Why I will not be attending the 2010 Million Women Rise march

March 3, 2010

The first national survey on violence against trans people […] found that 48% of respondents had been victims of assault, including sexual assault and rape, and 78% had experienced verbal harassment. Other research conducted in the US found that 43% of the participants had been a victim of violence or crime, with 75% of those attributing a motive of either transphobia or homophobia to it. (Source)

There is no doubt in my mind that trans women are experiencing escalating levels of violence which are disproportionately high in relation to our numbers. Following last year’s International Transgender Day of Remembrance and the publication of the preliminary results of the 2009 update of the TGEU Trans Murder Monitoring project, it became known that more than 160 murders of trans people had been recorded in the preceding year. This prompted the equality/diversity campaigner Christine Burns to carry out this ‘back of the envelope’ calculation:

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

I can’t help but think that if 2,000,000 cis people had been murdered for no other reason than that they were cis, there would have been an international outcry. But by anybody’s standards, this is surely worthy of the attention of those with the power to initiate the attitudinal changes that are urgently needed to bring to an end this undeclared war on us.

As we know, cis women are also subject to violence and you might think that all women, no matter how we self-identify, trans or cis, would have a common cause and shared interest in claiming our human rights to life and security. And as the Million Women Rise website says:

A woman’s right to live free from violence and / or the fear of violence has not been achieved.

[…]

If you think this needs to change, then join us on a public demonstration to show those in power that it’s just not good enough!

However, it is unclear to me if the “us” that MWR uses is a fully trans inclusive “us” – or whether it refers only to cis women. The insistence on using the phrase “women only” – the website has an entire page of its own on the subject – is a definite cause for concern. To a trans woman like me, the term is contentious because it carries the baggage of nearly half a century of our exclusion from so-called “women only spaces”. The bitter irony, of course, is that we have just as much right to be in these 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.

Lynne, in her excellent post at The F-Word, says that some may think this is nit-picking, but as far as I’m concerned, and to paraphrase a friend, the point is not whether or not women like me would probably be okay on the march, the point is that we wouldn’t feel safe.

In my opinion, any feminism which causes any woman, trans or cis, to fear for her own safety is a feminism which fails all women, trans and cis. And when this happens at such a high-profile event in one of the world’s biggest cities, it makes me wonder why an organisation which can, apparently without hesitation, turn its back on some women but not others, is considered by so many to be a suitable representative of the womens’ movement, a decade into the 21st century.

That is the heart of it, and that is why I will not be attending the 2010 Million Women Rise march.

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Addendum: If this state of affairs leaves you as frustrated/infuriated/despondent as me, you may wish to contact MWR directly to express your views and ask the questions that they have been evading for far too long. According to their website, MWR can be emailed at info@millionwomenrise.com but, if my experience is anything to go by, don’t hold your breath for an answer.

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17 Responses to “Why I will not be attending the 2010 Million Women Rise march”

  1. Sue Says:

    Where does it say on the MWR site that transgender women are not allowed?

  2. Helen G Says:

    Sue:

    Where does it say that we are?

  3. Ruth Moss Says:

    Emailed them, for what it’s worth. I probably sound suspicious but I think the fact they haven’t put anything on their web site is telling. :(

  4. Helen G Says:

    Ruth:

    I think the more voices speak out, the better. It’s like Lynne says in her post at The F-Word:

    …it took more than one direct question before it got a direct answer

  5. Sue Says:

    If you identify as a woman, and if they are not explicitly stating “NO TRANSWOMEN”, then you can and should go. Unless of course you have a problem with cisgender women organizing an event to raise awareness for discrimination/violence/etc. that affects them. Do you?

    Is it necessary for them to clarify that women that are also transgender are allowed to attend? Should they then go on to mention that black women are able to attend? Palestinian women? Women who suffer from Treacher Collin’s Syndrome? Intersexual women? Disabled women? The list could go on. I understand you desire inclusiveness, but if they’re NOT excluding you, then why are you so upset?

  6. Helen G Says:

    Let me guess – you’re not trans, are you?

  7. Sue Says:

    Psst, Helen G, your own (now not-so-hidden) prejudices are showing. Good job on assuming that since I do not condone discrimination against anyone, FROM anyone, and in this particular instance, cissexual/cisgender women, that I myself am cissexual/cisgender. To answer your question I identify as cissexual but transgender. If I could attend (don’t live nearby), I would attend, this event.

  8. Helen G Says:

    You win.

  9. Ruth Moss Says:

    why are you so upset?

    Seriously?!

  10. Helen G Says:

    Innit

  11. Sophia Says:

    Any support for something like encircled Tw or Tm or T as symbols of inclusion, given experience of exclusivity ? Don’t know about black, palestinian etc women, but after recent history some sort of verbal statement regarding sex workers would certainly seem to be highly desirable too.

  12. blacklooks Says:

    @Sophia – ditto on the sexworkers given the 2008 fracas

    @Sue – I dont think its too much to ask for them to spell out inclusiveness – one paragraph would suffice and enable everyone to attend feeling safe and secure in being there.

    For the record I wont be going either and not because I am trans which I am not but because of the behaviour of certain sections of women in 2008 and I am just not partial to the heavy handed policing by march “security”


  13. […] in two minds about going because I am still angry about experiences of the Reclaim the Night demo, the appalling treatment of trans women and sex workers. I remember being in central London this time last year and couldn’t face […]

  14. harpymarx Says:

    I agree with Helen, blacklooks and Sophia. I was at the 2008 MWR demo and the it was awful. The treatment of sex workers and the Unite speaker who was no platformed because she mentioned ‘decriminalisation’ in her speech.

    Solidarity and inclusivity means that. For an organisation to grow and develop open honest debate is central. Not censoring nor marginalising women who are already marginalised in this society.

    I attended the MWR this year just to see what it was like but I was feeling uncomfortable and certainly didn’t feel part of the demo hence I left early on.

    And many thanks as well Helen for you re-tweeting my post. I valued and appreciated that.


  15. […] attempted rape and rape.  Similarly I cannot find figures of reported rape of trans women, but it will be higher than the 5% figure quoted above for women. Perhaps IWD is an occasion to look at women as human […]

  16. notU Says:

    You’re a woman. You have rights – women’s rights. They should just stop pushing their agenda on trans women. How pathetic is that.

  17. Helen G Says:

    Thanks notU – always nice to get supportive comments from across the globe.


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