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Transphobia @ Rape Relief

in support of Kimberly Nixon

Forum: Scylla
Date: 01/08/2001

On 01.1.8 7:08 AM, "Julie" wrote:

Not speaking for Elaine, but I do think that many transsexual women do attempt to extract "revenge" when such matters are pursued.

Yes, some transsexual women are genuinely anti-feminist. But I know nothing about this particular case that would lead me to think that Kimberly Nixon is one of them.

If Elaine's argument is that she is (and therefore I am) misguided, it would simply be feminists disagreeing with each other's positions, which as you know happens quite often. I question the characterization of Kimberly as "anti-woman," "trying to destroy women's work," etc. as unfair and unsupported.

I would hope, but obviously can't speak for anyone else, that most transsexual women would understand that there are situations and places where we just don't belong.

But that's not because one is transsexual. For example, women who have not had miscarriage do not belong in miscarriage support group, as you point out, simply because they haven't had the experience relevant to the purpose of the group, and being transsexual has nothing to do with it.

In this case, I think the potential for further traumatising a woman who's been sexually abused by a man is too great a risk to brush off.

First, this is paternalism, and it is ultimately disempowering to survivors of abuse for their advocates to decide what survivors are capable of handling.

Second, by this logic, any women who has overtly masculine appearance or characteristics - i.e. butch women, women with low voice, etc. - can be discriminated against, reinforcing the patriarchal definition of proper femininity.

Third, similar to the second, some women survivors of abuse feel uncomfortable with the existence of women of different race, religion or sexual orientation on the other end of the phone. This is not a good reason to remove volunteers and staff who are of marginalized race, religion, or sexual orientation. I'm yet to be convinced why transsexuality would be any different.

Fourth, from my experience working for shelters, women get triggered by many things - it could be Black skin, it could be New York accent, or it could be a stuffed Pikachu. The key is to help women learn how to better cope with triggers, rather than isolate her from the world.

Fifth, a shelter in my town has a transsexual woman and a transsexual man working for it, but there hasn't been any problems or complaint due to that (on the other hand, they are harassed by some other workers).

And lastly, most of the women are not as afraid of or angry toward the entire male species as some people might expect. Seriously, it's way more common for residents of a shelter to complain that they wish there were men working there. Last time I met Alix Dobkin, she said transsexual people should not work at a domestic violence shelter because *their* safety is at risk - that the women who stay at the shelter are so angry at men that they might attack transsexual staff. I was like, "um, I know a couple of transsexual people who work in shelters and neither of them have been attacked or harassed by the residents; they have been harassed only by co-workers though."

The last point relates to another issue that I am passionate about: the feminist and pop-culture production of the victimhood that has restrictive and disempowering to the survivors of abuse. See _New versions of victims: feminists struggle with the concept_ ed. by Sharon Lamb.

I have discussed having been raped with a couple of other women- born women (many of whom knew nothing of my past) and felt a bit uneasy when certain issues of socialisation have come up -- the way girls are "taught" that men own their bodies, for example. So I can imagine that someone born and raised and socialised as a man might have problems in an extremely intimate situation with a woman who has just been raped.

Again, any transsexual woman who wants to volunteer for a rape crisis center would have to go through the same training that other women do, and meet the same requirements. If she is not capable of performing the tasks, then, of course she shouldn't be working on the hotline.

And one of the requirements of working for a hotline is that one is able to assist with survivors whose experiences are very different from her own. A transsexual woman who wants to be on the hotline must overcome this challenge, just like a white woman who wants to be on the hotline must be able to effectively assist survivors of color. Again, I don't see what is so different when it involves transsexuality.

From the information on the Rape Relief Center's website (and Kim hasn't disputed this, so it seems to be true), she was offered a different role in helping the center meet its mission. She turned it down and continued to pursue her lawsuit.

I can't speak for Kimberly, but I don't believe "separate but equal" is an acceptable feminist practice.

Again, if it were me I wouldn't pursue any legal remedy. But if it were me I would probably have sit in the back of the bus, and I would probably not have sued the Board of Education of Topeka. I'm thankful that those before me challenged these discriminatory practices, because much of the freedom and opportunity I now have is a result of their work.

Emi wrote:

Another question: do you think that Paula Jones, Kathleen Wiley and Juanita Broaddrick are all making accusations against President Clinton for mere political impact? What do you feel about the assertion (by some Democrats) that they are?

This is certainly an interesting diversion outside the scope of this discussion. Perhaps you might find an article to post on this subject? Or if you'd like to take this topic into that direction, please change the subject line.

I was trying to understand when Elaine would dismiss complaints women's complaints as political hustle or blame the victim, and when she wouldn't. Of course she is free to not answer these questions, but I thought her position would be more clear if she answered them.

On 01.1.8 7:20 AM, "Julie" wrote:

There is a lot of ignorance and stupidity within the transsexual political community, and I think a lot of it flows from certain transsexual myths. "I'm just like other women" and "I was always a woman" are two of them.

Yup, absolutely. To be honest, I only know one transsexual woman whom I consider a friend, because I felt very uncomfortable with sexism, racism, ableism, and/or heterosexism coming from others. I've met (I do have male friends, though they are trans and/or gay men). But there is also a lot of ignorance and stupidity within the feminist political community as well, and "all women share certain experiences in common" and "if someone is a woman, she should have the same experience as me" are two of the faulty myths, which have been criticized by feminists of color and Third World feminists for at least three decades.

It is the belief that it is okay to discriminate against some women because her experience is different from other women that I am most weary about, because such assertion erases my existence and privileges those for whom being a woman is the only socially stigmatizing marker, as I've said before.

Emi K.

-- * Putting the Emi back in Feminism since 1975.