Archive for the 'Trans feminism' Category

From the archives: two posts from Earlbecke’s much-missed Definitions 2.0 blog

March 8, 2010

Direct links to PDFs:

Trans Issues Are Women’s Issues (Originally posted on March 7, 2006 by earlbecke)

There is nothing essential about being a woman (Originally posted on February 7, 2007 by earlbecke)

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London anarcha feminist kolektiv is open to new members

February 25, 2010

brave new feminist worldSome positive news over at the LAFK blog:

London anarcha feminist kolektiv is open to new members.

If you would like to get involved with the kolektiv, please come to our next meeting which will be this sunday the 28th of February from 7 at Larc, 62 Fieldgate Street, london E1 1ES, http://www.londonarc.org

if you would like to get involved but are unable to attend this meeting, please email us at lafk@riseup.net and we can give you the details of future meetings.

Please note that we are a women and transfolk only group.

Good to see a feminist group explicitly stating that it’s trans inclusive without endless (ignored) requests for public clarification. Are you listening, LFN/RTN and MWR?

No, I thought not…

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Trans inclusion is NOT the absence of “no”, it is a clearly stated “yes”. [Via]

This is not a trans woman

November 22, 2009

Feminism in London workshop: follow-up

October 10, 2009

FiL09-161x162In my earlier response to Lucy’s comments (links here and here) on my posts “Cis Feminism in London 09” and “Reclaim The Night (For Cis Women Only) and the London Cis Feminist Network”, I said that I wanted to write a little more on the subject, and that’s what I’m trying to do in this post.

Additionally, I would recommend that anyone interested in following this thread also reads Laura’s post, Feminism in London workshop, at The F-Word blog.

Before I start, I want to make my own clarification. The views and opinions I express here are mine alone: I do not claim to be representative of transsexual women. Neither is it my intent to invisibilise, marginalise or silence the voices of other transsexual women.

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Late on Friday afternoon, the organisers of the Feminism In London event updated their website with the following information:

On the website’s home page:

This event is trans-inclusive and transwomen are welcome in the one workshop that is women-only. The Feminism in London organising group would like to apologise for not making this clear from the beginning.

On the workshops schedule page:

This workshop is for women (including transwomen) only.

Whilst I consider this to be a positive outcome overall and I welcome the clarification, there are a few points I’d like to make.

  1. The whole situation need never have arisen in the first place. The term “women-only” is cissexist, and has been since it was first coined by cis women feminists. That a supposedly progressive and egalitarian movement continues to use it makes it clear that the overwhelming majority of its members have simply not checked their cis privilege.

    Had the original publicity material (and let’s remember that it was only the website that was changed, not any posters/flyers, etc) been clear from the outset that the entire event was open to all self-identified women (for want of another clearly inclusive term), then the risk of misinterpretation could have been eliminated.

  2. I wonder if there would have been any clarification at all from Feminism In London if a member of the FIL organising committee hadn’t seen Laura’s post at TFW (the situation only began to turn after the comment initiated further discussion between the organiser and TFW bloggers).

    And I know this will make me (even more) unpopular in some people’s eyes, but I cannot understate the contribution my TFW co-bloggers made to precipitating FIL’s clarification. The positive outcome is, I believe, due entirely to their input. As well as being my co-bloggers and my friends, I’m more than happy to call them my allies.

  3. I’m not comfortable with the term “transwomen”. It carries its own meanings of objectification and othering and I would have preferred to see trans used as an adjective. We don’t refer to (for example) Lesbianwomen, or Jewishwomen, or diabeticwomen – so why say transwomen?
  4. The FIL event was still strongly biased against sex workers, and that is another aspect which needs to be addressed.

I realise that to some cis women feminists I still sound like Angry Trans Harpy™ – which I’m not. Well… not completely. I am pissed off that this whole discussion even needed to take place, but perhaps that’s just a measure of how deeply entrenched transphobic views still are within cis women’s feminism. And although I’m glad that the organisers of Feminism In London clarified – albeit only at the eleventh hour – that their event didn’t exclude trans women, I remain sceptical that the London Feminist Network is any less transphobic.

So now this transsexual woman waits to see if the lesson learned by FIL will be applied to next month’s Reclaim The Night march.

Reclaim The Night (For Cis Women Only) and the London Cis Feminist Network

October 5, 2009

RTN cis onlyMy previous post (link here) has drawn me into looking further back along the organisational chain of command, and the results are as depressing and predictable as one might expect; as much for the failure of would-be allies as for the actual transphobia of the organisers.

Reclaim The Night and Feminism in London are both organised by the London Feminist Network and one commonality in all their literature is the use of the trans exclusionary phrase “women only”.

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.

However, it also results in the anomalous situation we now see in the cases of both Feminism In London and Reclaim The Night where transsexual men (“really women”) will be welcomed to these events, at the same time as transsexual women (“really men”) will be excluded. The bias in favour of transsexual men not only makes use of one of the most offensive manifestations of transphobia – ungendering us – but silences and further marginalises transsexual women in the process: it is divisive too. At the same time, it reinforces the male/female binary which, in their next breath, those same cis women feminists will tell you they are committed to destroying – because, they reason, gender isn’t really absolute, determined by one’s genital configuration at birth, it is in fact a completely malleable, socially constructed concept.

LFN cis onlyBut regardless of the contorted and contradictory logic employed by LFN to exclude transsexual women, it’s interesting to note how the cis women feminist organisers then go on to avoid being called on their hidden transphobia by saying nothing explicitly about who is included in, and who is excluded from, the term women only. Their cis women feminist supporters at these events, who blithely go along with this hypocrisy by telling themselves that if transsexual women aren’t explicitly excluded then they must be implicitly included, are therefore not only complicit in the silencing of transsexual women, but their complacency allows the organisers to manipulate and exploit them in pursuit of this hidden transphobic agenda.

Which brings me to the real question: who decided this? How many people were responsible for implementing this trans exclusionary policy – and would they have been successful if the majority not been so apathetic? In a situation like this, saying nothing is no different to actively supporting the bigots. And given that transsexual women are highly unlikely to have access to the decision-making process, it falls to those cis women feminists who call themselves allies to take a stand on our behalf.

No more excuses, my sisters.

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Cross-posted at Harlot’s Parlour

Cis Feminism in London 09

October 3, 2009

Feminism in London - it's for cis women onlyNext weekend sees the Feminism in London 09 event. There are various workshops and discussions on a range of subjects: for example, racism and sexism, self-defence and assertiveness training, activism training, etc – and nearly 30 speakers scheduled. Any self-identified woman, whether cis or not, would surely find something of interest there.

But what’s this on the front page of the website?

If you are a woman or a pro-feminist man, come along to join the discussion.

Any trans woman seeing that will surely already hear the alarm bells ringing. It shouldn’t need restating that the word “woman” defaults to meaning “cis woman” and excludes trans women as a consequence. And “pro-feminist man”? I wonder if that includes trans men?

But there’s more. At the bottom of every single page of the website is this little gem of transphobia:

Some workshops may be for women only.

I see. And which workshops might they be, then? Close reading suggests that there is, in fact, only one workshop which is open to cis women only, and it’s the Rape and sexual violence workshop.

Because, as we know, trans women never suffer rape and violence.

Scratch the surface and the same old hidden agenda can be seen. Biological determinism: if you were born male-bodied, you will only ever be male. And its corollary – if you were born female-bodied, you will only ever be female – is the flipside. The thinking, if that’s the word I want, is fundamentally cissexist. The implication is that, irrespective of how we self-identify, to cis people we are always and forever the gender we were assigned at birth. It’s interesting that a self-styled feminist event should choose to implement such an essentialist policy. Whatever happened to the idea that gender is entirely socially constructed? And what happened to the feminism that preached equality for all and an end to oppression and discrimination?

And what all of this means in the context of the event is that a trans man will be welcome at the Rape and sexual violence workshop (because cis women have decided that he’s “really a woman”), but not a trans woman (because cis women have decided that she’s not).

But then I suppose it would be foolish to expect anything else of an event organised by the rabidly transphobic London Feminist Network. The same people who were last seen supporting a transphobic bigot celebrity lifestyle journalist at last year’s Stonewall UK protest, and who are no doubt already gearing up for the annual Reclaim The Night (But Only For Cis Women) march next month.

Frankly, if this is state of feminism in Britain’s biggest city in the 21st century you know what you can do with it.

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ETA: Because trans women never suffer sexual violence.
(Via This Is South WalesPDF here)

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Cross-posted at Harlot’s Parlour

The new feminists: lipstick and pageants

December 21, 2008

Although it seems to be addressing cis women, not trans women, there’s a nevertheless interesting piece in the Life & Style/Women section of the Sunday Times today, The new feminists: lipstick and pageants. The journalist, Gemma Soames, seems to be arguing that the recent Miss University London beauty pageant is a microcosmic example of a change in the focus of feminist activism by cis women away from a ‘retro’ (and, by implication, outmoded and irrelevant) feminism:

Take heart, sisters, for there is a new breed of feminist out there that is reinventing the ideology. Subscribing to the original feminist theories of equality (equal pay, equal rights and the importance of a right to choose), they pick the fights that mean something to them, ignoring the elements of feminist politics they find irrelevant.

My reading of the piece is that the “elements of feminist politics they find irrelevant” derive generally from the more problematic areas of second wave feminism and particularly, in this context, the protest against the 1968 Miss America Pageant. Instead, Ms Soames seems to be describing a sort of post-feminism.

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationship with feminism and I make no secret that I’m still very much a n00b to gender theory and politics so, dipping into Wikipedia while writing this, it’s been interesting to learn a little more about the concepts of gender feminism and equity feminism within post-feminism. I’m by no means convinced that post-feminism offers the ideal home for my still-developing ‘politics of being trans’, but superficially at least, it seems a little more open-minded than certain other feminisms it’s been my misfortune to have been slapped about the face with.

At first glance, equity feminism – “an ideology that aims for full civil and legal equality” – certainly seems to offer a solid foundation from which I might be able to start a reconciliation with feminism; although I’d need to know more about the ‘target equality’ – as I said in my earlier post, “I’m really not comfortable with an equality which takes cis men’s point of view as its benchmark“. It occurs to me, and I don’t suppose this is a new or original thought, that the pursuit of equality for all must surely also imply an end to oppression – especially in the context of living openly as a trans woman – but I see no mention of anti-oppression work in the Wikipedia piece. And that subject – ending oppression as a means to achieving equality for all – may well, I think, open up an avenue of exploration all of its own. (Note to self: See also Michelle O’Brien’s essays Whose ally?, Gender Skirmishes on the Edges and Trans Liberation and Feminism)

Gender feminism, on the other hand, is immediately problematic for me. Apparently, the term was first coined by Christina Hoff Sommers in her 1994 book Who Stole Feminism? to describe a feminism which criticizes contemporary gender roles and aims to eliminate them altogether. And it is that aim of eliminating gender roles that I don’t understand. Why would you want to eliminate them? Could you eliminate them? What would you replace them with – a form of androgynous gender neutrality for all? How would you enforce that? And why is it more preferable to abolish gender roles rather than allowing people to find the gender roles that are right for them, that chime harmoniously with their own sense of gender identity?

…le sigh…

I begin to wonder if I’ll ever find a solution that works for me; a solution that the world and her sister don’t feel threatened by (and hostile towards).

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Previous related posts:

Who’s worthless, exactly?

November 19, 2008

Because we're worthlessA couple of weeks ago I blogged about the apparent assault and rape of a suicidal trans woman in Melbourne (link here).

The Herald Sun has now reported on the latest development in the trial as follows:

A DOCTOR has been found guilty of performing an indecent act on a suicidal transsexual patient.

Sulieman Hamid, 53, of Melbourne, touched the cognitively-impaired patient on her breasts and lips while he treated her for a slashed wrist in a cubicle at the Sunshine Hospital emergency department in June 2007.

The court was earlier told the patient propositioned the doctor while he was treating her.

A jury in the Victorian County Court today found that the touching did not constitute the more serious charge of indecent assault.

Remember the victim’s previous statement? “He started touching my neck, my breasts, my lips, (with) his fingers.”

So now we know officially – that’s not indecent assault.

FFS.

It also found him not guilty of raping the woman at her home the following day.

Again, remember the previous report?

The patient said she […] slept until she was woken by a phone call from the doctor who asked if she was alone.

She let the doctor come to her house because she wanted medicine from him, she said.

After talking for a brief time in her bedroom the doctor started touching her, the patient said.

The doctor then allegedly digitally raped her.

No rape, no indecent assault.

FFS. Again.

Hamid, who faces a maximum of five years’ prison, was released on bail for a pre-sentence hearing on Friday.

Outside court, Hamid’s lawyer Nick Papas said his client would almost certainly never practise again.

“It is clear he has been suspended in terms of medical practice,” Mr Papas said.

“I expect that even had he been acquitted totally he would be stopped from practising.

“The man is going to lose his career, he knows that.”

Poor man. It makes your heart bleed.

Meanwhile, another of my sisters has, it seems, been violently attacked – and then spent nearly a year and a half of her life going through a legal ordeal in pursuit of some kind of justice – and what does she get? The knowledge that her alleged attacker is now expected to be stopped from practising as a doctor. Not even a mention of a custodial sentence.

“You’re a very naughty man. Take this smack on the wrist, go away and don’t do it again.”

FFS…

Legal system – what frickin legal system?

If you call that justice…

MPs call for Commons committee to consider representation of… well, just about everyone but trans people, apparently

November 16, 2008

Via Pink News:

Facebook trans logoA Labour MP has said a new special parliamentary committee that will examine ways of making the House of Commons more diverse should include gay, lesbian and bisexual people as an under-represented group.

The House agreed yesterday to establish a Speaker’s Conference.

A Speaker’s Conference is convened by the Speaker of the House of Commons following an invitation from the Prime Minister.

Under the impartial leadership of the Speaker, MPs from both the major and minority parties are brought together to consider issues within the electoral system. It must report before the end of this Parliament.

Speaker’s Conferences are rare. The last one took place in 1977-78 and there were only five conferences in the 20th century.

Commons leader Harriet Harman told MPs it would “make recommendations for rectifying the disparity between the representation of women, ethnic minorities and disabled people in the House of Commons and their representation in the UK population at large.

“As Members of this House, we represent 646 different constituencies in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, it is not enough to have a geographical representation.

“For people in this country, their identity comes not just from where they live, but from whether they are men or women, whether they are disabled, whether they are black or white and whether they are gay or lesbian.

“Society has changed and we must recognise that the House of Commons needs to change, too.

“As women in this country, we now regard ourselves as equal citizens, yet we are not equal in numbers in this House. We are out-numbered by men by five to one.

“This country is ethnically diverse now—indeed, it has been for many decades—but of 646 Members, only 15 are black or Asian. To be representative of our population, we should have more than four times that number.”

Ms Harman said that she hopes at least one gay MP is appointed to the committee and expressed a hope that gay equality organisation Stonewall would “make an important contribution” to its work.

17 MPs and the Speaker will consider how to achieve greater diversity in Parliament and then make recommendations.

Backbench Labour MP Emily Thornberry at least mentions bi people – but still excludes the T-word:

“The proposed Speaker’s Conference should expand its remit to consider the increased representation of lesbians, gay people and bisexuals, because to have only one out lesbian in this place of 1,300 politicians is not sufficient to be able to speak about the lived experience of Britain’s 1.8million lesbians.”

But note that Harriet Harman – the MP calling for this – excludes mention of either bi or trans people:

“For people in this country, their identity comes not just from where they live, but from whether they are men or women, whether they are disabled, whether they are black or white and whether they are gay or lesbian.”

Note also that the LGBT Labour Co-chair, Katie Hanson, is the only person quoted in this report to use the acronym LGBT:

“Labour has lead the way in making the Commons more diverse and more representative – but there is still a long way to go. LGBT Labour welcomes the Speaker’s Conference as a way of moving this forward, and we support the call from Labour backbencher Emily Thornberry for the conference to include LGBT representation as part of its remit.

Also from the report itself:

Ms Harman said that she hopes at least one gay MP is appointed to the committee and expressed a hope that gay equality organisation Stonewall would “make an important contribution” to its work.

The involvement of Stonewall means that there is unlikely to be any inclusion of trans people because, as we know, they only look out for GL…[b] people.

And also, as we know, PFC – the group ‘traditionally’ charged with looking out for trans people – appear to dismiss out of hand anyone who doesn’t toe the conformist party line (“those kind of people”?) – so even if PFC *was* involved, it is unlikely anybody from the grass roots trans community would even be consulted anyway.

I’ll stop now before I really get into rant mode.

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ETA, Monday 17 November: See also:

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ETA #2, Monday 17 November: So I concocted a letter and emailed Harriet Harman (Leader of the House of Commons), copied to Michael Martin (Speaker).

I can’t help but feel it won’t make the slightest difference, but I guess I should be used to that by now. But you have to try.

“Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will”, as somebody said a long time ago.

Dear Ms Harman,

Proposal to hold a Speaker’s Conference

I refer to the recent proposal to hold a Speaker’s Conference to address the under-representation of minority groups in Parliament.

As you observed in your announcement of 12 November, “For people in this country, their identity comes not just from where they live, but from whether they are men or women, whether they are disabled, whether they are black or white and whether they are gay or lesbian. Society has changed and we must recognise that the House of Commons needs to change, too.”

Whilst I welcome the broadly inclusive nature of the comment, I am concerned that there seems to be no specific reference to gender nonconforming people. I am a trans (transsexual) woman and believe that people like me are not only chronically under-represented but also institutionally marginalised and routinely subject to the effects of prejudice and bigotry from other members of wider society. Therefore I believe it is vital that we are properly represented by those for whom we have voted.

I should be grateful if you would confirm that people like me will be included in this process, and that we will be permitted to make individual representations to the Conference.

I look forward to receiving your reply in the near future.

Duanna Johnson’s Funeral–DONATIONS NEEDED

November 13, 2008

Via Lisa:

Duanna Johnson’s Funeral–DONATIONS NEEDED
Apologies for the caps, but this is urgent.

The balance for Duanna Johnson’s funeral is $1195 and the funeral home is requiring Mrs. Skinner (Duanna’s mother) to pay it by tomorrow (11/14). The cost is a hardship, so we are asking anyone who can to donate. Please send any donations to:
N.J. Ford and Sons Funeral Home
12 S Parkway W
Memphis, TN 38109

If you want any clarification from NJ Ford, here is their contact number: (901) 948-7755.

Please forward this to as many people as you can!! Thanks!

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ETA, 14 November: I’ve received an update from Casey – it’s in the comments, but just to confirm:

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition has set up a Paypal account to help defray the costs of Duanna’s funeral and burial in order to more safely secure donations. Their website (ttgpac.com) explains how the money will be distributed.

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ETA, 15 November: Further update from Casey:

It is no longer crucial to donate money. So far TTPC has collected $5100.51. If you still want to donate, have at it, but keep in mind that any excess collected will be given to Duanna’s mother to cover any incidental expenses (travel, floral arrangements, etc.).

Thanks to everyone who donated for their support and kindness!

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Previous, related posts on this blog:

  1. Duanna Johnson shot dead (November 11, 2008)
  2. If at first you don’t succeed…? (July 28, 2008)
  3. Race, gender identity, the justice system and the beating of Duanna Johnson (June 27, 2008)
  4. Transphobic violence: the video (June 20, 2008)