I’m going to start this post with a couple of statements. I will qualify them as we go on.
- Trans women are women
- Trans men are men
- Saying trans folk are their gender does not erase cis people
There’s been a bit of an uproar this week after Chimamanda Adichie was asked to speak on trans women despite not being trans herself, and royally screwed it up. I’m not going to link to it, as it’s had a lot of air time and frankly depresses me, but in essence she refused to acknowledge that trans women are women.
Some people may point out that she actually said “trans women are trans women”, a statement which is factual, but also others trans women, by refusing to acknowledge their womanhood. It makes the statement that trans women are always different, and always will be, which is the attitude certain right wing politicians use to justify their bathroom bills.
I also don’t buy the “well, she obviously didn’t mean it like that” defence, because Adichie is a writer, and knew exactly what she was saying.
This post isn’t about examining Adichie’s feminism though, as there are breakdowns of what was said and why it sucks from people way more qualified than me. (It shouldn’t need said, but don’t read the comments.)
What I am going to discuss is why the statement that “trans men/women are trans men/women” is so dangerous.
Way back when I started this blog, I talked about passing, indeed, the name of the blog is a play on the fact I don’t. Passing becomes “important” when it is expected that trans men and women will do their absolute best to assimilate with our cis peers. However, this usually comes with the unspoken caveat that we will make sure we disclose our trans status the moment we meet someone, or we will be accused of lying.
Fuck this double standard.
Trans people don’t transition for attention, or on a whim, or because we have pushy parents who wanted a child of a different gender, or whatever bullshit the bigots will trot out every time they’re asked to consider mental health and general health services for trans people. We transition to finally feel comfortable in our own bodies, and to be able to go about our lives.
Contrary to my ramblings on twitter, not every trans person wants their lives to revolve around being trans. I am proudly queer af, but some people just want to transition and quietly get on with their lives. Forcing them to constantly confront the fact they are trans actively stops this.
It gives legislators reason to deny us access to things as simple as bathrooms. It gives companies the chance to discriminate in their hiring processes. It increases the amount of violence and instances of murder the trans community faces. And trans women so much more than trans men: we can grow a beard and slip past unnoticed, but there is so much pressure put on cis women to appear flawless and this is magnified a million times on trans women.
And yes, absolutely the experiences of trans folx are different to that of their cis counterparts. We are not denying that. Neither are we saying our experiences erase those of cis people. We are just asking to be acknowledged.
We’re just asking to be allowed to live in peace.
Which brings it back to Adichie, and this time the non-apology she posted in the aftermath. There was one statement that stood out from the rest, than when paraphrased reads “trans women were socialised male, and that means they had male privilege growing up”.
DO WE NEED TO HAVE THE PRIVILEGE CONVERSATION AGAIN?
That aside, trans women grow up in the same environment with everyone else, where we see ridiculous beauty standards and women dragged for gaining the tiniest amount of weight whilst on holiday. They grow up in that environment the same as cis women, and whilst the vitriol may not be immediately directed at them, it does an even more insidious evil: it shows trans women from an early age why they won’t be accepted for who they truly are, because really, if cis women can’t achieve the standards society demands, how can they?
Society needs to sort it’s shit out.
Lastly, Adichie is well-known for being an outspoken feminist, which is likely why she was asked to comment on the first place, as trans rights often fall under the feminism umbrella. And here in lies the problem: feminism must be intersectional, or it is bullshit.
We are not asking everyone to be experts on trans issues, or gender identity as a whole, or sexuality since that often gets lumped in with gender issues. All we are asking that people accept the identities we are presenting. And funny thing, you don’t have to understand something fully to respect it. I don’t understand the science behind sending a shuttle into space, but I accept that they frequently send folks up to the ISS. That acceptance is easy, and if you’re scared of misspeaking, there are plenty of trans voices out there to learn from.
So to recap:
Trans women are women.
Trans men are men.
Non-binary folx are perfectly valid.
Feminism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit.