There are transpeople who were identified as male at birth, who went through puberty as a male, who spent a long period living in the man’s role and who now identify as a woman, either full time or part time (some identify as bigendered) who I personally would not feel comfortable inviting into women’s space.
These are people who I don’t see as doing the hard work to listen to and respect the voices of other women on their own terms. They haven’t done the cultural literacy work to understand context, haven’t done the work to understand the shared experiences and viewpoints of women, haven’t done the consciousness raising work to get past their own shame in a way which lets them open to other women with empathy and compassion.
These are mostly people who define womanhood around clothing and sex partners, not around the myriad pressures to conform to a woman’s role in this culture.
As the old saw goes, people who believe there is no real difference between men and women are men.
These transpeople claim womanhood without feeling the cultural obligations of being a girl and a woman in this culture, who somehow believe that they can be a woman in a piecemeal fashion, picking and choosing the bits that they like and leaving the rest behind. They tend to use the same kind of responses that they always applied, identifying solutions and bulling their way through.
On Mom last night, Kristie was on the floor of the bathroom crying about her life. Her mother tried to give her solutions to her problems, but Kristie just called out “Will you stop trying to fix the problem and just listen to my feelings?’ Bonnie did that, but she also wryly commented “Now I know why men hate us.”
I know that to be an ally to these transpeople I need to respect their self-identification, need to grant them pronouns and the space to grow as women, to change their minds and re-gender themselves as women,
That doesn’t mean, however, I want them in tender, safe, protected women’s space unless they are ready to be respectful and gracious. I have had to defend the space in the past: Wanted! Woman To Transform Me! (1998)
I have never identified as a crossdresser, ever. I started with gender play, not the traditional “Now I’m Biff! Now I’m Suzy!” claiming sort of model. From my first gender outings I was more in tune with the stories of the born-female woman partners of crossdressers than the CDs themselves.
This didn’t stop people from identifying me as a CD, assuming that I am just like them, just pretending to speak woman like the Swedish Chef pretends to speak Swedish. They couldn’t imagine I had done the work, that I even wanted to woman identify that much.
When I think about going into women’s spaces, I often hesitate. I hesitate in a way that transpeople who are living their childhood model of a woman never would, as they feel the entitlement they still own.
Does my being there open the spaces to other transpeople born male who haven’t done the woman work? Is that a good thing? Does my history and biology alone make other women feel unsafe?
Transpeople have so few mirrors in the world where we can see good and useful reflections. I don’t know how I appear to other women, but I do know when I see other transwomen who I feel don’t understand, engage and respect my feminine experience and viewpoint.
I know how much work I have done, but I also know that my reflections as a woman are minimal and shattered, always looking back through a broken mirror. As a woman, I don’t want to make space unsafe for other women; I know how important it is.
Of course, this is the paradox. Transwomen who respect women’s space will be hesitant to enter it, while transwomen who don’t get the need won’t think twice about choosing to enter. I feel the weight of those I see and know even when they don’t yet see their own armour.
I look at other transwomen and wonder how I get permission to enter women’s space, permission that I personally would hesitate to offer to some of them. How am I entitled to enter and they are not? Are we all entitled, just by making a womanhood claim, or are none of us entitled?
One challenge with transgender being such an individual journey is that there are so few milestones,, so few markers of “You Are Here!” It becomes very difficult to know when you have arrived anywhere. Maybe that’s why we want genital reconstruction surgery to have meaning, though all it really means is that your genitals are now a different shape.
I don’t understand this. Maybe I should just follow Kiki’s advice, going anywhere until she is asked to leave, but somehow, that just doesn’t feel like me.
Celebrating the sameness between other women and me is a good thing, not just for me, but also for them. I bring a different perspective to the woman experience, one of conscious gendering that offers real insight.
That is, of course, if the other women are ready to get the joke.
And that I am far from sure about.