My Response to Love’s Transsexual Rally
April 23, 2012
Ashley “I’m Colonized” Love
May 21, 2012

What They Call “Womyn-Only” Space is Really Cisgender-Only Space

One of the things that has irked me about the renewed “debates” about women-only space is that the defenders of “womyn-born-womyn” (WBW) policies keep utilizing specious counter-examples to try to defend their position.  For example, those of us who are criticizing a non-inclusive women’s space are asked:  “would you critique a transgender-only space?  No???  You’re a hypocrite!”  Apparently those who espouse this position need a reminder of Social Justice 101.

Women-only space is necessary.  Women are oppressed under the patriarchy, and need space to heal from the wounds of make-supremacy, misogyny and sexism.  Trans women are women, and thus deserve to be included in this women-only space.  Transgender people are also a targeted social group, and thus need space to discuss cis-supremacy, cissexism, transphobia and trans-misogyny as an oppressed social group.  The same goes for People of Color, People with Disabilities, Old People, and other targeted/oppressed/subordinated social groups within a given society.

Agent/Dominant/Oppressor social groups do not need separatist spaces to heal from oppression.  They are in the privileged, dominant categories, and thus the society is set up to cater to their identities, needs, experiences and viewpoints.  From the standpoint of social justice, diversity and anti-oppression work, the only reason for separate spaces for privileged/dominant/agent groups would be to work on their status as oppressors, interrogate their privilege, and talk about how to be better allies to oppressed peoples.

I would support men’s space that was formed specifically to discuss male sexism, men’s violence against women, pro-feminist allyship, etc.  I would support a white caucus that was formed to discuss white privilege, white racism and learning to become better allies to people of color.  I would also support a cisgender group where people learn about their cis privilege, cissexist oppression and their own role in interrupting and challenging transphobia and trans-misogyny.

However, I do not support a cis-only women’s space to talk about women’s oppression in a general sense because it is predicated on a false boundary and an exclusionary politics.  If it is cis women only, then they should be talking about their superior social status AS cissexuals over transgender, transsexual and genderqueer people.  What the organizers of cis-exclusive women-only space are proposing leaves out the voices of trans women, one of the most exploited, marginalized, and oppressed groups of women all over the globe.  And conference materials that posit a discussion of ”radical feminist critiques of gender and queer theory” mean that radical cis feminists who are NOT trans or queer will be talking about queers and trans folks: defining our reality, distorting our lives, and using their cis-privilege to demean, degrade and debase our lives and struggles AS women.  To say that this is not “fair” is a supreme understatement.  Many years ago, the disability rights movement developed a slogan for their movement that is vitally important: “nothing about without us.”  They were tired of non-disabled people with the full weight of individual, institutional and cultural able-bodied privilege making decisions about their lives without any opportunity to speak from their own experiential authority.  The time of cisgender people getting the final say about trans peoples’ lives is also over, sorry to inform the “rad fems” of the world.  But it is not surprising given that this is the same group that loves to usurp the experiences of other groups such as sex workers for their own ideological and political ends without actually listening to the full range of sex worker activists and writers views on their own lives and experiences.  This is a form of discursive violence and ideological colonization that trans people, sex workers and others will flatly refuse to co-sign, whether from right-wing moralists or pseudo-radicals from the Left.

If dominant/oppressor/agent social groups are meeting together and their aim is not to further social justice, liberation and equality for the corresponding subordinated/targeted/oppressed social group within the same social identity category, then as progressives we have every right to interrogate their very reason and rationale for meeting.  If men are meeting together, not to interrogate patriarchy, repudiate sexism, and explore male privilege, but to decry the supposed victimization of men by women, deny systemic sexism, or reverse patriarchal reality to posit women as more powerful in society, then this meeting is counter to social justice and would be accurately called a Men’s Rights Activist (MRA) like group and rightfully condemned.  If heterosexuals meet to form a “Straight Pride Day” event in their workplace or university campus, rather than interrogate heterosexism, their own straight privilege, and their need to demonstrate allyship to queers, then one could rightfully condemn this separatist space as furthering the status quo and systemic oppression.

Similarly, a group of cis women coming together to condemn transgender and transsexual people is not a productive, healthy use of separatist space, nor is it in keeping in line with the mission of social justice, diversity, and inclusive, multicultural feminism.  So, even a cursory examination of the “Rad Fem 2012” website reveals that their proposed conference is not an example of women-only space, but of cisgender-only space.  And it is not a cisgender-only space to interrogate cisgender privilege, challenge cis-supremacy, discuss trans-misogyny and tactics for cis women to become better allies to trans women/people.  It is a cis-exclusive women’s event designed to further transphobia, institutionalize cissexism and foster transphobia and misinformation.  And what’s worse is that trans women, by virtue of our very exclusion, are not even given a chance to respond to such attacks and vitriol, thus making the conference a textbook example of something that is antithetical to progressive, “radical” or revolutionary social justice, and much more in keeping in line with neo-conservative, right-wing and reactionary political platforms.  It is no accident that many “rad fems” have jumped with glee on the cis-supremacist article “America in Transition.”  This disgusting anti-trans hate article from the far-right publication “The American Spectator” is now being vigorously promoted by the “rad fem” Blogosphere. And yet they repeatedly claim not to be in bed with the right wing? Hmmmmm…..

To recap, what “Rad Fem 2012” is calling “women-only” space is actually cisgender-only space.  Even a cursory examination of their web site and a basic understanding of Sociology and Social Justice 101 reveals that their event is not comparable to other separate identity spaces utilized by targeted groups in service of healing from oppression or separate identity spaces used by dominant groups in service of progressive allyship or using privilege to transform socio-cultural institutions.  Rather, this cisgender-only gathering is being utilized to further cis-supremacy, transphobia and the institutionalization of trans-misogyny in society and within feminism.  Why this matters is that their attempts to call us “hypocrites” for critiquing cis-exclusive women’s space but not interrogating transgender-only space, people of color-only space, etc is specious.  It is like comparing apples and oranges.  I call bullshit!  Their space is NOT comparable to other targeted social groups spaces because they are NOT principally a women-only space because they do NOT include all WOMEN!  Their space is constructed principally a cisgender-supremacist space, and thus a more apt parallel would be to compare them to Men’s Rights Activists (MRA) political spaces, white-supremacist spaces such as the KKK and neo-Nazi party spaces, etc.  Given that the architect of anti-trans feminism Janice Raymond wrote that transsexualism should be “morally mandated out of existence” then their relation to trans exterminationism and genocide should be all the more clear.  And since that same founder of anti-trans hatred in feminism successfully worked to get transsexual medical care defunded by the government, and many, many transsexual people suffered as a result of this, then the comparison to established hate groups stands.

I would like to end this Blog Post with a quote by one of my personal heroes, writer, activist and warrior Leslie Feinberg:

“Transsexual women are not a Trojan horse trying to infiltrate women’s space.  There have always been transsexual women helping to build the women’s movement –they are part of virtually every large gathering of women.  They want to be welcomed into women’s space for the same reason every woman does—to feel safe…What should the sign on the door of the women’s movement read?  I think the key to victory are these three simple words: ‘All Women Welcome.’”  (from Transgender Warriors)

cross-posted from Transmeditations blog

  • Valerie Solanas

    Nasty old madfemz getting together for a hate fest is fine. I have NO interest in joining them. However, since their agenda includes removing my right to choose what to live as or where I can or cannot be, I must fight them. They seek to exert control over my self-determination, failure to fight is passive consent on my part. I refuse to concede. Any means, ANY MEANS, can and will be used to thwart their agenda. 😉

  • Rudy1752

    For chrine out loud.

    People do not join groups to hear about how THEY are oppressing people.

    But if you prefer to think everyone is transphobic and hates you rather than understand that cisgender politics are only of interest to the transgendered, go for it.
     

    • Catherine K

      If Cis politics around trans people weren’t important to Cis people……there wouldn’t be any.

      In this case it’s not Cis politics as a group – it’s a very tiny subset of Cis people. Either way – trans folks don’t make them bigots and aren’t in anyway responsible for people discriminating against us – they own their voices. I own my response, of course. But having to have a response wasn’t a choice available to me. I’d have been quite happy if it were.

      • Rudy1752

         But that’s just it – there is no “cisgendered politics.”
        Do you really believe gay men and the Southern Baptists who want them to face the death penalty somehow are able to reach out to each other just enough to form a “cisgendered community” in order to oppress YOU?
        Likewise, do you think the feminists who are fighting Republican attempts to probe their vaginas, permit their doctors to lie to them and declare their eggs to be people are somehow united in some wider “cisgender community” against you?
        A political movement is made up of people seeking COMMON ground.
        If your sole purpose for being part of the GLBT or women’s movements is to have the opportunity to tell everyone how horrible they are, you’re wasting everybody’s time.

      • Catherine K

        Rudy below:

        Yes – there are people who specifically work to oppress trans people consciously as a class. One merely needs to look at people who draft proposals to prevent trans people having civil rights or the various Family Associations to know this.

        But just because people aren’t conscious of those actions doesn’t mean that is the effect. Institutional racism, sexism or homophobia being the obvious rejoinder. Do straight people identifying as straight people from the KKK the Amish and the Roman Catholic Church come together in as straight people to oppress gay people? Not in the way you suggest is the only way this could happen. But does homophobia by straight people exist and has it lead to laws and actions against gay people? Obviously.

      • Catherine K

        Institutional homophobia refers to the many ways in which government, businesses, churches, and other institutions and organizations discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation.  Institutional homophobia is also called heterosexism. 
        Institutional homophobia is reflected in religious organizations which have stated or implicit policies against lesbians, gays, and bisexuals leading services;  agencies which refuse to allocate resources to services to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people;  and governments which fail to insure the rights of all citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation.

        Cultural homophobia refers to social standards and norms which dictate that being heterosexual is better or more moral than being lesbian, gay, or bisexual, and that everyone is or should be heterosexual. Cultural homophobia is also called heterosexism.

        Cultural homophobia is spelled out each day in television shows and print advertisements where virtually every character is heterosexual, every erotic relationship involves a female and a male, and every “normal” child is presumed to be attracted to and will eventually marry someone of the other sex.  In the few cases where lesbians, gays, or bisexual are portrayed, they are usually unhappy, stereotyped, engaged in self-destructive behaviors, or ambivalent about their sexual orientation.

    • Catherine K

      Oh – and obviously – the people above are coming together, identifying as Cis people and making decisions about what businesses trans people should be allowed to access.

      I’m quite sure most of them would say that other businesses should not be allowed to say they won’t serve lesbians. Hell – we’ve heard many of them say that many times.

      Saying that only womyn born womyn are women is exactly what you say doesn’t happen. Cis people coming together as Cis people. By definition.

  • Kathykwski

    It is obviously only motivated by bigotry – and for some – their own trans closets.

    I could get more worked up if I wanted to attend – but who wants to surround themselves with such distasteful people?

    • Kat

      “and for some – their own trans closets.”

      Some?

      • Catherine K

        There don’t seem to be studies that give a breakdown of what percentage of homophobic or transphobic bigots are working through denial and venting their self hatred outwards. So, I’ll leave it as qualified. Surely – some are just dicks.

        “Your lack of understanding shouldn’t stand in the way of my full humanity. Bigots aren’t motivated by reason or compassion.”