Archive for the 'Claim The Night' Category

Reclaim The Night: policing the borders of cis feminism

November 25, 2009

Previously, on more than one occasion, I’ve made it clear that my anger at the members of the London Feminist Network who organise the annual Reclaim The Night march here in London arises from their continuing refusal to make any public clarification of their position on trans women attending the event. For a transsexual woman like me, their use of the phrase “women only” is contentious because it carries with it the baggage of nearly half a century of our exclusion from cis women’s spaces.

That such blatant and toxic cissexism is applied to trans women is, frankly, unforgivable in this day and age, but reading the latest post on the Feminist Fightback blog (link here) makes me realise just how dangerous the march organisers’ attitudes are when applied to other cis women too.

As self-identified women committed to fighting gender-based violence, members of Feminist Fightback attended last Saturday’s march in solidarity with sex workers fighting for the right to self-organise against exploitation in their industry.

From the blog post, it seems that not only were they subjected to physical harassment and verbal abuse from other marchers, but were approached and interrogated by the police, apparently at the request of one of the stewards.

[…] we were extremely surprised to find that one of the basic principles of feminism (and all social justice movements) was forgotten in this instance – namely, that we never resort to using police aggression to silence and intimidate members of our own movement, no matter how much we may disagree with them.

And that is the crux of the matter. Feminism isn’t – or shouldn’t be – about a minority of privileged cis women using strongarm tactics against other, far more vulnerable women simply to prop up their distorted and outmoded worldviews. Might is most definitely not right, and the actions of those self-appointed guardians of a fictitious ‘true feminism’ have revealed the extent of the moral bankruptcy at the core of the London Feminist Network. They should be ashamed of themselves and if they had a shred of conscience, all those concerned would have stepped down by now.

It’s no surprise that the organisers of the Reclaim The Night march have made no public statement about this incident and their silence serves only to underline their desperation to hold on to their positions of power without accountability. But listen well, my sisters: the day is coming when you will be called to justify your appalling treatment of all those women against whom you have consistently used your privilege to discriminate, when the right and proper thing to do would have been to support and assist them in their struggle against a common enemy.

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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.

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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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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…