[personal profile] the_fantastic_ms_fox

IS "THE COTTON CEILING" RAPEY?


It's a little more complicated than that. Consider the sentence "I'd never date a ____________"

Then rotate through a list of marginalized groups. Looks, body type, disability. Then extend from that to "our community is about sexuality. And anyone here who I wouldn't fuck is't really one of us."


Example consequences: A friend of mine is at a diner on the drive. She can hear two women checking her out - perceiving her as a hot androgynous dyke. Then one says, with a note of disugst "oh, check the tattoo" (it reads "Trans Grrl") and they back off.

A gay or lesbian "community' play party where the dominant social groups don't want to see anyone who is trans, old and/or fat.

Or someone saying "oh, she's dating a trans woman - she's not really a lesbian then"

Consider someone also saying "I'd never date a bisexual." Is a bisexual rolling her eyes at this entitled to what's in her pants, or expressing healthy exasperation.


I've also had someone set me up with her queer/lesbian-spectrum acquaintance who thought I was genderqueer-hot. But then she found out I was a trans *woman* and since, in her opinion, trans women can't be hot genderqueers (???) she dropped the idea like a hot potato. This has also happened, where someone who hit on me at a dyke march had a personal profile where she didn't want to date anyone CAMAB. Now I don't want to date either of these people. But that they'd find me attractive and then rule me out because I'm transitioning *towards* what they have explicity said they find attractive is a little fucked up, and it speaks to wider issues in terms of access to community.


Cis bisexuals, heavy people, people of colour and PWD all object to this treatment and each gets dismissed - usually in a very particular way to that group. When trans women do it, we see blogs that this objection is rapey - as that feeds into the frame that when trans women object to exclusion from women's space, we're "being intrusive," which flashes over to explaining away of any assertiveness from a trans woman in women's spaces as being an example of male instrusion, approriativeness etc...

It's a hard thing to sound bite without playing into that.

How to discuss it?
 Ah yes. I'm in a weird space where, although I'm MtF, I'm cis-passable, have never done sex-work, am economically secure (well, secure-ish after I financed a TV show on spec), have all the surgery I want and am often masculine-of-centre, and so most of the major stressors/misogyny that trans women experience, I do not. And yet I'm an advocate. When I'm around trans women I tend to STFU, and yet I'm also part of the demographic. Weird.

I don't know what to do about that. It's really important to have open discussion that deals with all possible objections, as that allows social progress to be backed by critical thought. On the other hand, so many people who don't take a certain level of societal shit don't *have a fucking clue* as to how to have those discussions with people who do - and those who do often have their hackles up 24/7... I don't know what to do. It's not just trans. Indigenous rights, disability access, etcetera, could also benefit both in the short and long term from actually hashing through common concerns and objections, and not expecting that everyone should follow the party line as that only persuades people who are already onside. I don't know what the solution is.

And without that dialogue, communities try to convince the world using really shitty arguments and half-assed sound-bites because no one has challenged them *in dialogue*

e.g.
"This war/occupation/country is illegal!" Isn't 'legal' a social construction? If this atrocity was legal (and to the people doing it, it is), would that make our bombing campaign okay? If not, then what does legal have to do with it? Isn't the problem that it's morally abhorrent and causes gross human suffering? Then go with that!



ON SEX VS. GENDER AS A GROUNDS FOR DISCRIMINATION

 Ooh. That's an interesting conversation. 

 
Looong message ahead!
 
Usually what you're describing is parsed as a matter of 'sex rather than gender.' As in "genitals and therefore sex have such a huge impact on our lives that we need to examine this separately from gender roles and identity."
 
We really do need to have a cultural dialogue around it but it's hard to get any nuance in it because of the political situation.
 
Trans people started in by using sex vs gender to appeal to a 1970s feminist rubric that introduced "gender" into the english language outside of grammar to mean what it does today, with an emphasis on gender being socially constructed and therefore fluid and consciously redirectable. However, terfs picked this up about three years ago and, since it sounds like something that excludes are trans women categorically without negotiation or ambiguity, used it to turn any existing women's organizing they could into AFAB-only (and de-facto cis-only by also riding on women's 'gender' organizing without examining the logic behind creating this intersection of cis + woman). And thus it became a terf dog whistle.
 
If they were were organizing around, say, menstruation or abortion then it might make sense - although if it were genuine it would also raise the question of whether cis women who could not menstruate or get pregnant (i.e. like trans women) should be included, and uterus-bearing trans guys would have to be included as well, one would think. It also gets used to reframe everything in terms of girlhood vs boyhood, thus making whatever trans exclusion was unacceptable last week into something that is now ideologically justifiable, even if it has nothing to do with the actual organizing. For example: the former Michigan Womyn's Music Festival - it was all about women on all of their publicity, until someone asked about trans people, and then suddenly camping, vegetarian food and folk music was reframed as all a part of healing from the trauma of girlhood... for the duration of the conversation - as soon as the conversation was over, the festival was "about women" again. And, on an ethical level, it's dodgy to shut out a highly marginalized group because a political theory says it's okay.
 
Without this damned culture war, we could examine this distinction and find nuance and I really wish we could because gender and privilege is really fucking complicated in ways the sound-bite (and thus, usually non-intersectional) liberal feminism can never grasp. And the inside scoop from trans women is that this form of privilege is, well, complicated. And "complicated" doesn't make for good dialogue when some very aggressive people are looking for any out-of-context quote to slam you with.
 
For example, when I'm dealing with particular middle-aged cis lesbians, I have to watch my tongue about playing male roles because they perceive it as using male privilege - which, admittedly, it is (although I'd rather not be in the situation where I could just audition for more female roles) - but this in their eyes undercuts my gender identity. However, for no logical reason, cissexed butch women, and cis women with masculine frames and voices, are never subject to this judgment and are even celebrated for dealing with basically the same problem (being blocked from most female roles) by doing exactly the same thing. This double standard happens in a lot of circumstances, which is one reason why I limit involvement with anything lesbian - that and the cold shoulder that my usually-bi girlfriends receive.
 
The actual experience of trans women in childhood and its relative measure of shittyness to what cis women experience varies from context to context much as it does with adult experiences. In adult life, I know some corporate trans women who transitioned in middle age who were like "Wow. I used to be on top and now I'm at the bottom," much as one would expect. I also know trans women who will talk how the amount of sexual harassment has gone *down* since they transitioned, since they were perceived as feminine gay men who were 24/7 fair game for masculine dudes before, but now, although they pass as cis, men don't bother them as much because there are clearer social codes around what's not acceptable. In my case, as an adult, I switched from being perceived as a somewhat gender-variant man to being perceived as a highly gender-variant woman, and I actually find that latter is a lot easier day to day. Some trans guys are very surprised to find that transitioning to passing as cis-male makes their gendered life a lot harder this could be a matter of gender expression (the opposite of my experience) or race (e.g. *some* black, indigenous and latino dudes who experience a sharp uptick in police harassment during transition).
 
And so, likewise for childhood. It was, counter to what I would expect from theory, kind of the opposite of my adult experience: since I was not very  feminine, my childhood was usually very easy up until puberty at least. And I keep this in mind and give space to people, cis or trans, who did run headlong into sexism. For me, there was some gender stuff in the way, but my mom was a liberal feminist and she helped *a lot* and so it wasn't awful, just the usual run of shit that a lot of people, trans and cis, put up with. So I try to be mindful of this privilege. Outside of myself though, I don't have as many anecdotes because I don't talk about it much with my friends - very much on purpose. Some flat out refuse to discuss it because of whatever happened to them. That's often when a lot of people's PTSD suicide attempts started, so something must have been bad. Some people over 40 got institutionalized. A weirdly high number of people were perceived as transgressively feminine and therefore 'defective' and fair game for intensive bullying or rape, and for them, the social permission to walk around outside meant nothing when they were subject to all the things one would fear would happen to a cis girl if she was allowed out (but none of the social repercussions for the people causing the harm), and being allowed to take shop instead of home ec doesn't really make up for that - especially because shop had more intensive bullying. So when someone uses this to exclude them from women's organizing? To hold the wrong gender over them now as it was them and use it again to leave them to fend for their selves strikes me as lacking compassion, but probably because the people doing it are acting on a shortsighted understanding.
 
What's the logical error in this? Consider the following: most of the powerful and wealthy people in the world are assigned male. Being assigned male is correlated with privilege. Therefore trans women share this privilege.
 
The flaw in this argument becomes clear when you substitute "attracted to women" for "assigned male:"
 
"Most of the powerful and wealthy people in the world are predominately attracted to women. Being predominantly attracted to women is correlated with privilege. Therefore lesbians share this privilege."
 
It's a matter of intersections and complications. If someone has no sandwich and you have a peanut butter sandwich, is that a privilege? Yes, unless you're allergic to peanuts. Likewise, assigned male? Like girls? Great, if you're a dude. Not so great if you're not - probably. But there are always variances and exceptions, from individual to individual.
 
Does that make anything clearer?

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the_fantastic_ms_fox

August 2017

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