TDOR 2009 – Bring it on home (RTN London remix)

November 23, 2009

Outside it’s a cold, rainy morning and my mood today matches the weather: bleak with seemingly little chance of sunshine any time soon. I write these random but related thoughts on the Monday following the International Transgender Day Of Remembrance last Friday (link here), and Saturday’s memorial event in London (link here) primarily for the purpose of trying to process my personal thoughts and feelings rather than making some brave statement of activist intent. Last Friday’s 11th International Transgender Day Of Remembrance (link here) hit me much harder than ever before, and I’m still not sure why that is.

The wave of transphobic violence affecting trans people across the world continues to spiral out of control and it’s hard not to think that the only folk who give a damn about it are trans people ourselves. Last week I wrote about the statistics published in the recent TGEU report (link here) and the global average murder rate of three trans people per week is lodged firmly in my mind. The equality/diversity campaigner Christine Burns posted a quick calculation on Twitter to emphasise the scale of the impact of this murder rate on my community:

If trans ppl are (say) 1 in 10K of the population then 200 trans murders equivalent to 2 million in wider population (link here)

She added:

If 2 million people across Europe were murdered in 18 months then I’m guessing that would have some media interest (link here)

That last point is particularly cogent in light of the fact that the TDOR seems to receive no mass media coverage at all, whilst the murder last week of the Italian trans woman known as Brenda (link here) has received what I can only describe as salacious attention as a result of its reported connection with a so-called “political sex scandal” (link here). In the process, Brenda’s humanity – her identity – has been appropriated and devalued to promote the trope that all trans women are sex workers (subtext: and therefore deserve everything that happens to us, up to and including murder).

Closer to home, Saturday’s TDOR vigil here in London left me emotionally in tatters. Having spent most of Friday on the verge of tears for my murdered siblings, the event itself, so simple and so powerful, was unutterably sad. It was hard not to think especially of Destiny Lauren – a resident of the same London borough in which the TDOR event was held – who was strangled and her flat set on fire exactly two weeks before TDOR (link here). Despite his obvious distress, Destiny’s brother attended and gave a short speech before lighting a candle to her memory. At moments like that, when you see firsthand the human cost of the murders of my sisters on those who loved them, it is almost impossible to feel any empathy for those who see us as disposable objects, targets for their own transphobic self-loathing. The realisation that we are truly alone in a world which is intrinsically hostile to our existence is one of the biggest metaphorical slaps in the face you could receive.

The awareness of this sense of isolation was reinforced by the words of a representative of Press For Change, quoting from their recent report, Transphobic Hate Crime in the European Union (direct link to PDF).

Types of harassment by country

[…] British/UK respondents reported the highest levels of verbal abuse (25%); […] English respondents reported the highest levels of physical abuse (7%) […]

As the man said: “In Britain, if they come after you, they mean to kill you”. I hope I never hear more chilling words than that and they were much on my mind as I headed for home before the cis feminists’ Reclaim The Night march took to the streets. And when I did reach home and logged into my computer, I was bombarded by emails and Tweets from those cis women feminists who had attended the evening’s trans exclusive march to highlight the risk of street violence faced by cis women in London. In the light of the overwhelming sense of sadness and loss that I was feeling after TDOR, the sense of self-congratulatory complacency was almost too much to bear. It did, however, make me think again about my earlier suggestion (link here) that the trans community in London might wish to consider holding our own, trans centred, march – although I also accept that, realistically, it’s unlikely ever to happen, for a number of reasons.

My weekend hit rock bottom in the early hours of Sunday following a couple of “robust exchanges” online with cis women feminists. Their ciscentric apologism for other of their sisters’ transphobic bigotry improved neither my mood nor my belief that too many cis women feminists still have far too much work to do before this transsexual woman can really begin to believe the all-too-frequent assertion that:

“Not all of us cis woman feminisits are transphobic, promise!” (link here)

As much as I’d like to believe it, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence to support this claim. For example, how many of these self-appointed allies attended the TDOR memorial event on Saturday? (The event finished at about 4.30pm, a good hour in advance of the start of the RTN march; the timing couldn’t have been better). How many have bothered to contact the organisers of the march to ask if they would make the much-requested public confirmation (on the website and associated publicity materials) that the march is trans inclusive?

“Trans inclusion is not defined by the absence of ‘no’, it is the presence a clearly stated ‘yes'” (link here)

Because, really, telling me that…

“the event had trans women in attendance and pro-trans women rhetoric on the stage.” (link here)

completely misses the point. As Aunty Sarah so eloquently says over on her LJ (link here):

“The point is not that women like me would probably be OK on an RTN march, the point is that we don’t feel safe.”

The irony, of course – as many trans women have pointed out, many times before – is that we have just as much right to be in these “women only spaces” as cis women. The reason we’re not there is because those spaces have been taken from us by cis women feminists, often by force and always without accountability. And that, I believe, is why so many cis women feminists are so contemptuous, so aggressively hostile, when trans women speak of our inclusion in “women only spaces” – attacking us and policing the borders of “their” feminism allows them to ignore their guilt about not accounting for their actions and those of their cis sisters for nearly half a century.

“Women only” = “Cis women only”. Remember Sandy Stone/Olivia Records, Rachel Padman/Germaine Greer, Michfest, VRR. And on, and on (link here)

And while cis women feminists continue to indulge their denial, and pat each other on the back for walking arm-in-arm along one of the major shopping streets in London at 6pm on a Saturday evening, out here my sisters are still dying alone, three a week, every week.

I maintain that any cis woman feminist who talks about “ending violence against women”, whilst simultaneously excluding trans women from that equation, is as much part of the problem as the patriarchal society which condones her abandonment of her trans sisters, whose loss to transphobic violence some of us mourned on Friday and Saturday.


Note: The images used in this post are from onequeerone’s TDOR London photo set and are used in compliance with the Creative Commons License for non-commercial use.


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7 Responses to “TDOR 2009 – Bring it on home (RTN London remix)”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Helen G, gudbuytjane. gudbuytjane said: RT @helen_bop: BoP new post: TDOR 2009 – Bring it on home (RTN London remix) #TDOR #RTNLondon […]

  2. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by helen_bop: BoP new post: TDOR 2009 – Bring it on home (RTN London remix) #TDOR #RTNLondon…

  3. Katie B. Says:

    Agreed and agreed on that last point. As long as we’re being excluded, there will be less chance of us being seen as equals to cisgendered women.

    The sad thing that comes to mind is that a lot of times their ignorance about us isn’t something that’s really addressed. The ignorance is accepted as normal. It’s appalling and not right, but it something that those of us who somehow manage to blend in with cisgendered people can amend.

    Personally, I try to educate others about what it’s like to be trans. I’m out about my status and it doesn’t seem to be an issue, which gives me more opportunity to educate. It’s one way that I’m trying to create change within the local lesbian community. If everyone uses each little opportunity we have in life to educate, hopefully we can eradicate this ignorance and lack of inclusion.

  4. Helen G Says:

    Up to a point, yes. But I also believe it’s not the job of the marginalised minority to educate its oppressors. So it’s a fine line. I’m happy to discuss trans issues with those who are at least prepared to make an effort and do the groundwork, but I find the timeworn trans 101s are a huge energy suck, and a distraction from the bigger issues we face.

  5. Lucy Says:

    That’s just so wrong. RTN should be prominently about trans women and other women who suffer most from violence against women. Instead RTN help contribute to violence in making it clear that when trans women are hurt, cis feminists don’t consider it a problem for all women. Personally, as someone involved in the US equivalent of RTN, Take Back The Night, I’d like to see a RTN that not only includes all women (trans women, women with small children, women with disabilities, and so on) but that centres on how violence against women works out differently for different women. Trans women face a different kind of violence than cis women, women with disabilities a different kind than the temporarily abled, etc. Yet, you couldn’t tell that women are not a monolithic group from the advertising for the London RTN. That some women are a greater risk of violence (such as trans women and sex workers, two groups of women who have, ironically, been made to feel unwelcome at London RTN) seems to matter not a whit unless it’s women who are not those women talking about it. To borrow a line from the radfems, it’s all about making cis, middle/upper class, uni educated, TAB, white women feel “empowerfulled”.

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