This was the first year that lesbians couldn’t walk in the Vancouver Pride Parade simply by virtue of being lesbian. This was the year that all participants had to sign a document in support of trans*women’s rights, already contained within Canadian Human rights legislation, in order to march. This is just the most visible example of the trans*women’s community approach to fighting for their rights at the expense of women.
Trans*women certainly need protection under the law as well as change in attitudes towards them. They face all kinds of discrimination, not to mention violence and so I support their need to fight for change. They need a trans*women’s organization to fight for those rights. Instead, unfortunately, they are colonizing existing rights organizations, and hollowing them out as they feed on them for their own needs.
There is much misognyny in the current backlash against women, and some of that is being spearheaded by trans*women. This week there was an article in Everyday Feminism by a trans*woman on language that women need to avoid in order to become allies of trans*women.
Rather than link to the article, I will quote at length from it.
A month ago, I cried for the seventh time this year.
I was preparing to give a keynote, and I desperately needed my eyebrows arched. I looked up places in my small, Central Californian town and found one with great reviews on Yelp.
I called to schedule an appointment and the woman responded, “Sorry, ladies only. ”
A flood of anxiety and self-loathing filled me to tears. To know that my voice, isolated from my body, marked me as male was soul crushing.
It took me thirty minutes to muster the courage to call another place, hoping for more inclusivity and welcome.
She begins with a manipulative emotional appeal. While such appeals may garner audience interest – advertisers use them all the time – they are injurious to legitimate social criticism. In effect, the author is stamping her feet and crying “you’re so mean, you make me cry.” No protest movement has ever been based on such infantile emotionalism.
The author’s last sentence implies blame to the people who “caused” her to cry. In this the author is failing to take responsibility for her own feelings. This is the first step that everyone must take in the path from victim to survivor. No doubt the author has much to cry about – I don’t doubt she was subjected to psychic violence as she was acculturated by the people of power in her immediate vicinity to fit herself into the narrow confines of the masculine gender. Now, as she marches toward growth and individuation, she must place what blame there is where it belongs – on those who harmed her – and learn that her responses from now on are her responsibility.
It is her choice now in how she responds to people around her. It is her choice to feel the anxiety and self-loathing that leads to the tears. We all learn what feelings to have in response to external stimuli. No external stimuli “come with” set emotional responses. We choose our own emotional responses based on years of conditioning. It doesn’t feel like a choice, and often we can only choose differently if we change ourselves, if we deconstruct the conditioning.
This author chooses the much easier path of blaming the external stimuli, the people at the nail salon for lack of “inclusivity and welcome”. These days we know “inclusivity” is the minimal degree of politeness we must all show to others. To fail to be inclusive is tantamount to committing a crime. Yet, inclusivity intersects with another important human need, which is the need for boundaries. We all need boundaries for good ego health. We deserve to have solid enough boundaries to keep us safe, but permeable enough to let in other people. That means we get to choose who to let in, and that means being exclusive of some. We don’t need to allow boundary violators into our space, or anyone who we are uncomfortable with.
I fear that the current generation of young women, the daycare generation, has been so conditioned as to believe they need to give everybody the right to enter their space regardless of how they feel about it. They’re been taught to always “play nice” and “share”, but have they been taught when it’s alright to refuse to play and to refuse to share?
We are denied access to various women’s spaces, like nail and hair salons, political movements, support groups, and bathrooms. And all of these exclusions are based on a simple transmisogynist idea – that trans women aren’t women.
The trans debates are filled with misuse of language. Words are robbed of their definitions and by no authority whatsoever are assigned new meanings. Trans*women are redefining “woman” and “female” and thereby twisting reality to coerce women into giving up their rights to them. More on that, and on this article, next time.