I’m pretty tired of always being expected to be apologetic to hegemonic persons who automatically get riled up at the merest hint that they may be in collusion with an oppressive system – whether men, white people, cis-people, straight people… Seriously, no matter how good you THINK your intentions are, you benefit as a member of that group from the oppression of others. You have a responsibility to proactively act against all the attitudes and behaviors that perpetuate the existing structure. You don’t get off by saying “I don’t see color” or “we’re all human” or “everyone is equally deserving of respect”, or “Just be nice to everybody!” (“nice” really isn’t the issue). By doing that, you are erasing and ignoring and minimizing the actual lived experiences of marginalized people – THEY never say they don’t see color or that everyone should love each other equally, because their ENTIRE LIFE EXPERIENCE is based on the fact that people DO see color (or gender, or ethnicity, or weight, or age… and they DON’T LIKE IT). You don’t get to say “generalizing about men is equally sexist to what men do to women”, because guess what: it isn’t. If that was all we were dealing with, we wouldn’t be here, doing this feminism thing. And getting no end of crap for it. We get to be mad, because we’re the ones getting raped, murdered, beaten, paid less, judged, disowned, legislated against, maligned, harassed, and more. You don’t get to act as if there is parity between us. If I hate you – nothing happens to you except you feel I was unpleasant to you. I live in a state of fear and violence, whether or not you even recognize my existence. I get to say “I hate straights/cis-people/men”, even if that isn’t “nice”. I don’t owe you my niceness. You don’t get to hate women/people of color/trans* people – because when you do, you are supporting an entire system of oppression and violence. Someday, when the playing field is even, you will have a right to claim that this attitude might lead to oppression. Someday, on that day that will only arrive if TODAY YOU RECOGNIZE YOUR PRIVILEGES AND THE OPPRESSIONS OF OTHERS. But for now – you don’t get to take away our anger. Their anger. The anger that comes from being stomped on and marginalized. YOU JUST DON’T.
This is a translation of a post written by my friend Dan Veg in their Hebrew-language blog Parshedona. This is also my 100th post in Femina Invicta, and I was looking for a worthy topic… I’m glad Dan provided this post. It is incredibly important to me for both personal and political reasons, as my queer/feminist community has recently exploded in an unprecedented, and entirely unexpected rash of transphobia, directed in particular toward genderqueer persons, or anyone on the MTF scale who doesn’t entirely pass.
Lately, I’ve been hearing all kinds of different opinions by cisgender people about genderqueer identities, and what genderqueer means. So let’s make this clear: Genderqueer does not mean a “man in a dress”, it doesn’t mean “someone who objects to gender”, nor does it mean “a woman who wants male privilege without being trans*”. All these are mostly your own transphobic and binary assumptions.
Genderqueer-ness is an umbrella of gender identities, just like “man” and “woman” are gender identities. The genderqueer identity is not a single and constant identity, but rather a variety of non-normative identities, accompanied by a variety of practices, a variety of conceptions, and different experiences. I will try and offer some definitions of genderqueer identities that I’m familiar with, in order to – hopefully – enable some of you to let go of your dichotomous, queer-phobic perceptions.
But first, some important notes:
- These definitions reflect the opinion of the author, and do not purport to represent anyone who does not identify with them.
- The umbrella covers only those who identify with it.
- A person’s gender identification does not necessarily reflect any particular gender practices or choice of pronouns. In order to know how to address a genderqueer person, ask her/him! To address or refer to a person in a way other than according to the preference they have indicated is a violent and transphobic act.
- The umbrella is partial and dynamic, anyone is free to redefine for themselves their gender, gender practices, and so on.
- Many genderqueers identify with more than one gender identity, so do not assume that because someone has identified in a certain way, that other identities are negated.
A person who does not always identify completely as a man or as a woman, and identifies as genderqueer. In other words: someone whose gender does not conform to the dichotomous definitions of man/woman.
A catch-all identity that describes anyone who deviates from heteronormativity. Under the genderqueer umbrella the term describes resistance to definitions or to identities that defy the gender binary.
A person who identifies with two genders simultaneously, or with the gender they were assigned at birth and another gender, and who identifies as bigender.
A person who at different times identifies with different gender identities, or who sometimes defines themselves as a particular gender and at other times does not, and who identifies as gender fluid.
A person who does not identify as any gender category, or to whom the concept of gender is irrelevant, and who identifies as genderless.
A person who does not at all identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, but only partially identifies with other gender identities, or identifies as both genderqueer and transgender, sometimes with an emphasis on wanting to undergo physical changes, and who identifies as transgenderqueer.
Third Gender/Other Gendered:
A person whose gender identity is neither man nor woman, and identifies as third gender or other gendered.
A person who identifies as being somewhere on the continuum between two or more genders, and who identifies as intergender.
A person who combines attributes of different genders, and who identifies as genderblender/genderfuck.
Additional genderqueer identities include:
Genderqueer man, genderqueer woman, pangender, multigender, man-flexible, woman-flexible, femme, butch, girlfag, guydyke, and many more.
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:
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:
This blog post by Jade Pichette discusses identity erasure, cis-privilege, and consent:
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.