Guest Post: Transmisogyny is Misogyny Against All Women

This was written by my friend Gus Allis, who is rad. She is one of the people I know who really sets the standard of what a “cis ally” should be. Check it out.

Transmisogyny is Misogyny Against All Women: An Open Letter to Cis Feminists

mi·sog·y·ny

/mɪˈsɒdʒəni, maɪ-/ [mi-soj-uh-nee, mahy-]

–noun

hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women.

I need to know something. I need to know what a real woman is. I’m a woman and I need to know if I’m real and the only person who can tell me is Bitch. Or maybe it’s Lisa Voegel. Or maybe it’s Rush Limbaugh. Ok, then I need to know two things. I need to know if I’m a real woman and I need to know who can tell me if I am. Because if I’ve learned anything during these past few years, existing on the periphery of the trans community as a cis lover, friend, sister, and solidarity stander of trans folk, it’s that I sure as shit don’t have the authority to determine my own gender identity. I’ve also learned, in no uncertain terms, that the war on trans women’s identities is a war on all women’s identity. Transmisogyny is misogyny against all women.

If you hate, dislike, or mistrust trans women, you’re misogynistic. Trans women are included in the big ol’ group known as women. Want proof? Well look at their name, silly. We call ‘em trans women, not trans chia pets, not trans beach towels, not trans schmeggeggies. Remember high school algebra? Oh hush, yes you do. Let me remind you of this lovely little mathematical rule:

If a=b and b=c, then a=c

If trans women= women and hating, disliking, or mistrusting women= misogyny then…then what? Solve for c.

Ok technically that would be trans women= misogyny but you know perfectly well what I mean and I hate that you even questioned my math.

But I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “But Gus, I think trans women=/= women so therefore it’s totally not misogynistic to hate, dislike, or mistrust trans women.” And I understand that. Really, I do. But here’s the thing. Now listen carefully, my little chickadee, cuz I’m about to blow your mind.

You’re wrong.

Not only are you wrong, but even thinking that silly, silly, thing is unbelievably, incredibly, fantastically MISOGYNISTIC. And it offends me as a woman. Yes, yes it does. And here’s why. Here’s an annotated list of all the ways your transmisogyny hurts all women. Yes, even you, Bitch.

1. It Polices Women’s Identities

I listed this one first because it’s the easiest. If you are telling trans women they can’t be women, you’re telling every woman on the planet she can’t be whatever she wants. That doesn’t sound very feminist to me. It sounds more like something a pipe smoking white guy from the 50s would say to his daughter who wants to be an astronaut. Gross. Also, you’re basically declaring yourself the authority on other peoples’ identities. And really, my telling you to knock that off is for your own good. Do you have any idea how tiring that would be? Every time someone needed to know their own gender identity, they would have to contact you. Do you know how many people are in the world? Six billion-ish. I suggest, if you do keep this up, that perhaps you may want to get a gmail account, as that has an infinite amount of storage space. You’re going to need that for 6 billion emails with the subject heading, “what am I?”

But let’s get specific. The most common mistake I see here is when the queer community punishes trans women for specific aspects of their identities. Most notably, we’re talking about things that are deemed “unfeminine”. Seriously, folks, are you listening to yourselves here? You’re telling trans women that if they speak loudly/take up space/ defend themselves/have an opinion with which you disagree/wear pants/listen to metal/etc, they’re not real women. Uh, I’m sorry, what? I do all those things. You would shit twice and die if a man told me that. Why am I immune to that criticism? Why can I be butch and still be a woman? Oh, I know why. It’s because I was assigned female at birth, a great beacon of truth for my REAL gender. It’s because of that, and because of my cunt, which you recognize as legitimate. My “real” cunt is a “get out of gender invalidation free” pass. That’s convenient, as it serves for a great transition for…

2. It Polices Women’s Bodies

Here’s the real down and dirty analysis, right here. Wait for it. Wait. Ok. Now.

What the hell does a woman’s body possess that makes it a woman’s body? What does it NEED to have to be female. Did you immediately think of breasts, ovaries, vaginas? Gross. Think about that for more than two minutes and you’ll see why it’s gross. Still don’t get it? Well then go down to the nearest breast cancer walk and tell every single woman with a double mastectomy she’s not a woman. When you’re done with that, go down to your local hospital, ask the nurse where the OR is, and wait outside until you can find a woman fresh out of her hysterectomy surgery, and tell her the news. Yeah, that sounds evil, doesn’t it? Well it’s basically what you’re doing when you’re policing trans women’s bodies. You’re telling all women what they have to have on/in their bodies to be a woman. Which, obviously, is totally gross.

Also, what do you care what a human being looks like all inside out? That’s so WEIRD. How is it any of your business how many kidneys or ovaries or white blood cells I have? Like, that is legitimately weirding me out that you would even care. And can I just say, as a fat girl with a history of pretty serious body issues, it’s kind of triggering. First you wanna regulate trans women’s bodies and then what? Another person feeling like they have any authority over the validity of my body is really scary to me. And it definitely echoes of some very conservative, very anti-choice ideals. My body, my choice, fucker. Because that’s what “they” want to do “us”, isn’t it? Take away our bodily autonomy. Tell us exactly what we can and can not do with our organs. Awkward. You’re pretty much Bill O’Reilly. SO awkward.

(And seriously, this essay is totally not even getting into the super important points about people who are intersex who identify as women. This is mostly because I’m not intersex and I really can’t speak to those experiences, and also because I’m not as up on my shit with intersex issues as I like to believe I am with trans stuff. This is laziness on my part, and writing this essay has made me see this)

3. It Perpetuates the Myth of Shared Girlhood

Now, I don’t know what your girlhood was like, but I’m actually pretty sure it had nothing to do with mine. My childhood (a word I greatly prefer) was pretty much centered on reading, climbing trees, and hating my fat body. Oh yeah, I also lived in a three story mansion in Orange County, California. Kind of a different childhood than, say, my best friend who traveled the country with her hot air balloon pilot parents. Kind of a different childhood than my mother, who grew up a poor Catholic girl in the Italian part of Queens in the 1960s. To say that none of the different privileges, triumphs, oppressions, failures, and experiences of all our lives outweigh the fact that at one point all three of our ovaries released an egg for the very first time is insulting and demeaning. Our differences are important (it’s called intersectionality, maybe you’ve heard of it, “feminist”). The only thing we have in common, all of us, every single woman, cis AND trans,  on this planet, is that we call ourselves “woman”. And that’s a big deal, really it is! But I think you’re being just a tad bit racist, classist, sizeist, ageist, ableist, and a hell of lot of other things by telling me that I, a white, upper class, American girl share a girlhood with every other person who was assigned female at birth on this planet.*

I mean, I guess you could say that all girls are affected by patriarchy. But really, all PEOPLE are affected by patriarchy.  And, patriarchy looks different, takes different forms, and has different effects in different places, times, classes, religions, and races. So I’m sorry, I know that was totally your ace in the hole for this argument, but it’s been debunked. Sorry for not being sorry.

I hope you now see how wrong you are. I know, I know, you probably feel really really embarrassed now, and that’s totally natural. It’s embarrassing to think that trans women aren’t women. But you’ll get over it. Now all those trans women who’ve been barred from women only shelters, clinics and spaces because you were too into your weird second wave phase to be a decent person? They might not get over it as quickly. Because, honestly, as snarky and hilarious as this essay is (and it is really funny and you know it), the effects of your transmisogyny are significantly less hilarious. Misogyny kills women. Fuck prefixes, fuck specifying what kind of misogyny, what kind of woman. Misogyny kills women. How are those hands looking, Lady Macbeth?

* I want to put something here about how “shared girlhood” also negates trans guys’ identities too, because it basically essentializes that they can never be anything but women since they had a “girlhood”, which is obviously false and busted. I just can’t find the words at the moment.

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About Asher

Asher Bauer is fast becoming a fixture in the San Francisco kink community, and intends to stay that way. He has worked as a Queer Educator at LYRIC (Lavender Youth Recreation And Information Center), and since has taken his talents as an educator to a wider variety of audiences, teaching on subjects ranging from safer sex to BDSM to trans and queer identities. He is also one of the hosts and originators of Transmission, the new trans-centric party at the San Francisco Citadel, and Invasion, the Citadel's all-genders queer party. View all posts by Asher

57 responses to “Guest Post: Transmisogyny is Misogyny Against All Women

  • Miriam

    Great post. If you haven’t read it already, I’d strongly recommend Julia Serano’s Whipping Girl for a great perspective on transsexuality and femininity.

  • Ally

    This gave me twelve gallons of happy. Thank you for articulating this–it fixed a pretty shitty (day, week, month, life) I’ve been having lately to see an actual feminist cis ally send some support.

  • Joie Parris

    Can I add someone to the trip round the Cancer walk and the hospital? Not many people know about Endometriosis, but it can cause so much pain during sex that sufferers avoid sex completely. They can definitely end up feeling like they are not women, they can feel like they don’t have a vagina.

    Brilliant writing. I can only agree with every single word. There are things in this world that I don’t know about, I can’t know everything after all, but I’m so open minded that when I discover that someone is different from what society conditions us to expect all I want to do is try to understand, accept and appreciate that person for who they are. What a person is should never matter. It makes me cross that it does in so many places and to so many people.

    Thank you.

  • BG

    Totally agree.

    I don’t really get how shared experience of patriarchy affects cis women more than trans women… Since the messages of our current patriarchal system are subtle and indirect, they are as likely to hit a woman that others treat as a man as they are to hit a woman who is treated as a woman. After all, women know they are women and that those patriarchal statements are aimed at them, no matter what others think. A girl who is treated like a boy will still see fashion magazines and see unattainable ideals; she will still internalize the image of the ideal woman as submissive and suffer economically; etc etc etc.

    • Lilith von Fraumench

      Damn right we do.

      I remember being a teen, suppressing my own trans feelings deeply out of fear of what my father’s reaction would be–still furtively looking at my mother’s magazines and reading all the conflicting messages. On one hand, these magazines–Redbook, Good Housekeeping, Ladies’ Home Journal–were obviously touched by second-wave feminism. On the other hand–just look at the titles of two of those magazines. They still reinforced the notions that women–whether they work or not–should still be wives and mothers, with all the usual messages that follow. Loving wives spending inordinate amounts of time trying to figure out how to please their husbands. Nurturing mothers doting on their children and worrying about their safety and health in stifling detail. It took a long time for me to unravel this bullshit from the tapestry which constitutes my own womanhood.

      Trans women deal with patriarchal oppressions too. But for too many people–too many cis women–they presume we automatically bring patriarchal oppressions with us. NEWS FLASH: All women do. That’s why “consciousness raising” was such a big deal for second-wave feminists. That’s why there are still cis women who decry feminism in any form, or insist on redefining it so it supports patriarchy and claiming it as a woman’s choice to do so and therefore “feminist”.

      That there are so many cis woman feminists who don’t get this, breaks my heart. It causes tangible pain and suffering. It causes women to die. And there’s nothing “feminist” about that.

  • Life In Neon

    I think it’s even simpler. Transmisogyny is rooted in a masculine-centric idea of gender. Being offended that someone has given up the masculinity to which all should aspire (in the misogynist mind) is rooted in the belief that women are inferior. If you’ve taken to heart the belief that gender constructs are societal, and possess no intrinsic relative value, then what cause is there to treat trans* any differently than cis*?

  • Sonia

    I’m giggling at your mathematical rule. You know don’t you, that it’s the transitive rule? Ok, sorry, math geek disruption. I’ll read the rest of your post now… :)

    • Gus Allis

      I’m really kicking myself for the missed opportunities of word play in this instance. I knew I should have called my best friend who’s a high school math teacher! Argh!

    • davidsarah

      The rule that was relied on is actually ‘substitution of equals for equals’, though.

  • Rachel

    Awesome. Fucking. Essay.

    Love it.

    As a commenter above said, 12 gallons of happy.

  • QueerCoup

    Yay for cis allies who aren’t afraid to speak out, Thanks Gus Allis

  • Travis

    Excellent post. The shared girlhood thing is one of the things that irks me most about this because these people would include me in their “women and trans” events/thinking because of my supposed “shared girlhood” and yet I did not have any of those experiences that they feel are so important that all women share. I did not transition until I was in my thirties, yet I never experienced sexual harrassment, fear of rape, fear of men, etc. I was never told as a child that I couldn’t be or do this or that because I was a girl (in school or out).

    I can only understand these experiences as an outsider and try to sympathise…just like many cis male feminists.

    It also ignores all the sexism and misogyny that trans women have to deal with once they transition. Even if they did not experience it growing up, they will once they are presenting as female. Yet all that is discounted as somehow not real or relevant.

    (And of course all of this leaves out the fact that more and more children are transitioning.)

  • Guest Post: Transmisogyny is Misogyny Against All Women (via Transgression) | because sometimes fish have wings

    [...] Guest Post: Transmisogyny is Misogyny Against All Women (via Transgression) Posted on March 19, 2011 by Unexpected Press This is a PHENOMENAL essay! This was written by my friend Gus Allis, who is rad. She is one of the people I know who really sets the standard of what a "cis ally" should be. Check it out. Transmisogyny is Misogyny Against All Women: An Open Letter to Cis Feminists mi·sog·y·ny /mɪˈsɒdʒəni, maɪ-/ [mi-soj-uh-nee, mahy-] –noun hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women. I need to know something. I need to know what a real woman is. I’m a woman and I need to know if I’m real and the … Read More [...]

  • Daphne, a new woman

    While I have not yet begun the HRT process, I have been saying the chrysalis has formed, and the metamorphosis started. I have also anticipated that the HRT will, at least at the start, be much like a second puberty. For this reason, I feel justified in saying that, at the age of 56, I am a girl.

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  • Bec

    LifeInNeon Those were my thoughts. I am probably totally wrong, but when I think about gender constructs and who identifies with them, I am confused by the individual’s desire to conform to the patriarchal ideas that marginalised them in the first place. I’m sure that for others it’s different, but for me, “female” is my genitalia and all other aspects of my person are not necessarily subject to that, or anyone else’s ideas on how that defines me. Therefore a male who dresses “like a female” is just a person dressed however the hell they like. Am I bring totally ignorant and over-simplifying?

  • Kelly

    This is a lovely post. Thank you for writing it.

    I’m trying to figure out why so many mainstream feminists hate on trans women, mothers, and children. I read a lot of great articles (like this one) but I still haven’t pieced it together.

    Again – beautiful post. Thank you.

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    [...] This post over at Transgression is simply amazing. Don’t believe me? Check out an excerpt: If you hate, dislike, or mistrust trans women, you’re misogynistic. Trans women are included in the big ol’ group known as women. Want proof? Well look at their name, silly. We call ‘em trans women, not trans chia pets, not trans beach towels, not trans schmeggeggies. Remember high school algebra? Oh hush, yes you do. Let me remind you of this lovely little mathematical rule: [...]

  • medina

    i found another hero :-)

  • rae

    Can I just say I love you? Because I totally do, in a non-creepy way.

    These are things I wanted to say, but could never verbalize. Thank you!

  • C4bl3Fl4m3

    Fan-fucking-tastic. Except for one little sentence.

    “(it’s called intersectionality, maybe you’ve heard of it, “feminist”.)”

    Maybe I’m misunderstanding this, but it sounds like you’re insinuating that if you haven’t heard of intersectionality, you’re not *really* a feminist, you’re only a “feminist”. Which is utter bullshit and is classist. It assumes that every feminist is studied in feminist theory, that to be a feminist, you HAVE to know this thing that academia (which has its own set of oppression around it and is one of the classist and sometimes ableist things of them all) calls “feminist theory” and if you don’t know a single piece of feminist theory, then you’re not really a feminist. The last time I checked, feminism is what you live and some of what you know and life experience counts for some (most? all?) of that and doesn’t necessarily require academia or access to academic and semi-academic texts or theories. (Of course, those are ok and awesome things but certainly not the only way to be a feminist.)

    *I* don’t know what intersectionality is. Rather, I’ve never heard that word before today… maybe I know the concept, though. Either way 1.) I’d like to learn… share? and 2.) it makes me no less of a feminist.

    Of course, if I misunderstood your sentence, then never mind, these aren’t the droids you’re looking for. ;-) Oh, and let me say one more time that the rest of this is FUCKING AWESOME.

    • Lilith von Fraumench

      That is a fair comment to make, but it’s not just academic feminism–indeed, I’d argue that online feminism has done more to spread the understanding of intersectionality and kyriarchy than any college class. But the class issue remains either way.

      That said, increasingly there is a push to replace the rigid, limited, narrowly-focused, erasing tendencies of feminism and its emphasis on its notions of patriarchy with a more general tack that recognizes that there are different kinds of overlapping privileges and oppressions, and how those privileges and oppressions intersect one another.

      The overall system of privileges and oppressions may be called kyriarchy–from the Greek word “kyrie”, meaning “lord”–which removes the focus on just one category of privilege and one set of oppressions, and allows us to get a better understanding of how nearly all of us are privileged in some senses and oppressed in others. Mind you, if you’re white, cissexual, recognized as masculine, able-bodied, affluent, educated, etc., you will have far more privilege and will face far less oppression than others. But it does help address issues that have been raised by many communities that have critiqued feminism for not addressing, outright dismissing, or attacking people of color, trans folk, the disabled, the lower socioeconomic classes, and so forth.

      Here’s two blog posts that give more perspective on kyriarchy and intersectionality:

      http://www.deeplyproblematic.com/2010/08/why-i-use-that-word-that-i-use.html

      http://unapologeticallyfat.blogspot.com/2009/10/kyriarchy-101.html

      The Wikipedia article on intersectionality is good, although very limited in that it focuses on its uses in feminist discourse and therefore doesn’t do much to focus on how intersectionality impacts all people, not just women:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersectionality

      Hope this all helps!

    • Gus Allis

      That line is mostly a barb directed at cis women who already use the word, but only at their own convenience. It was less of a “you’re not a real feminist if you don’t know this academic term” and more of a “remember this word you use all the time for your own gain? It applies to you, too”. Sorry if that were less than clear.

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    [...] Guest Post: Transmisogyny is Misogyny Against All Women at Transarchism. Includes discussion of what a woman’s body “should” have in order to be considered “woman” by other people: What the hell does a woman’s body possess that makes it a woman’s body? What does it NEED to have to be female. Did you immediately think of breasts, ovaries, vaginas? Gross. Think about that for more than two minutes and you’ll see why it’s gross. Still don’t get it? Well then go down to the nearest breast cancer walk and tell every single woman with a double mastectomy she’s not a woman. When you’re done with that, go down to your local hospital, ask the nurse where the OR is, and wait outside until you can find a woman fresh out of her hysterectomy surgery, and tell her the news. Yeah, that sounds evil, doesn’t it? Well it’s basically what you’re doing when you’re policing trans women’s bodies. You’re telling all women what they have to have on/in their bodies to be a woman. Which, obviously, is totally gross. [...]

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  • Amazon Syren

    I love this like a very beloved thing.

    Especially the “Pretty much Bill O’Reilly” part. So true!

    So, yeah. This is me: Go Team! Ra Ra Ra! :-D

    - TTFN,
    - Amazon. :-)

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  • Tobi-Dawne

    THANK YOU! As a third-wave feminist, an equal rights advocate, and a strong supporter of my Trans-sisters… THANK YOU!

    I get so freakin’ tired of so called feminists on anti-trans tirades. I just don’t understand it. No argument they can give will ever take away the fact that my Trans-sisters are my SISTERS. They are not my brothers in drag… they are my sisters!

    Always nice to find another blogger who’s willing to step up and lay it on the line. The truth is the truth. Ignorance and hatred cannot change that.

  • Susie Schen

    Thank you for this post. I recently ended up in some online discussion with Womyn Born Womyn about trans women equality and exclusion from Michfest. Most claimed to be suportive of trans women, but just wanted a “safe space” at the festival. To me, the justifications for trans woman exclusion have evolved similarly to those for banning gay marriage.

    With gay marriage, one used to be able to claim that homosexuality was immoral and/or a mental illness, so gay people should not be able to marry. Now that it is neither politically nor scientifically correct to say that, the argument is all about raising children. With trans exclusion, it used to be that trans women /= women and were considered either misguided gay men or men who had autogynephilia. Now that it is neither politically nor scientifically correct to say that, the argument is about having had to have grown up female and the “shared girlhood” mentioned above.

    The excuses for bigotry and discrimination may evolve with the times, but the underlying hatred and fear are the same.

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  • Giselle Renarde (@GiselleRenarde)

    This is the awesomest piece of awesome that ever awesomed! Best article I’ve ever read on the subject, and we all know there are a lot of people out there who really need to get this message. Like anybody who starts a sentence with the words, “I’m not transphobic, but…”

    Hugs,
    Giselle

  • Erika

    Hi Asher & Gus,

    This is fantastic. I’d love to talk to you about this post if you wouldn’t mind getting in touch with me.

    • Gus

      Sure, my email is nothingonme@gmail.com

      That being said, if you’re looking for folks to talk about the topic of transmisogyny in general, and not specifically how cis women interact with it, might I respectfully suggest some trans women who are a far better source than little ol’ cis me?

      -Gus

  • Nicole Jade

    I have said the same thing before: that people don’t like men (at least people who were born *appearing* to be male) to transition to living as a female, not so much because they think there is something wrong with transitioning as that they think there is something wrong with being female.

  • jules

    It’s quite easy. You’re a TransWoman. I’m a CisWoman. In TransWomen spaces I might say something that unintentionally offends as I am not a TransWoman, so I leave you be to NOT force you to include me in your exclusive spaces, because I am not a TransWoman, I am CisWoman. In CisWomen spaces you might say something that unintentionally offends me, but you would scream and shout that you have the right to becuase you want to be a TransWoman and treated like a CisWoman, but you will never be and cannot be a CisWoman. EVER. TransWomen and some TransMen offend cisWomen very very often and although it is unintentional, we would like some space, JUST A LITTLE SPACE SOMEWHERE ON OUR OWN!!!!!!

    • Asher

      Usually I don’t approve worthless comments because why, but I find this one comedic and would like to invite my followers to weigh in.

      First of all, the post above was not written by a trans woman, as you might realize had you read it. It was written by a cis woman.

      Secondly, “cis spaces” = the entire world. Your cis privilege is not under assault by the trans brigade, rest assured.

      It’s not about “intent” or “offense” it’s about institutionalized oppression. Read something sometime, anything really, about privilege, it would help you.

    • Tobi-Dawne

      From a cis woman: I am no more a woman than my trans sisters, and I personally need no “trans free” spaces. What a ridiculous notion. Some of the most amazing women I know are not cis, and I am honoured to have them as trusted friends. I have spoken out on my blog (and elsewhere, in schools and the political arena) on trans issues and issues of equality – especially when related to the LGBTT2QIA community. Women face inequality every day, and none feel it more than non-cis sisters… and it hurts my heart. We should be united, we are ALL women.

    • nome

      I especially like the bit where she assumes all trans women will offend but only some trans men. Get it?! CUZ TRANS MENZ ARE REALLY TEH WOMENZ AND GET TEH WOMENZ.

    • Seven

      Man, if there is a place out in the world that trans* people haven’t fought tooth and nail to turn into a safe space but that still manages to favor our comfort over that of the cisgender population, I would LOVE to find where it is… I mean if it wasn’t completely imaginary that is.

      Poor cis lady, life is so hard for you I know :’(

    • Rae

      Trans* or cis*, women are women. If someone says something offensive, call them on it. Please, by all means, give me a _single example_ of something that offended you that _wasn’t_ someone calling you on your privilege.

    • Lucy

      Oh, hey, are you the same troll who recently left a similar comment anonymously on my blog post “Rage: (Cis) Feminists Other Trans Women” http://lucypaw.blogspot.com/2010/09/rage-cis-feminists-other-trans-women.html or was that one of your hating sisters?

    • helenwilson35

      Like trans women would not pass the toilet paper under the cubical if you asked us to! I do not live in this imagined world of trans & cis separation you imagine exists in an attempt to imprison us in this otherly purgatory never to escape. And why? The presumption of privilege… As if a trans child is capable of interpreting perceived privilege!

  • femme

    Women and trans spaces are just spaces that those in control of the women’s space have decided that they need to allow the men9 born with transsexualism because they still believe in the idea they shared the “girlhood” issues there by really dismissing their identity of being male. At the same time they can claim to support the women born with transsexualism by saying “see we added and trans to our statement”. It’s why I hate prefixes too. Women are women are women are women. We don’t say coloured women we say women of colour. We say women with disabilities etc. Saying trans women or trans man puts the emphasis on the wrong word/term and suggests “not really a ..” or “sort of a..”.

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  • doubleinvert

    This trans woman thanks you sincerely!

    -Connie

  • sexgenderbody

    thank you for this!

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