Storify: Transness and Our Community

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

I'm super grateful to @D_Libris for live-blogging the trans panels at the SFF thingy this week but hooboy I wanna TALK to some folks.

I Have Opinions With How Transness Is Discussed In Our Community, a paper by Ana Mardoll.

I have Opinions about Wordsmithy People calling transness "transgenderism". The -ness suffix means "state or quality of". The -ism suffix means "practice, system, philosophy, or ideology." This isn't neutral in a climate where everyone in opposition to trans existence claim it's an ideology being chosen and forced on others.

I have Opinions about Enbys confidently stating we are the Most Ignored of the Trans Band. Enbys are often ignored, yes. Trans men are also invisibled like whoa. Trans women are subjected to violence. AMAB enbys are regularly ignored. AFAB enbys are... sometimes ignored, but often used as weapons. I just don't think anyone can confidently state that of all the Trans Band, [xyz] faces the most erasure / lack of attention.

I have very strong Opinions about genderqueer representation through the medium of aliens and robots and non-human entities. While conceding that human gender ideas are, after all, human, I have issues with looking to non-human characters for representation. I am not an alien for being genderqueer. I'm not a robot. I don't have MORE in common with non-humans than I do with cis human siblings.

I was invited to a couple panels on things this year and had to sadly decline because of travel costs, but as of January 2017, I didn't feel qualified to talk about gender to groups as a professional. I now reconsider this stance. Maybe I can drag my disabled butt to some 2018 panels, idk. But the way we're talking about transness troubles me.

When we say enbys face the most erasure, I want to talk about how many AFAB enbys I know who are afraid to explore masculinity as an option. I shouldn't have to juggle whether coming out as a trans man tomorrow will mean I never get a seat at the feminism table again. And this isn't hypothetical. I know and have seen trans men driven away from the table once people knew they were male. I happen to think that's a problem. Your mileage may vary, but I do.

I think it's also important to talk about the sexual violence trans women face in our community. The cis men who creep on them. That violence won't be solved with more rep in books. We have community issues that need to be named and addressed.

I think it's important to recognize the wide variety of enby experiences. Agender folks don't face the same things as gendered enbys. Even among a small subset like "all demigirls", AFAB fembys face different oppressions than AMAB fembys.

And @thalestral points out the problems with continually using a gender binary for these conversations. "Opposite sides" of gender. Thal notes that enbys are asked whether we're femme or masc and a lot of us are neither. (Some of us also both, or fluid, or or or)

We need to make more room for Questioning people. I just finished a story where the trans protagonist starts and ENDS the story still Questioning. A friend mentioned how rare this is. Questioning is treated like a phase to get through quickly, when that's not the case for many of us. Some of us are Questioning for years.

I think we need to talk about how our community is mocked and belittled for things cis people don't understand or want to understand. I've seen so many trans women mocked for their selfies, and so many trans men mocked for their tweets about clothing exploration. This mocking was done by "good" liberal cis people who probably consider themselves trans accepting, yet they did not know or care how pictures, self-image, makeup, and clothing are not the same in trans experience as with cis experience. Mocking a cis man for his clothes is just not the same as mocking a trans man or an enby for their clothes. Comments on a trans person's wardrobe, makeup, hair, wig, and presentation are NOT THE SAME as commenting on a cis person's.

I think we need to talk about how our community talks about our bodies. Our voices. Our genitals. Our chests.

I think we need to talk about how non-trans people take trans words, warp their meaning, and then tell us we're not allowed to use them.

I think we need to talk about this Thing cis people do where they set up certain trans people as Arbitrators of Transness.

I think we must talk about how we're each experts of our own EXPERIENCES, but not necessarily experts on the history of our IDENTITY LABEL. I see the latter when baby enbys come out and want to adjudicate trans issues in the community w/o acknowledging their inexperience. There's still so much *I* don't know about transness. An important part of my activism is remembering that I don't know everything.

I'm troubled by how many of the panels seemed to have roped around to genitals, and wanting to differentiate "sex" from gender. My gender and my enbyness is very disconnected from my genitals. This isn't true for everyone, but it's true for me. I do experience dysphoria with my genitals and a longing for a chance to change them, but they aren't the focus of my transness or activism. So it's very disconcerting to see trans panels being guided around to genitals, because that feels like a very cis framing of transness. "If gender is an identity, what is sex?" makes about as much sense to me now as "if gender is an identity, what is hair color?" Like, I vaguely remember being confused about that when I thought I was a cis woman, but it's like peering through a misty old memory.

Anyway, I know all this seems inconsequential to tweet about when Nazis are in the streets, but they want to kill us too, so. If you care about trans voices, please support what @ZJemptv, @transscribe, and others are doing re: taking on hateful website domains. Like, people often ask how they can help, so that's how you can help today on this August 18th. Go retweet and support. Thank you.

...Okay, we need to talk about this. Or I do. I am openly a nonbinary gender AFAB person who experiences genderfluidity. I have strongly masculine days. I have boy days. I have been told--today!--that if I come out as a trans man instead of merely genderfluid, my activism needs to change. I have been told that I *should* have less of a seat at the feminism table if it turns out I've been a man all this time.

I am going to explain why that is (a) bullshit and (b) pressures trans men to stay in the closet.

I have been feministing online for 10+ years. I've written for Shakesville and for The Mary Sue. I've built my own blog Ramblings. I've covered abortion rights extensively. I have a *book* about the Wendy Davis filibuster. My videos from the filibuster still get hits. None of that changes if I've been a man all along without the words for it. I stand by the body of my work, no matter my gender. I cannot describe how incredibly *hostile* it is to tell me that if I'm a trans man, then I'm the same as a cis man in feminism.

There are good strong valid reasons for why cis men need to be supportive mostly-silent partners in feminism, yes. But trans men are not the same as cis men. Our power differential with regards to cis women is not the same. I'm just... extremely tired of people pretending that the "cis" and "trans" in front of gender add no context or meaning. And we really need to soul-search what value, really, is added by telling trans men that if they come out, they better shut up.

We need to soul-search what we think we're doing when we tell trans men that if they come out, their job is to "fix" the cis men. We need to consider why my voice was valuable as a cis woman's, and then as a masculine enby's, yet is NOT valuable if I'm a trans man. We need to consider why we think it's okay to say to my face that if I *correct* people about my gender, they won't like my work anymore.

I already struggle with correcting people that I'm an enby when they say "check out this woman's work, so good!" I shouldn't have to shy from exploration of masculinity for fear if I say "hey, I might be a man?", my work will be retroactively useless. As if these same people don't fall all over cis men who engage with our community. I see the elevation of cis men--GOOD cis men, don't get me wrong!--even as we tell trans men to take a seat for the Greater Good. We elevate and praise the cis men who "get it", but then suddenly worry about men's voices being too loud when trans men come forward.

This is bigotry and it hurts a lot of AFAB people, for no benefit that I can see. What benefit to be had in silencing trans male voices? It feels like a lot of us have been hurt by men (self-included) and we leap at a chance to smack powerless men down in retaliation. And when we balance the good against the bad, we MUST acknowledge that this hurts trans people exploring masculinity. When we tell AMAB enbys and AFAB mascbys that they must be silent, we hurt trans people. And, I argue, for little or no worthwhile benefit.

I feel strongly that this ought to stop. We cannot be progressive if we're hurting trans people under the assumption that they're cis men.

@stitchfeather: I've had so many people say this to me. Like all of a sudden I'm not susceptible to misogyny, sexual assault, as soon as I come out. Sure.

This. The idea that trans men are automatically welcomed into the safety of the patriarchy is garbage. Many trans men you meet online do not pass as men out in the facespace world. We must root out this ridiculous idea perpetuated by cis women that trans men do not experience misogyny and assault. People wrongly perceived as women experience pay gaps, reproductive coercion, and institutional inequality. Trans men haven't been quietly receiving male privilege all their lives because the cis men recognized them as one of their own.

And let's not pretend that if I DID come out as trans male and if I DID stop talking feminism, I wouldn't be called a traitor to the cause. "Ana was never a feminist; as soon as he came out as male, he stopped giving a shit." I have seen this done to trans men. Vocal feminist, transitions, repeatedly and brutally silenced, withdraws as requested, and then smeared as never caring in the first place. So we don't even really want trans men to be silent; we want them to be our punching bag on which to work out our feelings re: men. That's why we task trans men with "fixing" the cis men--an impossible task--and then upbraid them when they fail.

Let us also talk about how often AFAB enbys and AFAB men are accused by cis women of having "internalized misogyny" or "joining the men". We're told that we hate women because we won't be one. We're accused of cheating, of trying to opt-out of misogyny by leaving the woman-team and joining the man-team. Over and over, these cis feminists prove that they don't believe our gender IS OUR GENDER. They think it's a choice, a fantasy, a act. I have seen cis feminists talk over trans men, explain their lives to them, insist they cannot -understand- women because they aren't one.

The cis women who do that--not all women! but many!--think their silencing of trans men is "acceptance". "I accept your gender as male so much that I'll treat you as if you were cis" is not acceptance. It's erasure and bigotry. And they *don't* treat trans men as cis. They claim they do, but that part is a lie as well. I'm just tried of it. So very tired.

I've focused on AFAB people in this thread because I'm talking about MY experiences, what I've observed, and what hurts ME. But make no mistake that feminism isn't all sunshine and acceptance for AMAB people. They're shit on in different but equally terrible ways. The anti-trans bigotry in a community that claims to accept us is, in some ways, WORSE than bigotry from folks who don't. I can handle TERFs in my sleep, but own-side folks telling me that IF I'm a man and not a part-time boy my feminism is void? Ouch.

I weep for the trans men who have fled this community with wounds that will never heal. Anyway, be nice to a trans person today, maybe? We carry hurts.


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