There is a mortifying, first-wave essentialist transphobia constructing straw arguments about trans politics and glibly erasing the structural marginalization against TGNCI people in the US experience. This narrative implies that if you are a lesbian, someone is out there who will force you to have PIV sex with a trans women to prove you are not transphobic. This same narrative erases trans men by saying that they are really just women, colluding with male supremacy. Jack Halberstam has written a great essay deconstructing the border wars between butch lesbian women and transgender men. And so while I am interested in strategic essentialism, I don’t subscribe to traditional notions of gender identity — even for the sake of exposing sex/gender hierarchy. Abolish the Harry Benjamin scale!
Most radical feminists — most people in general, actually — conflate the “sex” of female with “having a uterus.” Yet the body itself is plastic. Trans women who elect for SRS can have penetrative vaginal intercourse, and they can breastfeed their children. Being “woman” — this does indicate a historical association with a reproductive exploitation (pregnancy) to which you are only vulnerable if you have a uterus. But being “woman” also means domestic labor. It means cultural femininity. It means rape, sexual harassment culture — it means other things. Trans women do not just have to combat transphobia, as if that were simple — they live this too. There are clear Venn diagrams you can draw showing CAMAB trans women, CAFAB people with a uterus, cis women, and effeminate cis men all experience intersecting penalization in the face of male supremacy.
Anyone can simultaneously be the victim and perpetrator of abuse, and tokenism can’t excuse unethical behavior, which is where I think confusion is setting in. Yet we have to build coalition around dismantling the penal code which is generating all of the abuse to begin with in a fundamental, causal sense. The only alternative is basically to dismantle our alliances across identity categories. We don’t need to have such a showdown merely because our experiences are non-identical. The feral difference of our experiences is precisely the virtue of coalition. I make videos sometimes with my good friend Gianna Love (we are working on a feature length film entitled The Gift of Monstrosity), and we’ve made a video addressing this topic. But I want to shift the focus away from those who are “transcritical” entirely. I think it is counterproductive. Instead, I want to ask whether it isn’t deeply, irrefutably violent for heterosexual cis gendered men to identify that way at all.
TGNCI: Transgender, Gender Non-Conforming, and Intersex people
PIV: Penis In Vagina
CAFAB: Coercively Assigned Female At Birth
CAMAB: Coercively Assigned Male At Birth