In the posts in this series, refuting the various justifications given for excluding trans women from women-only spaces, I’ve done my best to take the arguments at face value. The thing is, though (and I’ve touched on this a little bit already), it’s pretty clear to me that all of these arguments are after-the-fact justifications for the decision to exclude trans women from spaces, a decision that is generally based entirely in people’s visceral response to the issue.
Although I think that it is very important that we have arguments ready to refute these points when they are thrown out to try and justify discrimination against trans women, I also really feel that I have to acknowledge that all of these arguments have their foundations in plain cissexism. They are not reasoned arguments to begin with, and don’t really even deserve the time I’ve given them, except that by refuting them, there is some small chance that we can force changes to be made.
Ultimately all four of the arguments against including trans women in women-only spaces boil down to “but they’re not really women!”, or more directly “we don’t want to include them, because they’re men!” Which is absolutely untrue, and is the complete misunderstanding of trans identities that lies at the root of pretty much all anti-trans bias and trans erasure.
I touched on this point in some of my refutations; however, I think it is worth repeating the ways in which each of the four arguments ultimately boils down to this most basic unwillingness to accept trans women as women.
As I pointed out in the original post (linked above), this argument is fundamentally based in the false attribution of manhood to trans women. Considering trans women to be men is rank cissexism. Nuff said.
When women are triggered by the (presumed) presence of penises as a part of trans women’s bodies, this trigger is fundamentally rooted in the equation of penises with men, and thus in seeing trans women as men.
This one is a few more steps removed from the idea that trans women are really men. However, I think that the sense that it is somehow justifiable to refuse to provide services to trans women because of their (supposed) unique needs is rooted in the idea that men are not in need of the same kind of support as women are. I honestly don’t know how else someone would justify ignoring the needs of an exceptionally marginalized population, unless it is because they refuse to acknowledge that marginalization (see, we’re really just back to that whole “male privilege” idea again).
Ok, this argument is I guess slightly better than the others in that it clearly accepts that trans women aren’t men. The problem is that it simultaneously asserts that trans women also aren’t really women either. Which, I mean, there are people who are neither men nor women (Hi there!), but trans women do not belong in that category. They’re women. This shouldn’t be this difficult.
I really, really wish that getting people to accept trans people as members of the gender they identify as (a.k.a. the gender they *are*, y’know) wasn’t as difficult as it apparently is.
So, while I hope that this series has been useful and/or enlightening, I don’t think I’ve even begun to address the real root of the problem at hand. And… I’m really not sure what I can say that will convince other people to stop being biological determinist, gender essentialist assholes. So, what I’d like to do here is just make room for other voices. Here are some people who are saying awesome and persuasive things about the trans experience that (I hope) will help people unfamiliar with transgender realities to approach these issues with more compassion and understanding. In no particular order:
Myths and Misconceptions about Trans Women
- TransWhat does a great job briefly debunking some of the more pervasive myths and misconceptions about trans people. They are also just a generally great sort of trans 101 resource.
- Natalie Reed takes a more detailed approach in a similar debunking: Part 1, and Part 2
- Everyday Feminism does a thorough take-down of the all-too-common misconception that “trans woman” is synonymous with “drag queen”. Spoiler: it’s not. Trans women are women. Drag queens are (usually) men. This myth is I think one of the major barriers to trans women actually being seen and understood to be women.
- Parker Molloy has a great piece on Bustle about her experience as a trans woman.
- Danielle Kaufman, M.D. has done a lot of writing about her own experiences:
- “[P]enis or not, this is a female body now, if for no other reason than that I’m female and it’s my body… Becoming a trans woman isn’t about sex.”
- “I truly cannot go back to living as a man. This is a choice like breathing is a choice. I can choose to not breathe, but not for long. I have to do this to stay alive. Truly I do.”
- Or just browse through her archives.
I really hope that y’all have found this series enlightening/interesting/useful. I think it’s been my biggest project on this blog to date! Thank you for reading.