Having read The Philadelphia Gay News (PGN) article by Victoria A. Brownworth titled “Victims of the night: Stories of trans sex workers” I was very impressed by the authors personal investment in her neighbors well being. Her writing indicates a deep compassion for the most marginalized of our community, Tiffani, a black transgender working woman and offered many teaching moments. I was totally cool with her piece until I read the comments and began wondering why trans people were so upset with her writing this article.
Brownworth’s article was quick to point out she is a white middle class woman who sometimes feels extremely vulnerable in this prevalently black part of Philadelphia.
It’s from her life experiences living their that she feels validates her latest metaphor explaining why she is a Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist (TERF). June 5th 2013, just prior to the PGN publishing Brownworth’s latest article she explains why, in her opinion, trans woman have no right to be at the Michigan womyns music fest. She believes trans people aren’t real woman the same as she can empathize with black peoples plights, but she could never be, well, black. *Facepalm*
“MWMF is about women who are oppressed by men every minute of every day being free of that oppression for one week of their year or possibly their lives and reveling in that and celebrating each other, just like the Greek picnic is about solidarity among African-Americans who are oppressed by racism every day of their lives being free of that in all-black space.
SLAP!….she asks would it be appropriate for white people to have a ‘camp Caucasian’ outside of the Greek picnic…?
But if you can’t leave your male privilege there, as well as your penis, then MWMF is not the place for you and your presence will harm other women who, like me, have been brutalized by men. It will also alter the atmosphere for every woman who has come specifically to be in women-only space because they will feel just as constrained as they feel in straight society.”
Brownworth has a long history of helping to create the social economic conditions that put Tiffani on the street. In fact it stretches back until at least 1981. TS Roadmap reports:
Victoria Brownworth was on the 2003 selection committee for the Lambda Literary Awards. This committee voted to honor The Man Who Would Be Queen by J. Michael Bailey as a finalist for an award in the trans category in February 2004.
“When we talk about the role of male-to-female transsexuals in the women’s movement as a whole and the lesbian movement in particular I feel we are talking about the ultimate in male power-tripping.”-Victoria Brownworth, Philadelphia Gay News – May 29, 1981, pp, 22, 27
To put this into context, her first anti trans article published by PGN was three years BEFOREGendernet, the first ever online group for the betterment of trans people.
Brownworth’s latest story offered what appears to be a personal narrative recounting encounters with transgender sex workers. It’s graphic, without being sensationalistic. All in all a great article, except that one little TERF detail. Has Victoria Brownworth had an epiphany and now understands genitals does not a person make? This was Brownworth’s first installment so maybe she will reveal a revelation later.
Or maybe not.
Brownworth just commented on the PGN article in response to the trans commenter’s outrage:
The “Segment”? Going for the victimization meme already? Typical TERF MO. It would be totally inappropriate and disingenuous for Brownsworth to to give us lessons about the hardships she is at least partially responsible for creating and doubly so in a gay publication.
I don’t know if PGN has a trans contributor but from my observations I would say it’s focus is gay issues, not transgender concerns. And for the record trans sex workers of color are not ‘with out a voice’. There are many transgender people and allies who strive to lift up our sisters and brothers who have no history of slamming them back down with sledge hammer force.
It wouldn’t be unreasonable to wonder if this wasn’t just another instance of the gay media manipulating transgender people’s sensitivities for a cheap shot at notoriety.
But in all fairness we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.
I messaged PGN publisher Mark Segal with whom I had made personal acquaintance with this year at the Philly LGBT convo for a statement. The facebook message was read but as of this writing I have not received a response.
*Update after mentioning Brownworth in a tweet she responded with this tweet, then blocked me:
This article does express my appreciation for your present effort and my hope that you would stop promoting TERF transphobia in the future.
And just so you know, as most of my friends and readers already know, I am a former addicted sex worker who is trans. Back in the 80’s after nearly being beaten to death on the street twice I got clean and began the long journey to lucidity. I did that IN SPITE of TERF’s like yourself who were at that same time using the power of the word to dehumanize, marginalize and disempower us.
You don’t get to judge me Brownworth.
Kelli Anne Busey:
Transgender activist blogger,
journalist, former sex worker, recovering addict.
I felt it important to include more examples of Victoria Brownworth’s tweets at the end of this story as it illuminates her views about the trans experience: