A paraphrase. Content warning: transphobia.
I have chosen to title my post, “I am a Woman. You are a Trans Woman.And That Distinction Matters.” Now, don’t get your hackles raised! I’m simply starting a conversation. I also use 20 charcoal bricks, 42 gallons of lighter fluid and a flamethrower to start my grill. There is no way this could end badly.
(Already the argument is pretty shaky, because while I could easily defend the point that AFAB and AMAB people experience very different social conditioning, I really veer away from that point a lot. Then in the comments I disavow the title and claim it was only meant to be an attention-grabbing headline. I did not think this through.)
All right, so, I had a really unpleasant confrontation with someone recently, and I need to vent. I’m 23 and fully woke to women’s suffering as a direct result of the patriarchy. At the same time, I’m processing my personal trauma as a rape survivor. I’m really hurting, you guys. I have PTSD, and that’s no laughing matter. In this vulnerable state, I got burned — presumably by a trans lady, possibly several? — and I feel a need to stand up for myself. That’s okay, right? So far, so good.
The thing is, I’m uncomfortable discussing women’s issues around women who were not assigned female at birth. I have a lot of baggage concerning the silencing effect of male dominance. I guess I want cis women-only spaces, because I assume all cis women just want to talk about what it’s like growing up assigned female. Simple, right? In cis-only safe spaces, we never ever confront intersectionality issues. Like, for example, I can rant about how Mexican construction workers are always catcalling me, and a cis woman whose dad is a Mexican construction worker will totally not ask me to please refrain from stereotyping. I can talk about how rap music objectifies women, because all cis women hate rap music. Basically, in cis-women exclusive spaces, nobody has triggers. I can speak freely without stepping on any land mines.
Later, I acknowledge that cishetero women do indeed oppress each other and we need to work things out to improve inclusivity. This seems like a contradiction, but okay.
Realistically, I could work some shit out in individual therapy or by writing in a personal diary if it’s too volatile for a shared space. I could, but I’m accustomed to silence being oppressive. I have not yet perceived silence as a place of quiet, healing introspection.
I am so utterly jazzed that I found a social outlet in which to heal. It’s a shame social graces are still expected of me.
I’m Afraid, Just Not Of You, Really, But Sometimes I Am?
That said, trans women are A-OK. You’ll notice I haven’t made any remarks about trans women actually being men, because I’m not completely against your existence, which is some consolation. You deserve your pronouns and surgeries — my reductionist shorthand for “transition therapies etc.” I guess. You deserve your safe spaces, just separate from mine, because penises trigger me. Healing from PTSD is a real doozy because, like, if I’m triggered too much I might do something self-destructive like kill myself or run my mouth off on the Internet. But if I don’t face my triggers at all, I won’t recover from this crippling all-consuming stress. What to do, what to do?
I assert that my voice as a cis woman should inform your rights as a trans woman, and now I’ve really lost you.
Before, you could follow along, setting aside your own baggage to hear me out, and now it’s like, “woomp there it is.” There’s that shit. I’ll pull a nutty if men try to regulate my uterus or breasts, but holy shit I’ma regulate the shit out of your genitals, whatever they may be. We’re both called women, but cis women were recognized as women first, so we get dibs. As a woman, it’s not marginalizing if I do it. You’re not second-class citizens, just… second place women. Fair?
I’ve been reading some transfeminist criticism, or listening to talking heads on cable news channels– I forget. Anyhow, I’ve come across the fact that in gender studies, people often challenge linguistic conventions. They identify an issue, and propose a solution. For instance, people think trans men who have biological children need their own word to describe the unique experience of “motherhood” as a man. Some people also want to use the term “chestfeeding” instead of “breastfeeding.”
I have jumped to the conclusion that the acknowledgment of trans men who have babies constitutes erasure of the term “mother.” Also, that introducing the term “chestfeeding” compromises the movement to make feeding babies in public acceptable. I will not support my conclusions by linking to where I supposedly heard this, because duh, people say this all the time. Trans people are banning mothers. Does that sound right to you? (Editor’s note: It’s not, because they’re not.)
I am acutely aware of the fact that women face scrutiny and, at times, harassment while breastfeeding in public, yet I fail to imagine the reaction a man would get were he to chestfeed in public. I am too busy worrying that a fundamental female identity will somehow be eliminated from our culture by a minority, when almost 4 million births occur nationwide annually and said minority has no actual objections to cis women calling themselves mothers.
Moving right along, let me bring up Caitlyn Jenner, because trans women just love the shit out of her. While I could enjoy a hearty “IKNORITE?” and high-fives with my trans sisters about how Ms. Jenner was far from the most deserving Woman of the Year candidate, instead I’m going to flippantly point out that she lived as a man for many years. If there’s one thing trans women like better than Caitlyn Jenner, it’s being told her status as a trans woman in itself makes her undeserving.
Genitals. Moving on to genitals. I’m getting real tired of penises in my locker room? Is that a thing? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to the changing room after a hard workout, only to discover some trans lady standing atop the benches windmilling her dick around while singing “See What I Can Do.” Also, bringing snow into the lady’s room just to show off the fact she can write her name in it with pee. Rude! I can’t tell you how many times that has happened, because it never has. But damn, I am mad about this hypothetical situation! Your dick may be out of sight, but it’s on my mind. Somehow, that’s your problem, not mine.
I’m going to remind you that I’m a rape survivor, so that you don’t totally rip me for that. Just sigh and find your compassion, ’cause mine seems to be missing right now. Some guy with a penis committed a horrible crime, and the most likely scenario in which it will happen again is trans woman in a bathroom stall with a penis. That’s fair. Also, I’m really good at Clue.
Speaking of rape, trans women have just got to stop forcing lesbians to have sex with them. News flash, lesbians can’t like penises! Wake up sheeple!
No but seriously, consent is sexy (read: required), so keep that in mind, trans women. Not sure why I’m directing that message to trans women only, but don’t call it discrimination or I’ll flip my tits.
Um, what else? Oh yes. Internet forums. As we all know, online forums are bastions of civility and gentle lovingkindness. They are totally troll-free zones. But trans women! Trans women be up in there like, “Hey, everyone, your struggle with infertility sounds awful. I can relate to that in a way. A lot of what you’re sharing really hits home, so thank you for having the courage to share. I, too, would like to share. Knowing I can never be a biological mother hurts so much. It means a lot to find this space.” So fucking inappropriate.
I have a lot more to say, but to sum it up:
- Trans women are big mean bullies because when I use words, they respond with other words.
- Because the lived experiences of cis women are different than those of trans women, we can’t benefit from healing in the same space.
- I am under the impression that trans women can’t tell the difference between a penis and a vagina, which is weird.
- I conflate the privilege granted to AMAB people — i.e. the past — with the realities trans women face in the present. I fail to grasp that trans women are treated the same as cis women in terms of being catcalled, harassed, assaulted, etc. and are disproportionately targeted for being trans, in addition to being women. I also totally minimize the pain of being AMAB when you’re not male, because it doesn’t concern me, so who cares? And that is how you make friends!
- This town ain’t big enough for the both of us, pardner.
- Germaine Greer and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie are fucking saints and should be considered above any and all criticism. I suppose they got to where they are today by never taking heat or responding to controversy, and as public figures, this is definitely the first time they’ve faced really ugly hate mail. It is really too bad they were called out, because they probably hate thinking and growing.
- Some trans women say violent, misogynistic or otherwise deeply problematic things. To my credit, this is actually true. Anyone can be an asshole. Check out the first comment in which a trans woman sticks up for me. Anyone can be kind… even when we experience violent verbal convulsions, rhetorically flail about and bruise them in several tender places.
In conclusion, it’s fucking hard to be born a woman. Sometimes, I want to talk about that with other AFAB women. Of course, cis women do this daily amongst themselves at restaurants, bars, cafes, pools, shopping centers, dinner tables, hiking trails, meetings, classrooms, book shops, libraries, game rooms, fortune tellers, nail salons, and pretty much everywhere. There is no shortage in society of places where I can talk to other cis women about the patriarchy, but I still want to exclude trans women from women’s support groups, feminist discourse, and the entire fucking Internet except for places explicitly labelled for their use. By definition, this makes me trans-exclusionary. Still, I refuse to own the word “terf” because it sounds really mean.
I wonder why that is.
For the first time in this rollicking screed about trans women, I will quote a trans woman, but only because she supports my points inasmuch as I’m making any points and not just blowing off steam. (Editor’s note: Here is another, historically based perspective from another trans woman. I recommend it for anyone struggling with the ol’ “but if you’re ~born male~ you’re not a Real Woman™” schtick.)
Now, you have a choice: you can ignore this post, write it off as yet another battle you don’t have energy for. You can confront my candid carelessness; clearly I didn’t proofread this thing, clearly I didn’t sleep on it, clearly I didn’t take the time to courteously separate my shit from my shinola, delete the shit, and post only the shinola. This may be because I have enormous difficulty filtering mean comments to focus on constructive criticism, which is too bad, because this post could use some serious constructive revision.
But, since I’ve given you ample warning that I can’t deal with call outs, you might want to call me in instead. I told you that you have a better chance of reaching me if you support me in good faith to begin with. If you can swallow your pride and your pain, or if you’re far along enough in your journey to be past the shame and the hurt, perhaps you’ll take that invitation. Perhaps cis women or trans men can help me out in the mean time, since my particular circumstances and this cultural context lead me to trust people born with vaginas more than those born with not-a-vaginas. Perhaps I’ll grow, if enough people encourage growth on my terms, not theirs.
I guess we’ll see.
The thing I relate to the most about OP is the identity largely based around being a survivor. It wasn’t very long ago that I took that survivor journey, I remember seeing everything through the lens of survivorhood, and I believe the only way out of hell is through. If you suffer from PTSD or depression and are experiencing a crisis, please hold on. It gets better.
If you are a rape survivor, no matter your gender, you were forced to carry the shame of someone else’s violent crime in your body. I know that feel. You deserve healing. You can hang your shirt next to mine. You can talk to somebody. If that somebody excludes you, please, please don’t blame yourself, and don’t give up. It is never too late to heal. Help for Cis women et al | Cis men (not sure how their resources are for trans men, lmk if you happen to be aware)| LGBTQ+ individuals