Posted by: hellonhairylegs | May 7, 2009

In Which a Radical Feminist Uses the Term “Trans”

In my blog archives you can find several references to homophobia, racism and sexism. You won’t find much about trans issues or transphobia. This is because I’m too afraid that I’ll screw up, but in not writing about these issues I’ve created a silence that really shouldn’t be there.

I’m a radical feminist. To some, that is immediately synonymous with transphobic. I am transphobic in the same way that I’m racist, classist, abelist, sizeist, sexist, homophobic and ageist. When we lived in a closed system like patriarchy, we inevitably absorb some of its values and it takes our entire lives to deconstruct them. Just like some sex-positive feminists disappoint with their individualism and inability to look at the consequences of their actions, so do some radical feminists in their transphobia.

Simply put, gender is a social construct that screws everyone up. The way trans people deal with gender is valid.

Many cis^feminists see trans women as women who can pass for men (in the same way some people of colour can pass as white). Other cis^feminists see trans women as men who pretend to be women (treating them as they’d treat white people who don blackface). Because of this feminists are talking past one another without actually communicating. We need to resolve this issue to make feminist spaces safe spaces, because when it gets down to it, this isn’t about me or other cis^ radical feminists. It is about trans people who are disproportionally assaulted, who are discriminated against in the workforce, it is about trans women who are excluded from feminism when feminism is for ALL women.  It about the women who are dying.

(^by cis all I mean is not trans, I don’t mean behaviour in line with assigned gender)

Note: All the comments on my blog are moderated, usually within 12 hours. Hate speech is not permitted. This post was updated for clarity.

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Responses

  1. This post is the awesome :). I love how succinctly you put your stance and how you put feminist opinion into perspective. And no I don’t have much more to add.

  2. And of course there are feminists who are trans women. The very least we cis feminists can do is stop talking about trans women and men as if they are objects to impose our theory on and start actually listening to their own experiences.

    –(Usually posting and commenting elsewhere as Astraea or Acrimonious Astraea, but I don’t have a WordPress account that reflects that)

  3. Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply otherwise.

  4. What a very thought-out and well-written piece. Clear, succinct and consise. It makes far too much sense to ignore or dismiss.

    I hope it’s not. Thank you.

  5. Hey there,

    I hear ya on the whole “don’t want to write about it and screw up” thing 🙂 I think this stuff is important to talk about, but too often there isn’t a real conversation about it, just hurling accusations at each other.

    I do think it is important to note that most of the radical feminists I know have nothing against (ack, sorry if this terminology isn’t right) trans- people. The vast majority don’t. There are some who are really awful, in my opinion. But I really don’t like the idea that radical feminist = transphobic, because it’s just not true. I’m not sure where that idea came from.

    I just read an interesting post at this site (hope it’s ok to post a link?):

    http://life-is-a-question.blogspot.com/2009/04/transphobia.html

    Cath Elliot posted a link to it, and I found it interesting- said a lot of the things I think about.

    Anyways- good luck with your post- I hope people can actually talk, and not just yell and accuse each other of things 🙂

  6. Thank you for this.

  7. Great post, Hellon. 😀

  8. Buggle: I’m not particularly impressed by that link. The “information” on intersex folks, for example, is trivially disprovable. The best way to learn more deeply about the experiences of trans people is to read writing by trans people, not opining about trans people.

    As an aside: If you’re trying to get it “right”, “trans” and “person”, “man”, or “woman” should have a space between them – there’s been a fair bit of bloggy conversation about this recently.

  9. Well, I don’t want to get all snarky- but who says that the person whose link I posted hasn’t read writing by trans people? That seems to be quite a big assumption. I also don’t like the idea that if you aren’t trans, you can’t have an opinion. That is just silly.

  10. Ah dear, ok, I just read the link at the curvature that you posted, and I don’t agree with a lot of it. Feminism is about freeing women from men’s oppression, not fighting for men who transition to femaleness to be allowed into women-only spaces.

  11. That’s just it buggle, just because they’re born with penises doesn’t mean that they’re men (maybe Lauredhel was right and you should read some of the blogs written by trans people. It’s a real eye-opener). Also, in regards to link you posted, yes, feminists can criticise statements made by organisations and individuals in regards to the gender binary, but when we live in a world where it almost universally accepted of course at least some people from marginalised group is going to take advantage of it (as in the suffragette and abolitionist movements, there was a lot of crossover but also a lot of damaging infighting).

  12. sorry hellonhairylegs I am afraid being born with a penis does biologically make you male…..what else can it make you? Just removing these outter biological reproductive organs does not ‘a womon make’….what that infers is that womon are just objects without a penis and anyone can join the ‘female biological club’, on that basis…….I think at the very least trans men should get womon’s opinions on this matter instead of taking it for granted that we will allow them to join our biological club ‘female’…..

  13. You’re missing the point by a wide margin. We’re not talking about biology. At all.

  14. HHH

    It’s so easy for people like ybawife to be bigots isn’t it?

    They don’t have to be the ones beaten up or killed after all….

  15. Ah, here comes the “bigot” accusations. Nice. So frustrating that this is what always happens. It just stops conversation. Oh well. I guess it’s more important to yell at people then to actually discuss real issues.

    I get really annoyed when people tell me to read trans people’s blogs. I have. That still doesn’t explain to me how a person born with a penis and classed at birth as a male is not a man. Say what? I can read every single trans person’s blog out there, and still disagree with some things. This is frustrating- just more of the same non-conversation. bleh. Maybe I’ll have to go spout off on my own blog 🙂

  16. Ok, someone who is biologically male isn’t a man. That’s point one. That’s also a natural follow on to accepting that gender is not the same as sex.

  17. buggle: well, I think it’s a question of analysis. You can indeed estimate that what defines a man or a woman is a matter of biology, something natural. You’re born this way.

    Personally I think that what makes woman and man is a system of oppression (patriarchy) and nature is quite the easy excuse to justify that. So for me what defines whether someone is or not a woman is her place among those two social categories.

    Now it’s possible to discuss centuries about the sex of angels, but in my case even if I don’t like to define myself as “woman” and don’t quite have the official biology, when it comes to real life situations where some guys are exhibing sexist, oppresive behaviour, it seems clear to me that I share a common interest, a common goal, with the other people who are categorised in the “woman” category, whether they like it or not, whatever their biological parts are.

  18. I too am guilty of not talking about certain topics in fear of screwing up. However, I have tried to cover more ground on topics that I wouldn’t normally talk about because I figure that if my intentions were in the right place that if I did screw up, whether it be a point I made or the language that I used, if people saw what my intention with the piece was, they just may forgive me because you’re also right in stating that no matter what priviledges we were born into, they stay with us and while we do notice them and attempt to deconstruct them, it takes a while and a lot of knowledge.

  19. heya, i just found your site through tracking back some of my stats and i wanted to say thanks for making this post. due to the transphobic history of radical feminism, i do tend to switch off when i see the words “radical feminist”, so it’s always nice to find someone who claims that identity to not be spouting transphobic vitriol. cheers.


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