Until recently, I hadn’t encountered transphobia from feminists. Call me lucky :)
In my feminist community, a key part of our world view is a commitment to equality for all oppressed groups, according to the idea that there cannot be justice for only some — justice means justice for ALL. So there is a connection between oppression of women, oppression of Palestinians, oppression of queer folk… And so on.
Most of the women I know in this context use the term “radical” to some extent or another — in their feminism, politics, or elsewhere. Because we believe in changing societal power structures, from the root (the word radical is from the Latin radix (gen. radicis) “root”, meaning “going to the origin, essential”). On the face of it — Radical Feminism.
Contrast this with my newly found experience with North American radical feminism (sometimes called RadFem). If I understand their position correctly, they claim that gender — as a *whole* — is entirely a cultural construct, and therefore, there is no such thing as gender dysphoria, because your body, or chromosomes are the only thing that make you a man or a woman. Anything else is decoration. RadFems will often use dismissive and demeaning language saying things like “a man who puts on heels and make-up magically becomes a woman, yippee”, totally disregarding the trans experience and identity issues trans people describe.
In the past few months I have come across Facebook groups, blogs, and online warfare, carried out by RadFems, regarding trans women, especially on the topic of trans women’s acceptance in women’s spaces. While I had been generally aware that there is not universal acceptance of trans women in women’s spaces (take the well-known example of the Michigan Music Festival and the womyn-born womyn movement). What I did NOT expect was outright hatred and demeaning of trans women. Call me naive.
Examples include refusing to refer to trans women using female pronouns (to the extent of changing the text in blog responses), calling trans women “rapey men” who are all about the sex, and trying to get “into the panties” of (cis) lesbians, to terms such as “stealth men” trying to “take over”, to horrible caricatures and jokes and demeaning representations in quotes and images, meant to denigrate and humiliate and erase the existence and legitimacy of trans women. Well, of all trans people, but particularly trans women. One site went so far as to troll the Internet for pornographic images of trans women and post them against the intention, desire, and permission of the women involved — once again, in an attempt to vilify, objectify, and humiliate. And promote hatred and bigotry, of course.
As an activist who deals daily with multiple forms of oppression against multiple groups, both outright direct oppression, and the hidden forms as well — I’m not generally surprised by the levels of hatred, bigotry, stupidity, meanness, violence, and other negatives humans are capable of. But I guess my naivete shows when people ostensibly committed to such ideas as equality and social justice do it.
I will do more research on this, because my experience with radical feminism in the US has more to do with ideas about sexual violence by men, and anti-pornography, than an obsession with gender identities per se, but then — when I left the US many many years ago, there was a whole lot I didn’t know about a lot of things. (And there still is :) ).
Also note that unlike my usual practice, I have intentionally avoided linking to RadFem blogs, sites, or discussions. Several of the most hateful among them have cleverly pushed their sites up in Google search through extensive cross linking. My goal here is to include several trans links explaining some of the key issues from a trans perspective, while avoiding giving more of a stage to the haters. I will be posting more about this topic, and am also happy to answer questions or point you in the “right” direction if you want to read more.
Meanwhile, here are some links that are must-reads if you want to understand more about the dialog between transgender women and cis-gender women:
Pretty Queer is one of my favorite sites. It covers a range of issues from a frequently “heretical” perspective — such as calling out privilege and transphobia and transmisogyny within queer communities.
It was here I first discovered Savannah Garmon, who wrote this post:
Requiem for a Dialogue
In the post she discusses her experience in how she is accepted (or not accepted) by cis women, and how trans and cis women came together in a workshop called “No more apologies: Queer trans and cis women, coming/cumming together!”, in which the foundations were set for a wider dialogue about trans woman inclusion in queer women’s spaces/communities and social settings.
Her blog leftygirl is also on my blogroll. Check her out!
Monica Maldonado — responding to the outlandish claims that trans women are demanding cis women “make themselves sexually available” to them:
The Cotton Ceiling Ain’t About You
This blog post by Jade Pichette discusses identity erasure, cis-privilege, and consent:
Hey Lesbian Transphobes!
This event in Ottawa — No More Apologies Ottawa/ Pas Plus d’Excuses Ottawa — has been drawing a LOT of transphobic attacks. See the event on Facebook.