OMG so I love that I can choose the font for the post, but really, how would people react if I wrote this all in Webdings?
Anyway, this is my first post, and I wanted to follow up some on what Kasey was writing about yesterday and what I put in the comments. I agree with most of what he wrote in his post, but what I also want to talk about is how big the problem of not making queer women's spaces open to trans women is. Spaces for queer women have been so important to me, in so many ways, in my life, and I want all queer women to be able to experience them. I understand that trans women have been an integral part of dyke communities for a very long time, and hopefully will continue to be. What I want, though, is for those dyke communities to validate all women in the ways that feel important to them, and to not erase people's identities in the name of anti-oppression, feminism, and dyke identity.
Before going any further, I want to clarify that I am talking about two distinct, but related, things. First, there are policies, like those at Michigan Womyn's Music Fest (also referred to as MichFest or MWMF), that explicitly exclude trans women. Also, however, there are the ways that we, as people involved in dyke communities, implicitly exclude trans women, not through policies but through how we talk, how we interact, who we value. I understand why so many of us, including me, have focused a lot of our energy on changing this really hurtful policy, because I think it operates both as a barrier to the fest and a larger symbol of the exclusion of women. I can't stop wondering, though, what that means in terms of letting ourselves off the hook for the transphobia and misogyny we are perpetuating in our own scenes, under the radar.
I also want to clarify that I know that dyke/queer women's communities can be alienating to a lot of queer women. I don't for a second want to deny the very real racism, classism, ablism, and other systems of oppression that are playing out in these spaces that make them really hard for a lot of people to be in. I want to work against those forces, also. But I think that what I see happening, also, is that we have this institutional support specifically within the dyke community for the exclusion, active or passive, of trans women. I do not for a second deny that all systems of oppression have institutional support, but I think that the dyke/feminist specificity of trans-misogyny (a term coined by Julia Serano) differentiates it somewhat.
I am going to post part of a flyer I am making for dyke march (comment if you want to help distribute it!) to respond to some of what I regularly hear in terms of arguments about trans women in dyke spaces. I am looking for feedback still, but I do feel that it expresses a lot of what I am thinking in pretty well-developed ways (well, as well-developed as you can expect from bullet points).
· First off, patriarchy encourages women to hate each other and not to bond together. Refusing to support trans women totally plays into this. I want to support everyone who is getting directly hurt—not privileged—by the patriarchy.
· If we are excluding trans women on the basis of the bodies they were born with, that scares me. Trans women's bodies are women's bodies. Judging who is and is not an acceptable woman by virtue of the way their body fits into a mold of "feminine" is not okay and is something this community rightfully does not accept when it comes to non-trans women.
· If we are excluding trans women for the years that they did not experience the “shared girlhood” that gets talked about, where do we draw the line? My girlhood is very different than that of someone who grew up in a different country from me, or with different experiences of class or race or ability or many, many other characteristics.
· If we are excluding trans women because they were not “socialized as women,” I think that doesn’t account for the fact that socialization is happening every day to all of us. I was socialized as a girl when I was 5 and I am being socialized as a woman today. The pressures didn’t stop when I hit 18.
· If we are excluding trans women because non-trans women’s space is somehow “safer” due to the genitals that are presumed to be present in it, I worry about where that leaves those of us who were abused by women or by people who have similar genitals to us. Who can feel safe in non-trans women-only space seems to be based on this really specific combination of oppression and privilege. Safe space is not defined by what people and genitals are or are not present. Safer spaces are designed by community support, caring, and acceptance. Gender policing and judging works to destroy safer space.
· If we aren’t “excluding” trans women, and we just don’t happen to know any, I want to know why we don’t. How is that related to patriarchy and transphobia? Communities are not homogenous by accident. It’s usually related to a lot of different ways that oppression has played out over time.
· And finally, and most importantly, I don’t want to be excluding trans women because I am not comfortable with what that means we would lose. I know amazing, brilliant, hot, powerful trans women and I don’t want to be in a women’s community that doesn’t have space for them.
This is an intervention, an invocation to all of us, especially non-trans queer women, who are in dyke communities that don’t support trans women to try to figure out how we can change that. And it is a message to the trans women who are in our communities, to say, I am so glad you are here and that you are making our community what it is. I am asking us to work to transform our communities. I am saying, maybe it is time to start asking people these questions: Why do you choose to perform at/attend an institution that does not support trans women? If you consider yourself an ally to trans women, what work are you doing from the inside? What are you doing to make sure that your community is supportive of trans women? Do you talk about your dyke identity in relation to certain genital configurations? How can we speak up when we see transphobic things happening? How are we perpetuating transphobia and misogyny?
I could write about this for ages, but I should probably conclude my first post somewhere! I apologize for the length already. I would be very interested to hear people's responses. I am not trying to write this with the idea that other people haven't thought of some or all of this before--I just don't want to alienate people by making assumptions of knowledge, and then not being clear enough to really understand. I am writing all of this from a place of deep love for queer communities and for women. I want my community to have room for people I care about and to help me grow.