why queer, trans, and/or feminist-focused events, parties, and/or spaces are the last places you will find me.

April 3, 2011

this is a scary post for me to make, because talking about the intense failings of queer, trans, and women’s communities in relation to trans women is such a black hole for me. once i start thinking and talking about it, i have likely already passed the event horizon and now need to spend the rest of eternity (assuming i had the technology to avoid being destroyed) feeling horrible. and there really is no feeling better about it because almost nothing has changed in the last ten years.

as much as i pretend not to care about these larger communities and to be able to pick and choose my friends, i do care very deeply, partly because 99% of my queer and trans friends who are not trans women are fairly clueless about how to be supportive of trans women (even though they have, in many cases, read the right books and can talk the talk). they invite unapologetic transmisogynists (who masquerade as trans allies because they are friends with trans men) to their birthday parties and invite me without warning me that, hey, this person who has said really rude things about your body in front of lots of people (at Camp Trans ’99) or who has implied that informing her fans of her support for excluding trans women from women only spaces is violence and that she is scared for her life (this must be due to the many well-documented cases of trans women murderering cis people… although if it is, i’d love to see some information about it, having only read about the opposite).

you probably haven’t wondered why you don’t see me at your shows, parties, and dance nights, and if you have, you probably think it’s because i can’t get child care or something… the truth is, i can’t stand to be in a room filled with female-assigned folks with radical queer and/or gender politics. even the presence of another trans woman does not quell my feeling of otheredness (i say “otheredness” instead of “otherness” because i don’t believe i am inherently “other” from these folks, but rather have been actively “othered” in these spaces).

it would be easy for you to chalk my feeling of otheredness up to paranoia or ancient bad experiences… maybe it’s just a personality flaw, right?

i want you to not do this easy thing. i want you, instead, to consider what more than ten years of listening to excuses (not just from strangers, but from close friends) about why standing all the way up in support of trans women was not only unnecessary but actually would represent “infighting,” that would tear “our” community apart would do to an already marginalized person. what does it mean when our requests for solidarity are met only with mumbled apologetics or impassioned criticism telling us to “fight the real enemy?” why is the “real enemy” only a caricature of a cisgendered cissexual straight white middle class man and not the transmisogyny dragon that slumbers undisturbed in the very heart of our community? (or, of course, it’s sibling dragons of classim, racism, etc.)

that’s the problem: there are so few situations where a radical cis queer woman or trans man is going to be asked to expound on these issues, letting the dragon sleep undetected by those who have no reason to *see* it when they look around the room at these parties… and in those few situations, there are are magical code words that can be used to prevent ruffling feathers, code words that might not pass muster if examined much further but do a fine job in a room of all (or almost all) female-assigned queer and gender radicals…

“male socialization.” who can complain about that? it is an easily made assumption that all male-assigned people share socialization that gives them tendencies towards certain (annoying, sexist) behaviors and attitudes, like the tendency to take up too much space, to turn every conversation into one about themselves, and to feel entitled to just about everything. it also has a handy partner, “female socialization,” that allows trans men to take up a position as the good kind of man. no one comes right out and says this, of course, but dating patterns bear this out (yes, that is a joke, my dears) as well as the tendency for cis queer women and trans men to criticize the “male socialization” of trans women as the reason that some-random-trans-woman forgot to do her dishes last Tuesday even though the chore wheel said it was her turn (socialization is, of course, not the reason that some-random-cis-woman forgets to do her dishes… she’s just forgetful).

male socialization is useful in so many situations! if you think this essay is too angry, aggressive, or sarcastic, you can chalk that up to my “male socialization” and receive a chorus of support from your friends. if you think it is too wishy-washy, wimpy, and emotional, you can chalk that up to me overcompensating for my male socialization, as well as the standards for women that my male socialization left me with… really, you can use it for any of my actions! try it yourself with these examples: i like to bake cookies at night for myself. why? i go through phases where it is hard for me to cry, as well as periods where every kids’ movie ever made turns on the water works. why? i like nutritional yeast on toast… why!??!

those of you old enough to remember 1970-2000 in the queer community will remember another phrase used for this purpose: “male energy.” just as vague, if a bit more woo… really, even though it is out of vogue, i find it much more honest. “male socialization” is another way of saying that trans women are still, in some important sense, men.

and so, as i read all the justifications on Facebook and on blogs for why even suggesting a DIALOGUE with Bitch (rather than protesting at her show or boycotting, as we would have done when i was a teenager… a bit divisive, yes, but at least we knew who our allies were then (hint: they were the ones NOT calling us scary horrible monster infighters picking on defenseless cis artists with broad community support who refused to be accountable for their actions and words while telling everyone they “LOVED trannies“) is “attacking” her, i remember why i don’t go to your shows or parties… your words still ring in my ears after you forget the transmisogynist bullshit you spoke so carelessly. i understand the need for safe and separate spaces, and i know that they are often for the oppressed (in this case, trans women) to have respite from the looks, words, and thoughts of the oppressor (in this case, cis women). and no, we don’t “oppress each other horizontally.” we are both women. we both face sexism in this world. being cis puts you in a position of power over trans people and until you are ready to face that and start a conversation from that awareness, we really aren’t ready to have a dialogue.

17 Responses to “why queer, trans, and/or feminist-focused events, parties, and/or spaces are the last places you will find me.”

  1. BethX said

    And this is *exactly* why, even though I live in the same town as you, I actively avoid that community. I can only put up with that shit for so many years until I say “fuck it” and go my own way.

    Seriously, queer community, you’ve driven goddess knows how many trans women away. Screw you. Transwomen, let’s start our own.

  2. Tracie said

    Wow Katie, I have seen the same thing years ago when I had potlucks at my house and a group(you know them) I no longer hang out, with would show up and say the strangest, most inappropriate things. Or have narrow views. If one more person says the word pass to me I may throw up.
    MyFailings are that I tend to forget who is trans, see the person for who they are a person. I could give a shut if route a guy, girl, or both. Some may think this a good thing, but I worry I may be insensitive.

    I see so much discrimination from the gay community as well. It gives a bad name for the lgb community.
    I see what you have written as well.
    I think you are such a good mom and so smart, you intimidate me.
    I love your green, vegan living and parenting .

    • tracie, you are a great friend and i know you know what i’m talking about.:) is there a sunday or a weeknight you might want to get together with jen and i and all the kids? maybe at my house (we’ll have a picnic on the floor, i guess;) or hers or yours? 😉 <3, katie

  3. smitty said

    I ❤ You! Lots!
    This is eloquent as per usual. Thank you for sharing it with me/ the world. !!! ❤

  4. Anna said

    I’m sorry I’m CIS. I’m ready to talk. :}
    Still have the cap — will I see you on Wednesday?

  5. Thanks, Katie. I have a theory that people are losing the ability to hear each other fully-like there is no more curiosity in the other’s story or why they think how they do, what experiences did they have, etc. But now from your post I am thinking that I can’t blame it on social media anymore-plus what is happening in my intentional community-where I see many have never even been on Facebook and yet still have the bad habits in communication that shut down connection. You have examples that pre-date online social media.
    You know-all it took was for one transwoman to tell me that she is all girl-has always been all girl-the body was a complication. And I believed her and learned from her. I am not sure what makes folks not accept each other’s experience.
    A member of my community was telling me how my white privilege made it possible for me to not recall part of a 3 way conversation that was offensive to her, someone who identifies as a person of color-but allowed me to remember in precise detail the things said that my friend-person of color said. WOW I had not imagined that I could even screen out what I recalled based on race. WOW. I really was longing to hear stories from both sides that had disagreed and I was sad that their anger and hurt kept them from doing that. It never occurred to me that my cultural bias was like glasses that created blind spots because I thought I wasn’t racist! I bet there is cultural bias from the cisgendered as well-not even knowing of our blind spots. But the dragon in your community-if only we could get folks hungry to hear each other’s stories without fighting. WOuldn’t that be cool? That is what I am actively working on as a project within my intentional community-takes a long time, but progress is being made.

  6. Felix said

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve been thinking about it all day, trying to figure out how to make changes in my life based on it. Will continue to.

  7. Gus Allis said

    I have just started freaking out and becoming offended by this “male socilaization and/or energy” garbage. It is pretty obvious that it’s just another way to invalidate trans women’s (and also trans mens) identities. The double standard is appalling. How come I as a cis woman can take up space, be assertive, speak loudly and passionately, and my gender is never questioned? If any cis dude told me that my personality made me a fake woman, feminists would flip the fuck out. It’s absurd and offensive that trans women can’t be as loud and angry as they want to be without being accused of being men.

    • the worst part, IMHO, is the double bind we are in as trans women… we can’t be loud and assertive, but if we are meek and mild that is ALSO offensive and proof of our inherent alien notwomanness, too. blargh! thanks for reading and speaking. <3, katie

  8. Alex said

    Thank you for writing this. And oh so yes! As a transmasculine person I feel really uncomfortable with some of the assumption other queer people make about identities and politics. There are so many troubling dynamics in our broader community (trans guys and lesbian-identified folk is one I personally struggle with) and it is time to start talking about them! I will keep thinking about your words and feel so grateful you have shared them. Thank you.

    • thank you for reading! i’d love to see anything you might have to say about trans guys and lesbian-identified folk… as an outsider to that situation (only not really, since i was a Chicago Lesbian Avenger in the late 90s/early 00s at a time when the community was changing from DYKES! to DYKESANDTRANNYBOIS!) i don’t necessarily know what people more directly involved are feeling… <3, katie

  9. jayinchicago said

    this is super awesome. i’ve liked what you have had to say ever since the old s-o days. i hope boosting the signal on this does something, and i also hope that my fellow trans men are receptive to how we are both complicit in and often perpetuating all this bullshit.

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