Tonight I want to share some recent writings by some allies.
Personally I wish there were more allies doing the same. I think that is of utmost importance to our attainment of equal rights. Every significant advancement in human rights has included speech and writing from supporters who are not actually members of the affected group.
Tonight I'm going to examine recent essays by Canadian writer Emily Williams and feminist writer Gus Allis at Decolonizing Yoga.
Williams and Allis are saying things that I have said myself. The difference is that they are more apt to find people listening or reading.
Williams' essay in the Chronicle Herald is entitled Don't transform transgender bill into safety issue.
The essay takes to task Calgary MP Rob Anders and Ontario MP Dean Allison in particular among likeminded Canadian politicians.
On his website, Anders chooses to paint his opposition to the recognition of transgender rights as being an issue of women’s safety, saying that his feelings are rooted in the need to protect women and children from men lurking in their public washrooms.
As a woman, I am perfectly aware that I am less safe in my daily life than the average man. However, if Anders is really as concerned about my safety and well-being as he claims to be, then I would suggest that there are any number of alternative topics (domestic violence initiatives, education about consent or the fight against street harassment, to name a few) upon which he could focus his attention.
Stigmatizing and painting transgender people as implicitly dangerous sexual deviants does absolutely nothing to make women safer, and I would appreciate it if he did not use my gender as an excuse behind which to hide his ignorance and bigotry.
Ontario MP Dean Allison has said the bill means that, “The door would be open to sexual predators having a legal defence to charges of being caught in a women’s washroom or locker room.”I invite everyone to read the entire essay.
Statements like these, where transgender people are explicitly linked to sexual predators are incredibly irresponsible and harmful, particularly when made by a public figure. Society still has a long way to go where the understanding of transgender people is concerned, and comments like these do absolutely nothing to help encourage greater education and awareness. To claim linear association between transgender people and rapists and pedophiles is fear-mongering, plain and simple.
This sort of rhetoric is particularly disheartening coming from elected officials, who have a voice in policy-making and and therefore help to shape the public perception of this issue. Statements to this effect will influence how the greater public sees — and, in turn, treats — transgender people in their own lives.
Gus Allis takes on the topic of misogyny in her essay, What Does a woman's Body Possess that Makes it a Woman's Body? Her essay has the subtitle, Transmisogyny is Misogyny Against All Women: An Open Letter to Cis Feminists
She starts with the following.
I need to know something. I need to know what a real woman is. I’m a woman and I need to know if I’m real and the only person who can tell me is Bitch. Or maybe it’s Lisa Voegel. Or maybe it’s Rush Limbaugh. Ok, then I need to know two things: I need to know if I’m a real woman and I need to know who can tell me if I am. Because if I’ve learned anything during these past few years, existing on the periphery of the trans community as a cis lover, friend, sister, and “ally” of trans folk, it’s that I sure as shit don’t have the authority to determine my own gender identity. I’ve also learned, in no uncertain terms, that the war on trans women’s identities is a war on all women’s identity. Transmisogyny is misogyny against all women.
But I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “But Gus, I think trans women= / = women so therefore it’s totally not misogynistic to hate, dislike, or mistrust trans women.” And I understand that. Really, I do. But here’s the thing. Now listen carefully, my little chickadee, cuz I’m about to blow your mind:Allis has a list of three items:
Not only are you wrong, but even thinking that silly, silly, thing is unbelievably, incredibly, fantastically MISOGYNISTIC. And it offends me as a woman. Yes, yes it does. And here’s why, here is an annotated list of all the ways your transmisogyny hurts all women. Yes, even you, Bitch.
1. It polices women's identities.
But let’s get specific. The most common mistake I see here is when the queer community punishes trans women for specific aspects of their identities. Most notably, we’re talking about things that are deemed “unfeminine”. Seriously, folks, are you listening to yourselves here? You’re telling trans women that if they speak loudly/take up space/ defend themselves/have an opinion with which you disagree/wear pants/listen to metal/etc, they’re not real women. Uh, I’m sorry, what? I do all those things. You would shit twice and die if a man told me that. Why am I immune to that criticism? Why can I be butch, hairy, loud, kinda a bitch, and still be a woman? Oh, I know why. It’s because I was assigned female at birth, a great beacon of truth for my REAL gender. Plus don’t forget how my “real” cunt is a “get out of gender invalidation free” pass. That’s convenient, as it serves for a great transition for…2. It polices women's bodies.
What the hell does a woman’s body possess that makes it a woman’s body? What does it need to have to be female? Did you immediately think of breasts, ovaries, vaginas? Gross. Think about that for more than two minutes and you’ll see why it’s gross. Still don’t get it? Well then go down to the nearest breast cancer walk and tell every single woman with a double mastectomy she’s not a woman. When you’re done with that, go down to your local hospital, ask the nurse where the OR is, and wait outside until you can find a woman fresh out of her hysterectomy, and tell her the news. Yeah, that sounds evil, doesn’t it? Well it’s basically what you’re doing when you’re policing trans women’s bodies. You’re telling all women, cis and trans, what they have to have on/in their bodies to be a woman. Which, obviously, is totally gross.3. It perpetuates the myth of shared girlhood.
To say that none of the different privileges, triumphs, oppressions, failures, and experiences of all our lives outweigh the fact that at one point all four of our ovaries released an egg for the very first time is insulting and demeaning. Our differences are important (it’s called intersectionality, maybe you’ve heard of it?). The only thing we have in common, all of us, every single woman, cis AND trans, on this planet, is that we call ourselves “woman”. And that’s a big deal, really it is! But I think you’re being just a tad bit racist, classist, sizeist, ageist, ableist, and a hell of lot of other things by telling me that I, a white, upper class, American girl share a girlhood with every other person who was assigned female at birth on this planet.Again I invite you to read more of Gus' essay.
What makes essays like these so important is that when a transwoman says the same things, we are generally discounted as purveying self-serving claptrap. Transwomen are accorded diminished agency by our very nature.
And one cannot mention agency without considering reflexivity (I beg your pardon for delving into the jargon of social theory).
To this extent it commonly refers to the capacity of an agent to recognize forces of socialization and alter their place in the social structure. A low level of reflexivity would result in an individual shaped largely by their environment (or 'society'). A high level of social reflexivity would be defined by an individual shaping their own norms, tastes, politics, desires, and so on. This is similar to the notion of autonomy."An individual shaping their own norms, tastes, politics, desires…" What could be wrong with that? And what better description of a transperson?