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It was never my intention to get so heavily involved Criminal intent essay the issue of trans woman-inclusion in lesbian and women-only spaces. At the time, I was voraciously reading everything I could get my hands on related to transgender experiences and issues.
As I read, I kept stumbling upon past instances of anti-trans discrimination from within the lesbian community. These included derogatory anti-trans remarks by influential lesbian-feminist thinkers such as Mary Daly, Andrea Dworkin, and of course Janice Raymond, who wrote the infamous anti-trans diatribe The Transsexual Empire: After all, practically every facet of our society seemed to hate or fear trans people back then, and these incidents seemed more like a symptom of societal-wide transphobia rather than something unique or specific to the lesbian community.
And as someone who was giving thought to becoming involved in trans activism myself, there seemed to be plenty of Criminal intent essay more practical and relevant issues for me to take up: But in the years that followed, I experienced a number of changes in my life that would considerably re-shape my views on this matter.
First, there was my transition.
People are always fascinated about the more physical aspects of transitioning hormones, surgeries, etc. As I once wrote about my transition: On an intellectual level, I knew that it would not be easy, but I underestimated just how frustrating, infuriating and hurtful it would feel to have strangers regularly hurl cat calls and sexual innuendos at me, or to have men speak down to me, talk over me, and sometimes even practically put on baby-talk voices when addressing me.
Because I have the privilege of being able to pass as female, in my day-to-day life, when I am forced to come out to someone, nine times out of ten it is not as a transsexual, but as a lesbian. It happens when Dani is not around, but someone assumes that I am a dyke anyway because of the way that I dress, speak, or carry myself.
As a trans woman, it seemed impossible for me to discuss my journey from male to female without placing it in the context of the differing values our society places on maleness and femaleness, on masculinity and femininity. After all, growing up as a boy, I learned early on that few people in our culture are as easily ridiculed and so fiercely despised as feminine males.
I was sometimes teased for being different, for being an atypical or unmasculine boy, but it was nothing compared to venom that was reserved for those boys who acted downright feminine.
From my perspective, most of the anti-trans sentiment that I have had to deal with is probably better described as misogyny. This sense of ownership and entitlement about being a woman or being lesbian seemed hypocritical to me.
After all, as soon as we would walk out the door, both of us would face similar discrimination for being women and for being dykes. But what was most frustrating about the way that many of these women dismissed me was the fact that they seemed to have no problems at all with female-bodied folks expressing masculinity and with trans people on the female-to-male FTM spectrum attending their events.
However, this argument makes little sense when examined more closely. After all, how can someone who identifies as female and currently lives as a woman have less in common with women than a male-identified person who has male physical attributes and currently benefits from male privilege?
Rather, I believe that this preference for trans men over trans women simply reflects the societal-wide inclination to view masculinity as being strong and natural, and femininity as being weak and artificial.
In other words, it is a product of traditional sexism. In my work on this issue, I learned first hand how the occasional anti-trans woman sentiment I would come across in the relatively trans-friendly Bay Area was merely the tip of the iceberg.
Some of the women who travel from all over the country to attend Michigan think nothing of wearing their suspicion or hatred of trans women on their sleeves, and they will often make extraordinarily naive and insensitive comments about trans women in their attempts to justify our exclusion.
After all, at its core, feminism is based on the conviction that women are far more than merely the sex of the bodies that we are born into, and our identities and abilities are capable of transcending the restrictive nature of the gender socialization we endure during our childhoods.
This is why it is so disappointing for me to see members of my own dyke community practically bend over backwards, embracing hypocrisy, in a last ditch effort to prevent trans women from entering lesbian and women-only spaces.
Can you imagine how angry these very same women would be if the largest annual women-only event in the world was run by straight women who decided to exclude queer women from attending? But now, inthere is no legitimate excuse for trans woman-exclusion in lesbian and women-only spaces.
Most LGB groups have long since added Ts to the ends of their acronyms. And while there was a time when trans-inclusion debates only took place on the outskirts of the queer community, they now take place in work places and courthouses all across the United States.
In the last fifteen years, six states Minnesota, Rhode Island, New Mexico, California, Maine and Illinois and scores of cities and counties across the country have extended their non-discrimination laws to explicitly include transgendered people.
So why not give up?Return to Responses, Reflections and Occasional Papers // Return to Historical Writings. Reflections on Ellen Schrecker and Maurice Isserman's essay, "The Right's Cold War Revision".
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