By Gender Slayer
Thank you for these interviews. One question I have after reading them is – why does transfeminism contain the word “feminism”? Feminism is about liberation of FEMALES/WOMEN from the system of MALE dominance (patriarchy), so I would expect any term containing the word “feminism” to have at least *some* connection to females (the majority of women in the world are those of us born assigned female and raised as girls/women – transwomen are biologically still males, please do not deny this fact in any response to this comment). And yet, from what I gathered in these interviews, transfeminism seems to be narrowly focused on only a few issues that are specific to trans people only, and not even exclusive to transWOMEN. It is not just enough to proclaim oneself a feminist or a transfeminist, and then use that term to describe every action one takes from there on out. One must first analyze one’s own behavior and how that behavior may contribute to or support patriarchal systems, so that one can change that, before moving on to analyzing and changing the behavior of others and ultimately, the whole system. All women are not automatically feminists, even though most may agree that they should be liberated from patriarchy. This is the area in which I think transfeminism could use the most improvement.
One of the main issues for transfeminists currently, as stated in these interviews, and an area where they clash with feminists, is the demand that transwomen be included in all women’s spaces, everywhere. Many transwomen refuse to acknowledge the VERY REAL differences between themselves and WBW that affect our behavior, attitudes, and sense of safety. Many transwomen also demand inclusion without acknowledging the patterns of male-socialized behavior by some transwomen that, whether intentional or not, is misogynist and therefore, uncomfortable for many women to be around, especially those of us who are survivors of male violence. Some transwomen/transfeminists go about attaining this goal in extreme and misogynist ways – by criticizing, policing, suing, and sending death threats to WBW (womyn-born-womyn) for wanting to have WBW-only space or or when talking about feminist issues that they feel are exclusionary to trans people.
One of the main issues for feminists is calling out and changing misogynist behavior, but where are the transfeminists (especially the ones interviewed) on record denouncing the misogyny, lesbophobia, violence and death threats that women and feminists have received from some transwomen? There are hardly any to be found, and the ones who do speak up get denounced and threatened by their own trans community. Avory Faucette, one of the interviewees in this article, is on record supporting transwomen’s misogynistic and lesbian-hating Cotton Ceiling workshop sponsored by Planned Parenthood and held in Toronto this year. The “cotton celling” – ironically, a play on the feminist term “glass ceiling” – represents lesbian’s underwear as a “barrier” that transwomen need to break through to achieve full inclusion in women’s space. Avory says, “Radfems, you’re not just missing out on great sex. You’re confused about what it means to be a lesbian, or a woman. I don’t care what your physical preferences are or what gender identity you prefer. I do care that you confuse those two things, and thereby insult trans women. I care that you don’t bother to interrogate the origins of your phallus-based distaste for transwomen, and think about whether it’s actually a dislike of the organ that’s happening here or whether transphobia and a refusal to view trans women as women is involved. I care that you assume describing yourself as a lesbian tells others that you prefer what you call a pussy, as if everyone has the same definition of lesbian, woman, or pussy.”
If that’s what inclusion means for transfeminists (lesbians getting over their “phallus-based distaste for transwomen”), I want NO PART OF IT, and neither should any other feminist who supports lesbians and our right to define our sexuality and attraction to female-bodied people.
And where exactly are the contributions of trans people to FEMINISM? If they genuinely wish to be included and work alongside us in this movement, how are they showing their support for the issues of the 99.9% of the women in this world, like reproductive rights? I’m not seeing any support by transwomen on these issues. Why should feminists work to include any transfeminists in our movement who are not only openly misogynist in their activism, but focusing on policing feminists’ wording and trying to silence feminists from speaking about our issues? For example, prominent transfeminist Julia Serano, said “as an infertile woman, all this contraceptive-centric feminism over the last month has been alienating for me…” , and Joelle Ruby Ryan, transwoman and professor of Women’s Studies at UNH, stated that using the words/terms “sex class” and “female” was passé and offensive.
Feminists created the concepts of gender and sex class to describe and name our oppression and subsequently, our oppressors, and now transfeminists – many of whom were were raised as white, heterosexual males for the majority of their lives prior to transitioning – demand that we change our language because our terms do not describe every individual under the trans umbrella. In doing such, they are acting exactly as the patriarchy has done for millennia in trying to control and water down the language that we have created, effectively erasing any means we have to describe the evidence of the existence of our oppression. Instead of feeling alienated and seeking to change our language, why can’t transwomen acknowledge the differences between us and yet still support their “cis” sisters in our fight for our reproductive rights? I know plenty of lesbians and infertile females who support these issues, regardless of whether they have need for those services, because they are about the rights for ALL WOMEN.
If transfeminists are genuinely seeking inclusion within the greater feminist community, rather than changing it to suit their needs, or destroying it altogether, I believe it is necessary that they first spend some time analyzing and working to change the misogynist behavior within their own community first, rather than focusing on protesting and blaming women/feminists for their oppression. We do have a common enemy: the patriarchy. If transfeminsts would acknowledge that basic fact and focus their energies on dismantling the system that oppresses both of us, we could all move forward in support of one another.
Here is a relevant piece of advice for how to go about doing that, written in 2002 by Jenny Roberts, a transwoman who clearly understands the conundrum of transwomen’s inclusion in feminism, as well as women’s struggles, someone I would be proud to call sister and feminist.
Great writing, and I agree with it! Whose ‘Genderslayer’? Good, incisive mind, calling it what it is, but hey, lose the term ‘cis’ is what I say! We do not want to be referred to as ‘cis’! Other than that, great article!
Thanks Cathy – great analysis. I have been talking to friends about the transactivist misappropriation of our causes and hate speech towards feminists and lesbians. This article will be one of the writings I point them to.