Ignorant straight gal seeks enlightenment

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?”

trans pride flag

Welcome everyone.

(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”.
My apologies.
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.”)

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12 Comments

Filed under Of Course I'm a Feminist, Rant

12 responses to “Ignorant straight gal seeks enlightenment

  1. Carolyn Howard

    I agree with you. Let’s not be held hostage by language – let’s talk about the issues and educate each other when necessary. I understand that people doing the educating get exhausted and that the uneducated need to take more initiative in learning for themselves. However, there’s little point in silencing someone who has identified as an ally with rancor and B.S. When that continues, then allies go underground for fear of being labeled insensitive, or worse; and things don’t progress as quickly as they should.

    • It does all come down to educating people doesn’t it. And empathy, helping people to see the other side – and of course being open to seeing it.
      As an ally, I think it’s important to recognize my own privilege and to cut those who are struggling so much more in society a bit of a break. I know people wonder why I get so offended about certain things. The 2012 election cycle lost me a lot of friends because I got so riled by the GOP’s statements about women. People told me to settle down and I exploded.
      So… I do understand getting frustrated and ultimately pushing allies away if it seems like they are marginalizing you.
      Ultimately, yes, allies need to be more proactive in educating themselves. Does asking for help count?

      • Carolyn Howard

        Hells yeah asking for help counts! And I agree, recognizing one’s privilege is a basic step. Empathy is another one, and it really feels like it is on the wane sometimes.

  2. For me- I am a trans woman-

    I am a woman. So, if you welcome women, I am welcomed. If I read that somewhere welcomes “real” women or “born” women or something like that, I know I am not welcome and I object to that, because I am a real woman and a born woman and to imagine that those qualifiers make a difference insults me.

    I suggest, leave out the adjective unless it is absolutely necessary.

    If you want to welcome trans women, as a cis woman, it might be (even) more generously accepting to say that you welcome all women, cis and trans. If you are an ally, this is a trans-friendly space but not a trans space. So saying you welcome trans people might be read as uncomfortably singling us out for Special welcomes, because welcoming us is difficult.

    I want to be accepted, and I want that to be instant and unthinking, and unfortunately it needs to be stated, at the moment, by some. And- actually it needs to be stated by some people, until it becomes instant and unthinking.

    And, er, sorry but some of us are really hurt and angry and we go off on one. I have myself.

    • Clare,
      Thank you so much for stopping by and for giving me some much needed perspective and some language clarification. It really helps.
      And I’m with you – I want you to feel included and accepted, and for that to be instant and unthinking. Unfortunately as a ciswoman trying to roll out the welcome mat, sometimes I get it wrong.
      And, I absolutely understand about getting angry, hurt and offended and going off. Though I have had a darn easy life, there are still times that people’s insensitivity and accidental sexism flip me out. (Click through a few of my “Of course I’m a feminist” posts and you’ll see my hackles in all their hot-headed glory!)
      I think many of us are trying to work past these barriers though and I really appreciate you coming here to help me understand your experience and perspective.
      And yes – ALL women (and men) are included here!

  3. I think, no matter WHAT you say on ANY topic, there’s gonna be SOMEONE out there who’s going to take issue. Because there are people in this world who LIKE to be offended. I’m kind’a liking this: *.human — though, this proves a challenge when dealing with vampires, werewolves, and aliens from another planet, and of course, any and all half- *.human. Or is that -half*.human ?

    I know, I’m not being helpful at all. I hope someone comes to set us straight with the correct vocabulary. Isn’t a post-trans m2w… a woman? I thought that was the ultimate goal: to be acknowledged as the gender you WANT as opposed to the gender someone else wants to label you with. Whether that’s with or without surgical enhancements…

    Are we trying for a gender-FREE society? Because…that would be sad. Anyway. I hope someone pops by, I’d like to hear from those in the know, too.

    On another note? Prince has some serious symbol-envy right now.

    • I’m with you in not wanting a gender free society, but a gender equal one would be super groovy! And for me, gender is so not a binary issue, which may be why I struggle with this a little myself even as a “ciswoman”.
      I mean… When I was 3 or 4 and my parents asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said I wanted to be a daddy. I spent months trying to learn how to pee standing up, since that was the big physical difference I saw between my parents. (It didn’t work. Very messy.)
      If I was asked to place myself along a gender line with the ultimate man’s man on one side and the ultimate woman’s woman on the other… I’d be just about smack dab in the middle. I’ve always been a tomboy. I got laughed out of homecoming because I wore a dress and no one had ever seen me in one of those before…
      Now as an adult, I am definitely a woman and I love it. I’m still not very “feminine” in the traditional sense, my kids still ask me why I’m dressed up if I put on a dress or a skirt, no matter how casual. It’s not my gender I question, but society’s expectations of it.
      For someone who had to question both – I can imagine that would be incredibly difficult without some additional support.
      I guess what I’m saying is that yes, some people are looking for reasons to be offended, and then again, many people have been so abused by our society that their default position is one of defensiveness because it’s the only way they’ve been able to survive this long…

      On your lighter note – Agreed, Prince has been outdone by this flag and symbol!

    • Carolyn Howard

      Love the Prince comment. Of course, I love Prince.

  4. Chris

    It’s a very difficult topic and one where no matter how hard a person tries, someone is almost certain to get upset.

    I have 4 male to female and 1 female to male friends. Three of the male to female women identify themselves as being trans and one identifies herself as being a woman. The female to male guy identifies as trans.

    One of the women told me that she wants people to know of the journey she’s been on, to be an example for others and to act as an educator.

    All 5 do suffer discrimination on a daily basis.

    There are times when I screw up and offend them, despite my best intentions. As with all of my relationships, I’m doing the best I can at this point in time.

    Do the best that you can and as you learn more, improve. Forgive yourself when you make mistakes.

    • Thanks!! Your response meant a lot to me. I agree, we all need to do our best, keep learning and keep improving.
      I would also add that we can all do a better job of recognizing when people are trying. (I say this as a feminist who could do a better job of including both men and women who are trying, but who are accidentally insensitive or offensive without realizing it or understanding why/how they are being offensive. Responding with my hurt pushes them away, responding with compassion brings them closer and heals us both…)
      Ultimately, it’s about all of us working to keep the lines of communication open.
      I’m so honored that you all are coming by and helping me to find better tools and greater understanding.
      Thanks.

  5. Alisha

    This is a classic case of paying more attention to what we do not have rather than what we do have. Let’s look at how far we have come instead how far we still need to go. If tolerance and equality is really what people want, then be tolerant of others ignorances. Most people are trying their best to be PC and we can’t get it perfect all the time. It is the trying that counts. Period. I find that if you have been marginalized, you get stuck in a world of always thinking that is how you are being treated, even if in reality, others are desperately trying to include and accommodate you.

  6. Pingback: Trans welcoming | Clare Flourish

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