Based on what happened to the woman who inspired this post – I fear that I am baiting trolls and inviting some serious haters. On the other hand, you all have a solid history of comporting yourselves with dignity and intelligence here, so I’m going to risk it.
Please note, I am posting from a place of ignorance, and I am asking for help in moving past my ignorance into a place of better understanding. I am posting as an ally in search of better tools and language.
A conversation on one of the Facebook pages I follow has been haunting me – and at the risk of being attacked for my ignorance, rather than helped to understand, I would like to see if any of my people can clarify things for me. Also if any stray trolls or haters do show up, please note you’ll be nuked from the comments. I’d like to start a genuine conversation here and that can’t be done if people feel threatened or attacked.
The scenario is this – the admin for a page posted an apology for a post she made that led “trans*people” (That is how she wrote it) to feel unsafe/unwelcome there. The post in question was her attempt to welcome people of all gender identities and a disclaimer that as a straight woman, she did not understand all the issues/language/etc. around being LGBTQ, but that she was trying to learn and to be supportive and make sure her page was a safe, welcoming place for all people. This post was specifically an attempt to reach out to trans identified people who had commented that they felt left out by the feminist movement as a whole.
Based on the apology, it was less the post, and more the barrage of hate/fear/ignorance filled comments that followed that upset people.
The first comment that followed this apology was a woman who admitted she hadn’t read the original post, or the comments, but that “Trans people” didn’t cut it for her.
She said that she was born a man and had gone through the transition in order to live as a full woman, with a body that matched the person inside it.
She was upset by the “constant ‘innocent’ exclusion wording of women who happen to be different’.
The admin again apologized, explaining that she had used “trans*people” as opposed to trans women or trans men in an attempt to be inclusive of all people regardless of where along that spectrum they lived.
The commentor fired back that “trans” was the exclusion word in question. This woman had completed her transition and thus wanted to be identified as a woman.
Here’s the part where my ignorance comes out, and again, I am asking as an ally who would like to understand in order to be more supportive… My question may be phrased inappropriately, or insensitively, not because I want to hurt anyone, but because I am genuinely ignorant on some of these topics.
Please educate me.
If you are a woman who was born into a man’s body and you don’t want to identify as trans because you’ve completed the transition and are now living as a woman and you’re on a feminist page that talks about women’s rights and women’s issues… Why not identify with the posts about women’s rights and women’s issues?
Why get upset that the admin is trying to reach out to people who still identify as trans?
Why take it personally that she uses the word/prefix “trans”?
And, if you are upset and you do start a dialogue about it, why not take the time to educate her and give her the proper language to use?
This commenter never stated what she would like to be called. She identified as a woman, yet she seemed to feel that the term woman excluded her because of her “trans history”, as did the trans prefix, because her transition was complete. I am ignorant, clearly so is this admin – what is left in our language to use?
How can we be more inclusive?
Unfortunately, English as many of us have learned it is limited in its gender based identifiers. And, on a page that is dedicated to promoting equal rights for all sexes and genders, and to pointing out the harmful effects of a patriarchal system, gender terms and identifiers are going to be used – a lot.
So… Rather than just say, “Your language doesn’t include me, and I’m sick of it.” offer some HELP. Offer guidance.
If the admin has just attempted to come out as an ally, assume she is open to learning and listening.
Give her the tools to do a better job.
As another commenter further down the chain asked, “What I’m hearing here is that if an event/group says they are “trans* inclusive, it will alienate and exclude those people who feel they have completed the transition. But if the group/event says ‘women only’ it will exclude all of the people who identify as trans. Is there any way to reconcile the two?”
(Also, I am aware that there is a long and ugly history of feminists excluding trans people, lesbians, blacks, Latinas, Asians, men, working class women, and any number of “others”.
I can only speak for myself and the groups I belong to – you’re ALL welcome and included in my world.
People are people, and I hope we can all find a way to live together and support each other.
That is what feminism is supposed to be about – equality.
As Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “No one is free until we are all free.”)