Monday, 29 April 2013

Not my trans-inclusive space

    I had an interesting conversation with a friend earlier. I needed to talk about some things and I am extremely grateful to her for listening and offering her advice. The thing that made me think enough to write here though was incidental to our conversation.
    She invited me to a local womens group meeting. Which sounded rather interesting. However she cautioned me that as a trans person pre transition I'd be thrown out if I turned up without presenting female. Fair enough I thought, it's not as if presenting female isn't something I want to do.
    On my walk back home though I was thinking about the exchange. I have to admit I found myself not entirely comfortable with it. Both the exclusionary nature of the space, and the implied threat of what might happen were I not to meet some imaginary standard of femininity. It was not the intention of my friend who is a very nice person indeed to present the meeting in a bad light, but thinking about it I decided on my walk that perhaps it wasn't for me. There is something ever-so-slightly ridiculous about the idea that to a trans-inclusive gathering I am acceptable wearing a bit of lipstick, some not very large breastforms and a pair of slightly better-cut jeans while I'm not acceptable without the makeup or forms, and wearing some baggier jeans. Because after years of mild anti-androgens, beard lasering and hairstyling that's really the sum of the differences left between the two versions of me. I'm afraid even at my scruffiest I'm not what you'd call a blokey bloke any more.
    I appreciate that writing about this conclusion in a public space might not win me any friends. I hope it doesn't lose me my friend mentioned above, should she happen to read it. And I'll probably get a few angry comments from people who will maybe bring their preconceptions to the table without necessarily reading what I've written. It's not as though they shouldn't have a women-only space and it's certainly not as though I'd dream of trying to crash any meeting that wouldn't have me in a particular form. But I feel a space that wishes to be trans-inclusive should spend a while thinking what "trans-inclusive" really means, rather than saying "We'll include you if we think you look like we want you to".
    Maybe it's just me but I think only accepting people who look a certain way has been used to justify too many bad things over the years, so count me out.
   

13 comments:

  1. Long, long ago there were rigorous conditions before you would be considered as a trans candidate. One was not living in your original home town or with your family! dressing in a manner of the therapists ideal housewife, stockings, heels probably a twinset pearls optional.
    How many at your meeting would fit that criteria?

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  2. You are getting in to the area of paradoxes. To be part of a women's group you need to have something that both defines you as woman and not as man. The group only works as a group if there is acceptance from the members of the that group that it includes only women. That they are happy to accept you merely on the basis that the clothing you are wearing is feminine is a pretty low bar to have to cross. They could require that you have other features which are exclusive to all women.

    By the sounds of things they would be suspicious of anyone who turned up not looking like a stereotype woman, so you might have just been given some inside hint at how you can gain their trust more quickly. Trust is not a right, it has to be earned.

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  3. Absolutely agree, Jenny. If they want to be trans inclusive, they need to have a good hard think about what that means. If they can't accept that trans women (non-transitioning, genderqueer, 'pre'-transition, hard femme, transitioning, butch, no-ho/op/whatever) might not meet their cis-centric expectations, then it's not really a trans inclusive space. Which is OK, I guess, so long as they don't try to say that it is.

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  4. It's an area of treading carefully, innit. I understand that to be part of a womens group you have to be a woman, it's what it says on the tin. And that I've been offered their trust, which is valuable. It would be very easy for me to slip into something girly and go along.

    I guess I rebel against implied threats. I know that if I went along with it then somewhere down the line I'd be watching them trying to exclude someone whose presentation is on the awful side, and that ain't the way I roll. I'm sure the womens group would get very angry were I to suggest they exclude a very butch woman for looking too male, so why should I be happy when they exclude a trans woman for looking the same?

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  5. ideally, the criterion for attendance would be some evidence of having nailed your colours to the female mast, er, as it were. Even if it's simply being vouched for by a member of the group. Otherwise it's like masonic aprons innit. And who'd be a mason, eh?

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  6. I think they just want you to look like an average woman does. What is wrong in that? I think you are reading too much into this. They probably would include lesbians on the basis that they are still women but perhaps being gender queer or anything that is not etched in stone as being female they probably draw the line at. They may not like to be associated with these other groups but that doesn't necessarily mean they dislike them. Their group is simply for women only, those who identify as women and yes, make the effort to look as they feel women should look. You may consider their standards inferior to yours but it is their group after all. I would have taken it as a compliment to be invited but that is only me.

    Shirley Anne x

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    1. I would want nothing to do with any women's group that policed appearance. I'm not alone in thinking that either!

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    2. Well Dru there are more of them who think that way than there are who think as you or I do, that's just the way things are. You may not agree with it but there is little you can do and as you wouldn't want anything to do with them what does it matter? Each to their own. They have as much right to be the way they are as you have.

      Shirley Anne x

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  7. Sounds a bit like a mini rle. Theoretically suspect, but perhaps they're more trans than trans* inclusive and this is a rough and ready 'show me'.
    And might disarm the suspicions of some who'd be reluctant to go along with that policy anyway.
    Everyone's a gatekeeper...

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  8. All of this seems to touch on that awful area which so many of us encounter and which remains entrenched in society. There appear to be two unofficial categories of being Trans; either you melt into the background or you don't. I used to think that was okay. I've spent 8 blissful years as a woman living and working quietly in that way. It all went through a rethink as I experienced GRS. Sharing a ward with women who might or might not fit that standard of 'acceptability' I began to feel uneasy. Our ages and presentations might be different but our stories and journeys were remarkably similar and we are all very much women. You cannot define gender by clothing or appearance; what unites us as women is something far more intangible. I would be so uneasy even now as a woman about any organization that needed me to prove myself against some standard.

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  9. I feel I must make it clear that this a personal decision, whether I am comfortable in a space in which policing is done by appearance. If they want to be like that and if other trans people are happy to go along with it then that's their choice. They just won't be seeing me, that's all.

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  10. I am not familiar with British society, but I am wondering if this might not be something like a simple dress code found in a better or higher end dinner club. Maybe your friend was just giving you a 'heads up'.

    I know that if I showed up for Sunday Services in my usual motley garb, I would no doubt be welcomed, but I wonder if I might not be as well received. I think that dressing for the occasion is a sign of respect.

    Maybe things are different in trans-land.

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