Over at the Women’s Space/The Margins blog, there has been a discussion going on – the primary focus of which is transpeople. While the comments are related mostly to transwomen, the overall tone seems to be one of distain for transpeople in general.
I want to point out that I do not claim an identity as woman of any sort – trans or otherwise. I identify as trans/qenderqueer and reject being gendered as either a man or a woman. I make no claims to feeling ‘like a woman’, feeling ‘female’ or even feeling ‘feminine’ – nor do I make any claim to feeling ‘like a man’ or feeling ‘masculine’. As to feeling ‘male’, while I am male bodied (my breasts not withstanding), I question whether my experience of ‘maleness’ really has much in common with other males. I mention this because I find it difficult (if not impossible) to claim any sort of membership in either group. There are a host of experiences which ‘women’ have which I have never had – nor will I ever have – that (to me) are a part of what makes one a ‘woman’. Similarly, there are a host of experiences which ‘men’ have which I have never had – or are so tainted as to render them invalid – that (to me) are a part of what makes one a ‘man’. I am at a point in my life where I can only speak to my experience of the world as an individual – independent of both my sex and my gender (whatever it may actually be.)
I consider myself a bit different from the ‘garden variety’ transperson. Many transpeople are strong supporters of the Cisgender Ideal and feel that they need to be either ‘men’ or ‘women’. Quite often, that need includes the need to have their bodies ‘match’ their gender in accordance with this ideal. I do not subscribe to this ideal and see sex and gender as two inter-related but separate things and one need not necessitate the other. In my case, my ‘gender’ is neither aligned with nor in opposition to my sex.
A core part of my personal philosophy is the rejection of gender as a binary or as something ‘essential’ to us. I do not consider it to be some ‘innate’ part of our being: instead I consider it a part of our patterned behavior – something we learn, albeit from a very early age. It is forced upon us, without our conscent, and we are expected to conform – or suffer the consequences. And it is because the non-conscentual act of ‘gendering’ people sometimes fails – because the gendered conditioning doesn’t always ‘take’ – that there are ‘transpeople’ in the world.
As I see it, there is nothing ‘natural’ or ‘innate’ about transgender – it is not something which one ‘is’. No, transgender is a symptom of failed gendering – it is an experience of the world. It is how we perceive ourselves and our relationship with the world at large. Transpeople are as much ‘made’ by the process of gendering as are men and women.
But, does any of this matter?
I have read the entire Women’s Space Women’s Overall Brilliance thread many times now. It’s a difficult read for me because is seems to contain so much anger and hatred towards people I consider my peers. Yet as I read it, I see bits and pieces of my aforementioned views contained therein. In fact, there are even a few places where we just might agree right out. I start to feel hopeful… until the next hateful comment pops up.
I wanted to comment there – to speak my peace with the other contributers: I didn’t. I didn’t out of respect for it being “women’s space.” As much as I understand why transwomen so very much seek inclusion in these types of spaces, I understand (some) of the reasons why they are excluded. Maybe as a transperson I shouldn’t – but I do. Transpeople do similar things as well – excluding ‘partners’ or other ‘non-trans’ folk from gatherings. Solidarity, comradary – it makes sense… well, to me at least.
It seems like we might have some common ground: possibly just enough to start a dialogue. I think it could be an interesting discussion. I think it could be an educational discussion: we could both learn from each other. And while I would never presume to use the label ‘feminist’ to describe myself, perhaps there is enough overlap that I might hold some ‘feminist’ views.
I don’t know, but I’d be interested to find out and would be more than willing to engage in a dialogue so as to better understand their position. I cannot help but feel that the feeling would be anything but mutual – and I find that sad. I find it sad because as I stated above, there are some very good points being made, but they are lost in what seems like a sea of hatred and contempt for a group who really is just trying to do their best to get on in life. It seems to me that transpeople are being painted with a brush so broad that our identities are erased, our experiences denied and our voices silenced.
I want to know what is it – other than our very existance – that we have done to elicit the viseral reactions I’ve read. Are we really that contemptable?
I don’t know.
If I had the opportunity to speak with them, would they listen to me?
Somehow, I don’t think they would.