On the Necessity of Being a Good Trans Ally, and Links to Some Trans Resources

I’ve watched with increasing dismay as a person I admired very much, whose blog I read first thing every day, failed spectacularly to understand why her actions over the past year and more have been upsetting to trans women. I’m about to leave on a trip, so that’s as far into that quagmire as I’m wading for the moment. There’s something more important for me to say, anyway:

Yes.

Trans women are women. Full stop.

Moreover, they are women who face misogyny of a particularly virulent kind. The ACLU has written two articles on the dangers they face, just trying to live ordinary lives. This one was written after seven had been murdered for being trans women. This was written after four more had been slain. A tiny fraction of a percent of our population identifies as transgender, yet the percentage of them being murdered is horrifically high. Trans women face a disproportionate amount of violence, and if they happen to be women of color, it’s even worse.

So the answer to those wondering if the violence they face is really all that different from that faced by cis women: yes. Yes, it is. It’s so very much worse.

I’m not much of an ally, but I’m trying to listen carefully to trans voices, and understand as well as a cis woman is able, and not add to the shit pile they have to dig through on a daily basis. To that end, I’ve paid close attention to the trans voices my favorite adults-only blogger, Submissive Feminist, has shared on her blog, and I’ve been collecting links. Now might be a very good time for me to share some with you. (While her blog is decidedly NSFW and includes a lot of BDSM, any links direct to her blog in this post will be PG-13. Just please don’t click them if you’re under 18!)

This, by Delia, is one of the most powerful statements on being a trans woman I have ever read. Go look at her photo series, and read the whole post. I’m including a mere snippet here, the part you should print out and tack to your wall if you’re in any doubt:

If we want to fight these myths and stereotypes, the only way to do so is to accept every transwoman as a woman, period.

At this point in my life, I have not had access to begin Hormone replacement. This does not make me any less of a woman,

I have a penis because I have not yet met the grueling requirements to be approved for SRS, and even if I had, I don’t have the money. This does not make me any less of a woman.

When I wake up in the morning, I have to shave my face, and cake on make up in order to be halfway happy with the way I look.

This does not make me any less of a woman.

A woman with a prominent Adam’s Apple is a woman.

A woman with facial hair is a woman.

A woman with a brow ridge is a woman.

A woman with thin lips is a woman.

A woman who does not shave her body is a woman.

A woman who wears pants is a woman.

A woman who does not wear make up is a woman.

A woman with a penis is a woman.

A woman with a Y chromosome is a woman.

Every Cisgender woman is a woman. Every Transgender woman is a woman.

Full stop.

Next up is a series of gifs created from a video of transgender people talking about things to never ask a transgender person. Your jaw will probably drop at some of the things they’ve been subjected to. This is why it’s crucial we combat ignorance, our own especially, if we want to be good allies.

For those who need a primer on the differences between gender orientation, identity, and expression, Transadvocate has a good one.

This article on The Bad Logic of Good People Can’t Be Sexists applies to transmisogyny and cissexism as well. All of us can be sexist, racist, phobic, etc., possibly without realizing. All of us can and will do sexist, racist, phobic, etc. things. We aren’t terrible people for tripping up. We’re pretty awful when we refuse to make a course correction, though. (And believe me, I’ve been guilty of that in the past, and probably will be in the future. Refer back to this post, copy these words, and remind me that I told you to let me know when I fuck up.)

In addition to a sky-high murder rate, trans people also face more than their fair share of depression and other issues, and have a far higher rate of suicide. Please know that there’s help available: call Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860, and if you can’t get through, reach out to The Trevor Project.

Finally, there’s an awesome project in, of all places, Bloomington, IN that will help transgender and non-binary youth get appropriate clothing, for free! This is a fantastic idea, and if anyone knows of any other resources like this, please share them in the comments. If I get enough, I’ll make us a dedicated page for the list.

We can make this a better world. I’ve seen the power of diverse people drawing together. I’ve seen deeply-rooted bigotries, ones I never thought we’d overcome in my lifetime, cut down to a size where they can wither in a corner of the garden while the rest of us get on with the growing. And we people, of all genders and none, can help trans and non-binary people not only survive, but flourish.

Let’s do this.

Image: Trans flag with white wording on it. A crown is featured at the top with the trans symbol protruding from it. Text: “Keep hope and carry on”
Image via Amigas Latinas. Click for source.

 

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On the Necessity of Being a Good Trans Ally, and Links to Some Trans Resources
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20 thoughts on “On the Necessity of Being a Good Trans Ally, and Links to Some Trans Resources

  1. 2

    No one cares what I think on this really, but it seems from this that all that is needed to be a woman is to identify as one. Lived experiences, presentation and biology are now irrelevant, apparently.

    What happens when a woman doesn’t identify as a woman? Is she a woman?

    To be honest, for the last few years I have tried to listen and learn about the various aspects of transition and non-binary life, but this whole mess makes me feel like it might be a waste of time to continue. If identity is all that counts then surely the word “woman” becomes meaningless in this context?

  2. 3

    As a trans woman, it pleases me to see such a strong decree from an ally.

    I lived the first 35 years of my life presenting as male… however these years were filled with internal conflict and self-hatred. Every time I stood naked in front of a mirror, I was disgusted. I dreaded the simple act of getting dressed in the morning because I had to put on that costume again and pretend to be someone I wasn’t.

    No two women have the same experience growing up. The diversity of the human character is tremendous. Some women are rich, some are poor. Some are white, some black, some Asian, or any of hundreds (if not thousands) of ethnic categories. Some grow up in prosperous nations, others in countries plagued by war, famine and disease. Some women are fertile and have a monthly cycle. Others may be barren and never experience even a single period. My experience happens to include a Y-chromosome and external plumbing.

    I did not “choose” to be a woman any more than I chose to be a redhead, a stutterer, or a Kentuckian. But after three and a half decades of shame, deceit, and loathing, I decided to finally show the woman I’ve always been. Am I any less of a woman for needing to hide?

  3. 4

    ” Lived experiences,”

    What lived experiences should one have to count as a woman?

    ” presentation”

    I have a cis woman coworker, if she hadn’t been introduced as a woman I’d say it’s about 50/50 on whether I’d have misgendered her. Presentation varies a lot for all sorts of women.

    “biology”

    Is a very messy area. There are XX people born with a traditionally male phenotype, and XY with a traditionally female phenotype. Sometimes the phenotype is ambiguous. There are cases of XXY, XYY, and others. All sorts of strange things can happen with hormone production- XX, female phenotype, with male range testosterone happens. There are also some brain differences correlated with gender, and sometimes these differences switch sides. There are probably more examples of things associated with one sex and/or gender that aren’t as reliable a marker as one might think- I haven’t even researched this much, just read stuff as it randomly came onto my radar.

    What reliable alternative would you propose? With all of that mess, what standard other than personal identification can really cover everyone?

  4. 5

    Oh, also,

    “What happens when a woman doesn’t identify as a woman? Is she a woman?”

    This person would not be a woman, they would be a man or a nonbinary individual. This happens.

  5. 6

    “Woman” has always been a label society places on people for meeting an ever changing set of “standards”. It’s still a label that when applied leads to a lot of oppression. Nothing’s changed, unless of course you used to check a persons lived experience, karotype them and check out their junk before assigning that mental label. I hope not.

  6. 7

    The word woman still means no less than it has in the past. The key to understanding that is in the face that people are choosing that label not having it applied to them by an external force. We choose words to try an communicate ourselves, to let other people know who we are.

    I can’t speak for other people, but here’s what I told my sister, who was in graduate school to become a therapist, some time after coming out to family:

    I guess the point is that the only people you ever hear about (although this is fortunately changing), are the people that stand out. The people on talk shows for scandalous or freak-show reasons, or the people you meet on the street that you only noticed because of their incongruity. You never notice everyone else unless they speak up and want to be seen, and they commonly don’t because they have finally started avoiding the allergic reaction most people have to non-conformity.

    Honestly, a lot of the problem is the whole essentialist framework of gender and sex. The only reason there’s this sort of mental dissonance is because reality doesn’t match our models. This is not the fault of reality.

    Sex is a framework, not a fact. It’s a means of interpreting biology, but is not a part of it. Defining a penis as male or a vagina as female, is the same as defining Pluto as a planet. It’s a question of inscription rather than description.

    Hell, even saying transgender implies going from one to the other, like those two labels are real actual immutable things to begin with. It’s all shorthand, like ‘being born in the wrong body’ is, to try and communicate some little fraction of truth to someone that has never thought about this before.

    Non-conforming people are not defective. Their existence simply points to the insufficiency of the essentialist models of sex and gender that we operate with. Imagine if people only had two words to describe temperature: hot, cold. How would we communicate the difference between a pleasant warm bath and something boiling hot that could be a danger? Are they both just ‘hot’? They are, but critical information is lost in the categorization. Hot is short hand for something real. It is not, itself, real.

    We shouldn’t be blaming external things for our own internal conceptual flaws.

    I was born me. People other than me categorized me as a boy. I accepted this label and internalized it because I didn’t know any better. I wanted to be accepted socially and so I did what everyone does and try to be what other people wanted in ways that I could bear, but that idea in my head conflicted with my lived reality. That internal conflict got larger and larger the older I got until something had to give.

    Everyone conforms to the labels people put on them in some way, and fight against them in others in an effort to be authentic individuals within our own individual comfort tolerances. Some of them are closer to our own lived experienced than others.

    So ‘girl’ isn’t a precise and accurate label either, but it communicates something closer to the truth. It’s a better short hand that allows people to understand me a little better than other option.

    Transgender woman is also descriptive, and in some contexts is better still. In others, I fear that I start validating those models in ways that are inauthentic. The only thing that I am transgressing is an idea.

    Facebook recently updated what they allow in their gender field to 52 different things. That’s better, but it’s still labels and I don’t know if we’ll ever have enough words for all the variation our DNA and produce. The truth is that I am me and no more.

    I’d like people to more accurately see who I am.

    People use the label woman to communicate something truthful and authentic. It’s not perfect, no words are, but it still has meaning.

  7. AMM
    8

    @2:

    but it seems from this that all that is needed to be a woman is to identify as one. Lived experiences, presentation and biology are now irrelevant, apparently.

    What is your point, exactly? You’re not very clear.

    The only way I can make sense of your comment is to assume you consider that “being a woman” is some kind of exclusive club, and that trans women who fail to meet some (possibly impossible) standard for being a “true woman” are somehow cheating and getting some sort of special privileges that are by rights only for true womyn.
    .
    I find this a little hard to understand, given that I mostly hear about the privileges that women don’t have because they aren’t male. Whatever reasons trans women might have for transitioning, it’s hard to believe that it’s for all the goodies you get when you’re seen as a woman.
    .
    As Dana is mentioning, what trans women (for some reason, trans men are always ignored in these cluster****s) are asking for is to not have to deal with people insisting that they’re not really women and using that rationale as an excuse to:
    * publicly make fun of them for being trans
    * forbid them to use public restrooms
    * intentionally call them by the wrong name and the wrong pronouns and other gender-specific terms
    * harrass them in public
    * attack and perhaps kill them for being not-women. (Cf.: the “trans panic” defense.)
    * constantly challenge their right to call themselves women.
    .
    Basically, what we are asking for is for people to treat us with common decency. Because “you’re not really a woman” is so widely used as a rationalization for not doing so, the request to do so gets expressed with the slogan “trans women are women.” Moreover, our experience is that people who dispute that slogan virtually always turn out to also support some level of indecent treatment of trans women for the transgression of presenting as or calling themselves women.

  8. 9

    What happens when a woman doesn’t identify as a woman? Is she a woman?

    If a person tells me they are not a woman, then I don’t get to say they really are.

  9. 10

    [email protected]

    What happens when a woman doesn’t identify as a woman? Is she a woman?

    I’ll take the easy question. When a person who is assigned female at birth (AFAB) does not identify as a woman, they are what they identify as. For example, they might be a trans man or non-binary.

  10. 11

    I suppose my point is that if all that is required to be a woman is to identify as such, what is it that is being identified with? What does it mean to identify as a woman?

    Besomyka wrote: “People use the label woman to communicate something truthful and authentic. It’s not perfect, no words are, but it still has meaning”

    Sure, but what is it that is being communicated? Truthful and authentic are adjectives and identity is subjective.

    Annie Bruce, I would probably drive more for the complete removal of “man” and “woman”. dis-encourage ANYONE from using these identities, since there is clearly too much old world baggage associated with the terms, and the original premises that led to their general acceptance are flawed.

  11. 12

    AMM:

    for some reason, trans men are always ignored in these cluster****s

    The simple answer is misogyny. A biologic male who identifies as female is a sort of traitor to the the superiority of the male sex and, worse, calls into question every man’s claim to that superior position. A biologic female who identifies as male is just aspiring to that superior position and, therefore, is not threatening.

  12. AMM
    13

    Yeah, I know.

    But the fact that it’s not just regressives (opp. of progressive) who erase trans men, but progressives, SJWs, feminists, and trans allies do it too, shows just how universal misogyny is.

  13. AMM
    14

    Well, what does it mean when a cis woman identifies as a woman?

    For that matter, what does it mean when you refer to a cis woman as “a woman”? What does “women’s toilet” mean?

    The same can be said for many things. Is someone who was born in NY but now lives in Virginia “a Virginian?” Does it matter whether they would call themselves “Virginian”?

    And is someone who was born in Virginia but has moved away still a Virginian? Does it matter whether they still think of Virginia as “home” or (like me) consider it a prison they escaped from?

    And do these questions and complications mean that the word “Virginia” is meaningless?

  14. 15

    B Lar-

    I do think that weakening the importance of gender in categorizing humans is a good goal. I’m not convinced the labels need to go, though. As imperfect as they are, there does seem to be something real to them. Society might have been wrong about the core biological reality behind them, and we might not have figured out precisely what the actual biological reality is, but they seem to exist somewhat independently of what we do with them. There’s something there.

    But yeah, weakening their importance to society is important. Less categorizing people, and more use of actually relevant categories when categorization is a reasonable thing to do.

    In the meantime though, whether they should exist or should not exist is kind of beside the point. These categories do exist, and we have to exist within a society with them deeply embedded into basically everything. If the “woman” box society offers fits someone better than the “man” box, or any nonbinary box offered or that the person can build for themselves, then the person is a woman. Maybe this is somewhat arbitrary, but it’s the world we live in and we have to make it work.

    AMM-

    Since working out that I’m trans, I’ve been stunned to find out that “but what about the men” is so often a valid point of discussion in trans discourse. Hell, I’ve been on the wrong side of this, before and even after my trans epiphany. I’m trying to be better, but it’s hard sometimes. Too much internalized bullshit(and a giant pile of jealousy on my part, that I finally worked through, with trans men nailing something I utterly failed at)

  15. 16

    Sure, but what is it that is being communicated? Truthful and authentic are adjectives and identity is subjective.

    Okay, I think I see where you’re getting confused. You think people are redefining the word ‘woman’. Like, somehow we’re changing the definition so that it includes men or something.

    That idea is precisely backwards, though. I’m not trying to change the definition of ‘woman’, I’m saying the common understanding of what that word means in our culture, broadly, applies to me. I am a woman. I have the nature, characteristics, or feelings often attributed to women.

    When transwomen say we are women, we are telling the truth. We are using that word in an effort to be understood by a society that has been profoundly misunderstanding us. We’re not tacking on some special coda to the definition and then saying, “there now it fits me”, we’re saying the common usage applies to us.

    The only time the definition ever comes up is when someone tells us, “nuh uh! No you’re not, because this specific aspect, and that…”. And we have to have a discussion about why they think we’re lying, and why that word still applies, and why when they talk about genitals that they’re missing the point, and that these objections are only being brought up as a after-the-fact rationalization for their feeling uncomfortable so that you can push that discomfort onto other people and feel better about themselves.

    This isn’t complicated. There is no secret.

  16. 17

    besomyka

    I have the nature, characteristics, or feelings often attributed to women.

    Do you think it’s possible to both 1) believe that people are wrong to attribute those things to women and 2) respect you as a woman?

  17. 18

    qwints: Yes, absolutely!

    I mean, gender is socially constructed so it could be reconstructed or the collection of things we tie up in gender could get tied up in a hole different paradigm entirely. In that case, how we regard ourselves and others interpret what we present socially, could be reinterpreted entirely differently as well.

    Right now, there’s a lot of harmful patriarchal elements in our current construction and there’s work to be done fixing that in our culture. I think a lot of what we associate with gender isn’t really as segregated into those groups and people believe. But that’s going the be a problem with any collection: it’s stochastic and fuzzy.

  18. 19

    John [email protected]#8:
    The simple answer is misogyny. A biologic male who identifies as female is a sort of traitor to the the superiority of the male sex and, worse, calls into question every man’s claim to that superior position. A biologic female who identifies as male is just aspiring to that superior position and, therefore, is not threatening.

    Thank you for dropping that piece of the puzzle. I was just sitting there, in my privilege-chair, rubbing my chin thinking “why do people get so upset…” and your comment was the piece I was looking for. Of course.

  19. 20

    AMM:

    it’s not just regressives (opp. of progressive) who erase trans men, but progressives, SJWs, feminists, and trans allies do it too, shows just how universal misogyny is.

    Unconscious social imprinting is probably the strongest influence on human thinking there is. And, since it is pervasive, it is not necessarily changeable merely by breaking out of it in one area. Learning to be progressive, a SJW, feminist and even sympathetic to trans people is not an automatic cure for its influence in other dark corners of our minds.

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