32 Comments

An apology and a promise

A few months ago I posted an events notice for a MichFest Women’s Festival event in NYC. I screwed up big time in that original post by not including any text noting the trans-exclusionary policy of MichFest, which has excluded trans women as festival participants for many years.

I apologise unreservedly for neglecting to highlight this as part of my original post. We did discuss the issue in comments, and I did amend the post after some prodding, but I should have challenged the trans-exclusion from the start, or better yet not promoted the event at all.

Here’s the promise: I will not give any trans-exclusionary feminist event any promotion here in the future. If I do unknowingly post a link to some event that is trans-exclusionary, I will delete it as soon as I am made aware.

I am aware that this decision is likely to affront some trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs), but it must be said: marginalising trans women at actual risk from regularly documented abuse /violence in favour of protecting hypothetical cis women from purely hypothetical abuse/violence from trans women in women-only safe-spaces strikes me as horribly unethical as well as repellently callous.

I wish that I had fully realised the callousness much earlier instead of initially regarding the TERF position as simply a regrettably prejudiced yet rationally divergent opinion. I’ve also come to view the arguments put forward to bolster the TERF position as logically inconsistent.(I go into much more detail about this conclusion over on my primary blog, Hoyden About Town, please comment on that thread if you wish to discuss TERF arguments.)

I would prefer that this thread be trans*centred rather than cis*centred, so please leave links to your favourite trans*activist and trans*accepting blogs in comments below. Which blogs are safe spaces for trans* women and allies to discuss the trans* experience of violence and marginalisation? Let’s discuss the violence that is levelled at trans* women and how it intersects with misogyny, race and sex-work to cause people to murder them simply for being trans*, rather than discussing the politics of gender transition here (you may discuss the politics of transition on my other trans* post over at Hoyden if you wish).

If you are a cis woman with questions about the trans* experience either personal or political, you’ll probably find more and better answers by lurking at some trans* blogs rather than through asking trans*commentors to do Trans101 for you right here and now. If you don’t know the names Angie Zapata, Kellie Telesford, Rosa Pazos, Ebony Whitaker and Sanesha Stewart at this moment, I suggest refraining from discussion on trans* issues until you know about how they died and have read some posts mourning them as people, not just news reports that treat them as freaks.

Here’s a few links to start with:

An open letter to cis-feminists: a post about cis feminists overlooking violence against trans women in favour of arguing about gender theories
Radical Feminism and Cis Privilege: dehumanising trans* women is not a feminist act
Questioning Transphobia: a blog devoted to discussing hostility towards gender transition

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About tigtog

writer, singer, webwrangler, blogger, comedy tragic | about.me/vivsmythe

32 comments on “An apology and a promise

  1. Oh wow, thank you for that.

    Well, I love love this entry at Questioning Transphobia..

    Also this article. And this amazing video. I know these are all about MIch-fest, or trans-hater feminism, and I’m sorry about that. I couldn’t help but recommend them.

  2. Life as a Transwoman by RachelPhilPa, a guest blogger at Shakesville. This post contains a lot of links to other sites and news about trans oppression; I know that when I read it last year it really opened my eyes to the ways that transpeople are marginalised, and forced me to confront a lot of transphobia that I didn’t realise that I had– unfortunately the comments no longer exist, due to Shakesville changing away from haloscan, because that discussion was also very enlightening.

    I also second the Questioning Transphobia blog that you link to above.

  3. Monica Roberts’ blog TransGriot is a great resource, too (http://transgriot.blogspot.com/), as well as the Trans Group Blog (http://transgroupblog.blogspot.com/)

  4. What does CIS stand for? I can gather what it means, from the context of this essay, but am just curious what it actually stood for and I couldn’t find a definition online.

    Thank you for this article.

  5. Hi, I’m the trans womyn formerly known as RachelPhilPa. Thank you so much for this, tigtog.

    I want to mention a couple of blogs from trans* men, as their views have tended to be excluded by both cis feminists and, sadly, trans* womyn. and they too are being murdered, raped, and denied medical care and access to SA / DV / homeless shelters, and are impacted by reproductive justice issues.

    Monster’s Creed

    Nick Kiddle

    Also, every feminist NEEDS to read “Seam of Skin and Scales”. It’s by little light, who’s writing is truly prose poetry and just gets to the heart of intersections of race (she’s Pinay), class, and transness.

    Cis feminists, especially those who are tempted to define their politics on our bodies, should at least consider this selection from “Seam of Skin and Scales”:

    “It is time for a feminism of the monstrous.

    That is this body. That is this me. That is the voice that says get your names off of my parts and your hands off them too, that says stop colonizing my reality and telling me what I mean without listening to a word I say.

    What I say may be in a language incomprehensible, but there is a time for that, and it is right now, because this is a monster’s creed.”

  6. Oh, I should note, that I deleted my blog (that is linked on the Shakesville article) for personal reasons,

  7. Kira, neither trans* nor cis* are acronyms.

    Googling [cis gender] gave me this wikipedia article as the first hit, which hits the basics. I’m going to edit the post to include the link.

  8. Thanks everybody dropping by and leaving links. This is great.

  9. Is this to say that transphobia is a part of radical feminism? I admit I still feel pretty confused about what exactly radical feminism is (not for lack of trying to understand), but those I know who identify themselves as radical feminists seem to be the most concerned about trans rights in the feminist community.

    I’m not complaining or anything, I’d just like a clarification if I may.

  10. Many many radical feminists are trans* accepting and often are active allies. It’s just a small minority who are very vocally trans-exclusionary, particularly online.

    Grammatically, the “trans-exclusionary” placed before “radical feminist in the TERF acronym means that it modifies “radical feminist”, describing a subset. Just the way that the term Italian-American doesn’t mean that all Americans are ethnically Italian, it’s just describing a subset of Americans.

  11. The trouble with discussion of violence against trans-women and being trans-positive is that for a segment claimed under the trans umbrella (who does not wish to be there) experiences the majority of violence, silencing, censorship, even rape and attempts at total destruction of one’s life comes from the trans community.

    http://radicalbitch.wordpress.com

    • I really agree with you. 50% of trans women are raped, according to a recent study. I cannot imagine what insane number of them are abused or assaulted. That would indicate an extremely high level of risk for that population. God, I love transgender people!

  12. Those assertions appear to be arguing that because some trans women may be abusive or exploitative, that means that they must all be refused recognition as women.

    Prejudging all based on the actions of some strikes me as dictionary-definition bigotry.

  13. Considering I have been a lifelong civil rights advocate beginning with the original sixties civil rights movement, the women’s movement, pagan rights and then trans civil rights, you might want to consider what changed my mind. It was not only my own experiences which have been horrific, but listening to similar stories from literally hundreds of women of transsexual history as well.

    Trans terminology has become meaningless. The meanings change at the drop of an identity. Anyone in the trans communities can claim womanhood by putting on a dress for the night and often does. These idividuals are often more mysogynostic than men in general…..ask their wives.

    I’m used to being called a bigot and transphobic (which is rich considering I was also once considered a powerhouse national trans civil rights leader) so maybe, just maybe if what I have experienced, seen and heard was enough for me to speak up, dismissing it out of hand might be premature. I actually support some women born women space even though it would exclude me because in sisterhood, I know from first hand experience you cannot close the tent flap once the trans-camel nose is inside.

  14. Firstly, I have no doubt that amongst the mass of horrible violence and exploitation perpetrated against women, some of those acts have been perpetrated by trans women and gender variant men, just as many victims of misogynistic violence have been trans women and gender variant men. Have no doubts that I fully support activist work against violence

    I don’t see separatist space as the answer to the violence perpetrated by some people with a trans history, certainly not as a legal standard. Separatist women should always be able to have that as a personal choice, obviously, but that doesn’t mean that their personal wishes should rule in more public space, such as a publicly-funded domestic violence shelter. Which is the matter that seems to have kicked off the latest round of TERF posts online – the pending Gender Recognition Act in the UK.

    TERF arguments seem to be predicated on conflating activists working for trans* awareness, activists working for trans* acceptance, and activists working for trans* rights all into one trans* blob.

    Trans rights is the narrowly defined face of the trans movement, not the broad awareness any-gender-variant-is-trans face of the trans movement. Arguments predicated on trans rights activists using the same definitions as trans awareness advocates are making an error.

    The GRA does not propose to recognise any man who puts on a frock for the night as a woman, so that class of gender variant individual is not a problem if you are discussing the GRA. The GRA as proposed states that certificates legally changing one’s identity on legal documents from M to F or vice versa will only be given in the following circumstances:

    Legal recognition will follow from the issue of a full gender recognition certificate by a Gender Recognition Panel. Before issuing a certificate, the Panel must be satisfied that the applicant:
    * has, or has had, gender dysphoria,
    * has lived in the acquired gender throughout the preceding two years, and
    * intends to continue to live in the acquired gender until death.

    There is no “putting on a dress for the night” gender variance covered under the Gender Recognition Act.

  15. And while many shelters in the US and Canada welcome trans women, I have not been able to find reference to any case where a man simply put on a dress and claimed to be a battered woman to gain access.

    And even if a man did do this, there’s a reason that these places have intake screening.

    And, Cathryn, why should your voice as a woman of transsexual history and the voices you say support you drown out the voices of other women of transsexual history – including my own – when we look for inclusion? What kind of politics is “cut off your nose to spite your face?”

  16. Thank you for the clarification, tigtog.

  17. Thank you so much for this post… It helps us hugely.

  18. After a bit more reading, I think the trans-exclusionary set should better be describes as TES, with the S standing for separatists. A lot of the positions that are presented seem far too essentialist to be adequately described as feminist, let alone radical feminist.

  19. After some thought, I realized my definition of woman is a bit broader than strictly those who would qualify as women of transsexual history, and many of those on the transfeminine spectrum, who Cathryn wouldn’t accept as women but who would be gendered as women in society.

    Not imposing labels, just I should be more careful than to let extreme separatism dictate terms.

  20. [...] which is just wonderful. Take this post from the site Finally, a feminism 101 blog: An Apology and a Promise A few months ago I posted an events notice for a MichFest Women’s Festival event in NYC. I [...]

  21. (I started trying to make sense of the issues around the fractious online collisions of trans* & TERF bloggers over a year ago, and still feel hopelessly mixed up about it and am digesting a lot. I hope to get around to saying something on the Hoyden discussion on the politics of transition.)

    Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman On Sexism And The Scapegoating Of Femininity by Julia Serano is a great place to start for anyone new to trans* issues, and for starting to think about how feminism and trans* liberation can/must inform each other – e.g. cissexism as an extension of sexism.

    Here’s Amanda at Pandagon’s review of Whipping Girl;the comment thread has a lot of interesting discussion about femininity from both trans* and cis feminist perspectives. (Amanda picked up on the same thing that did irk me about Whipping Girl – not enough about “femininity” as something that can be mandatory and limiting for women).

    The only other book I’ve seen about transfeminism (not read it yet): Trans/forming Feminisms: Transfeminist Voices Speak Out
    (edited by Krista Scott-Dixon)

    Article: Transfeminism: Let Her Rip by Hanne Blank

    Transfeminism livejournal community:
    http://community.livejournal.com/transfeminism/

    Couple of blogs I have just discovered which look to be interesting:
    http://transgroupblog.blogspot.com/
    http://feed.belowthebelt.org/

    Finally, Broken Rainbow is a UK charity campaigning for better domestic violence services for LGBT people. An easy way to support them in a small way is to use their Everyclick affiliate search engine (search provided by Ask.com).

    [moderator note 7Sept08: this comment's publication was delayed because it ended up in the spam bucket - apologies for not finding it sooner]

  22. I am fu**ing impressed.

    Perhaps I was a wee bit harsh on you in my email communication.

    If you will accept my thanks for this post, I would be happy to work on the trans 101.

    I think this place is finally an alright place for all women. You have my email.

  23. Alyssa, I thank you for the eye-opening that your email communication entailed. It encouraged me to do the necessary lurking and learning.

  24. Viv, I would love to talk to you in “person,” Are you familiar with Second Life? Its a shared VR simulation that permits real time interaction, and, can even include voice, if you wish.

    Its free, and requires only a download from http://secondlife.com and a suitable computer.

    If I haven’t left you too singed from our last exchange, that is.

    When you arrive, paste this link into a chat window. It will take you to a feminist project that I am running within the second life environment. I’d love to give you the nickel tour.

    http://slurl.com/secondlife/Promontory/225/12/21

  25. Alyssa, I’m aware of Second Life, although I’ve never had a go at it. Frankly, I’m concerned that it would become yet another giant time-eating thing, so I’m reluctant to try.

    I’m happy to correspond by email, though, and perhaps others here will follow your link and check it out.

  26. There is a comment in moderation which I have not published because it discusses the politics of gender transition, something I specifically requested commentors to avoid in this thread.

    Feel free to leave your comment instead at the end of the Trans Thread of Doom over at my other blog, because the original semantic debate there has fizzled out, and the concerns you raise are different.

  27. Thanks for your answer. I won a bet because of it :)

    That said, I would love to know the reasoning that led your from your odd “moral” position of adamantly refusing to censor a dominan groups discrimination, and batting down of a minority group’s complaints to your current apologia.

    I think everyone would be served by an introspective post that explains just what woke you up… if that has in fact happened.

    Truth is, I have a community in SL that has followed our interactions with great interest. They will be disappointed that they will not get to meet and speak with you.
    Perhaps a blog post on your change of heart, and the internal processes involved is… appropriate.

  28. Alyssa, have you read the post on my other blog? I’m fairly sure I adequately explain the reasons for my change of position there.

  29. Yeah. I read it. I tend to be extremely thorough before I post.

    Then, I reread it just now. Twice. My head is still spinning. And yes, I am asking myself, “Am I reading this correctly?”

    But then again, I am used to more personal and informative discourse like Maia at Touchingly Naive when she recanted her hate of trans women. I do not have the link handy, but Lisa Harney does at her site where she critiques that post.

    Sterile, academic, and absolutely devoid of any emotional comment. Like you were discussing a novel technique for preparing a chemical assay.
    Only without the enthusiasm one would show for improving the state of the art.

    So, as far as introspection and understanding go, total fail.
    As a dry, academic, rarefied critique of m andrea and her um, antics, pretty good. type it up, and hand it in by the due date. You’ll get an A.

    So, once again, where’s the introspection? There are dry academic debates by cisgender feminists aplenty debating my right to exist as a woman. Where is the self examination? The Eureka! moment! The revelation of your growth (assuming it happened) as a feminist?

    As we say here in the US, “Where’s the beef?”

    Sorry for being so harsh, but you weren’t even there for that essay.
    (Though I must admit that you rallied a little bit in the comments)

  30. Sterile, academic, and absolutely devoid of any emotional comment

    .
    That was entirely deliberate to counter the emotionality of mAndrea’s allegedly “logical” writing.

    So, as far as introspection and understanding go, total fail.

    Quite probably, as that was not the intent of the article.

    As you explained to me at length in email, no-one owes another person a detailed soul-baring before they can be accepted as a fellow human being. I still feel that you misread me then and are continuing to misread me now, but that is your prerogative.

    I have no intention of soul-baring now either, but here’s a summary: whatever Eureka there was for me was simply doing some more reading and realising that the TERF position was repellently callous regarding the humanity of trans women. As I said briefly above, I hadn’t fully realised that level of callousness existed because I simply had not read enough of the TERF posts. Your email communication inspired me to do so, so there you go, it was all down to you.

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