allows them, specifically, to point to transitioning/ed CAMAB people (especially People of Color) and say “we’re not like them“, playing off society’s pre-existing transmisogyny and racism.

It is important, in any examination of these structures, to point out that cisnormativity and heteronormativity are not and never were freestanding social institutions, not only entwined together (which, to some extent they still are), but also that they are aspects of patriarchy. The oppression of GSM people sits on a foundation of gender-coercion and misogyny. Any analysis of this oppression, and of tactics to fight it, that neglects to consider patriarchy fails. Because of this, the anti-trans prejudices that are being played on here are often specifically against trans women. Further, this creation of a category of “fake” women is part of misogyny, as it creates a way to deny the womanhood of “unacceptable” women, an attack which is made primarily against Black women (one example is here) Read the rest of this entry »


A Rant

2012/07/31

As of this writing, my Trans Health as it Should Be post on tumblr has 279 notes. Most of them have been positive, but one point from it has been, shall I say, rather controversial.

This point has been that women’s primary care clinics, when welcoming trans people, should welcome trans women before welcoming trans men. That when only able to add one group of trans people’s hormone replacements to the services the clinic offers, that estrogen-based HRT be prioritized above testosterone-based.

I am angered. I am irate. I am filled with righteous fury.

Because, not only are trans men (these criticisms generally come from trans men, with one cis man pulling the standard cis bullshit. They’re also pretty much always from people as white as I am. This is white men’s bullshit) continuing to demand that women’s space be open to them, in a way that all too often lets it claim to be trans-inclusive (or worse, “Women and Trans”) while actively excluding trans women and other non-cis DMAB people who need those services, they are also, again, demanding that trans women be last in line for any practical resource. Even places set to provide medical care to women are being asked to provide medical care no woman needs before they provide medical care to trans women.

Of course the idea that it is unjust to put trans women and others with our same needs last in line for every single thing in existence becomes controversial when we point out that we’re behind people who don’t even belong in that line.

Of course trans men think they deserve more access to primary care services directed to women than we do. Because those services are awesome.

It’s these clinics that are often leaders in adopting informed consent standards for providing hormone treatments, after all. And the post never even said that trans men, as men, should be excluded. It said that trans women, as women, should have priority access to resources set aside for women over trans men. The kind of respectful care that these clinics provide should be standard for everyone, especially for trans people, with our unique medical needs and relationship to the medical establishment. Right now, though, the access standard is that women’s resources are bending over backwards to include trans men, often to the exclusion of trans women.

The status quo is that, when these great resources exist, they are granted to men before women even when their mission was to serve women at their creation.

When I personally reread that post, I felt I fell into the Appeaser mode too much in it. But even that is not enough. Because no amount of stating that trans men deserve to have access to respectful care for all of their medical needs, both those they share with others of their anatomy and transition-related things, will appease them from saying that anywhere should put women first.

I could wear the letters off the keys on my keyboard (the E has already gone before I started writing this. It can be done!) advocating for trans men’s access to hormones on informed consent. I even derailed this rant to put a paragraph in stating that. But it will not be enough. It will never be enough. Nothing will ever be enough, because I am directly saying that trans women should ever not be last in line for any. single. thing.

Because trans women are always last in line.


Trans Health, Women’s Health, and Inclusion

2012/06/30

Considering the recent discussion prompted by FWHC’s Trans Health Initiative (this article gives a good summary of the issues and historical context), how “trans inclusive” at a women’s health center means inclusion for trans men, means the provision of care no woman needs for trans men, and does not mean that trans women are welcome (usually we are not), it is necessary to examine how things should be.

In our cisnormative society, certain body parts are associated with women, and others with men. In our patriarchal society, men dominate spaces where they are welcomed at the expense of women’s comfort and, at times, safety. In our patriarchal society, health care for men is prioritized and normalized over health care for women. The feminist response to this has involved the creation of women’s clinics and health centers, which provide medical care specifically for women in an anti-misogynist safe space.

Because of cisnormativity and the history of feminism actively creating cis-only women’s spaces (whether by the creation of new spaces or the expulsion of trans women from existing inclusive spaces), these clinics are created to only serve cis women. Because of feminism’s cissexism, and history of turning a blind eye to the male privilege possessed by trans men, such spaces have not only welcomed trans men, but changed themselves to accommodate trans men (de-gendering themselves while still excluding trans women and training people in providing care for trans men, including care no woman needs).

Including trans men in a women’s space, of any kind, while excluding trans women, is an act of transmisogyny. De-gendering a women’s space while keeping it DFAB-only, is an act of transmisogyny. Claiming a women’s space is “trans-inclusive”, as these places do, while excluding women who are known to be trans, is an act of transmisogyny.

Read the rest of this entry »


A Lie the Patriarchy Told

2012/05/24

Patriarchy lies.

Patriarchy lies about the means by which it operates.

This seems obvious enough. No system of oppression is ever fully truthful about its means. Patriarchy in particular lies to claim that it values women, it lies when it claims that things coded as “women’s work” are not degraded, it lies as it feeds women myths about rape. Among many other things.

One particular patriarchal lie is hyper-relevant to trans people. This is the lie that “woman” and “man”, “female” and “male”, the oppressed and oppressor classes for sexism, are defined by . . . well, whatever is convenient for those in power to claim they are defined by at the moment, but in a way that consistently denies that trans people are who and what we say we are. Having a penis or having a vagina is a popular one. So are assumed chromosomes based on a person’s birth designation. I say “assumed” because most invocations of this to insist that someone is or is not a man or woman do not involve anyone calling for a karyotype. I’ve never been karyotyped but people are happy to insist I am XY.

This is a lie, though. Patriarchy is fully happy dishing up anything it means to serve to women to me, and to other trans women, regardless of our genital status. When I spend half of my train ride home from a protest worried if the man who has struck up an unwanted conversation is going to touch me (especially in a way that reveals that I am trans), I am oppressed by sexism. When men think they can speak over me on topics I am an expert on (like, ironically, my relation to Feminist theory as a trans woman), I face sexism. Patriarchy sees me as a woman because Patriarchy sees me through the eyes of everyone around me who carries it. Others can tell their own stories of facing sexism, which we all have.

As a woman, my inability to bear children does not define me; to phrase this differently, my inability to bear children has not spared me the ravages of patriarchy. Cis men treat me as a woman, with all the negativity that implies. My lack of a uterus does not insulate me from that. The meaning of “woman” in our society is not synonymous with the meaning of “womb.”

– Quinnae Moongazer

Bolding added

So the cissexist straight cis guys in my life who “still see me as a guy” (based on their own words to others or me)…

  • Interrupt me constantly
  • Degrade me with misogynist jokes
  • Ignore my opinions
  • Shame every sexual thing I do
  • Treat me as though I’m less capable of anything
  • Steal my ideas
  • Act condescending as shit
  • Victim blame me
  • Objectify me
  • Sometimes even sexually assault me

They just don’t want to have consensual sex with or date me while they’re willing to with cis girls, nor do they wanna use my name or use the correct pronouns.

– Kinsey Hope

This goes even further. While we are (sometimes and sometimes not) shielded from many aspects of sexism by disguising ourselves as men or boys, or by convincing ourselves that we are, even then we are only shielded from some aspects. As women and girls who are disguising ourselves, every little bit of an ambient atmosphere of misogyny is as much an attack against us as it is against every other woman. Even before I recognized myself, I still felt (although I didn’t know why) misogyny as an attack on me. And, again, I am not alone or even unusual in this.

Returning to the original point, trans women are viewed as women by the Patriarchy, and oppressed by sexism as women, even as it lies and claims we are men. That claim is, indeed, part of oppression of trans people. As part of the complex of ideas that makes up the ideology of Patriarchy is the belief that our genders can be defined for us, that they can be reduced to our “biological sex” (remind me to rewrite the post I wrote on the construction of that last year because that post is fucking awful), itself a part of this oppression.

That claim, that genitals or the chromosomes one is assumed to have had based on their designation at birth determine one’s status as a man or a woman (and that those are the only two options), or the kind of fertility someone has (or would be speculated to have based on their birth designation), is oppressive to trans people. It is made to deny our reality. It is made to push us back into a box where we do not exist. It is made to deny that we suffer the oppression we do.

It is a lie that justifies violence done to us (the brunt of which is borne by Black and Latina trans women). It is a lie that calls us deceptive, and so it is a lie that projects itself onto us, a lie that tears us down for our honesty. It is a lie that needs to be destroyed. It is a lie that has been bought hook, line, and sinker by certain schools of feminism.

It is a lie that Patriarchy told, and so it is a lie that to believe it is to subscribe to Patriarchy.