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Conditional Acceptance is Worse Than Total Rejection

on treating trans women as non-women women

In response to anti-trans rhetoric on some radical feminist blogs:

Date: 06/14/2012

I don't understand why people think it's more okay to exclude trans women while recognizing them as women than simply excluding them as men. Excluding trans women because one genuinely believes they are men makes sense. I don't agree with the premise, but it makes sense. Saying that one accepts trans women as women but don't want trans women in women's space makes no sense. It is worse form of discrimination.

I also think people who refer to all trans women as "he" are less bad than those who switch to "he" selectively for specific trans women. Refusing to call any trans women "she" might be prejudiced and wrong, but it is principled in its own way. To use misgendering as a threat and a punishment when one has no trouble calling trans women "she" in general is much more sinister.

Date: 06/14/2012


I personally do see transsexual women who have undergone SRS/plan to undergo SRS as women, [...] I believe that transsexual women who HAVE undergone SRS should be free to use our bathrooms and changerooms, but I do not feel simply "identifying" as women [...] is enough

Radical feminists critiquing the medical regulation of trans bodies have rightfully pointed out that there is nothing magical about SRS. It does not change who that person is, and womanhood should not be defined by male surgeons' knife.

I can sympathize if your concern is that heterosexual men who are not trans in any way might claim to be trans women just to gain entry into women's spaces. Requiring SRS would certainly rule out any heterosexual man who is only interested in violating women, but it would also exclude a majority of trans women. If you are only concerned about men claiming to be trans women, I believe there should be a better solution, perhaps on a case by case basis, rather than relying on one's surgical status as a proof of one's womanhood.

Trans women have been raised and socialised as males, this socialisation doesn't disappear in a matter of seconds or at the precise moment a male decides to identify as a woman. This is obvious, too, in the domineering and threatening ways M2T transgenders act around females.

In the U.S. and in many other countries except for some first world nations, SRS is available only to those with resources. By requiring SRS as a condition for entry, you would almost guarantee that only those with the most privilege in their backgrounds--and therefor--those most likely to act in domineering and threatening manners--will be allowed in. Those who transition early in their lives and therefore did not have the luxury of receiving education or entering into career as a cis male will be excluded, while those who benefited most from male privilege in their lives will have the resources to buy their entry (i.e. SRS) into women's spaces. If you are concerned about the influences of trans women's "male" upbringings, requiring SRS will have an impact that is opposite of what you intend.

It is not a god given right to use our facilities, which we have worked tirelessly for over centuries

To accept trans women means that you acknowledge trans women have always been part of that struggle along with other women. But then if you define "real" trans women based on SRS, you might mistakenly think that trans women did not exist until the modern invention of SRS, at which point trans women magically came into existence.

Date: 06/17/2012


All I'm saying is that it is in the best interests and safety of a transsexual person who has undergone SRS to use the female bathrooms rather than male bathrooms, whereas I do not think it's safe for biological females to have to share these bathrooms with pre and non-op transgender people.

I'm touched that you are taking into consideration which bathrooms would be safer for transsexual women, but somehow that consideration seems to extend only to those who have received SRS. What makes you think that transsexual women who have not had SRS would be safe in men's bathrooms? And what makes you think that SRS would magically make transsexual women "safe" enough for other women to share bathrooms with, whereas they are "unsafe" previously?

You say that you do not believe (nor do I) that SRS magically transforms who someone is, but you seem to be attributing some magical qualities to SRS: transsexual women prior to SRS are threat to other women's safety solely because they have not had SRS, while transsexual women who have undergone SRS are not only safe to other women, but are threatened by people who have not had SRS (cis men and "pre-op" trans women).

Underneath these assumptions, I am wondering if you actually believe that men violate women because they have penises, and women are at risk of being violated by men because they have vaginas? That would explain why you view "pre-op" and "post-op" transsexual women the way you do, although that is contrary to my own belief, which is that men violate women because of the patriarchy and its structures of domination and power.

Aside from the shape of genitals, "pre-op" and "post-op" transsexual women as groups are different in many ways, most of which privilege "post-op" ones. In the U.S. and in many other countries, SRS is available only to those with social and financial capital that are not evenly distributed across the population. As a result, trans women who have received SRS tend to be older, more likely to be white, more likely to be well-off and professional, more likely to have been married to a woman as a heterosexual man and fathered children, and more likely to have benefited from male privilege that allowed them to attain education and start careers as cis men. These are all indicators of social power and privilege, which to me are greater risk factors for abusive or dominating behaviors than simply having a penis.

I'm not trying to suggest that you should be excluding "post-op" transsexual women instead of "pre-op" ones; I am simply pointing out that your thinking about who belongs to which bathroom is based not on actual risks transsexual women might pose to other women or on their own safety for that matter, but on some magical thinking around genital shapes and the ability of SRS to transform not just the shapes of genitals, but learned behaviors that are tied to individuals' social positions throughout their lives.

I do not believe they should share our rape crisis/domestic violence shelters either, but I will support trans only crisis centres.

I have worked and/or volunteered at various rape crisis / domestic violence organizations for more than a decade, and from my experience non-trans women who are staying at the shelters rarely have any problem with trans women. It is the staff that tend to freak out about having trans women in the shelter. Trans women have been using our domestic violence shelters for many years without causing any issues to the safety and comfort of other women, so I am not sure what you think the problem might be for trans women accessing services necessary to not get killed. (Not that I think shelter is a good place for many trans women survivors anyway--shelters tend to not offer the kind of privacy trans women often require for their own comfort, and may not feel safe to them, which I think is a serious problem.)

Uh, this is so off base it's disturbing. No, I refuse to accept trans women have always been part of the struggle, trans women have done NOTHING to help women build our own shelters and spaces, they have done nothing to protect us from males; in actuality, they have shut down our spaces, our conferences and allied with MRAs and males to force their way into our conversations, spaces and reproductive issues.

Wow. Now this is really disturbing, this level of absolutism and demonization of an entire class of people. I'm wondering if you are blocking out trans women from your life to such an extreme degree that the only trans women you interact with are angry at you enough to get your attention, while ignoring all other trans women who are fighting for women's rights.

Also, I haven't seen many trans women align themselves with men's rights activists, even those who do not quite get feminism. But those who do align themselves that way (as far as I've noticed) tend to be older white trans women who transitioned later in their lives (with wife, children, professional career, savings) who also tend to have undergone SRS. Again, I'm not suggesting that all "post-op" trans women are like that, but it seems strange that you seem to think that genital shape is more important factor than societal power and privilege.