grownupslie said: hello! i was directed here by delicately-interconnected. i like radfem a lot better than libfem, but i don't understand radfem's relationship with trans people. why do they constantly misgender trans people? (like calling trans women men.) i've read through a lot of your blog but i couldn't find any comprehensible, simple answer. hope it's not too much to ask you to explain this to me? :)
Hi, thanks for reading! So, I can’t speak for “radfems” (obviously), but I can share other’s writings and my own observations.
First, take a look at this article, which discusses “misgendering”. Obviously, women have a fundamental interest (in terms of self-protection) to distinguish transgender males who commit violent crime against women from females.
And from my own perspective, some trans women are literally men. When a person is male, has unreconstructed male sexist attitudes, looks 100% like a man, and behaves like a man, what possible justification could there be for them to “demand” I call them she? Trans activists usually pull a “No true transwoman” on these kinds of people, but under current trans theory, the only determinant of being trans is “because I say so”, and any kind of objective (ie behavioral or medical) is “looksist”, relies on “passing privilege”, or is “classist”. Meaning: a male who lives as a man with a full beard is “just as much a woman” as the female who gave birth to him, just as much a woman as the female who gave birth to his children after he impregnated her with his penis. Seriously, wtf?
As a trans woman, I’m totally comfortable calling bullshit on this one. If you look unmistakably male, you act stereotypically like a man, and you engage with the world with all of your male entitlement intact, I really could care less what you say you “really” are. You’re a man! (Though, in general I avoid misgendering other trans women on this blog, because too often turns into “pot calling the kettle black” to make sense. Though, I have an exception for convicted sex offenders and murderers.) And on a related note: penis and testicles aren’t female! If they are, there is ZERO legitimacy to hormones and SRS for trans women. Duh!
I live pretty well assimilated. I’m sure some people can tell I was born male, but nobody who didn’t hear through a specific rumor train has brought it up to me in almost a decade. But obviously, I didn’t always pass. And one thing I learned early on in my transition was to avoid people who referred to me as “he”, whether on purpose or accidentally.
In retrospect, this probably cut me off from some women with interesting perspectives. But it also cut out a lot of assholes. And as a matter of social survival, it felt important to be able to contain the knowledge about my past. Being a trans person who passes most of the time is akin to having a chronic, stigmatized medical condition which isn’t immediately obvious from the way you look. When people know, they treat you differently, and because sex roles are so pervasive and naturalized in people’s brains, sometimes they make really messed-up assumptions and treat you in bizarre ways. It makes you feel crazy. When you pass, going stealth feels like telling more of the truth about yourself, rather than less.
At this point in my life, on the other side of assimilation, it feels good to be able to talk about my experience being born and socialized male. However, it only feels safe to do so on my own terms, and I realize that the reason it’s comfortable to me is specifically because I do pass to the extent I do. However, being able to acknowledge the fact of being male has been really helpful the last nine months in terms of shutting up the persistent and nagging sex dysphoria I still have. I hate the shape of my body, but my body is shaped that way because I’m male. I have to make peace with it! Acknowledging to myself that sex change is actually impossible is really helpful.
When radical feminists on the internet refer to me as “he”, like Gallus Mag has, it doesn’t bother me. I have really warm feelings towards Gallus, actually! I love the idea of living in a world where I was really “Free to be you and me”, and I could still acknowledge being male, even though I’ve modified my body, but it wouldn’t make people jump to conclusions about how I behaved or how I interpreted the world. That’s the mythical paradise of gender abolition! To me, that kind of online space actually feels good, because I get to put aside passing anxiety, and the body dysmorphia caused by living as a woman while having a number of “unfeminine” physical features.
However, in real life I don’t know how this would play out. I’m certainly not going to join the Deep Green Resistance “men’s radfem auxiliary”, because actually the lived experience of my life over the last 20 years tends to have more in common with women than with men. Also, men no longer recognize me as one of their own, and the objectification is a little intense. But mostly, I know how hard it is to contain rumors once they get around, and the last thing I need to deal with is another rumor train in my life. The existing one (which all goes back to the same man actually) has caused me immeasurable grief over the last decade. I do my best to live ethically within a feminist framework, but I also have to maintain my privacy for reasons of social survival.
Thanks for the ask, and best wishes