Request for comments – Claim The Night march

October 28, 2009

Claim The Night logoTravelling home this evening at a little after 6pm I was again subject to street harassment, this time from a boozed-up Chelsea football fan on his way with a group of friends to a game – “Look at that fuckin’ tranny cunt, it’s fuckin’ disgustin'”. Thankfully we were heading for different trains and I escaped with nothing more or less than the usual ungendering, public humiliation and pounding heart. Earlier, I’d been talking with some cis women feminist friends about the continuing refusal of the organisers of the forthcoming Reclaim The Night (For Cis Women Only) march to publicly state their position on trans inclusivity, and the two things combined to give me an idea.

I want to see if it’s possible to organise a separate march (probably on a different date) – a Claim The Night march – which explicitly includes and centres trans women. Cis women who want to walk in solidarity with us would be welcome to do so; indeed the march would be open to all self-identified women. In the words of the Reclaim The Night (For Cis Women Only) website:

In every sphere of life we negotiate the threat or reality of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment. We cannot claim equal citizenship while this threat restricts our lives as it does. We demand the right to use public space without fear. We demand this right as a civil liberty, we demand this as a human right.

See, as a transsexual woman, I want the exact same thing. I would be more than willing to join cis women on their march – but the London Cis Feminist Network, for whatever reasons, doesn’t want people like me there. And now I think it’s time for me and mine to make our own protest. To claim the night for ourselves.

So I’m putting this post up as a way of seeing if there’s enough support to help me make my idea a reality.

Comments are open, and I’m interested to hear what other self-identified women think. If there’s a positive response I’ll set up a group email where we can begin to hash out the details.

Over to you…

19 Responses to “Request for comments – Claim The Night march”

  1. Lynne Miles Says:

    I’d march proudly with you, Helen.

  2. Holly Combe Says:

    Good idea, Helen!

    I can’t think of any reason whatsoever not to do this and would definitely support it. I’m not always the most organised or active when it comes to events but will certainly pass on the link to the FAC list to see if anyone has any thoughts/tips.

    Like the title btw.


  3. Doesn’t apply to me, being in a different country.
    Think it’s a great idea though.
    Best of luck!
    P.S. Am very angry this happened to you. Not fair. Not fair at all. Stupid drunkin asshats. Grrrrrrrr.

  4. msruthmoss Says:

    For various reasons I would never be able to make it to London or go on a march else I’d be with you, because I think it’s a bloody great idea and much needed.

    And I’m so sorry to hear you were harassed by those nasty shits on your way home. (((hugs)))


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  6. […] Request for comments – Claim The Night march « bird of paradox […]

  7. Jess Says:

    So sorry this happened to you :/

    The march sounds like a great idea, my head hurts a bit at the thought of what organising it will take, but will help where I can!

  8. Kirsty Says:

    I would be proud to walk with you, and I think this is a great idea. I have absolutely zero experience of organising anything like this, but if I can help I will.

  9. Laura Says:

    I’d be happy to help. Aside from trans women being alienated by LFN not making RTN explicitly open to trans women, I think it would be a positive thing to raise awareness of the transmisogynist harassment, violence and intimidation suffered specifically by trans women. Cis women marching in solidarity would also send out a strong message to transphobic women and feminists that trans women are our sisters too and we refuse to accept transphobia and the exclusion of trans women.

  10. Anji Says:

    I’d march with you, if you’d have me. :D If you wanted it to be a trans women only march, I’d be happy to help out with organisation and anything else you needed from me. :)

  11. queenemily Says:

    I think this is a very good idea. Obviously I’m in the wrong continent but yeah.

    Bonus points if you add a phrase that says something about “cissexual inclusion”

  12. zohra Says:

    I think this is good idea Helen. Not only would cis women stand as allies rather then centres at such an event, but more profoundly trans women could come together politically and disrupt the cis space physically – in a way I haven’t seen done before in London.

  13. Helen G Says:

    zohra – well, we had a pretty good go at it at the Stonewall UK protest last year

    Everyone else, thanks for the support so far.

    After Ms Bindel’s latest article, it’s surely clear why we can’t rely on the likes of London Cis Feminist Network (they turned out in support of Ms Bindel)


  14. What can I do to support you with this idea? I’m on the other side of the pond, but I’m sure I could at least advertise it whenever you organize it. You should TOTALLY do this. I’d gladly march beside you.


  15. What I find absolutely hilarious in all of this it the fact that LFN says is open to women, including the phrase “women of all backgrounds.” No, as a post-op survivor of HBS I would have no problems with that. It says women, and I am a woman. I notice specifically it says nothing like “women born women,” which is, of course, the “nice,” politically correct, way of saying “no transsexuals.” So, the fact that they don’t single out transsexuals, and specifically say, “transsexuals are welcome too,” in effect saying that you might not really be women, but are welcome anyway, offends you? Go figure. Now, personally, I would not join them because I don’t agree with all of their views, but it would not be because I am not really a woman and feel I need a special invitation to come.

  16. dyssonance Says:

    It’s a good idea, although a bit of a long, long hike and then an even longer swim for me, no matter how I approached it.

    DO it, though — even if its only two gals marching, it will be better than none.

  17. Leigh Smythe Says:

    My first thought is – What makes you stand out among “cis-women”, and why is there even a distinction? I have gone to considerable effort to feel and present like the woman I am, and know my own particular “stand out features”, the biggest of which was voice until I learned how to change that. Being 6’2″ with the typical large head, I have others I can do nothing about, but when confronted with someone who “calls me out”, I tell them I am a woman and defy them to prove otherwise. You own that playing field, unless you surrender it. Just how are these “cis-women” differenciating you? And if you tell them you are different, you have another battle to fight. Most often, I find that “we” will take a lot of care to present visually, then open our mouths and it is all wasted. I love all my sisters, but if you want to be a woman, you can’t stop along the way and expect other women to fall right in step with you. The closed minded minority is most troublesome, just don’t give in. At the same time, I believe whole-heartedly in your right to be included. But, come on Ladies, lets make every effort to be the women we claim to be.

  18. Helen G Says:

    Just Jennifer: Welcome back; Leigh: Thank you for stopping by.

    I’ve set out my thoughts on this in some depth in previous posts (most recently: Cis Feminism in London 09, Reclaim The Night (For Cis Women Only) and the London Cis Feminist Network, and Feminism in London workshop: follow-up, to name but a few) but to recap:

    The problem arises because the term is grounded in the use of the long-established trope which states that transsexual women are “not really women” – hence my assertion that the phrase women only is trans exclusionary. The definition is essentialist in meaning as it infers that one can only be “born a woman” (and never “become a woman”, to paraphrase de Beauvoir), and in so doing it denies not only the existence and agency of transsexual women and transsexual men, but also the potential for change itself. Thus women comes to mean cis women, just as surely as women only means cis women only. The biological determinism underpinning this rationale ensures that these definitions become permanent, unquestionable, immutable dogma.

    My assertion is supported by various examples, both real world and theoretical. Real world examples include the discrimination faced by Sandy Stone by Olivia Records in the 1970s, Nancy Burkholder by Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and Kimberly Nixon by Vancouver Rape Relief in the 1990s and, more recently, Lu’s Pharmacy.

    And from the groves of academe, the names Janice Raymond, Mary Daly and Sheila Jeffreys will surely be enough of a reminder that cis women feminists have long had issues integrating transsexual women into their ideology, although if you require a more recent example, then you could take a look at Julie Bindel’s article in Standpoint magazine last week.

    Just Jennifer, you may find it hilarious, but the fact that the organisers of the recent Cis Feminism in London 09 event issued a public clarification following requests from other cis women, suggests to me that even members of the London Feminist Network – who organised that event (as well as Reclaim The Night) – accept that there are valid concerns that need to be addressed.

    Leigh: You ask why there is even a distinction and, truth to tell, I wonder this myself; quite often actually. It’s not a distinction that I have made, nor is it one I am particularly happy with – most of the people I come into contact with every day accept me as the woman I am; it seems to be only certain cis women radical feminists that have a problem with a transsexual woman like me. I have transitioned legally, socially, medically and surgically but apparently even this isn’t good enough. If you weren’t assigned female at birth, it seems that you can never be a woman. And no, I can’t work out how cis women radical feminists square that with their other conviction that gender is entirely social constructed. Apparently the concept of “Our Bodies, Ourselves” only applies to cis women – and cis women radical feminists go to great lengths to police what they see as the boundaries of their territory.

    …*Helen shrugs, wearily*…

    Go figure – because I’m damned if I can make any sense of it other than it being the product of transphobic views propagated by cis women radical feminists. And until such time as that is resolved, there will always be “women and trans women” – or, as I prefer to say, as a small way of pointing out the Othering and the power imbalance, “women and cis women”. I would happily accept “self-identified women” as a halfway-house label until such time as cis women radical feminists are willing to accept transsexual women like me as the women we are; however, I believe that could be a long time coming.


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