Why Trans Exclusion Has No Place In Feminism. Or Anywhere Else.

Trans women are women. No ifs, no buts, no maybes. You can tell by the cunningly placed “women” in the label.

I figure that most of my readers are more or less on board with this one. Aside from a few of you (who in all honesty rarely get past moderation-seriously, you lot, read the comment policy!) I seem to be fortunate to have a rather sensible, reasonable bunch of people showing up here for a bit of a read. Much appreciated, by the way.

I’ll bet, though, that some of you simply haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about trans issues, or the inclusion of trans women in women’s and feminist spaces. There’s s lot of issues in the world and a lot of groups getting marginalised, and only so much time for each of us to spend thinking about this stuff. But given that it’s trans visibility week and just a few days after the annual Trans Day of Remembrance, I’d like to take a few minutes to sit down with you cis folks who might not be massively aware of your trans 101.

Because, you see, even within our supposedly progressive, feminist communities, some cis people do object to trans people- particularly trans women, because misogyny and transmisogyny are things- there are people who do think, for all sorts of (spoiler: bullshit) reasons, that trans women aren’t as entitled to a space in feminist and queer-lady communities as cis women are. People who are really, really invested in making sure that trans women are seen as, at best, guests whose welcome can be revoked at any time. At worst.. let’s not even go there.

The thing about the arguments they use, though? Not only do they not stand up to even the smallest amount of scrutiny, but they are also generally based on a horribly invasive sense of entitlement to other people’s lives and bodies. To the extent, by the way, that it feels vaguely icky and invasive just to counter them- I feel like this is stuff that is nobody’s business and we shouldn’t have to discuss it, never mind argue about it.

On the other hand? Like it or not, people are bringing this shit up. Let’s take a look at some of the arguments they put forward, shall we? And I’ll explain why they’re not as valid as they appear at first glance, and see why actively including trans people- especially trans women- is very, very important.

We’re going to look at three different areas where cis people say trans people are too different from cis to truly ‘count’ as ‘real’ men or women- those being bodies, upbringing and gender policing. Hold on to your delightfully stylish hats. This one could get bumpy, so have a helllll of a trigger warning for the rest of this post.

Bodies

There’s no denying that cis and trans women start off with different bodies- and many (but not all!) trans women go through puberties that change those bodies even more from what most cis women’s are like. To top that off, there are some parts of cis women’s bodies- like uteri, ovaries and the like- that trans women don’t have, and things that many cis women do- periods and pregnancy, basically- that trans women’s bodies don’t do.

If you have a group of people whose bodies don’t do all the things associated with one group (women), and some of whom do a bunch of things associated with another different group (men), how can you say that their bodies are every bit as much women’s bodies as cis women’s?

Surprisingly easily, it turns out (phew!).

Let’s tackle the uteri and ovaries thing. That’s the elephant in the room, eh? Because some people would have you believe that the lack of uteri and ovaries and the ability to use them to bleed every few weeks and pop a baby out every so often makes a person less of a woman.

When you put it that way, it doesn’t take much to see that that’s one seriously messed-up argument, eh? While most cis women can do all of those things, it’s by no means universal. There’s plenty of reasons why someone wouldn’t be fertile. Plenty of people have hysterectomies, and cis as well as trans women are born without uteri sometimes too. And as for periods- well, I know a shedload of women, myself included, who’ll happily drink a large glass of red (wine, that is! But whatever floats your boat, like) to the scientists who invented the pills, implants and IUDs that let us skip the damn things entirely.

Women have all sorts of bodies. Tall ones, short ones, skinny ones, fat ones, curvy ones. Our bodies don’t make us more or less women. They’re just.. a part of who we are. What we walk around in. How people see us. That’s all.

Selves, society, and statistics.

Okay, so we’ve been through the body thing. Our bodies don’t make us who we are- if you somehow transplanted my brain into, say, a brand new robot body tomorrow, I’d still be a somewhat cranky Irishwoman. I might have super robot strength and a shiny chrome casing, but I’d still be me. Not only do our bodies not make us who we are, but there are as many different ways to have and live in bodies as there are people.

But what about privilege?

I’ve heard it said that most trans* women grew up living as men and boys, and therefore have male privilege- something that sticks around after coming out and whatever kind of transition someone decides to undergo.
It sounds like a fair cop, doesn’t it? Even if someone doesn’t feel like they really fit in a certain category, if everyone else assumes that they are, then they get all the benefits, right?

My answer to this one is something that many people reading this will be familiar with. Lots of us have had to go through some process of coming out in our time. And before we came out? There was a time when we knew that we were something other than straight- but nobody else did. Or else they did- which is a whole different can of worms.
I don’t think that being assumed to be heterosexual growing up is the same for a gay, bi or ace kid as it is for a straight kid. Especially as we get a little (or a lot!) older, and start to figure out that the things that everyone else assumes of us? Don’t fit. There’s that nagging sense that things are wrong. There’s the fear of being found out. There’s the sense of confusion and not knowing where you fit in. Frankly? Even if everyone else does think that you’re the same as everyone else, it still sucks. Because you know better. Deep down in your guts, where the butterflies in your stomach live. You know better.

That knowing better? That dissonance and discomfort? That sense that you can’t keep being dishonest with yourself and the people around you, and that sense that you’ve got to live authentically and honestly? Those aren’t things that straight people get when they’re assumed to be straight. They’re not things that cis people feel when we’re assumed to be cis. We could go into the fact that many of us, even cis people, don’t feel like we fit society’s expectations for our genders- but that’s a whole different article for a whole different day.

Straight privilege doesn’t work the same way when the person who is kind-of-sort-of getting it is queer. And male privilege doesn’t work the same way when the person who is kind-of-sort-of getting it is a woman.

Not to mention the ridiculousness of the idea that male privilege somehow keeps happening after someone transitions. Then, you’ve got a choice of two situations. Either you don’t ‘pass’ (ugh, I hate that concept- talk about bodyshaming!) as female, in which case you’re in for whole new levels of harassment. Or you do, in which case, well.. you’re still in for all of the scrutiny and assumptions and bullsh*t that every other woman has to deal with. If you’re really lucky, you’ll have to deal with a delightful pick ‘n’ mix of both. If that’s privilege? I think I’ll leave it.

Patriarchy and Privilege

When I hear what trans exclusionary feminists say about trans women, one of the primary arguments they have- aside from that trans women’s bodies are either fake, icky or both, and that many trans women were raised as boys, therefore cooties- is that trans people prop up the patriarchy. The gist of this argument is that trans people, by seeking medical and/or social transition, reinforce the idea that there is one particular way to be a woman or a man. In this view, trans women are all super feminine heterosexuals looking for white picket fences, husbands, and handbags. This, the argument goes, directly challenges the notion that femininity, husbands and handbags are things that anyone can have, regardless of gender, and reinforces the idea that there are two and only two gendered boxes that we all need to live in.

There’s two big problems with this, as far as I can see. The first is that, well, that idea of trans people doesn’t seem to have anything in common with the trans communities I’ve known. The trans umbrella is a big, diverse bunch of people that includes genderqueer and non-binary folks as well as trans* men and women. And while there are plenty of femme trans women out there- who have varying opinions on the matters of husbands, wives, and picket fences- they’re by no means everyone. And trans women are butches, andros, bois, gentledykes and tomboys every bit as much as cis. Trust me. If I have one talent in life, it’s being able to spot butches, andros, bois, gentledykes and tomboys at 50 paces. It’s a tough life, but I live to serve, y’know?

But before I go too far down that particular (delightful) tangent, I’d like to get back to the second problem I have with that idea. You see, I’m sure there are some trans women out there who want nothing more than a husband, 2.5 kids, and a nice house in the suburbs where they can be stay-at-home mums and housewives all day long. So what? Of course there are! There are cis women who want exactly the same thing. Some of ’em are even feminists! But even if they’re not, the fact that some cis women aren’t feminists doesn’t mean anything about the rest of us. Holding trans women to a different, higher standard than cis women is just plain discriminatory. Speaking of discriminatory..

Cotton Ceiling Misunderstandings

There’s a thing called the ‘cotton ceiling’. It gets misunderstood a lot, but at its most basic level it refers to the way that many people-who-fancy-women have a major problem with the idea of getting involved with trans women. The version that you hear about (again, from people who want to exclude trans women) is that trans woman are insisting that they have a right to have lesbians sleep with them, and every time someone turns down a trans woman, she’ll cry discrimination instead of taking it gracefully.

That’s not what it means, though. It’s actually something that I can empathise with a lot, as a bi woman. There’s lots of lesbians, you see, who won’t date or sleep with bi women. Even if there’s mutual attraction, they don’t want to go there, simply ’cause we fancy men as well. Girl meets girl, girl fancies girl, girl finds out girl also fancies guys, girl backs away in disgust. While it’s absolutely their right to reject whoever they like for any reason the like (of course!), it still sucks to hear. And the fact that it’s a pattern familiar to almost every bi woman I’ve talked about is, y’know, a problem. This doesn’t mean that every lesbian in the world has to date the first bi woman who fancies her, regardless of whether the attraction’s mutual! It just means that a lot of bi women (and hopefully loads of lesbians too) would like it if the lesbians who do feel that way took some time to think about whether their feelings might be based on prejudices and stereotypes. That’s all.

The cotton ceiling is pretty much the same thing. If I had a cookie for every time I heard trans friends of mine talking about meeting amazing people who they clicked really well with and everything going awesomely until the moment they came out as trans? I’d need a pretty big bowl for all the cookies. Again, nobody’s saying that every cis person should run out of the house, find the first trans person they see and immediately invite them ’round for candlelit dinners. It’s just that, well, if you’re cis and you meet someone who you think is the cat’s pyjamas, and if you find out she’s trans and your first instinct is to run away screaming? Taking a few deep breaths, educating yourself, and working out why you feel the way you do might just lead to something awesome.

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42 thoughts on “Why Trans Exclusion Has No Place In Feminism. Or Anywhere Else.

  1. 1

    I will never understand TERFs. Or transphobia or any of that. People are people with different life experiences and bodies and everything. And my big argument is always-why the heck would people go through all the stigmatization and hassle to come out as transgender-to just mess with people or get into women’s spaces. Seriously. Get over yourself if you think men (who are not actually transgender) are going to go to that length just to crash your party.

  2. 2

    Thanks for the support – it’s always good to see people explaining these things. It’s less explaining ourselves that trans people have to do.

    Also, you would have zero cookies. If you have a cookie because a trans friend told you a story of rejection, the only right thing to do is hand it over to help make their day better. 😛

  3. 3

    I don’t know. I’ve gone around and around on this inside my head and I can’t seem to settle. I recognize trans women’s right to live an authentic life and am willing to do whatever I can to validate that right.

    But the experience of “woman” doesn’t start in adulthood. It starts from the minute you’re born. Every day there are a million micro & macro aggressions/privileges/societal cues that make up how we see ourselves, how we relate to the world, how we act & react. The world still hasn’t figured out that women don’t walk the same world as men and these large & small reminders of that are our authentic experience.

    There are so very few “women born women” spaces where women can come together with other ciswomen who have shared those unique experiences from birth. Ciswomen are expected to give up those few, infrequent meetings or to include women whose woman-life experience started at puberty or later. I am more than happy to have trans women in all other women’s spaces, and to recognize that their experience is unique and deserves to be supported, explored, and celebrated. I just wish they could understand that being born a woman is also a unique experience that deserves to be supported, explored, and celebrated.

    Trans women have places where they can gather together without their cis allies or detractors. Why is it too much to ask the same thing for ciswomen? That last question is not rhetorical, I honestly don’t understand.

    1. 3.1

      There are so very few “women born women” spaces where women…

      Stop right there. This phrase all by itself betrays a deep-down feeling that trans women aren’t really women at all, but an after-the-fact artificiality, not QUITE women. Not woman enough for you, so to speak.

      Trans women have places where they can gather together without their cis allies or detractors. Why is it too much to ask the same thing for ciswomen?

      “Women have places where they can gather without their male allies or detractors. Why is it too much to ask the same thing for men?”

      i.e. this was identical to a What About The Menz argument.

      To be specific: You are asking why it is wrong for the greater-privileged portion of a group to create ‘spaces’ for themselves that exclude the lesser-privileged portion. The answer is ‘because that *is* your privilege and oppression at work’. You do that, you’re part of the problem.

  4. 4

    Either you don’t ‘pass’ (ugh, I hate that concept- talk about bodyshaming!) as female

    I’ve taken to using the phrases “are perceived accurately” and “are not perceived accurately”, largely due to the fact that the concept of passing is about being perceived inaccurately but more privileged (black, passing as white), while in the case of trans people they are their gender, but are often perceived inaccurately for a variety for reasons.

    1. 4.1

      Exactly! Also, the idea of “passing” is itself based on the (awful, inaccurate, transphobic) idea that cis people somehow have a more real claim to their gender than trans people do. If we divorce gender from cisness, the idea of passing becomes completely meaningless.

      1. The only legitimate use of “passing” is to say that one is perceived as something that one is not.

        Passing is a very useful concept if we use it correctly. To pass as non-trans (or cis-) can be vital for safety, good for our emotions, and pivotal in other ways. To pass as a man, if one is a man (or as a woman if one is a woman) is non-sensical.

        Use the term correctly and the idea of passing is both meaningful and incredibly useful: it’s a bridge to understanding exactly what cis-privilege entails, for one.

  5. 6

    I’d kind of agree on the pre-transition trans women having male privilege. As you say, not quite in the same way as men, but still there (and then again, different groups of men experience different forms of male privilege anyway). And their experience having been socialized as boys giving them different tools and more confidence than most other women lack (my uninformed guess of why trans women tend to be in general more visible and vocal than trans men).

    But then I’d argue that this is no reason at all to exclude them from feminist spaces. Not all women experience patriarchy and oppression in the same way either, and having or having once had some sort of male privilege does not make them immune to patriarchy as women or cancel transphobia, and especially does not remove feminism.
    And feminist spaces should be open to feminist people.

    1. 6.1

      Hmmmm. Maybe we need to separate out “being perceived as XYZ” privilege from “actually being XYZ” privilege.

      Taking queerness again (as that is something I am, so can speak to): at different points in my life I’ve been someone who is perceived as queer or straight, depending on (of course!) gender presentation and where in the world I am at the time or who I’m involved with. The assumption that I’m straight has always been deeply uncomfortable for me- there’s a constant awareness that their assumptions are wrong, that I am not what they think I am, and that the consequences when I’m outed or out myself could be pretty awful. And in fairness, sexuality is a far, far smaller part of a person’s life than gender.

      I think that the conditional privilege that you get from being perceived as something you’re not.. It can affect you in so many different ways. You’re hyper aware of the way that people-like-you are treated and seen. You’re constantly worried about being found out. The differences grate constantly, you can’t relax. It sucks.

      Think about it- if you take people who have been able to be out (as anything, really) from a young age, we tend to be so much more happy and comfortable in ourselves than people who have years or decades of closeting to overcome. I think this is the case when it comes to gender as much as sexuality- having to hide such a huge part of who you are for so long is majorly traumatic.

      That’s not to deny that people get used to being treated a particular way and that that way can, in some superficial aspects, involve more respect than how they end up being treated once they come out. However.. it’s complicated. It’s so complicated.

      As for the increased visibility of trans women as opposed to trans men? I think that is so complicated as well. Transmisogyny means that trans women have a hell of a lot more marginalisation to deal with than trans men (who of course don’t exactly have an easy time either), so they simply have more to fight against. Especially as so many feminist/queer women’s communities are welcoming to trans men and exclude trans women, so of course they need to be louder. And the fact that many trans men do experience male privilege in their daily lives, even outside our communities. That’s no small thing.

      I’m not saying that socialisation plays no part at all. But we need to look at it both in the context of how it can be hugely traumatic for people for whom it doesn’t fit, and also in the context of the way that oppression affects people after they come out. Know what I mean?

      1. Idk, to me, when you (as well as other people) argue that pre transition trans women don’t have male privilege because the aren’t being perceived as what they are is that being perceived as the gender that you identify as seems to me to being much more closer to having cis privilege than it is to having male privilege and you can be oppressed in one way and still privilege so saying that pre transition can’t have male privilege because they don’t have cis privilege makes as much saying white women can’t have white privilege because they don’t have male privilege. I also feel like it erases the experience of a lot of trans people where they transition and then the way it was appropriate for them to act when they were being perceived as the other gender are no longer considered appropriate. I agree with Post Nerd that it’s not a reason to exclude them from feminist spaces or ignore their struggles but I just don’t think cis privilege and male privilege are necessarily mutually inclusive

  6. 7

    Oh, wow, Aiofe.
    I think this is an awesome post.
    I’m someone who tries very hard to, and very much needs to, STFU and listen to trans* people (and the many other not-cis, not-straight, not binary people out there).
    This post made that easy for me today. I hope I can say thanks for that in a not-patronizing way.
    I promise to keep listening on the days I feel more defensive/criticized, too.

  7. 8

    I wish the default pronouns were gender neutral. A friend of mine recently came out as transitioning, and it’s annoying the crap out of me that every time I slip on the pronoun certain people take it as my acknowledging she’s not a ‘real woman’. She is a real woman. It’s just I’ve been using ‘he’ for the past 20 years and it takes longer than a couple weeks to completely switch over a habit.

    Fuck, if she needs a uterus to be a ‘real woman’ she can have mine. It’s a pain in the ass I’d love to get rid of anyway. Maybe she can have it bronzed, put it up on a mantle someplace.

  8. 9

    @ abbeycadabra
    I never said that trans women are not women. They are women. They are women who came into their womenhood in their own unique way. Cis women have a different background. it is neither better nor worse, only different. Women who were born women have a background that is different from trans women. That background informed their lives. Why is it wrong for them to want a place to discuss that?

    Maybe I would understand it more if the concern was starting there but leading to more lock-outs – feminist meetings, or bathrooms, shelters, etc. For the record, I support the rights of trans women to use women’s restrooms, shelters, gyms, etc. I welcome them to feminists gatherings. I also think that women born women should be able to have the very few, very small spaces that they have carved out for themselves.

    Women are not a privileged group. Ciswomen do have have cis-privilege but that doesn’t do us much good. Being recognized as a woman, even a straight, middle-class, white privileged woman offers no protection from the same sort of violence faced by transwomen. But even white, middle-class, ciswomen and transwomen have insane amounts of privilege compared to their sisters of color. The intersectionality is trickier here.

    1. 9.1

      That was all over the place.

      Women who were born women have a background that is different from trans women.

      This is that same excuse again. This is exactly what TERFs say to explain things like Michigan Womyn’s Festival. The soft line is “Wellll…. yeesss…. they’re ‘women’…. but not REAL women.” That’s effectively what I’m hearing from you…

      Women who were born women have a background that is different from trans women.

      … though this is heartening.

      Ciswomen do have have cis-privilege but that doesn’t do us much good.

      Sure it does.

      You never had to hide what you are. You can go out without fearing someone will decide you need to be *cleansed* away. You can go to events, woman-focused and otherwise, without instantly being marked as ‘a potential threat’.

      You can *date* without having to constantly worry whether the current subject of your affection just sees you as a fetish object, or if they DON’T, that they will be repulsed as soon as they find out about your birth defect. You don’t have to deal with wide swaths of people considering your sexuality – no matter what it is – to be deviant, never mind that sexuality and identity are very different things.

      You don’t have to worry about being outted every time you seek medical attention, or worse, outright denied medical attention because the doctor won’t treat people like you. You get to have a driver’s license, passport, etc, with the correct information on it – and if it DIDN’T, you wouldn’t be prevented from fixing it (or prevented until you underwent an invasive medical procedure). You don’t have organizations of people dedicated in part to stamping you out, who do things like running defamatory ads about you and deliberately stir up fear. You don’t have countries passing laws to outlaw your very life.

      That’s a SAMPLER. Yes, you have cis privilege. You have TRUCKLOADS of it. You not seeing it is merely the standard ‘privileged group cannot see its privilege’ blindness.

    2. 9.2

      The thing about intersectionality, though, is that you can’t take one category (transness) and say that it is irrelevant because other factors are also important. Of COURSE class, race, sexual orientation, disability, etcetc affect how a person’s transness impacts their life!

      But you know what? You could as easily say that gender doesn’t matter, because race, transness, sexual/romantic orientation, disability etcetc affect how our gender impacts our life. you could do the same with every category we have and call it irrelevant because other things matter too.

      Yes, class and race and orientation and ability and everything else change how a woman’s transness impacts her life. Which is, of course, why it is specifically poor trans WOC who are overwhelmingly the victims of violence in a way that rich white people (of any gender) do not experience.

      Abbeycadabra has done a good job of listing some of the really obvious ways in which cis women are privileged over our trans counterparts. Remember when you read it, though: even if you do experience some of those things, you don’t experience them because of your gender identity. For example: there are absolutely organisations devoted to wiping out queer people, which sure does break my goddamn heart and hurts like hell. However, people wanting you to not exist because of your gender ID is a separate thing, which impacts people’s lives in different ways. Some people have to deal with one or the other, others with both, others with more on top of that. They’re all horrible in qualitatively unique ways.

  9. 10

    @abbeycadabra

    Ciswomen have cis-prividge, yes. That privilege makes our dating life somewhat easier if we happen to be women who fit into a rather narrow definition of “datable.” But the rest of it – I can go down the same list: Some women can not get medical attention because all the clinics have been closed due to one of the 1000 new restrictions on abortion. Women are primarily the victims of DV, rape and murder. etc, etc, etc. But this is not a contest.

    To be a woman is to live as a more vulnerable second class citizen. This is why I support the inclusion of trans women in our restrooms, shelters, gym lockers and other safe spaces. They are women and they both need and deserve that protection.

    I also support those small, infrequent, temporary spaces for women born women. Women who were born women do not have the same life experience as trans women. This does not make them more valid women. It only means that they have a slightly different shared vocabulary of experience. That experience and that vocabulary is important. It shaped who we are. Sometimes for the better. Sometimes it left scars. Just as we can empathize with but not fully understand the process of being a trans woman, trans women can empathize with but not fully understand our experience. It was an external force, we had no control. Women born women need these small places to come to terms with what has been done to us.

    It sometimes seems as if trans people would like to erase the past of women born women, or to deny those social pressures that informed our lives. I know that can not be the case because I refuse to believe that trans people are that cruel.

  10. 11

    I never said it was a contest, I was disproving your claim that “Ciswomen do have have cis-privilege but that doesn’t do us much good.” It does you lots of good, I cited examples. And no, you cannot ‘go down the same list’ – cis women generally do NOT have trouble accessing medical care *other* than for abortions, trans women are at *higher* risk of sexual assault and murder, especially by a male partner, etc.

    You’re doing the cisgender version of ‘WHAT ABOUT THE MENZ’ again.

    Women born women need these small places to come to terms with what has been done to us.

    What exactly do you think ‘has been done to you’ that isn’t done to trans women, other than ‘having a uterus’?

    On second thought, never mind. You’re DETERMINED to carry ‘separate but equal’ right to the end, and frankly this argument:

    It sometimes seems as if trans people would like to erase the past of women born women, or to deny those social pressures that informed our lives.

    … is inflammatory bordering on malicious, and continues to show your underlying belief that trans women are Other no matter what nice words you dress it up in.

  11. 12

    I have a couple of comments so I’ll number them, because that’s how I roll.
    1. Spot on op. I’m coming to really like this blog and posts like this one reinforce that like.
    2. I really appreciate that you mention ace’s. A lot. We get dropped off the non-heteronormative though bus a lot and just little mentions like this one make me feel warm and fuzzy, even when the topic isn’t warm and fuzzy. It’s just nice that someone remembers us sometimes.
    3. Okay, on to the Cis afab vs mtf discussion. This is a can of worms in a lot of different ways. First, to the people haven’t read it google “injustice at every turn” the national transgender discrimination survey report and read it. It’s long, depressing, and very very needed for any Cis person to read to start to get an idea of where trans people are coming from. Cis women are privileged. Yes, you still face the sexism issues but citing intersectionality as a reason to have afab only spaces is not okay. Change the arguments language, replace Trans with any other marginalized group. ‘We should have spaces for able bodied women that exclude disabled women because our experience is different’ ‘we should have wealthy women only spaces that exclude poor women because our experience is different’ or how about ‘we should have white women only spaces that don’t allow women of color because our experience is different.’ I hope you get the picture. Cis women have privilege in a way trans women don’t. I was afab, I’m gender queer, not male, not female, but yet both. Am I allowed in your women only spaces? How about my friend that’s intersex yet afab? They was raised female, assigned female, but doesn’t have the female sex characteristics that are associated with being female. In fact in their case they have all of the secondary sex characteristics of someone associated with being male. They’re afab, are they allowed while the little girl I work with that is 4 and trans isn’t when she grows up? She’ll have all of the experience being female that a Cis woman does except periods and genitalia (which as was said in the op not all Cis women do either) but since technically she wasn’t afab she’s not welcome? It’s complicated in so many ways and those with Cis privilege (and yes, since I “look” female I recognize I get a lot of Cis privilege if I want it) need to step back and listen, research and think a lot before we start asking for Cis only spaces because unless you (generic you) have some damn good reasons it doesn’t scan to those if us that aren’t Cis. And one of the few good reasons I accept? “We need Cis women spaces for Cis women to unpack our own trans phobia and Cis privilege”

    1. 12.1

      From 1 and 2: Thank you! I do my entirely imperfect best 🙂 And I’m lucky enough to have a bunch of amazing ace folks in my life who I’ve learned a hell of a lot from. I also figure that, as a general rule, the further to the right of the LGBTQIA acronym a group are, the more attention we should pay to them, cause dammmmn but they L and G people get the overwhelming share of THAT.

  12. 13

    When you come out as cis to your doctor, does he have to go away and think about if he can continue to treat you?

    When you try to attend school as a cis person, do they have to inform the school board and parents to make sure they’re OK with you going there?

    When everyone around you uses the term “woman”, are they almost never talking about you as a cis woman, only trans women? Talking about trans women’s biology, not yours?

    Do you ever bring up cis women’s issues in a women’s group and have to worry that they no longer think of you as one of them?

    Do you have to dilate your vagina, if you have one, by default?

    Do you get assaulted by your family members when you tell them you’re cis?

    Do you look in the mirror and wonder if you look trans enough today to get through the day without someone giving you shit?

    Do you even have to come out as cis, or does everyone just assume so, because that’s what the default is?

    Do you find out every day that some celebrity you loved is cisphobic and thinks you’re a monster, or a joke, or both?

    Do you have to wait longer for passports as a cis woman?

    Are you surrounded by trans women as a cis woman, everywhere you go, talking about womanhod as if it didn’t have you in it?

    Do you have to skip reading articles because they trigger memories of cisphobic violence?

    YOU HAVE CIS PRIVILEGE.

    FOR FUCK SAKE.

    IT’S A BIGGER DEAL THAN YOU THINK.

    GROW UP.

    1. 13.1

      Perhaps you don’t realise how insulting it is to write “Do you have to dilate your vagina, if you have one, by default?”

      The vagina is a complex organ, self-cleaning, self-lubricating and, as part of the reproductive system, closely connected to a whole range of other organs. Among other things, it acts as a conduit for menstrual flow, amniotic fluid and lochia. It forms the birth canal. It is both flexible and immensely sturdy: it can allow the passage of a hand or a baby, but it can also contract to grip a single finger. During penetration by a penis its rhythmic contractions add to the pleasure of both. It is also the cleanest bodily orifice, for obvious reasons.

      What you dilate is not a vagina, but a surgically created pouch. To suggest that the two are the same, or even similar, displays a profound misogyny and arrogance. It’s weird. I assume you want to be perceived as a woman, yet you have no respect for us.

      1. This is not just cissexist but also ableist. Is a woman born with a vagina which doesn’t function as you described above not a woman and does her saying she is make her a misogynist? Having a ‘normal’ vagina as perceived in the medical sense is surely not a defining criterion for womanhood, and if it were, how utterly restrictive and archaic an idea is that? Ciswomen can have vaginismus which may require dilation therapy to restore function (and/or a whole swath of other possible vaginal diseases and disorders), and/or vaginas of a whole range of shapes and functionalities. Some women are forced to undergo FGM- are some of the most vulnerable women in the world now excluded from your feminism because their vaginas don’t match your ideal? And let’s not even get started on the myriad issues with the sex binary here…

        I am really confused by vaginanormitivity and vagina-worship by feminists, except a tiny bit for the latter in response to historical patriarchal disgust with the organ. Yes, having a vagina can be great, but having or not having a stock-standard one you were born with is surely not what defines your life as a woman, and if it does, well… that’s pretty odd.

  13. 14

    And no woman is born a woman. People are born babies. People get assigned gender roles and sometimes this matches up with their actual gender, sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes a baby grows up not to have a gender.

    And if you think trans people are so powerful that women who were assigned female at birth need to carve out a space from them, you’re a bigot. “Why can’t we just have a group for heterosexuals born heterosexuals? The rest of them get to have their space! I just want a single space where we can talk about heterosexual stuff *for once*, gawd!”

    1. 14.1

      And no woman is born a woman, you say. True, but babies are born female, with all their life’s eggs already present. Sex affects every cell in your body. If my skeleton were dug up hundreds of years from now, the first thing they could know for sure is my sex.

      If you feel you’ve been born the wrong sex that must be horrible, but there’s currently no way you can change it and blaming others makes no sense at all. I am not cis anything, I am a woman, and I no more “identify” as a woman than a zebra identifies as a zebra.

      I don’t think trans people are powerful. That’s not relevant. What is relevant when we’re talking about women-only spaces is that they aren’t female. Some spaces may be women-identified too, but there is a difference, however much you dislike it.

      Feminism is a response to the oppression and injustice experienced by those who are physiologically female. It maintains that gender roles are superimposed on physical sex and not intrinsic to it.

      It seems, from what I read, that very few trans women are feminists. They want to be seen as women and do so by copying the observed “feminine” stereotypes that feminism specifically seeks to combat.

      1. “Feminism is a response to the oppression and injustice experienced by those who are physiologically female. It maintains that gender roles are superimposed on physical sex and not intrinsic to it.”

        No it isn’t. That is your personal niche definition, but is by no means universal to feminism.
        Gender roles are indeed superimposed on physical sex (another construct) but they don’t just oppress cis women.

        “It seems, from what I read, that very few trans women are feminists. They want to be seen as women and do so by copying the observed “feminine” stereotypes that feminism specifically seeks to combat.”

        The first part of this is is either a lie, total ignorance or, most likely, based on your apparent view that intersectional feminism is not feminism and so you have discounted the views of trans feminists as not feminist. Many, many trans women are feminist. Their battle is just a bit more complex than yours due to their lack of cis privilege.

        Trans women wanting to be seen as women by complete strangers often does involve presenting as femininely as possible. You are not incorrect here. However the reason behind this is not merely fetishization or reductionism of what femininity and womanhood is, but rather a survival tactic. Would you assume that a trans woman with no ‘female’ secondary sex characteristics, no makeup, visible stubble and wearing ‘male’ clothing was a woman if they did not tell you? Would you treat them like you would treat a man (which may not involve anything you would consider offensive toward a cis man but which may occasionally highlight their ‘man’ status in conversation)? If your answer is yes, or possibly, then surely you can see why many trans people go to painstaking effort to make their gender accurately perceptible by strangers so they don’t get constantly, stressfully misgendered, which can lead to mental health difficulties.
        Also, consider butch cis women for a minute. Do you believe they are choosing to appropriate a reductionist idea of masculinity? No? They are just expressing themselves the way they want to as women and breaking down limiting norms for women? They mostly still get treated as women due to their secondary sex characteristics regardless of how manly they dress superficially so feminism is still super important for them? Why is any of this relevant to trans women? Because, unlike cis women who appear superficially masculine but are still clocked as women, unless and often despite going above and beyond to appear feminine, trans women are often clocked by strangers as men and misgendered, or worse, as trans which can lead to transphobic violence (yes, simply existing as a cis woman can provoke violence, but you’re ‘just(lol)’ seen as a man’s disposable plaything, rather than a freak deserving of punishment and/or eradication due to the abomination that is your entire being/threat to fragile masculinity you provide (even though you are a woman and not a man trying to erode masculinity (and patriarchal privilege, though I doubt most violent men even know this is the reason they are scared of femininity in perceived men).

        Anyway, I feel like much of this has already been said but thought it was important to respond.

  14. 15

    *other* than for abortions

    Abortion is not just some other that can be brushed away. Like I said, it’s not a contest. It is all important. This conversation has given me very unwelcome insight into the minds of some trans women. In the interest of staying true to my ideals of inclusion, I think it is better if we end this now. Your view that your medical needs are far more important than that of other women is repugnant. I don’t believe that many other trans women feel that way.

    1. 15.1

      Abortion isn’t about women, though. Abortion access (and I’d like you to remember that this blog is written from a country where we have no access to abortion unless we are literally dying) is an essential issue for ALL people with uteruses. Being a trans man or AFAB genderqueer isn’t gonna help you one bit if you need an abortion ’round here. In fact, the conflation of abortion and womanhood makes accessing reproductive services a hell of a lot harder for AFAB people who aren’t women.

    2. 15.2

      You’ve got ‘more important’ and ‘different’ confused.

      Being a woman sucks.
      Being a black woman sucks, plus more suck.
      Being a poor black woman sucks plus more suck plus more suck.

      By the same token:

      Being a woman sucks.
      Being trans presenting as a woman sucks, plus more suck.
      Being trans starting as a woman sucks, plus more suck.

      It takes nothing away from you to acknowledge that ‘plus more suck’ some people have to face in their lives.

  15. 16

    Abortion is not just some other that can be brushed away. Like I said, it’s not a contest. It is all important. This conversation has given me very unwelcome insight into the minds of some trans women. In the interest of staying true to my ideals of inclusion, I think it is better if we end this now. Your view that your medical needs are far more important than that of other women is repugnant. I don’t believe that many other trans women feel that way.

    Excuse me? Where did you dig up ‘far more important’?

    I said that your cis privilege grants you GENERAL MEDICAL ACCESS. There is only one procedure that you MAY not be able to access because of political bullshit. (And FYI I am strongly in favor of universal access to safe, legal abortions: a woman’s bodily autonomy is sacrosanct.)

    Nonetheless, it’s just one thing. You wouldn’t wonder whether a doctor would treat you for a broken bone, or cancer, or a thyroid condition, or anything else.

    In contrast, trans people often find themselves in a position of having NO MEDICAL ACCESS WHATSOEVER. I’m not even talking about actual transition-related medical care, which is even harder. There are doctors who just flat-out won’t touch trans people, either for bigoted reasons or because they think that all medical issues trans people have must by definition be transition-related and therefore requires a specialist. Never mind how hard it is to get medical coverage when your entire life is considered a ‘pre-existing condition’, and work is almost impossible to come by for the same reason.

    Trans women die from this – way way more often per capita than cis women die from not getting an abortion. Not to mention the fact that medical care for abortions *is* a problem faced by trans people – half of them have got a uterus, too! Think for a moment what a double-layered pile of emotional mess it must be being a MAN who shows up at a gynocologist’s office asking about an abortion. He’d be there for an hour just convincing the admitting nurse he’s not trying to force his girlfriend to do it.

    You are once again being TERF-y and disingenuous. YOU are the one bringing up ‘more important’ – in this case, by asserting that the (sexist, patriarchal, and misogynistic) inability to access just one medical procedure means you don’t have cis privilege by not having to wonder if you have general access to medical help.

    In short: it is YOUR views that are being thrust into the light here. You genuinely, truly believe that trans women are lesser and other – proved here by the repeated rejection of the concept of cis privilege, the assertion it’s meaningless, and your claim that trans women wanting general medical access is ‘repugnant’.

    I care not a whit for your ‘ideals of inclusion’. I have yet to see any evidence they exist.

  16. 17

    “If the lesbians who do feel that way took some time to think about whether their feelings might be based on prejudices and stereotypes.”

    Suppose a lesbian gives it thought and concludes it’s not because of prejudices and stereotypes. Now what?

  17. 18

    Alright so quote block fail. >.< can we delete that last one while I fix this? Sorry.

    Okay so first I must caviat my post because I just took my sleeping pills and my body is trying to force the sleeps on me despite my desire to respond again. If this is incoherent I apologize and will fix it in the morning.

    12 – Danielle – this post was a pretty spot on rendition of some of the things trans people have to face on a regular basis.
    “Do you look in the mirror and wonder if you look trans enough today to get through the day without someone giving you shit?
    Do you even have to come out as cis, or does everyone just assume so, because that’s what the default is?
    Do you find out every day that some celebrity you loved is cisphobic and thinks you’re a monster, or a joke, or both?”

    This especially ran true for me. Only mine hits even deeper for the first one. Looking in the mirror on a given day can be so triggering it’s hard. That’s part of why I don’t wear makeup. I dont want to look in the mirror. The dysphoria from looking at a person that my brain tells me is my body but also tells me that it isn’t is such a level of dissonance it’s hard to discribe. It makes me feel like I have to ‘put on’ my gender so that other people can see it. As I have enough boobs and curves to make myself attributed as a woman often enough my screw it state is just to go out looking female because then I an get some of the cis passing privilege. Like not having people ask me horrible prying questions about ‘what’ I am. Or the one I got last night “are you real.” my response was to call him a transphobic douchebag that needs to fuck off.

    “And no woman is born a woman. People are born babies. People get assigned gender roles and sometimes this matches up with their actual gender, sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes a baby grows up not to have a gender.”

    This is an interesting idea. We do assign gender at birth and often we assign it before birth via ultrasounds. Many women these days find out “the gender” of their baby months before the baby is due. I would say that we tend to assign a gender to babies pre-birth often enough, at least in western societies that the baby is not born genderless. They are born with whatever assignation was given while they were still in the womb. Even those that don’t have an ultrasound done before birth the first thing they do is a doctor looks at the baby and informs the parents the child’s gender. Informs them. IN fact the doctor gets to base this life long assignment off a glance at the babies sex characteristics. And in questioning cases they take the baby off to get cleaned and something that isn’t ‘the norm’ gets measuired. An ‘it’s a boy now turns into its a girls or its intersex. often this announcement changes that childs future. significantly. So their penis is small. alright. I can forsee huge issues about that idea but basically in cases you aren’t sure intersex is a reasonable option but not one that I have /ever/ heard of assigning in the womb. I guess this is a long winded way of saying that you’re not wrong but that it goes beyond that. This is the reason I use the afab amab aiab acronyms. I wasn’t born a girl, I was assigned female at birth. done. what happened after that is something entirely different and has nothing to do with that original assignation. A cis afab however does have something normal occur after that. They grow up to be cis girls and then cis women and then cis old people. Over the way a few of them will break out of the cis path to walk a weirder one of trans* identity but they did still walk that cis path for some time. Even if they were walking it carefully and in fear of discovery that the path they walked wasn’t that of the cis person.

    I think I have rambled enough on that topic for the nonce.

    “There are doctors who just flat-out won’t touch trans people, either for bigoted reasons or because they think that all medical issues trans people have must by definition be transition-related and therefore requires a specialist.”

    (tw: transphobic douchebag)
    I have had this happen multiple times now. Especially with dermatologists who like to either refuse to have me as a patient, or get sticks in their butts when I describe what is going on and such. A great example of this is from when I was on T for a while. I went in to the doctor and when they asked if I had new meds I told them that I was on T and he flipped. Told me that while he had condescended to treat me before when there are more important people waiting for his services and that if I had told him I was one of those girls that think they are a guy or whatever than I can go do that elsewhere but he did not want my unnatural self there. So I left and found another one thankfully because I live in a big city but ffs. if this happened in somewhere like where my family is from? Where there is an hour commute to get into town to see a doctor that you can likely only see once or twice a year already. Then to have this occur? There are -no- trans friendly doctors in that city that I can think of and I have looked. It’s awful

    “Your view that your medical needs are far more important than that of other women is repugnant. I don’t believe that many other trans women feel that way.”

    Okay. So no, trans medical needs aren’t far more important than cis womens needs. We just want to have access to the medical needs cis women get. that is what that argument is about. We don’t want special rights we want to go to doctors, that know how to treat women. all of them. Trans or not. right now doctors treat cis women essentially exclusively. Many trans people that brave going to the doctor have to spend significant time explaining their bodies, their health, their very lives to doctors that dont understand. The difference is that when I walk in to my specialists I get called she/her and while I hate it fine. I look like a girl right now and I am not going to pick my battle that much. I am however slowly intodicing them to using my requested name, to understanding how my body differs thanks to the meds. I don’t have to do as much explaining as friends do but I try. I do not however feel like it’s okay to have a doctor that is supposed to treat me for something – for example between my legs – that they have no idea what is there or what’s working or the like. I’ll stop this one here because I have already lost my though train on it. Long story short: Trans women just want to be able to SAFELY and EFFECTIVELY see an EDUCATED doctor that can offer actual TREATMENTS.

    Last one:
    “Trans women die from this – way way more often per capita than cis women die from not getting an abortion. Not to mention the fact that medical care for abortions *is* a problem faced by trans people – half of them have got a uterus, too! Think for a moment what a double-layered pile of emotional mess it must be being a MAN who shows up at a gynocologist’s office asking about an abortion. He’d be there for an hour just convincing the admitting nurse he’s not trying to force his girlfriend to do it.”

    Yup. This actually happens. We have some special clinic escorts here for trans men that need abortions because of this very shit.

    Again, sorry for the misspelling, tangenty ramble of a post but if I didn’t do this tonight I would forget and then be sad I did. I think I was at least coherent enough to make my points. Now time for me to follow the dancing ambian bears to bed.

  18. 22

    Thank you for this.

    For me, as a just beginning, starting-to-transition MtF woman, I’ve had to learn quickly. The saddest thing I’ve learned is that I cannot trust *anyone*, until they *prove* they are an Ally.

    I almost prefer the Transphobic, fanatic Xtians. At least there is no doubt where I stand with that group. The way many Cis-Gays and Lesbians have treated me online?
    Stormfront has kinder things to say about Trans* than the Gs and Ls I’ve met.

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