#notalltranswomen, TERF’s, radfem hate, cotton ceilings, and more

All the caveats. Trigger warning. NSFW. Likely to offend many. Crass to make points.

It’s Friday, and I’m hyper-caffeinated, so I’m gonna stir the pot on a hot-button issue (at least to some folks). As it turns out, it’s not just MRA types that have a beef against a great many feminists, and especially radical feminists. There’s a segment of the population, and, don’t get me wrong, an important segment with as much right to those inalienable rights that we hold so dear as anyone else. But they have some ideas that I find more than a bit repugnant. I’m talking specifically about the sorts of trans women (‪#‎notalltranswomen‬, to be clear) who have decided that radfems who disagree with them on some none-too-fine points are somehow a hate group with a philosophy deserving of its own acronym: TERF (trans-exclusive radical feminism). This may be old news to some, but it’s new news to me, and apparently it’s a lingering sore spot so it’s still fair game.

Case in point #1 (and again, my intent is not to disparage all, but some): sometimes radfems would like to have a meeting/gathering/convention with a “women’s only” space. By “women’s only,” they specifically mean women born in women’s bodies who identify as women, regardless of their sexual preferences, straight, gay, bi, etc. I understand that, even though I’m a dude. Regardless of my cisgendered heterosexual orientation, I get that. What would I know about what it was like growing up in the body of a girl, from baby to toddler to child to teen? What would I know about family attitudes to my girlness? School attitudes? Peer/friend/enemy/bully attitudes? Boy attitudes? Church attitudes? What would I know about what it was like to have my first period? To have “that” talk with whichever parent/guardian/role model? To start growing breasts? To start experiencing the pressures peculiar to (at least mostly) girls when it comes to sex pressure in high school in particular, you know, what it’s like to be called a slut for putting out, to be called a slut for not putting out, to be called a tease either way, etc.? What would I know from that early age about fears of man on woman rape? Or the host of other types of sexual oppression that go hand in hand with having the body of a woman?

Not the first fucking thing.

Yet there is a segment (again, again, again, not ALL) of the trans woman population, read: women born with the deformity of a male body (I think I’ve got that right from their perspective, but I’m open to being corrected), that thinks they have as much right to be in a “women’s only” space as a woman born in a woman’s body that kept a woman’s body. When denied that particular access, some but not all trans women have taken so much umbrage that they’ve allied with other groups hostile to feminists, such as MRA groups, to have those meetings cancelled or otherwise rendered ineffective. And, keep in mind this is off the top of my head, so it bears fine-tuned fact-checking, of trans women, only approximately 33% have gone through some form of gender-confirming surgery. In other words, about 66% have stopped short at hormonal treatments for their condition, if not shorter, which might effectively transition them to being fully female in all but one important physical aspect, and not at all in terms of fully-lived experience. In other words, some of these pissed off women, some trans women, are women with dicks. And some of these pissed off women with dicks, when pissed off at being excluded from “women’s only” spaces, have gone so far as actually threatening to rape the radfems that dare disagree with them on full access. Because nothing says “accept me as fully woman” quite like threatening to rape a woman, presumably with your penis.

I’ve also just recently learned about this phenomenon called the “cotton ceiling.” Again, correct my errors if you spot any. Imagine you’re a trans woman who also happens to be lesbian. You’re a woman born in a man’s body who has received some degree of treatment for your condition to remedy that situation who just happens to be sexually attracted to other women. Okay. So you meet a lesbian you’re into. Said lesbian finds out that either/or you a) have a dick or b) no longer have a dick, but in either case have no clue what’s it’s like to have the fully-lived experience of a woman born in woman’s body, regardless of orientation. Said lesbian decides, “thanks, but no thanks.” Shouldn’t that be her right? Apparently not. If a woman born woman lesbian “friend zones” a trans woman with or without dick, that trans woman has just run into “the cotton ceiling.” But especially when there’s a dick. Why?

From: [redacted lesbian]
Sent: March-12-12 1:59 PM
To: [redacted trans]
Subject: Re: What’s the cotton ceiling?
Thanks. So, just to make sure I understand this, a trans woman with a penis, and who has no desire to have a sex change, is not male bodied – correct?

On Mon, Mar 12, 2012 at 2:02 PM, [redacted trans] wrote:
There is nothing inherently male about a woman’s body, unless she identified things about it as male herself. So, no, I do not consider trans women with penises to be male-bodied, unless that is how they identify.

Apparently words now effectively mean nothing at all.

Now, last I checked, being denied access to another woman’s vagina when you’re a dude because the woman just isn’t that into you and doesn’t want to share her vagina with you is perfectly acceptable, and I agree with that. It’s a douchebag thing as a guy to call that “being friend zoned,” as though your woman friend is a just a coin-op pussy vending machine that puts out sex in exchange for whatever you have to offer regardless of whether or not the woman wants it. But a trans woman (with/without dick) not only gets to claim being “friend zoned,” but gets to call friend zoning an act of hate in the same way an MRA dudebro would, but gets fucking credit for it.

So, on hearing of these things and trying to wrap my puny manbrain around it, and I dare not think I should ever attempt to mansplain it to a woman with or without a dick regardless of the body she was born in, I’ve come to my own personal conclusion, the only lens through which I feel I *can* see this.

Hypothetical situation here:

I’m in a nightclub. I’m dressed to the nines. I’ve been drinking and I’ve got beer-goggles (just to explain away any possible misreading of any available physical clues). I see a hot chick on the dance floor. With my liquid courage, I go to the floor and dance with her. We hit it off. There’s some dirty dancing. There’s some bumping and grinding going on. We’re consenting. It’s all good. It’s all fun. We go outside for quiet and fresh air. “Your place or mine?” we ask.

One of two things happens in this scenario. The woman is honest with me and tells me she’s a trans woman. I’m not ashamed to admit that while I fully respect the rights and autonomy of trans women, barring the above limitations, I’m sorry but if you either have a dick or used to have a dick, I’m just not that into you. I’m cis-gendered het male, and that’s just how I roll. I say, “oh.” I might even seriously consider being very angry that, under false pretenses, I might have just had a dick rubbed all over my leg. I’m not the violent sort, so I probably won’t swing, but I’d seriously consider pressing charges for sexual assault.

Option 2, hot trans woman doesn’t pipe up honestly when given the chance. We go to a place. Up to this point, pants on, maybe (yet) no harm, no foul. But we’re finally in private, so the groping can commence. Maybe something “good” happens to me first when my pants drop. Then hers drop. There’s a dick, or at least a post-surgery not-a-dick, not really a real vag either.

At that stage, having been seriously deceived, I can’t even vouch for my ability to contain anger. I would hope so. I would very likely pursue finding out what my options are when it comes to pressing charges, since, as far as I’m concerned, someone with a man’s body, surgically altered or otherwise, just conned me into something I’d never have said yes to otherwise. Again, I’m thinking sexual assault.

And that’s me. Relatively non-violent me. I can only imagine there would be some folks who would have zero reservations about taking out some anger issues. And I’m thinking there’s precious few juries that (for the sake of argument) that are so enlightened they would convict. If you’re of the “I’d be violent” persuasion, please don’t share that in comments, as that’s not the point.

My point is that while I respect the rights of said people, to the degree that there’s a breakdown in, shall we say, sexual affinity, and worse, a breakdown in completely clear, open, and honest communication from the get-go, there’s some problems yet to be resolved. And with the uphill battle trans women with and without dicks already face, and they are gargantuan battles, I’m of the mind they do themselves and all women a huge disservice to demand utter and complete and total acceptance to all spaces, whether it’s “women’s only” spaces or het male spaces, without equivocation, as though it’s a right.

Freedom of association is a right as well. And someone else’s right to acceptance stops at my zipper, on the one hand, and at other women’s autonomous right to determine for themselves where their boundaries are on the other.

14 replies »

  1. As a radical feminist, I appreciate this post so much! Thank you – so well said. I am genuinely concerned over the unique issues trans women face. I want them safe, heaven knows I do. I want the laws to protect them in their jobs and in getting housing and so forth. In other words, I, like you, want them to have their rights and to be well. The problem, however, is that sometimes we radical feminists DO try to hold events for women-born-women only, and that is where, truly, all hell breaks loose. It is apparently unacceptable to some trans women that there be ANY women’s space ANYWHERE EVER that does not include them and that is not the way some of us see things. We are not a hate group for that, as some trans women outrageously claim. We are not transphobic, as some trans women outrageously claim. It really is just as simple as this: sometimes, we would like to have a safe space just for our own kind. I think trans women would benefit from having some safe spaces just for THEIR own kind (because, really, we know their lived experiences no more than they know ours). And then I think that lots of the time, we should ALL meet together.

    Radfem 2013 was a conference scheduled to be held for women-born-women only (and, actually, for radical feminists only) at a London hotel. Some trans women began a firestorm, contacting the venue to either 1) threaten violence or 2) accuse the venue of hosting a hate group (ironic). Because of the first type of contact, the hotel owners were very worried about possible property damage and because of the second, they became concerned about their brand. Finally, to get their way, these trans women turned to MRAs (men’s rights activists) and recruited THEIR help in complaining to the venue about their hosting a “hate group” and of course the MRAs were primed and ready to attack. In the end, the conference was held at an undisclosed location. Radfem 2014 was scheduled for Portland, Oregon. Repeat previous story. It was finally held at a public library, which argued that they could not deny access to any public group, even a “hate group.” Mich Fest is a yearly music festival for women-born-women only. I know many women who have been and they say that the movement through the woods at night without threat of being assaulted and the sisterhood bonding experience has been the most intense spiritual feeling they’ve ever had, the highlight of their lives, their only experience of true freedom and total relaxation. Yet, trans women hold an event outside, called “Camp Trans” where they protest Mich Fest. They have successfully boycotted musical acts, causing the acts significant revenue loss. It has gotten to the point where acts are AFRAID to play at Mich Fest. Many radical feminists have been invited to give speeches and/or receive awards – because of their hard work on behalf of women – and then been disinvited because of a barrage of complaints from trans women. A number of passionate, brilliant radfems are internationally blacklisted now. Is this how we want to handle debate, blacklisting? ‘Cuz that’s what’s happening – blacklisting, silencing.

    And, as you point out, this controversy has led to graphic rape and death threats.Trans women are the only women who have EVER threatened to RAPE other women, and the point is that they are the only ones EQUIPPED to do so (as you point out, about 66 to 75% of trans women still have penises). “Here now, accept me as a woman among you everywhere and always, or else I will rape you like a man.” WTF? And while they accuse radfems of being “haters,” I have seen photos of signs that say things like “real women have dicks” and tweets that say things like “die cis-gendered scum” and photos of guns that have “find me a terf” on them. I have NEVER heard ANY radical feminist wish for trans women to die.

    If you are a het male who prefers NOT to have sex with a trans woman, I hope you can then understand why some of us women-born-women desire our own line of privacy sometimes too.

    I just read an article where a trans woman said she’d reached out to radfems and discovered that a majority of us have suffered rape and abuse at the hands of men and that that is why we wish to sometimes have spaces just for ourselves (yes for me, definitely). But, she concluded, “It’s not up to us to avoid them. It’s up to them to avoid us.” Yet, this is PRECISELY what we’re doing when we try to have our own events and they do all within their power to BLOCK us from EVER doing so.

    I also read an article comparing trans women to whites in blackface, and it hit home for me. How would blacks feel about a white person in blackface claiming they’d been born with a “black mind” and adopting dress and mannerisms that THEY believe are “black?” Surely they would wonder what the fuck a white person thinks a “black mind” even IS, and they would be keenly aware that said person does not, can not know their lived experience. Yet we see trans women with extremely exaggerated make-up (who the fuck really wears false eyelashes?) and exaggerated effeminate mannerisms and they claim to have been born with a “woman’s mind.” And I would like to know just what the fuck they think that even means. Well, there are studies. It turns out that most trans women understand womanhood in terms of very conventional, conservative sex roles. When they are asked what being a woman even MEANS to them, many say things like, “Oh, you know, like helping people, supporting your man, cooking and cleaning…” They prefer their men to be real take-charge types and they imagine being “protected” by their man. Indeed, this kind of conservative gender role thinking and their brand of practicing gender as PERFORMANCE is precisely what radfems have always been fighting against. So the two groups, generally, have different outlooks and different agendas, which is partly why we’d like to have our own conferences.

    Have you seen the movie “Soul Man,” in which a white kid paints himself to look black and gets a scholarship reserved for African-Americans? He learns a lot about dealing with discrimination and stereotypes (like everyone wants him on their basketball team but he actually sucks at the game). Towards the end, a true African-American has learned the impostor’s secret. The impostor says, “Well, I think I’ve learned what it’s like to be black” and the black guy says, “Bullshit, man, you don’t know shit. You ALWAYS had the choice to be white again and that’s something we have NEVER had.” And I ditto that with the present topic. There ARE cases of male-to-female transsexuals, even post-surgery, going back to living as men again. That is not an option for most of us born with an X chromosome – there is no “out.” Yet trans women use the term “cis” to imply that women-born-women have privilege, which is bullshit. Like the protagonist in “Soul Man,” they don’t know shit about what it’s like to have always been and to always be a woman, and they always have the option of going back to living as a man, so, in fact, they are the ones who are privileged.

    Here is a GREAT link to a trans woman’s writing about how NOT to be an asshole and end up hurting women-born-women…very cool stuff.

    “ – transwomen should not refer to themselves as women, the ‘trans’ prefix is important;
    – transwomen should not refer to themselves as lesbians, this is appropriation;
    – it is wrong for transwomen to claim that lesbians who won’t have relationships with transwomen are bigoted;
    – transwomen should not call women ‘TERF’s or call lesbians and gay men ‘cis’;
    – transwomen should be allied to women;
    – transwomen should not make death and/or rape threats against feminists and lesbians;
    – transwomen should be honest about their approach to gender.

    I am AMAZED that all these points are to some degree contentious in the ‘trans community’.”

    more here:

    More great stuff:

    “By now you must be aware that the phrase “transphobe” is routinely used as a rhetorical cudgel to browbeat many women into silence and submission, women who want nothing more, in many cases, than to be allowed to use the bathroom or locker room or shelter free from the presence of biological males. By denying that Andrea Dworkin was a “transphobe” you were by contrast lending credence to the notion that these other woman are in fact “transphobes.”

    I’ll spell it out. The women I know who have been called “transphobic”—and who have been threatened with rape, other forms of torture, and murder by many of the very same biological males who are labeling these women as “transphobic”—are not, in fact, “transphobic” in that none of them wish to exploit or wish any harm on people who identify as transgender. They don’t want for them to be murdered. They don’t want for them to be imprisoned. They don’t for them to be raped. They don’t want for them kicked out of their homes. They don’t want for them to be harmed in any way. They don’t want for them to be exploited. They don’t perceive them as inferior. They don’t care with whom they sleep. They don’t care what they wear. They don’t care how they organize. They don’t care how much money they make. They have no desire to control the lives of these others.

    They just disagree that those biological males who identify as “transgender” are women, and they mainly want to be left alone. And for that they are labeled as “transphobic.”

    Disagreement is not hate speech, and disagreement doesn’t imply “phobia.” Any hatreds being manifested here are by those who threaten rape and murder when women do not submit. But that’s a story we’ve all heard before.

    more here:

  2. Oh, and I was just remembering…a few weeks ago, I saw a video of a tall, quite masculine looking trans woman in a miniskirt being accosted by a man on the street. The trans woman called out for help several times in a falsetto voice. When no help was forthcoming, she lowered her voice to a deep male growl and said, “Leave me alone or I’m gonna kick your fucking ass!” Another example of how trans women have “outs” that women-born-women don’t have. In all the times I’ve been publicly accosted, I’ve never had the option of adopting a man’s voice, seriously threatening bodily harm (I’m 5’3″, 115 pounds), and scaring a guy away. So that person in the video definitely has options and privilege that I’ve never had. Again, trans women can still be men with male privilege if they desire to or need to.

    Here are some interesting comments from a female-to-male transsexual:

    “I’m a trans man who dislikes the tumblr social justice “trans* community”. Here’s a list of some of the things they say that I dislike and why

    “But if you reject me based on my genitals that’s cisse-

    People have preferences when it comes to genitalia of partners. That’s life, being rejected sucks but someone is not oppressing you by not being attracted to you. You come across an entitled baby by shaming someone for lacking in attraction to you. Stop crying about it, move on.

    ”Die cis scu-

    Does that phrase really solve anything? The first time people learn of the word “Cis” should not be after the word die. The phrase accomplishes nothing. Telling people to die is not ok. Justified anger or not. That phrase is the worse idea anyone can come up with. You’re not going to get anyone’s respect by telling them to die.

    “Sex is a social constr-

    Anatomical sex is not a social construct. Sex is something that exists in nature, human females and males have different biological characteristics, that is reality. We evolved this way for the purpose of reproduction. (Ofcourse some people are born who don’t fit into the sex categories as neatly as others but that doesn’t negate the existence of biological sex). Can we please put the sex social construct argument to a rest. It wont suddenly exist the more you say it.

    “OMG not only women menstruate some men have va-

    I’ve seen this too many times. People derailing a post that has nothing to do with trans people and then making it about trans people. Trans people make less than 2% of the human population. Nobody is going to mention us every single time they talk about something. Seeing a post that says “girls have boobs” and feeling the need to mention how not all girls have boobs, is pointless, it accomplishes nothing and is honestly just plain annoying to see. Want to fight for trans rights? Well, instead derailing posts about women and abortions to add your two cents about how some people who aren’t women have abortions too, why don’t you instead focus on issues like trans people being forced to be sterilised in other parts of the world? Or the fact that trans people are raped and killed for simply existing in some other places? Or that some can be rejected jobs or housing just because they are trans? Focus your time on issues that actually matter instead of wasting time on tumblr derailing posts that have nothing to do with us and being a pain in the ass. ”



  3. Oy vay. The more I read the confusder I got. No living creature should ever be treated as a sex object and humans are weirder than shit. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

  4. exactly my reaction, frank. at dinner last night we got into a discussion of caitlynn jenner who wants to live in a womans body but continue to have sex with women. we were four people of reasonable intelligence, strongly progressive leanings, and good intentions, and the conversation got hopelessly confused–so much so that people from the table next to us pulled their chairs over and joined the conversation, even though it was a pretty stuffy and formal place.

  5. TERF is an acceptable term for feminists who want to exclude transgendered women from basic civil rights and protection from discrimination, and for feminists who actively support policies and beliefs that lead directly to the murder and rape of trans women. Sorry. If you don’t like it, don’t exclude trans women from basic protections, don’t call them men, and don’t advocate against us. It does get used to silence people who are trying to have a discussion and maybe don’t know the appropriate terms to be respectful, and I’m sorry for that…but so does the word “bigot.” When it is used to describe confederate flag supporting “take America back” racists, that silencing effect isn’t negative. It’s lifesaving.

    That being said, it is totally unacceptable for anyone to make rape and death threats, ever. As a rape survivor myself–as many trans women are–the fact that trans women would make such threats is embarrassing and disgusting to me. I stand for all women, even the ones that want me in a male prison, even the ones who repeatedly vote for me to be stripped of rights, even the ones who exclude me at the risk of my health and safety. Trans women are often subjected to vile and threatening diatribes by many different groups of people. Repugnant behavior by others, though, does not excuse one’s own repugnant behavior. Ever.

    Likewise, insisting that someone be sexually attracted to you is vile. That is true whether your are a trans woman dealing with a lesbian cis woman who is not attracted to you, or a black American who does not date white people, or a gay man who is not interested in trans men. HOW you discuss your lack of attraction, however, says a lot about you. There is a sizable difference between “I’m sorry, I’m only into cis gendered women” and “Ewww, I said I’m a lesbian, I’m not into trannies.” (Yes, I get to use that word as it’s a slur against me. No, you don’t if you’re not a trans woman, not without making as obvious a bigot of yourself as the white man who thinks using racial slurs is acceptable.)

    Equally ludicrous, however, are a lot of the suggestions for my behavior. Many of the things suggested above, both in the original posts and responses, are simply a way to enforce transphobic values or to silence trans women’s voices. I am not going to stop using the term “TERFS” when there are cis gendered women who claim to be progressive supporting politics and policies that will get me killed. I plan to continue calling Republicans bigots so long as they keep voting for people who talk about camps, bathroom bounties, reverse racism and the “welfare state,” too. I am not going to tell everyone I am a trans woman upfront, because that might get me murdered. I’ll call myself a woman, thanks. Attempts to force me to do otherwise are bigotry, pure and simple.

    Now, to address some trans misogyny in the original post’s hypothetical. In the original post, it isn’t necessary to suggest that alcohol would have to play a part in misreading “cues.” Let me advise you that this is incredibly transphobic. It suggests that there is something about trans woman that is so clearly unattractive that only someone who was inebriated could mistake trans and cis women. That’s…well, gross, frankly.

    I will also add that I get concerned with people who think it is possible to be drunk enough to change your courage, but that being so drunk is not a consent issue. It is. Whatever woman has sex with you that night, trans or cis or other, she’s risking committing rape if you’re that drunk If she’s as drunk or drunker, you’re taking the same risk. I don’t find that risk acceptable, hence not having sex with strangers while inebriated. I prefer to find my courage within rather than in a bottle…especially when my judgment is necessary to ensure I respect another person’s consent.

    To address another point…the trans woman has every right to wait until she is somewhere SAFE before telling you. I agree that not telling you at all is unethical (and also, for the record, really way more dangerous for the transgendered woman in question.) It’s a bad idea all around, for everyone. Not telling you before you leave, though? Yeah, that might be because she’s not safe, either because of you or someone else in the nightclub. It’s definitely wrong not to tell you until after she pushes for intimacy (if you kiss her/grab her/whatever first, that’s on you), but no trans woman is obligated to reveal that she is transgendered when doing so could get her killed.

    One of the frustrating things about talking with people about these issues is that they never take their transphobia being pointed out well. There are some valid points in this post and in a few of the comments, but it also has more than a few examples of casual transphobia. For every excellent point (the term “friend zone” is misogynistic and despicable, and no one should use it, least of all trans women who should know better from personal experience), there’s an unnecessarily cruel or nasty bit of bigotry. The problem is that when people get their opinions labeled as hateful, they can’t help but defend them rather than looking at it honestly and saying “Well…maybe it was hateful. You took it that way, anyway, and that wasn’t my intention. How can I make a change?” Defending comments when a trans person has pointed out that they are messed up is never the answer, because it denies someone else the right to be offended. It shuts down conversation even when an honest attempt is made to be fair and acknowledge pertinent points while still not standing for prejudice and intolerance. It allows people who create “lists” of acceptable behavior for trans women to pretend that they are doing something other than gatekeeping womanhood, the same behavior feminists of all persuasions rightly are infuriated about when practiced by men.

    I will continue to use the term “cis;” the terms “genetic woman,” “woman born woman,” “real woman” and similar are bigotry in action and I will not pretend otherwise. (I will not call individual cis gendered people cis gendered if they request I stop or use another descriptor, just as I would respect any individual’s request for me to respect their gender preferences, though I will ask what they would prefer when I am distinguishing between themselves and people who were assigned the incorrect gender and other non-binary gendered individuals. ) I will continue to call myself a woman, as that’s what I am, and whether or not I discuss my being transgendered will continue to be my call and no-one else’s. It cannot be any other way, both because it’s my right and because my safety depends on it. I will not stop using the phrase “TERFS’ to describe people who outright say they want transgendered women excluded from basic civil rights protections and who continue to preach violence and hate against trans women. In such cases, the term is accurate and in fact far kinder than that given to most hate groups. These are not acts of cruelty or an attempt to destroy women; they are acts of self preservation and advocacy. I will not be silenced.

    On the other hand, trans women who use the term to silence legitimate discussion, or think that it is acceptable to follow the use of the term “TERF” with rape threats, death threats, insults based on appearance or other misogynistic language are behaving in a vile fashion, and I will stand and fight against that sort of behavior every single time. I’m against being silenced, but I am as much or more against the silencing of others (well, save for hate speech. Even then, I want the silencing to be through good argument and debate, never threats or violence). I will do so even when it means I am briefly arguing in agreement on a point with people who are violently against my existence, because it is the right thing to do. Trans women who believe that it is acceptable to claim others are bigots because they are not attracted to trans women are wrong, and their actions are reprehensible; attraction is a personal issue, and if one wants understanding and acceptance of one’s own gender and sexual identity it is inexcusable to try to control another person’s. Trans women who ally themselves with MRA members, Republicans, evangelical Christians and others who oppose women’s rights are wrong all over and I am ashamed at how their actions reflect on trans women in general. (I will add that TERFs stand with a lot of these people against trans women, too, which is equally sick and wrong. When you’re on the same side of the field with the hate groups of the world, it’s time to reassess your position and priorities. I will also add that it is a vanishingly small minority of both cis and trans women who engage in these alliances; we are talking about a vocal and vile minority in both cases.)

    The saddest thing about all this, though, is that privilege and patriarchy don’t wait while we hash this out. The assault on every woman’s rights continues while we discuss this. Planned Parenthood will continue to have calumny-filled stings against it in an attempt to deny women basic medical care, conservatives will keep fighting against any program that extends live saving hormone therapy to trans women, and people like the Duggars will continue to preach a misogynistic, sexual-assault laden mockery of faith that wants to turn cis women into baby machines and trans women into corpses. I’d much rather be spending this time fighting those advocacy battles, but then again, most of the people I’m in those arguments with are never going to change. Perhaps that isn’t as true of those who are staunch feminists in most areas already and have a blind spot as to their bigotry regarding trans women.

    Also, quick note–every trans woman I’ve met understands the need for cis women to have their own spaces. I know I have not met every trans woman, and some are awful about this and don’t agree with me. They’re wrong. We insist on our own spaces for trans ladies, after all. The difference is that we don’t call them women’s events, because that would be denying the womanhood of cis women to call it a woman’s event and deny them entrance. We call them transgendered women’s events, or trans events (if they include transgendered men as well), or in some other way denote that they are not for all women. The issue, for me, is never that cis gendered women want their own spaces. They have that right, everyone should. The issue is that they call them women’s spaces when they are not. They are cis women’s spaces. Calling them women’s spaces denies that transgendered women are women at all, no matter your intention. Also, any spaces that are denied to trans women (or ANY minority group) cannot in any way lead to a substantive advantage for those allowed in. It’s wrong in segregated schools, it was wrong at Augusta National, it’s wrong when the tech industry excludes women from tech classes, and it would be wrong here.

    Having a space that excludes trans women because the discussion is about menstruation, menopause, pregnancy, or other concerns trans women don’t have is as much a right as any trans woman has to exclude cis women from discussions involving trans-only issues. That’s legitimate and makes sense. It’s another to exclude them from a national women’s tech conference, or a woman’s poetry course, or a woman’s university. That’s discrimination and bigotry, period. There is no reason coding, poetry or education is an activity that being trans would interfere with in any way. (For those saying female-only tech events should include men, too, please spend some time educating yourself on the tech industry’s rampant, blatant and sickening misogyny.) Being a trans person who is a terrible human being and a rapist might do a lot more than interfere, but that’s true of the cis women in attendance as well.

    (As a quick aside, the pretense that only trans women rape other women infuriates me. It is at once a logical fallacy, a factual fallacy, a silencing of all women who have been raped by cis women, and, on a personal level, denies my own experience as a survivor of rape by a female sexed person who has identified as both a woman and genderqueer, but never as a man or trans. It also subtly reinforces the concept that rape is only rape if it’s PIV penetration, which aids and abets all rapists in escaping consequence for their action.)

    This keeps going on, so I’m going to end it here after a final consideration. At the end of the day, would it be so difficult to have these conversations without the vitriol, keeping the accountability and honesty about when our opinions are based on bigotry and prejudice, with the understanding that while we may have differences as women, we need to be allied in our pursuit of basic human rights? At the end of it all, I would hope that underneath the disagreements is a bedrock of belief that every person deserves basic acceptance of and respect for their sexual and gender identity, and that doing so is worthwhile and necessary. If not, well, how do you expect your own to be respected?

    • You seem like a good, thoughtful person and reasonable. I wish I knew more people like you in meat space. Good luck and be well. MT, cis-woman, feminist, supporter of trans-rights, but someone who thinks that on rare occasions, cis-women — like transwomen — need their own spaces.

  6. How very very interesting! One of my favorite things about this place is the opportunity it affords to see and listen to thoughts and ideas that I would never be exposed to in my admittedly hum drum white hetero workaday world.

    My thanks to you and CeeJay for showing me a hidden universe filled with epic battles, bigotry, anguish, and hopefully for both of you ultimate triumph or at the least peace and happiness.

    The two salient takeaways for me here are the dangers of binary thinking and the concept of, “if I don’t understand it, just shut and listen.” Good advice for humans of any persuasion.

    …and Frank, rereading your precipitating post in particular the “hypothetical situation.”
    I realize you led with “crass to make a point” but damn man, if I didn’t know you better I’d be worried. That so reminded me of some of my knuckle dragging fellow Marines back in the day who thought rolling queers was perfectly good liberty sport because well, you know, they deserved it.

  7. Being a Trans woman post op. First of all. I have no desire what so ever to go to any feminist meeting of any sort. Especially one where they don’t want me. I’m not welcome and therefore I don’t want to be there. I have no reason to be there.
    (I’m definitely not a feminist)

    As for the cotton ceiling it’s complete bullshit. If a woman is not attracted to a Trans woman, she can’t help that. It’s not transphobic at all. It’s pretty much the same for a girl to say to a gay guy you’re supposed to have sex with me cos I’m a woman if you don’t have sex with me then you’re being a misogynist. Or sexist. That’s obsurd. The thing is you can’t help who you are attracted to or not. It’s not transphobic for a man or a woman not to want to have sex with a Trans person. Can’t help who you’re attracted to.

  8. As a trans woman I have two small caveats to your post. The first being that the cotton ceiling refers to people “just not wanting to sleep with us”. This is perpetuated by alot of TERF’s (and I don’t use that term lightly) and called rapey when the actual term only refers to the trends. Let’s get this completely straight. If you outright say “nope no trans people” that’s transphobic. But if you day “I’m sorry but I’m just not into this body part” or “sorry I’m just not that into YOU” that’s different. That is sexual preference. I would also like to point out to you that you may not even notice if a trans woman is post op. Not because you are too drunk but because it is that hard to tell… I admire your respectability in the article but I just wanted to point those things out because they are very much based on misconceptions. The only thing we ask is that SOMEONE be interested in us. But because of the way that mainstream media depicts us it’s very few that actually do find us attractive (compared to the many that might be interested had they not been fed outright lies from the media (and TERF’s alike). I just have to say this in conclusion. Imagine every person you’ve ever been sexually interested in pulling the same shit on you “sorry I’m just not into ‘X'”. You can understand why we might start getting upset. Why we might start feeling unlovable (not just unfuckable). It actually leads to even more self hatred. The cotton ceiling in the end refers to those who are supportive of trans rights up until the point of relationships. I hope I have cleared some things up.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment. As the author of the original post, it behooved me to personally approve your comment so that your position is reflected as you wish. I’m personally unpersuaded, but then again, I’m a cis-het male and find it difficult to label myself a TERF lest I end up even deeper in mansplaining territory.

      As to individual trans women, I have no problem whatsoever. What becomes problematic, as I saw it and continue to see it, is that some (but obviously not all) trans women clearly do use the term cotton ceiling as I described it, and for the reasons I described it that way. I hardly got the description from “the media,” loosely speaking, but from the context of individuals who have been assailed with that term. As to your objection, “just not wanting to sleep with us,” I see the use of the word “us” as you employed it, and I object to the objection because you make what I see as an arbitrary and capricious distinction between someone not wanting to be with a whole class of people versus just the body part versus the individual. I don’t know if you mean to swim so deeply into post-modernist territory where words have no meaning, but that’s how it appears from where I sit. If person A, regardless of how they are labeled or personally identify, has decided there’s an entire class of people with whom they will not sexually partner, and it has something to do with body parts, and that describes a class of people, then the overlap can’t simply be elided because it’s inconvenient.

      I advocate for full disclosure. Hypothetically, if I were in the dating scene (any dating scene) and I had any number of different background situations that speak to not only who I am, but how I got this way, and possibly may shed light on how I may be in the near or far future, I owe that to a prospective partner. It’s called honesty. Some past issues and events are stigmatizing, regardless of whether or not we like it, because society moves at a pace to make snails weep, and it’s society, broadly speaking, that applies the stigma. Some things need to come out earlier in a prospective relationship than other things. And for those of us who just either cannot or will not let someone else dictate the meanings of commonly used words to us, no amount of explaining is going to make the difference between (pre- or post-op) a trans woman, a straight biological male who identifies as as a straight woman, a straight biological male who identifies as a gay woman, a gay biological male who identifies as a gay woman, or a gay biological male who identifies as a straight woman. You’ll have to pardon me for being so lazy as to not address every conceivable permutation of nuance. As 50% of any conceivable relationship, it is as much absolutely my right to choose the gender/gender identify/physical packaging of a prospective partner as it is of a prospective partner to do the same. If one needs to deceive in order to overcome a barrier, that may or may not say something about the prospective partner, it may say something about society, but it absolutely does say something about the deceiver. For me, that’s a deal-breaker, right there. We’re not in the pre-AIDS 80’s anymore where a shot can clear up most ills. I came of age in the late 80’s/early 90’s when it suddenly became a massive issue to prudently know the sexual history of a prospective partner unless one were throwing caution to the wind and willing to risk not only their own health, but the health of all future prospective partners. Honesty (and testing) were critical.

      I don’t see that any of that has changed.

      And as important as acquiring an honest sexual history can be to both personal and public health, how that can be glossed over with a surgical outcome that can’t be discerned from nature’s own handiwork is beyond me.

      Lastly, part of the reason I took (and continue to take) such umbrage is because, perhaps not you personally, but some very vocal trans activists have been openly antagonistic to women born women and have attempted to distort the language to the point where the word “woman” no longer means anything, e.g., women’s only spaces being assailed by trans activists for excluding them, with absolutely zero regard for women’s right to choose with whom they sequester themselves for any reason. Maybe there are rape victims in the group who just cannot abide the presence of penises out of abject fear. Maybe it’s because they seek the company of those who share lived experience. And until the day comes that a trans woman can talk about her first period and the social pressures, even as a child, to be gendered by society as a girl, and the peer pressure that accompanies early or late development of obvious secondary sex characteristics such as female breasts, or the fear (or hope) of pregnancy, of PCOS, of endometriosis, of post-partum depression, and a host of other lived experiences peculiar to humans of a very specific genetic makeup, no amount of attempting to redefine women or femininity or feminism is going to make a damned bit of difference.

      Since you are eager for others to understand just where you are coming from, might I suggest you check out a copy of Female Erasure, edited by Ruth Barrett, with foreword by Germaine Greer, so as to be clear on how and why trans women might meet with such opposition from people they would otherwise hope to be allies?