Back in the early 2000s, prior to transition, I was unable to access the books on gender in the library at the SFU Women’s Centre (this was before Nadine Chambers’ trans-friendly term), which delayed my coming out… as a woman. This delay had some psychological and medical consequences for me, and also prevented me from being able to fully be of use to my community.
Fortunately, I was able to find hep elsewhere - eventually.
For me, that’s still a raw point with conventional women’s organizing - even “trans-inclusive” organizations (I use scare quotes as “not kicking us out” is, in my opinion, not the same as “including us”) there’s still the assumption that it’s on trans women to sort out our gender issues Somewhere Else while cis women and CAFAB trans folks can use the informational resources and community for help. Once trans women have done the most gut-wrenching and often dangerous part, *then* we’re welcome to come in… for support. But that’s kinda late, y’know?
To question whether one needs a clear gender identity before accessing a gendered space (or at least for CAMAB folks) is a political frontier in women’s organizing. Disputing it is almost sacriligeous, at least judging from the reaction one gets. But it’s actually really weird when you think about it. Consider: we have youth programs that will admit trans girls, but they rarely have a mechanism in place so that trans girls can come out in the first place (and then survive), which means that even in trans-inclusive girls’ orgs, most trans girls are effectively barred from entry - not by the overt actions of the organization, but by its conscious inaction in the face of a hostile society…
A post by Amy Fox.
Damn right! Amy says it. I’d go further: we don’t just have to do the gut-wrenching and dangerous stuff before we come in, we have to be the best feminists before we come in, too. Cis girls and women can wander in clueless and get a good hearing, and other women will gently take them under their wings. Or at least not condemn all other cis people on that basis! But trans women - oh, we’ve got to have read it all, done it all, be able to say it all, and do it with a smile and a girly flick of our hair, or we are OUT because we are misogynist kinda-really-men-y’know-you-can-just-tell-from-how-we-sit?
And god help you if you don’t play the good token.
Yes! Wow. You can be on the party line for YEARS, helping those cis women out (best of all when you help them out against other trans women), but the moment you disagree or you want something for trans women (usually these two happen at the same moment) you are - BANG! - right to the margins. All those close political friendships tense and lock up all at once.
All too true. :(