OWS Must Resist Cis-Supremacy and Trans-Misogyny

Editor’s Note:  We received this statement from a trans friend in the Occupy Wall Street movement and are publishing it here to highlight the importance of inclusiveness in our movement.  We denounce transphobia in all its forms and stand in solidarity with our transgender comrades. 

As feminists, we enthusiastically support women’s groups and women designated safer spaces, but as trans women and allies, we oppose (and will categorically block) any group or space that excludes trans women[1], as well as any standard that functionally asserts authority over our self-determined gender identities[2].  Most immediately, all of us—transgender and cisgender alike—must stand together to block the trans-excluding affinity groups “Women Occupying Nations” and “Strong Women” from Spokes Council participation.

By denying the existence of cisgender privilege and furthering the disempowerment of trans women, trans-excluding groups and spaces violate both the letter and spirit of our Principles of Solidarity[3].  The elimination of systemic oppression against marginalized people is a core goal of the Occupy movement, but self-identified “womyn-born-womyn”[4] do not constitute a marginalized group relative to other types of women. Throughout the world, trans women are among the people most marginalized by systemic oppression. In the U.S., trans women face extreme violence (a 1-in-12 chance of dying from a violent crime), poverty (fifty percent unemployment rate) and criminalization (trans women, especially trans women of color, are routinely subject to police profiling).[5]

To fight this systemic oppression—including transphobia, cis-centrism, cis-supremacy, and trans-misogyny—it is essential we support the self determination of all people oppressed by coercive, non-consensual gender assignments.
Allowing any group or space to define gender by cis-centric standards is intrinsically at odds with gender liberation and trans people’s right to autonomous self-determination. It is a fundamental affront to solidarity.

For decades—from the Stonewall Rebellion to Occupy Wall Street—trans women have stood at the forefront of social justice movements, often at great personal risk. But even within these movements, trans women have been excluded, silenced, shamed, and abandoned as political liabilities. Since mid-July, trans women have played a critical role in OWS, including the creation and operation of OccupyWallSt.org, the de facto voice of the global Occupy movement. Nonetheless, we are prepared to leave the New York General Assembly and its empowered Spokes Council en masse if trans-excluding groups, spaces, and individuals continue to be tolerated by this body.

Over 50 groups have already signed on to a trans-inclusive safer spaces policy (and any group which has not is encouraged to join!), but for Occupy Wall Street to hold true to its Principles of Solidarity, we must take the additional
step of ensuring that trans people’s identities are respected, and that trans women are safe and welcome in all women’s spaces.

Block Or We Walk.

Signed, a bunch of trans women occupiers.

See Also:

Introductory Trans Liberation Resources at The Distant Panic

Arguments for Stronger Trans-Inclusion at Lesbian Sex Mafia

Trans People Say: End Economic Inequality, Solidarity with the 99%! from the DC Trans Coalition

About This Statement:

I am a homeless trans woman and sex worker from D.C. who has organized in trans communities for years. I am also a trauma survivor and a person with psychiatric disabilities. While serving as spokes for the Queering OWS caucus at the November 9th meeting of the New York City General Assembly empowered Spokes Council, I suffered a severe panic attack triggered by the angry and extra-procedural discussion of heavy topics like rape and racism. Along with several other trans women present at the meeting, I was alarmed that many of these disturbances involved a notoriously
disruptive, unrecognized affinity group calling itself Women Occupying Nations. I have also heard that other spaces within the occupation—including spaces designed for survivors of assault—may be hostile to or excluding trans women. As a rape survivor, and given the fact that trans women are more likely to be victims of sexual assault than cis women, I am shocked to see a culture of transphobia attempting to co-opt OWS. For these reasons, I have partnered with members of the NYCGA queer, women’s, and people of color caucuses (as well as trans and trans-allied supporters of the Occupy movement more broadly) to author this statement.

Notes:

1. For the purposes of this document, we use trans women broadly to refer to all male-assigned and intersex, non-
male-identified people who feel they have a place in womens spaces. For definitions and background, see this Trans
101 Glossary at The Distant Panic: http://thedistantpanic.com/glossary

2. This would include any policy that defines gender by individuals coercively-assigned-sex-at-birth, current or
former body type, assumed socialization, or adherence to medical standards. Even if such a group or policy were to
include certain types of trans people but exclude others based on arbitrary distinctions, it is still transphobic and
oppressive. For example, some people – including segments of the trans community itself – allow trans women who
have had genital reconstruction surgeries to enter women-only spaces, but continue to endorse the exclusion of trans
women who have not had such procedures. Even when supported by a trans woman, such ideologies violate trans
peoples self-determination and are contrary to the goals of trans liberation. Many trans women elect not to have such
surgeries, while others simply cannot have them for health reasons. Additionally, the exclusion of non/pre-operative
trans women is classist, as such procedures are extremely expensive. Most importantly, a central tenet of feminism
asserts that a person should not be defined by their (past, present, or future) biological bodies. Sex and gender
are socially-constructed categories; there is nothing inherently male about any type of body, and possessing certain
genitalia does not make a person more likely to be violent. For more on the myth that trans women experience male
socializations see Tobi Hill-Meyers article Language, Reality, and My Trans Girlhood.

3. “Recognizing individuals inherent privilege and the influence it has on all interactions” and “empowering one
another against all forms of oppression” are foundational Principles of Solidarity, consensed upon by the Liberty
Square General Assembly on September 23rd. http://nycga.net/resources/principles-of-solidarity/

4. The very idea of womyn-born-womyn spaces is connected to tangible histories of exclusion and transphobic
violence. The concept originated during the cis-supremacist witch hunts which sought to systematically remove trans
women from feminist organizations during the 1970s. Such policies have resulted in physical violence against trans
women and other gender non-conforming people, ranging from the denial of life-saving services and safer spaces for
women who are survivors of rape and sexual assault to the physical expulsion of trans women from feminist music
festivals. See Trans Women Belong Here (a group of women protesting trans-exclusion at Michigan Womyns Music
Festival) and The Curvatures blog post about Vancouver Rape Relief.

5.  See the DC Trans Coalitions Reports and Research or Campaigns pages for more facts about trans oppression at
http://dctranscoalition.org/

41 Responses to “OWS Must Resist Cis-Supremacy and Trans-Misogyny”

  1. Please join with the LGBTransgender inclusive OccupyEquality group on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/occupyequality run by EVERYONE.

    OccupyEquality Nebraska will be the first Occupy working group at an Occupy protest site, and was organized by transgender woman Mika Covington, read her blog post here http://occupyequality.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/occupyequality-nebraska-by-mika-covington-2 & join https://www.facebook.com/groups/occupyequality.nebraska wherever you live

    The mission of OccupyEquality is to unite all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and questioning activists on Planet Earth to demand our unconditional constitutional rights.

    I started the Facebook group one month ago, and activists from every continent have joined forces for equality.

  2. I totally agree and sympathize with this as I also have had the trauma of being raped, luckily I am a survivor and am getting back on my feet after two years of mental trauma from the violence and rape I endured. I have lived for 33 years as the woman I always was and have had my fair share of discrimination and prejudice. I have experienced most everything an average woman does and more so (apart from giving birth). I know what it is like to be discriminated against as just another woman in a man’s world as well as the threats and violence because I happen to also be trans. I am so glad to finally see a great surge across the world in support for the fight against violence on Trans folk and the right for equality in society.

  3. What disturbs me about this statement is that the writers/activists behind it are going beyond the demand for inclusion in general and asking that *any* group that is “woman-born” only to be banned/blocked. This move quashes dissent completely. I know that most women’s groups at OWS are trans inclusive, so why can’t two groups out of the many have a space for woman-born-woman only? There is no parallel between the exclusion of trans from such groups and the exclusion of other social groups. Exclusion of trans is not based on contempt for trans, not based on social hatred, not based on thinking of trans as inferior. It is based on arguments that have to do with the shared history of “woman-born” women as living in a female body and thus with a particular history of the sexualization of this female body. This is not the place to get into the argument here but to point out that there *is* an argument that has to do with ideology, history, and what it means to share with other women the lived experience of a female body from infancy onwards. In other words, women-only spaces are based on thought out politics based in feminism. Whether you disagree with the politics or not, It’s simply unjust and anti-democratic to call for the politics of this particular feminism to be banned. Of course some politics are odious and should be banned, but the onus is on the excluders to first *engage* with the arguments made by the group they want to block before outright calling for a ban. What are the arguments of Women Occupying Nations and Strong Women affinity groups? don’t you think that readers should know these arguments before assenting to a ban on the groups?
    on another note- if you change the word “marginalization” to oppression or better exploitation– i think you will have a clearer picture of the problem faced by the vast majority of women in this world— in addition to sexual violence, there is the magnitude of unpaid care work (50% of the world’s GDP). Depending on how you frame the issue, the notion that trans women are more “marginalized” than the vast majority of women in the world becomes absurd.

    • Are you saying that the homeless trans sex worker who wrote the essay hasn’t faced the same marginalization and sexualization as other womyn in Occupy Wall Street? I have a cold and smoke allergies and can’t camp at Occupy DC, so I’m writing as a supporter, not a participant, but there isn’t that much space, and to me it seems reasonable to put inclusion before exclusion.

      • First of all, i’m saying that it is undemocratic to call for blocking woman-only groups when there are two out of the many that include trans folks, and because these groups have solid political reasons for wanting a woman-only space based on the “history” of living in a female body- where you are groomed for day 1 to be sexually accessible to the male as the definition of “becoming woman.” Of course trans folks experience sexualization and marginalization that is based ultimately on misogyny. Marginalization however is a kind of stigmatization that is not necessarily the same as systemic exploitation whereby elite groups derive surplus value from having access to the use of the bodies of stigmatized groups. it speaks to discrimination but not to structural, systemic oppression. AS a group trans women are not of a social class that has been systemically *exploited*–the way women the world over are — in specific institutional ways, that begin with the sexualization/socialization process. “inclusion” is just not rich enough of a word to represent political goods/goals and needs to be elaborated on.. Inclusion is not a good in and of itself, and exclusion isn’t always bad–we want to exclude Nazis right? to use an extreme … The basic point is that there needs to be engagment with the real political positions on which the extremely rare woman’s only groups want to it remain space for women with a *history* of living in a female body. Why don’t trans folks go after men’s enclaves with the same vehemence that they go after women’s spaces??? this needs to be a political question. I’m foremast asking for debate before banning which would be extremely undemocratic.

    • “Exclusion of trans is not based on contempt for trans, not based on social hatred, not based on thinking of trans as inferior.”

      I don’t give a rat’s ass about the motivation behind cis-privileged so-called “feminists” who feel entitled to police other people’s bodies in denying the most marginalized of women access to their cisgender privilegefest of a “women”s space. The motivations behind people’s actions are not what’s important in assessing oppressive behavior. It is the actions they take, the norms they inforce, and the violence against trans peoples’ bodies they inflict— whether they realize it or not.

      • The fact that you don’t give a rat’s ass shows that you are not willing to engage in political debate. “inclusion” is not a good per se, is it??? Trans women are not the most marginalized of women–that’s absurd–what do you mean by marginalization? Look at the statistics of women’s exploitation and oppression around the world–domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment, unpaid labor, trafficked labor, trafficked sexuality, etc—and marginalization is not a de facto guarantee of inclusion in any space that any group of individuals demands inclusions in.
        The motivations change the nature of the action: we exclude Nazis for example for different motivations than excluding racialized and other women who as a group, by the way are being excluded in de facto ways by the male/white dominance of the assemblies and such and by everyday sexual harassment.. etc- as new women’s groups are showing.
        We can not have a democracy until we are open to dissent and debate about these issues, period.

      • For one thing, there is again an assumption that “womyn-born-womyn” are “cis-privileged” without an obligation to demonstrate how that makes them oppressive of or obliged to organise with, trans women … well, trans women have the privilege of having been raised male. And yes, regardless of whether or not one identifies with or likes a privilege, that is _still_ a privilege. White people have the privilege of being raised white, regardless of whether or not they chafe at this arrangement.

        And please knock it off with claims that “womyn-born-womyn” spaces involve “policing other people’s bodies”. I have heard this hysterical claim many times, and while I personally favour feminist organising that includes trans women, I have to say that the radical feminists I know abhor gender policing, and policing people’s bodies. Groups that exclude men aren’t called out for “gender policing”, since it’s understood to be a policy about social groupings, not personal decisions about body management or how feminine/masculine people are. This is the same. Women aren’t a gender group, we’re a social grouping, our life roles, experiences and political needs determined by women’s oppression. Our reproductive capacity is taken advantage of to that end, but it happens despite some of us having somewhat different biology. The commonality is being assigned female from birth, not our biology.

        To point out the obvious, womyn-born-womyn spaces – whether they’re your cup of tea or not – are about organising with those who’ve grown up under similar oppressive conditions, being treated as a member of an oppressed social grouping. They’re not about “gender”. Gender is sexist socially-determined views on how the sexes should/do behave and what rights they should have. The better feminist groups condemn gender.

        The above goes to show the importance of Kathy Miriam’s point about the importance of dialoguing with groups before calling to remove their rights. How can you be sure that they don’t have a reason for organising as they do? And as she says, given that there are a multitude of feminist groups which include trans women, why are womyn-born-womyn not allowed even a few of their own groups? What is next, must atheist socialist groups be forced to include Falun Gong if they want to keep their democratic privileges? Capitalism already removes our democratic rights. In organising against this, let’s be sure that we keep our goal of a _social system_ that provides people equal access to material needs and rights (i.e. state, economic and legal rights), and not fall into the trap of thinking we can rectify this situation by further reducing the personal autonomy of the oppressed, in this case women’s right to discuss, associate and organise as we see fit.

  4. kathy- your privilege is showing. did you not read ANYTHING about the kinds of systematic violence that trans women face? how DARE you make assumptions about us, and our bodies, and our experiences. yes, calling for cis-only womens space is transphobic, just like calling for a white-only women’s space would be racist.

    You said: “AS a group trans women are not of a social class that has been systemically *exploited*–the way women the world over are — in specific institutional ways, that begin with the sexualization/socialization process.”

    Are you kidding me? Please do not make assumptions about me or my history or the ways in which I have experienced patriarchy. And you are using the word “women” here to be CISGENDER women. “women the world over” includes transgender women. Using the word “woman” to mean CISGENDER women is transmisogynistic.

    “Why don’t trans folks go after men’s enclaves with the same vehemence that they go after women’s spaces???” And what in the hell makes you think we dont? But there is something particularly vile about women with unchecked cisgender privilege such as yourself, claiming to speak for all women, while policing who is allowed to claim that status based on assumptions about other people’s bodies and their relationships with those bodies.

    YOU, Kathy, are exactly the reason that we trans women are pissed off. What YOU are doing and saying is misogynistic– policing and regulating women based on our bodies. [comment edited by admin. please keep it respectful]

    • Saffo wrote …

      “did you not read ANYTHING about the kinds of systematic violence that trans women face?”

      You might be confusing ‘systematic’ with ‘systemic’. Women’s oppression actually props up misogynist capitalism. The ideology supporting women’s oppression requires that the family unit be ‘naturalised’ and heteronormative expectations naturalised. Hence homophobia and transphobia being side-effects of women’s oppression. But oppression of lesbians, bisexuals and gay men and trans folk does not prop up capitalism in the same way that women’s oppression does. While homophobia and transphobia serve the purpose of reinforcing misogynist ideology, women’s oppression within the family unit actually props up capitalism structurally. Women’s domestic servitude takes the heat off the capitalists and capitalist state in providing basic services. The women-oppressing hetero family unit teaches the young to accept social heirarchies and ensures women do most of the work in rearing the next gen of workers/consumers.

      Women’s oppression props up countless industries, especially the sex industry. It provides a cheap labour source to capitalists in many fields.

      None of this is to minimize the violence that trans people experience. It is important to be clear on what’s going on with women’s oppression though.

      “But there is something particularly vile about women with unchecked cisgender privilege such as yourself, claiming to speak for all women, while policing who is allowed to claim that status based on assumptions about other people’s bodies and their relationships with those bodies.”

      Ummmm, this has to be about the most hypocritical thing I have read. The point of the original post was to render feminist groups at OWS voiceless if they don’t agree to call trans women “women”. If attempting to deny the rights of an oppressed group to organise in solidarity with others and participate in broad gatherings if they don’t go along with particular claims to ‘woman’ isn’t policing, I don’t know what is.

      I am waiting for you to engage with the matters raised here about how women’s oppression occurs, how socialisation of boys and girls occurs young and affects deeply, and how trying to force feminists to accept the conflation of the oppressed group women and ‘gender’ is deeply undermining to women’s ability to freely discuss and organise against women’s oppression. I suspect, however, that you just don’t give a “rat’s ass”.

    • saffo,
      Can you please explain the systemic, institutional ways trans-women are exploited? Are these the same as the ways born-women are exploited, even before their born (e.g. through aborting female fetuses)?

      ” “Why don’t trans folks go after men’s enclaves with the same vehemence that they go after women’s spaces???” And what in the hell makes you think we dont?”

      Watching trans activists’ targets over time.

      Before calling another women’s comments “vile,” you might want to notice that your comments were the ones edited by the moderator).

  5. Marginalization takes many forms and when we dilutes the differences we do each other a grave disservice. Female-specific physical and psychological morbidities are not something to appropriate. Nor are trans-specific morbidities. When we act like the lifecourses of these groups parallel each other we begin the process of appropriation. Appropriation is a tool of the colonizers. Let’s stick with subverting, not *perpetuating*, the dominant paradigm.

    • I think I agree with you Catari- but you can please elaborate. Who’s appropriating whom here? and what do you mean by the “morbidities”?? I agree completely that the life-courses of these groups do not parallel one another. that’s the point. so i think we’re on the same page..

    • Catari- What are you getting at? Because the problem here is with allowing a PRIVILEGED group– women with CIS privilege– to demand a privileged-only space. The problem is with ciswomen being allowed to essentialize gender, create privileged-only spaces, speak on behalf of all “women,” and define femininity as belonging only to people with certain body types.

      You obviously don’t know the first thing about trans struggles. Trans identities are complex, and many trans people have been severely wounded by constantly having to find a way to articulate our gender identites in a vocabulary constructed exclusively around CIS genders and CIS experiences. Want to confront appropriation? How about confronting cis appropriation of the word “women”? Let’s define “women” around TRANS women’s experiences, and force cis women to have to build their narratives of their own femininities based around TRANS women’s experiences. See how that fucking feels.

      For the larger conversation, trans women also face the threat of being locked up in a MEN’s holding cell, if we are arrested at OWS. There has been no conversation, from what I have been able to tell, about the realities of this threat, and the specific ways that it targets trans women. This is an issue felt by all trans people. Here’s some mainstream media coverage of what happened to a trans man who was arrested at OWS: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/04/trans-protestor-wall-street_n_993936.html This is a real threat that we face, that y’all remain totally oblivious to.

      Access to women’s spaces, access to being able to call oneself a woman, these are privileges that cis women have in these conversations. These are struggles that we, trans women, are constantly fighting. THESE are forms of oppression that this movement is perpetuating, by failing to address not only transphobia but cis-sexism, cis-centrism… the way that gendered experiences are defined exclusively in terms of cis people’s genders.

      Allowing even one single cis-supremacist space to exist is to be complicit in cis-supremacy.

      • Saffo, it is a not a “privilege” for a female bodied person to access a female-only bathroom. (They are separated by SEX, not gender, for the record) Just because you WANT something that someone else has, doesn’t automatically mean that *that thing* is someone else’s PRIVILEGE. Come on! Accessing the women’s bathroom does not create any kind of structural or economic BENEFIT that inures to me. It is not a privilege. It is also not a FORM OF OPPRESSION. You are trivializing REAL oppression. The kind that impacts LIFE OPPORTUNITIES on a large scale. Please get some perspective and stop applying the word “privilege” in ways that make no sense.

        AND THIS:

        How about confronting cis appropriation of the word “women”? Let’s define “women” around TRANS women’s experiences, and force cis women to have to build their narratives of their own femininities based around TRANS women’s experiences. See how that fucking feels.

        EXCUSE me?? “See how that fucking feels”?? What did I do to deserve *that* language? Oh, I was born with a baby maker (uterus) and I was assigned female at birth. My fault?? NO, IT’S NOT MY FAULT.

        ‘Woman’ is a term assigned to female bodied humans by PATRIARCHY to differentiate us from ‘men’ in a SEX-based HIERARCHY. Women are DEFINED and VALUED in terms of our usefulness to men FROM INFANCY: “Here, baby girl, play with this dolly and learn to be a good mommy!” Saffo’s accusation of “cis appropriation” is not only completely irrational, but it purposefully erases, disregards, and minimizes the REALITY of being female-assigned-at-birth. So I guess MISOGYNY is OK in this space? I mean, clearly.

      • “Because the problem here is with allowing a PRIVILEGED group– women with CIS privilege– to demand a privileged-only space. The problem is with ciswomen being allowed to essentialize gender, create privileged-only spaces, speak on behalf of all “women,” and define femininity as belonging only to people with certain body types.”

        It would be nice if critics asked feminists what their activities involved, and really tried to understand it, before making these odd pomo claims.

        WBW-only feminist groups _do not agree with gender at all_. The last thing they are doing is “essentializing” it. They also tend to be the people who are most against femininity (which is a concept they say is imposed by patriarchy, rather than one which occurs ‘naturally’ in tandem with XX genetics). There is a major problem here when the groups who are most at odds with tying femininity to women are bizarrely charged with sponsoring this means of women’s oppression.

        “How about confronting cis appropriation of the word “women”?”
        lol

        “For the larger conversation, trans women also face the threat of being locked up in a MEN’s holding cell, if we are arrested at OWS. There has been no conversation, from what I have been able to tell, about the realities of this threat, and the specific ways that it targets trans women.”

        Certainly tran women should be given the option of holding cells away from men if arrested. If they are not, that has nothing to do with whether or not there are just one or two WBW affinity groups which don’t include them. In fact, this is a bizarre thing to drag in. [I hope people are remembering here that radical feminists have been among those pressing the state for non-discriminatory policies for trans folk in housing and employment.] But this emphasises the craziness of attacking WBW groups for their autonomous organising when there are serious issues of lack of provision of trans safety by the state. Isn’t that more worth focussing on? No? Prefer to have a go at WBW than the state?

        “Access to women’s spaces, access to being able to call oneself a woman, these are privileges that cis women have in these conversations. These are struggles that we, trans women, are constantly fighting. THESE are forms of oppression that this movement is perpetuating, by failing to address not only transphobia but cis-sexism, cis-centrism… the way that gendered experiences are defined exclusively in terms of cis people’s genders.

        “Allowing even one single cis-supremacist space to exist is to be complicit in cis-supremacy.”

        _No._ Sigh. Ability to call oneself a member of an oppressed group is not a “privilege”. Conflating membership of an oppressed group with not only “privilege”, but also with “cis-sexism”, “cis-supremacy” and “gender” is actually to _endorse the misogynist ideology_ that is used to oppress women. If you’re saying “gender” is the same as membership of the oppressed group ‘women’, then you’re agreeing with the ideology used to oppress us. You’re agreeing women are naturally weak, feminine, unsuited for leadership roles, unsuited for the ‘rational’ spheres, more suited to caring and giving.

        Calling women “cis-supremacist” if they don’t agree with this postmodernist “creativity” [regurgitation of conservative ideology in new form] is to completely ignore where transphobia comes from. Transphobia isn’t the preference for WBW organising due to the shared experiences of those in the WBW group, or being clear on the difference between ‘gender’ and the oppressed social group of women. It’s attacking people when they don’t appear to conform to gender expectations. See? Radical feminists are particularly clear about this as they also experience violence and discrimination due to not conforming sufficiently. Because the place all violence and discrimination due to violating heteronormative expectations (transphobia, homophobia etc) comes from is _misogyny_. The point of all these ideologies is to maintain support for women’s oppression, so we stay oppressed within the hetero family unit, domestic slaves, and remain a cheap labour force outside it, and the means for the massive profits of the sex industry. This is why the concept “cis-supremacy” is a nonsense, because it implies that everyone who doesn’t identify as “trans” oppresses everyone who does. It completely ignores where transphobia comes from. And if you won’t allow those in the oppressed social group of women, who are shaped by their treatment growing up and are taught that their relationships and bodies are social property, the ability to decide how and with whom they organise, you are in no position to call them “privileged”. You are busy trying to take away even more of their scanty ability to make decisions about their own lives.

        Homophobia and transphobia are all side-effects of women’s oppression. WBW experience them all. It’s not an experience trans folk discovered, although they experience it disproportionately and this is outrageous and we need to organise against it. But conflating the oppressed social grouping women with ‘gender’ is not the way to do this.

  6. This is not Oppression Olympics, people! I mean, trans supporters. Get over yourselves and stop trying to one-up everyone. It’s really immature and self-centered. We are not in a competition about the relative level of “oppression” and personal heartache that we all face. Sheesh.

    First, there is an *objective* experiential difference between individuals unwittingly assigned the female gender at birth, and those who consciously CHOOSE to be treated as “women” AFTER understanding what gender *means.* This difference is measured by one’s childhood experience and it’s not a particularly complicated distinction to comprehend. As Kathy Miriam has patiently pointed out, you don’t have to agree, but you should RESPECT that some of us are deeply AFFECTED by our experience as girls. Who’s hating now, huh?

    Secondly, let’s address SEX. This article delusionally states that

    Sex and gender are socially-constructed categories; there is nothing inherently male about any type of body,

    . Lololol!! This is ridiculous. ‘Sex’ refers to REPRODUCTIVE capacity. If any given body has a penis that shoots sperm, it is MALE. If a body has a uterus and can be IMPREGNATED, it is a female body. DO YOU NOT KNOW HOW BABIES ARE MADE?? It is a matter of reproductive organs and it’s RELEVANT. I can be forcibly impregnated. Males cannot. It’s DIFFERENT. Again, Kathy Miriam has explained the problem:

    As a group trans women are not of a social class that has been systemically *exploited*–the way women the world over are — in specific institutional ways, that begin with the sexualization/socialization process.

    Globally and historically, female bodies (and our children) have been *literally* OWNED by male authority. This is *different* than what trans people experience, ok? Stop positioning yourselves as MOAR oppressed. Just RESPECT the difference.

    YOU are the ones creating division and issuing ultimatums. Not us.

    • we are issuing ultimatums because of a long history of trans women being silenced and marginalized by cis women. the rage of the oppressed who have been silenced, often sounds incoherent to those who have been doing the ignoring and silencing.

      stop forcing genders onto people who dont identify with them. stop non-consentually labeling and identifying people based on their bodies. stop creating and maintaining cis-supremacist spaces.

      misogyny against trans women is misogyny against ALL women.

      determining who has access to a woman’s space based on her body, based on what you think she has between her legs, based on what you think her history is, THAT IS A FORM OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN.

      • stop forcing genders onto people who dont identify with them.

        saffo, WHAT?? Who are you even talking to?? “PATRIARCHY”?? Please be aware that *women* do NOT have the power to assign gender. You are clearly seeking to blame the victim (FAABs) for the tyranny of hetero-normativity.

        WBW ideology *rejects* gender. We do not force *gender* on anyone. WE (humans-assigned-the-feminine-gender-at-birth ARE AGGRIEVED AND OPPRESSED BY THE PATRIARCHAL PROCESS OF BEING FEMININE-GENDERED AT BIRTH. We ask you to STOP clinging to “gender” as if it’s a great way to describe and understand yourself. It isn’t.

        Apparently, in your world, you have gotten the idea that you can just PICK whichever sex (you call it gender) you want and DEMAND that you we all indulge you self-appointed I-dentity while simultaneously agreeing that YOU HAVE IT WORSE. This is not going to happen no matter how many tantrums you throw.

      • This discussion has crossed into crazy town. Best of luck.

  7. Females do not have privilege over transwomen. Period. This is a false statement.

    • way to completely ignore the voices and experiences of trans women. keep silencing us and marginalizing us, and denying our gender identites. [comment edited by admin]

  8. identifying people based on their bodies is a form of violence. it is transphobia. it is cissexism. it is patriarchy.

    • identifying people based on their bodies is a form of violence.

      Saffo, you have obviously never been punched in the face. Your use of “violence” as metaphor is trivializing to the REAL physical (SEXUALIZIED) violence that female bodies have disproportionately endured and been subjected to, globally and historically.

      Also, you are using CIS as a slur. It’s very telling of your own superiority complex.

    • Denying female biology is misogyny. We can go back and forth with this, or we can find common ground. Your turn.

  9. why are ciswomen so hung up on holding cis-only spaces? why do ciswomen feel so entitled to speak for ALL women? if you want to have a cis-only space why dont you at least rename it “women with unchecked cisgender privilege space” because that is what you are doing. this sense of entitlement, to police people’s bodies, to make violent assumptions about people based on what kind of genitals you think they have. this is exactly the violence that we trans people have been subjected to all our lives.

    but again, ciswomen seem to feel that they are entitled to create exclusive space, to own a monopoly on the word “women”, to systematically deny trans women the right to their own genders.

    yeah, trans women tend to get pissed about this shit. i take this shit personally, just like i take rape jokes personally. just like i take any other kind of misogyny personally.

    educate your selves about your cisgender privilege. educate yourselves about having the privilege of not having to worry about which gender cell you will be assigned to if you get arrested at OWS. educate yourselves about having the privilege of not having to constantly correct people when they misgender you. educate yourselves about your privilege of having the kind of body that society assumes your gender is supposed to have. educate yourselves about your privilege of not having to have an identity crisis or worry about getting hate-crimed or arrested every time you need to use a public bathroom. educate yourselves about your privilege of not having to constantly explain, over and over and over again, your gender identity. educate yourselves about your privilege of not having to worry about being denied access to medical care because your body does not match up with somebody else’ expectations. educate yourself about your privilege of not having to worry that somebody you are intimate with might react violently when they realize what kind of genitals you have or were born with. educate yourselves about your cisgender privilege, and the way you are reifying that in the movement.

    you are putting trans people in danger. we are speaking up. [comment edited by admin. please refrain from excessive profanity. let’s keep this a respectful discussion/debate]

    • Saffo, I just want to say that I admire you so much for even taking the time to engage in conversation with the vile ignorance displayed in most of these comments. It will never cease to amaze me how much cisgendered women feel threatened when asked to confront and take responsibility for their cisgender privilege. It starts with a lack of the fundamental understanding that transpeople do not CHOOSE to be trans!! Thank you for your courage and for continually putting yourself on the line, both online and in real life. Allies to transpeople, it’s time for YOU to speak up!

  10. I agree with Kathy and others who have logically pointed out that womyn-born-womyn have a unique experience of facing misogyny from their first breath. This does not deny the marginalization, violence, and hatred trans-women face, but to say they are the same is minimizing and dismissing the experience of wbw. Would this even be an issue if say the womyn in question were of colour and wanted a space where they could gather and share in their common experience free of the influence of those with white-skin privilege? Nope, it wouldn’t even be a debate. because exclusive space is sometimes needed. There is still plenty of common spaces where all can gather, rally and support each other. it is not divisive for wbw to seek space to call their own, but that seems threatening for some reason. maybe because trans-women carry the impetus of having been raised as men and thus, feel they still deserve access to women regardless.

    • “maybe because trans-women carry the impetus of having been raised as men and thus, feel they still deserve access to women regardless.”

      Kim this last statement was one of the most transphobic and hateful things I’ve ever read.

  11. Yes, that last line was harsh, I own that, but not hateful, just a thought that I put out there that questions privilege. Is it any less hateful than the accusations levelled against womyn here who have tried to argue quite intellectually for wbw space? What I have read from a few trans-women is getting close to the line of attacking others personally and using every silencing tactic available. Simply repeating a rhetoric that has not been upheld with theoretical analysis is a circular argument at best.

    Yes, I hear the very real points that Trans-women have been acted upon with great hatred from many sides, but it does not negate that wbw still have a right to exclusive space based on their shared experience at being female in a patriarchal society. Oppression has many degrees and it is different for every womon based on her ethnic backgrond, socio-economic class, appearance, and physical abilities. Yes, trans-women face oppression, but you seem to be targeting other womyn as you nemesis and not looking at the overall patriarchal structures that rely on misogyny. In fact is have seen some of the most misogynistic comments made here by trans-women. (I also don’t give much credence to the earlier statement that rans-women are really going after male structural and power systems in the same way they are going after wbw space, that just seems unlikely) We have a lifetime long unique experience of misogyny and even if you don’t like that I say this, your experience of now being women is not exactly the same. To expect that is akin to asking us to erase our lifetime of reality and take on your definition of oppression as a hyper-feminised woman You can’t force your way in with that. But that is precisely what we see happening you demand the erasure of wbw experiences of struggle in a heteropatriarchal world. It just feels like you want to ignore that and replace it with your own brand of oppression and that is what brought me to the line I wrote about having formally been raised as men. It is the way you are demanding and forcing, it feels very familiar. This makes me sad to have to draw these lines as I do see the painful struggles you go through as being very real, but I will not ignore the millions of women every day globally who are tortured, raped, and killed for being born female. We could indeed be great and fervent allies to you, but I think you need to really listen to our arguments and stories of living as wbw and in turn we then might be able to listen to yours. We can build common spaces, but we also need to have places to go to share with those who understand us, our struggles and pains best. Your experiences as trans-women is also unique and it would be foolish for those of us as wbw to think we could identify with that enough beyond empathy to really know what it is like. Create your own trans-positive spaces, let us create our own womyn positive spaces and then let us meet in the middle and figure out ways to help each together along in the bigger picture.

  12. Ashwini- trans identity, lesbian identity– they are neither choices nor are they nature/instinct etc. It’s much more complicated. I “chose” to be a lesbian out of commitment to feminism in early 80s and it stuck, so what does that say about the “choice” issue? Trans identity is very deliberately constructed out of medical technologies and accompanying ideologies available to us. One of these ideologies is a liberal individualist notion of individual choice because regardless of what you say- many trans identified folks argue that there is some gender-neutral “personal identity” out of which they choose to express their gender in ways that go against the grain of “assigned at birth” gender. Trans identity is a medical identity, a political identity, etc. Surely you do not argue that it is “natural” or “biological” or that lesbian/gay/queer etc is “natural” or “biological”??? Also- i do not understand why you would tag a point of political critique as “hateful”? Why not argue against it? what’s wrong with Kim’s point? what makes it “hateful”? Why abandon critical reasoning at this moment? All of us (trans, lesbian, people of color, women) have been ransacked in various ways by this exploitative social order–and we’re all angry- but we can still use arguments in order to reach points of common understanding. why not?? why is *this* the issue, the identity issue alone- that must remain uncontested i.e. tagged phobic, hateful, etc without further argument?

  13. Last word from me:

    The fact that women-only organizations have been banned from OWS is just further proof that OWS is a doooodfest. They don’t want the underlings gathering together and overthrowing the overlords.

    I’m done here.

  14. Men have taken basic feminist politics to use against women. Men call women all kinds of insulting sexist names. “Cis” is just one more. And we have the right to say we don’t accept it any more than we accept any other name men call us.

    I’m not “phobic” — I’m oppressed. I’m not afraid of men trying to invade our last female-only spaces — I’m oppressed by it. I’ve been seeing it since I was a teenager. It’s like an elaborate game of the Emperor’s New Clothes, with most women being beaten down and too afraid to say what is obvious. Yes, the bullying is working. Women are quite used to cowering when men are angry and call us names, because behind the threat is a real reality of violence.

    The incredible female-hating in making up a ridiculous word to define us out of existence is obvious. If any woman who supports these men just stops for a moment and looks at who they are and what they are doing, it should be obvious. Can you imagine any other group of privileged men claiming an identity that is not theirs, and then proceeding to define the group that they are parasitizing out of existence — and have most women accept that? We created the movement that these men have appropriated and are destroying.

    Men cannot become women or vice versa. The whole “trans” politics is just another way for men to get access to us, only it’s far worse because they are appropriating our identity. They get into as many power positions as they can in the Lesbian community and they are re-writing our history.

    Anyone who really cares about equality or about girls or women sees that “transwomen” are simply men. It is right there. Talk to them, read them, observe how they act. Have you ever met one who seemed remotely female? I haven’t. Have you ever heard one of these men come even close to understanding what being a female is? No, it’s all about fetishizing and caricaturizing male-invented “femininity.” No wonder they are so drawn to it. Men claiming to be women are far more male that most het men I’ve known. What do you call a man who refuses to take “no” for an answer?

    It’s all about Narcissism and selfishness. It’s all about them. They could care less about girls and women.

    Women are worth very little, so of course many are flattered that men want to be us. And since women are caretakers, and since men are the most valued of people, of course many women put these men before other women. Would there be the same acceptance of white men having surgery and drugs who then insist they are of a more oppressed race? And try to get into power positions in racially oppressed communities? What about the men who have surgery to pretend to be a different species? This is all about women being valued so little that of course men try to take what little we have left. If these men had somehow become partly female, then they would understand and support real females.

    It’s incredibly offensive for classism be used as an excuse for why 80 % of these men keep their pricks — especially when it’s not uncommon for then to have a contract to keep their high male salary after they “transition.” Doesn’t anyone consider that these very aggressive, arrogant men have raped and intend to again?

    I’ve been on a site for single Lesbians where I have never seen a woman’s profile be offensive or prurient in any way. But recently, there was one of a “transwoman” going on and on about how extremely feminine he was — and then he referred to his “six inch clitoris.” Don’t tell me he is really a woman. It’s not uncommon at all for men claiming to be women to grope women and make obscene comments. You do not have to go very far to see how extremely different these men are from women. And it is their male minds as much as their male bodies.

    This entire construction of fantasy is like a cult. Women are bullied into not daring to think for a moment about what the reality is. I ask women, please ignore the lies and cons, and really think about how you feel about these men. Please think about how we have the right to say “no” to them, and what it means that women are supporting them to take away that right.

    There is plenty of information about men claiming female identity at this blog:

    http://gendertrender.wordpress.com/

    and also, I have an article, DEFINING LESBIANS OUT OF EXISTENCE — “TRANSWOMEN” ARE MERELY CASTRATED MEN at my blog:
    http://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/

  15. Hi, I’m a 24 year old poor trans/woman of color who is active in the Anti-oppression struggle.

    My mother let me transition at 5 after realizing that trying to fix me was really just hurting me. When she died I moved in with my dad and step-mother. They were not OK with my transness and abused me until i left. That is about when i started going into puberty and stopped passing as well. From that point on my life has been a cycle of physical, sexual, emotional violence, homelessness, extreme poverty, daily encounters with transpobia/racism/sexism, mistreatment by just about every institution in this society etc. I am extremely unsafe in my neighborhood and fear for my safety every time i step outside. I will probably have to start doing sex-work again soon. I This will probably be my life until I die at a very young age.

    WBW spaces hurt because they make policy the exclusion I feel everywhere else I go. They hurt because I am a feminist and feminism has given me so much strength in the past and all I want is to be around other feminist women in spaces committed to opposing privilege and oppressive behavior where I can experience the safety and comfort and respect that is denied to me in almost every other part of my life. WBW spaces remind me that i will never be fully-woman or fully-human and that just hurts me at such a core level because I have suffered so much as a woman.

    • @blacktranslady, I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through.

      The way you describe your story, it sounds like you’ve experienced so much transphobia. That’s not the same as “suffering as a woman”, but still horrible. Absolutely awful. You need to remind yourself that you absolutely are human.

      If you read up the thread, you’ll see some of us pointing out the difference between analysing women as an oppressed sex class/ social grouping, and women as a “gender”. I won’t tell you what gender to identify with because that’s entirely up to you, but that doesn’t make you part of the oppressed social grouping woman, which is about how society treats women – oppressing us for the good of capitalism. People are made a woman by being part of this oppressed grouping – our ‘identity’ (or more usefully, our political needs) is defined by that experience, not by how we subjectively ‘identify’. Of course, we are socialised to think that we need to fulfil these socially-imposed ideas of masculinity or femininity in order to be fully human. Female women feel this just as much. So we need to reject this socialisation, rather than blaming female women who want to organise as an oppressed class, rather than based on subjective identification with that oppressed class.

      Part of the oppression of women is that we’re told we don’t have the right to stop others impinging on us – on our bodies, our sexuality, our personal space, our relationships. Which is why it’s vital that women organising against our oppression be able to decide for ourselves what organisational forms that entails.

      Being realistic here, the presence of a couple of WBW-only feminist groups doesn’t stop you organising as a feminist with other women, since all but these two groups do seem to be open to the involvement of trans women. So you are highlighting your feelings of being told you’re ‘wrong’ and using them to gloss over what is going on here – the outrageous bullying by not only other feminist groups, but also non-feminist groups in order to falsely paint WBW-only feminist groups as so bigoted that they should be excluded from the decision-making forums of OWS. This is incredibly anti-woman.

      And, although the authors of this statement seem oblivious to this, this move cuts across their claim that “it is essential we support the self determination of all people oppressed by coercive, non-consensual gender assignments”.

      Well, the biggest group that applies to is women!!! But this threat to block women who prefer to organise with others who experience the same kind of structural oppression is an outrageous attempt to deny them their self-determination!!!!!

    • blacktranslady,

      I agree with so much of what GK said, and I really, really, hope you are able to find a way to LIVE (not merely survive) without the hell of prostitution.

      That said, as you know in this society, women are not treated as fully human. So, how does being asked not to participate in some womyn-only spaces point out to you that you are not fully human in a stronger way than sexual and physical violence?

      It sounds like you have been through a lot; some professional support would probably be useful, if you are able to find it.

  16. i guess the problem i ran into was that i have lived as a woman or girl since i can remember and i am perceived as a woman by everyone i know and people i encounter in my every day life. it is the group that i have always been a part of and my friends who are WoC and I relate to each other as being sisters. it is the only experience i’ve ever known and fought and became homeless at a young age to keep it, and i am oppressed as a woman on a daily basis, but when some non-trans people find out i’m trans they take my womanhood away (or worse) and that is dehumanizing.

    so hearing about stuff like this hurts because it reminds me that i am an othered from the group that i have always lived in and will probably always be and people’s feelings towards women like me are a lot of times very hurtful and do hurt. in the feminist context it has connections to some really violent writings and things I’ve heard said that make me break down crying thinking about and triggers horrible experiences i’ve had with people finding out i was trans in a feminist space.

    i just hope that one day i can move comfortably through the women’s community because it is the only community i have ever known and one i feel most at home in!

    • @Blacktranslady, there’s definitely some contradiction here, because you said in your previous post that you hadn’t passed since you were in puberty.

      That’s why some of us reacted by saying you don’t experience women’s oppression; because what we mean by that is that you are in the same basic relationship to women-oppressing structures/ dynamics/ others treat you as a woman (this isn’t the same as others perceiving you as a trans woman and recognising that you prefer female pronouns etc).

      So this is different from having your friends endorse your ‘womanhood’ to you; that’s basically others reflecting your gender self-perception back to you, rather than being in the same relationship to sexist dynamics as those who’ve always been the target of women’s oppression.

      There’s definitely a difference here between the idea of ‘womanhood’ as an oppressed social grouping, and your idea of ‘womanhood’ as a gender you just identify with. It’s actually identifying with gender that’s dehumanizing and trying to compel others to ‘identify’ with the gender they think they should, rather than not being part of the oppressed social grouping ‘woman’. Saying that *not* being considered part of an oppressed social grouping is “dehumanizing” is actually pretty confused.

      I’d really like for you to push yourself to think about the issues raised in this thread about women’s right to self-determination, but it seems to me that you’re intent on using feminism as a group to comfort and nurture you and don’t care about women’s right to self-determination. But you need to realise that by doing this, not only are you trampling on the rights of a group of people you purport to identify with, but also, you’re endorsing the oppressive role of ‘nurturer’ imposed on women. Feminists should oppose this role, rather than encouraging women to put others’ needs above their own.

      As I said, I don’t have a problem with your gender identity, but I do object to your placing it and your emotional needs above the needs of feminist organising.

  17. Definitely, what a fantastic blog and enlightening posts, I definitely will bookmark your website.All the Best!

  18. I believe that I began attending Spokes Council’s only on the meeting after, so I can’t speak directly to this. However, on the meeting of November 14th, Women Occupying Nation made a formal petition to join the Spokes Council.

    Women Occupying Wallstreet, another women’s safe space and caucus had gotten on stack before WON, and were admitted near unanimously into the Spokes Council.

    Ashley, a woman of colour, was spoking for WON that night. She made her petition. As a queerly sexed and gendered person, my heckles were raised upon hearing her denounce the “invasion of men” into women’s safe spaces. (if anyone wants full footage, I can cut and edit it later day, providing that I was using my own camera at the time.)

    I was very grateful that many objections were raised to the admission of this group. The debate went on for around an hour. Much of the focus seemed to be about redundancy (WOW was admitted to Spokes about 30 min. prior), and transphobia.

    There was much confusion about terminology, so, before debate could continue, I, as a reasonably independent observer (I was videotaping, not a part of a Working group or caucus) was selected to define all of the terms being used in the debate.

    Once definitions were settled, Ashley (from WON) tried to assure us that anyone who *self-identified* as a woman was free to join WON, and represent them at Spokes. This includes transwomen and intersexed people who identify as women. However, as confirmed by myself later, this would exclude transmen.

    The debate over inclusion of transmen into women’s only spaces is certainly an interesting one. I tend to favor self-regulation. So, while I do not agree, per se, with WON’s decision to exclude transmen, I do not object.

    More objections were raised (to my appreciation), about whether genderqueer or two sexed people would be allowed in WON. As such people may identify and present as women, *but also* as men (or other), their status was in question.

    Ashley reiterated that anyone who self-identified as a woman was free to enter. At no point in the meeting, or in my conversation with her afterwards, did she give a satisfying answer. She seems to be fairly queer-ignorant, and not capable of making educated decisions concerning such ambiguous definitions.

    Women Occupy Nation was DENIED induction into the Spokes Council, though Ashley made clear that they intended to reapply in future meetings.

    It seems that WON (spearheaded by Ashley), has revised their Women-born-women stance. Her principle objection was to a women’s caucus being represented by a man in Spokes Council, as WOW theoretically could be. So, while WON insists upon being a women’s only safe space, it seems that they have expanded their definition of “women” somewhat.

    (I do not mean to attack Ashley too much. She certainly has her heart in the right place, and has made an effort to be more aware of queer issues. Her fundamental point of contention seems to be sound, and though I may disagree with her methods, I look forward to marching alongside her once again.)

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