Million Cis Women Rise

March 2, 2009

tg_black-on_pink_100x107This Saturday the Million Women Rise march is scheduled to take place in London. The aim is to protest the fact that “A woman’s right to live free from violence and / or the fear of violence has not been achieved”. Unquestionably a worthy aim.

The march is for women only and the website has a page explaining why this is so.

Regrettably, nowhere on the website is it made clear whether transsexual women are welcome to take part.

Any transsexual woman who knows anything of the history of our community will be aware of the problematic connotations of the phrase “women only” originating from the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival’s “Womyn Born Womyn” policy, which:

[…] officially requests that the attendees be “womyn-born-womyn” (WBW) only. That is, those who were born and raised as girls, and currently identify as women. MWMF is one of only a few women’s festivals with a WBW policy.

In 1991 Nancy Burkholder, who had attended the festival the year before without incident, was expelled from MWMF when she disclosed her transsexual status to festival workers who, in turn, informed the festival office. Burkholder was asked to leave the festival and received a full refund of her ticket. Festival organizers continued to advocate their support of the women-born-women policy even as criticism from some segments of the queer community mounted in response to Burkholder’s departure.

(Via Wikipedia)

Even though festival box office staff have sold tickets to transsexual women since 2006, and our attendance is supported by a number of workers and cis women attendees, the festival’s organizer maintains that the discriminatory policy is still in place.

In this context, to see the phrase “women only” used without clarification on the Million Women Rise website sends out a very clear message to this transsexual woman: your presence is neither wanted nor welcome. In other words, “woman” = “cis woman”.

Clear enough, you might think – but the waters have been greatly muddied for me following a conversation with a cis woman friend. She informs me that a second, mutual cis woman friend has emailed the organisers of the Million Women Rise march to ask directly for clarification of their stance on transsexual women, and has received a reply which states explicitly that the march is open to transsexual women to attend.

However, I can find no mention of this fact anywhere on the Million Women Rise website. To any other transsexual woman who might look at the site for clarification, it will not be found, and if it’s not made explicit, then the only safe assumption is that it’s a cis women’s space – and is therefore always potentially unsafe for trans women. And the unavoidable conclusion is that the organisers of the Million Women Rise march – and by implication, any cis woman who attends – are failing to take transphobia seriously. And I, for one, need no reminding of the fact that transphobic violence kills transsexual women: that is why my community holds an annual Day of Remembrance.

It really beggars belief that the organisers apparently find it impossible to state publicly that transsexual women are welcome to attend at the same time that they make the self-same claim in a private email.

And I’m sorry to say that, until or unless that discrepancy is satisfactorily resolved, I know where I’ll be on Saturday – and it won’t be on the Million Women Rise march.


Last edited 13 January 2010 to update links


6 Responses to “Million Cis Women Rise”

  1. Harriet R Says:

    I am permanently torn by the desire that trans-women are automatically included in the term “women” so that there’s no need to explicitly comment on whether or not their included, and the need to know explicitly. Maybe the organisers think it’s obvious that trans-women are included, and feel that explicitly saying so would actually be a step backwards by marking a distinction between trans- and cis-women.

    Does that sounds plausible?

  2. Helen G Says:

    Maybe the organisers think it’s obvious that trans-women are included

    Evidently not, or they wouldn’t have made the distinction in the email to my cis woman friend.

    Look, I’m not ashamed to be a transsexual woman, and I have absolutely no wish to deny or erase my transsexuality. So why would I want to let anyone else do that to me? Do cis people not have enough privileges over trans women already that they won’t even let me self-identify as I choose; that they feel its their place to define me? Who appointed cis people as judge and jury over my identity?

  3. Harriet R Says:

    Fair enough. It was just a thought. I didn’t think that not making a distinction between cis- and trans-women constituted erasing trans identity, but I see now how it could.

  4. GallingGalla Says:

    all the organizers need to do is to add two words: “this event is open to all *self-identified* woman”. this eliminates the artificial distinction between cis ans trans woman while making clear that the event is open to *all* women, cis or trans.

  5. Helen G Says:

    Ohz noez! The sky might fall! :)

    Seriously, it’s the obvious answer… But hey, why do the easy thing when you can do it ass backwards *and* continue the fine tradition of further alienating and marginalising trans women in the process? Bonus oppression points to Team Cis! Yay!

    After all, it’s not like trans women are ever subjected to violence or anything, and if we were, well, prolly we were asking for it anyway…

    *rolls eyes*

  6. debbie Says:

    the reason here, for clarification,
    is history….

    if this event, allbeit great in purpose,
    had become one that also tried to act in
    a descriminatory fashion, to act as a
    female supremicist group, a kind of apparthied….

    then they should be ashamed,
    if they think this is in the horrid past,
    and they wish to join the modern world,

    then release an open public statement to
    to T women, apologising, and welcoming us,
    and telling those who descriminate are not welcome.

    doubt this will happen.

    feminism, as i have found, contains some very ugly hatred, more suited to 1980s
    south africa, than 2009 england

    if these events choose hatred, then the government must act, and prosecute them in accordance with the law

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