Sunday, July 19, 2009

What's In A Name? Gender Edition

Recently, Queen Emily pointed out at Feministe how a new women-only pharmacy was excluding, well, women. Namely, transwomen.

This is just another incident in a long pattern of ciswomen telling transwomen, "no, you're not really women, you're actually men, and we say so, no matter how you feel, because there are arbitrary rules you have to obey in order to be a woman, and you have to have obeyed them from birth and biology."

Then there are some crazy so-called feminists who attack transwomen, saying, that transwomen are upholding patriarchal values by buying into the gender binary, are tearing down efforts to get rid of the gender binary by using the terms 'male' and 'female' as they like without paying attention to biology.

And then there are just the plain ugly people who call transpersons "freaks" just because the latter group happen to dress in ways that they feel express their true gender which may not be consistent with how their gender appears.

All this is stupid and wrong.

Transpeople, as all people, are human beings, who have chosen a gender identity. Isn't that what feminism is about? Making choices for ourselves? Moreover, making choices that do not hinge on hurting others? We try to be aware of our -isms, our privileges, what we can and what we cannot do. Transpeople, when they choose a gender, are not harming other people when they make a choice.

And yet, they are consistently targeted for harm, attacks, and just piles of ridiculous bullshit.

Just. Look.

How does it affect any of us ciswomen if a transwoman chooses to call herself, behave as, live as, a woman?

Why do we keep buying into this myth that a transwoman is "secretly a man"? And even so, why would we consider believing that just because a transwoman was born a man, she was automatically be considered a predatory danger to women?

Not only is this hateful towards transwomen, it's a meme that's some of the most man-hating bullshit ever to come out of the heteronormative narrative. Don't even get me started on the meme that transwomen are looked on as sex workers - that's classist.

But back to transwomen, and our so-called feminist principle on choices - why do we want to deny them the right to be women, if they so choose?

Even today when we supposedly have "gender equity" ("at least in the West," some others clarify), the male is considered superior, and the female is inferior. Transwomen risk so much by choosing to be one rung down on the hierarchial ladder. In fact, they get kicked down even further. All because they choose the label "woman". Because some women don't like having men in their ranks? Because the gender binary shouldn't be transgressed?

Now, misgendering people. I don't care what the law says: if a woman says she is a woman, she should be referred to as female, with her name as she has chosen it. So what if her legal documents say otherwise? Legal documents are useful in identifying us, but like laws, are subject to change and to error. We shouldn't take it out on the human being for the errors on the law document.

By refusing to call them by their preferred names and genders, we cisgendered people tell transgendered people, "we don't care about you and your identity - we care that you conform to our own rules, and to cater to our comfort."

This is what we say to marginalized people.

We tell them, "you cannot name yourself, that's what we're supposed to do, because our comfort is more important."

Naming ourselves is important. We all have the right to define ourselves within such limits as are not harmful to others.

Letting transwomen call themselves what they feel themselves to right be is their right, and one of the things we should be upholding, as feminists.

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