Thursday, 27 August 2009


or, why it is so difficult to be an outspoken trans woman even within the feminist blogosphere

It's pretty obvious it is difficult to be thus, isn't it? It's not like there's hordes and hordes of us to start with, and even less who are willing to engage with the feminists (or anyone, for that matter) after our transitions are done and dealt with.

Firstly, there's the age-old issue of out/closeted, which is not the same wrt cis/trans axis as it is for people along homosexual/heterosexual -axis (which I consider to be a bit of a ruse, but I digress). Speaking from the position of a trans woman is fraught with difficulties: there's always the old transphobic tropes (for a list, see QT, under Trans 101), the endless derailing and decentring of trans concerns, but, and I think this is even more important, there's a real risk of humiliation, ostracism and violence, not only in the academia/blogosphere, but in the meatspace we live in. Woman's trans status can, and is often used to beat her into submission. "Outing" someone as trans puts the woman thus outed at risk. If you don't believe me, just dig a bit at your local newspaper archives and see for yourself how trans women are depicted. There are a number of common features: there's the degendering by the use of her old name; printing pictures of her forcibly masculinised* is pretty common, too. All that is simply crap one doesn't want to deal with, and while silence is quite a price to pay for avoiding that crap, it's pretty understandable.

Secondly, because of our rather unprivileged pasts with regards to feminism, women's studies, gender studies, queer studies and what have you (no, in case you were wondering, those fields did (and maybe do) not welcome trans girls into the fold of feminism and queer: trans girls are more often than not gendered as boys, or men, and are hardly given the same space to explore their sexes and gender the way female-assigned-at-birth -people are. Cissexism does not stop at the door to academia.

So, when I look at the queer studies I do recognise the stuff there is pretty vital to my thinking, but I also feel I'm not welcome. I feel the thinking I do is rather far from the atmosphere they're breathing, and while I do think there's value in my perspective, I find my perspective hard to communicate and possibly triggering hostile responses. I'm not always up to that hostility.

I'll write another piece on my perspectives - at least I can give them a home here.

In short, I don't believe the binary system at all. There is gender, but there's a lot more of them than two. I think lesbian woman is a different gender (and maybe sex, too) from heterosexual woman. I think femme is a different gender from butch, or from heterosexual woman. When I use words like "woman", "man", or "heterosexual", my mind has to make these somersaults to translate what I'm thinking into cis-ese. I think of sexualities in terms of attractions: what do you like? If you like snogging bearded men, you're "snogs-bearded-men-sexual" for all I know. If you're a bearded man yourself, more power to you, but it doesn't mean squat as far as your attractions are considered.

The violent game which cises play with genders makes me sick. I don't want to play, but fucking up the system totally has such a high price I cannot pay it on my own, and not playing is not an option. I play, but not willingly. I play 'cos cis men might smash my face in for not playing, for telling it like it is - that cis boys and men brutalise trans girls and women and force them (and yours truly in the past) to pretend to be boys and men. I play 'cos cis women might simply dump me for not playing. I play 'cos it seems to be the price of admission into the society of humans, and I cannot survive on my own.

But in my heart, I want to smash the cisarchy.

[ETA 21:36 EEST: * forcibly masculinised: this what the cises might call "when she was a man" Trans girls and women do not choose to be assigned and raised as boys and men - it is forced. It's not voluntary, and very often, violence is used to enforce compliance.]

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