Lately I’ve seen TWERFs who in the face of how sex is a social construct are scrambling for some new anti-trans woman rhetoric. The new stance seems to be womanhood as defined by class violence. This new attempt to invalidate our womanhood will also fail as we are women, and face the violence in this word as women.
That said let’s start with my girlhood shall we?
When I was little girl I would be a girl in games of imagination and due to this it quickly became apparent that being a girl meant other. For example even if I was playing as someone capable like a female warrior I was still considered weak compared to the other people playing.
I easily connected with my female cousins while feeling distant and awkward around my male cousins. In retrospect it was also blatantly obvious that I was infantalized to a much larger extent than anyone else in my family. This is something that has continued into my adult life but I’ll touch more on that later.
Also during this time my family began to reinforce cissexist notions by shaming me for my love of barbies. Now before you jump the gun, I’m not a woman because I liked barbies. I also really liked batman action figures, and dinosaurs. Toys don’t mean anything. The point is the transmisogyny got piled on early.
Before I had to hide my feelings about it I also looked up to the characters Poison Ivy (from batman) and Android 18 (from Dragon Ball Z). Ivy for her connection to plants and her hatred of men. 18 for her personal strength and not so conventional appearance. I looked up to those two fictional women and identified with them. For a while I looked up to my mother as well but that ended thanks to her abusive behavior.
I’ve talked about this before but starting in kindergarten my hatred for school began. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy learning but I do mean it when I say I have nothing but hatred for my time in school. Back then I had no words for that frustrated hatred of being forcibly put among boys but it mainly stemmed from being segregated away from other girls. Of course a large part was also being spoken over and constantly treated as other because other children read me as a girl due to social cues but saw me physically as a boy. This marked me as inferior and also abnormal from the get go. It didn’t matter how good I was athletically compared to boys because as a woman any boy was instantly considered a better choice in sports so I was always an outsider to the boys. I had few girlfriends at first but as we got older and they entered the boys are icky phase they just sort of stopped associating with me to protect themselves from the harassment of other kids.
Moving on to middle school and puberty,
So by middle school I was starting to struggle academically because of hating school which caused me to fake being sick a lot but also ideas about girls in math and science were starting to get to me. While my dad pushed me to computers because of his interest in them I got little to no encouragement on math and despite my mom having majored in biology also got very little encouragement for science. So at the end of the day messages about girls being inferior at math and science started to get to me. Especially since teachers in those classes would ignore me or just not try to help me very hard.
To this day I have a very negative relationship with math that revolves around feelings of it being too hard for me. As for science, well I love theory but you won’t catch me dead in a lab. While I’m sure some of you might just be thinking “well maybe you’re just not smart” I attend a major tech university for game design, know a couple different programming languages, and Japanese. So my ability to learn is definitely very able.
At this time I also developed breasts due to my intersex condition. I wonder if cis women have any idea what it’s like to attend an all boys school and have B cup breasts? But wait there’s more. Try being at an all boys school with B cup breasts and giving off social cues ascribed to femaleness. You quickly become a conduit for every misogynistic sentiment in that building. Every single male in there makes you a target for their misogyny. While in 8th grade I was sexually assaulted by a boy in high school because of my breasts. I continued to get talked over and treated as less than in every social interaction. I also had to deal with dysphoria at the same time. Like cis girls I was denied information about how my body works. Like cis girls I was treated as inferior. Like cis girls I was targeted for misogyny. I was a targeted for transmisogyny as well.
Now that I’ve been on hormones for a while and get read as a cis woman I am actually typically treated better socially than I was previously. Of course I’m also more likely to be a target of different kinds of violence while less so for others now. I experience more street harassment than I have in the past, but my sexual and physical boundaries are still disrespected pretty frequently like in the past. At least now I am more often able to actually access sisterhood and bond with other women.
Also thanks to my intersex condition I get to deal with a period and how it’s demonized in western culture. I also get to deal with more lesbophobia now. For example things like being told I just need a good dicking and then I’ll like men.
My life as a woman has been two decades of being treated as less than men, of being infantilized, of absorbing patriarchy’s messages for women, and being a target of sexual violence. Tell me again that I don’t know what it’s like to grow up as a woman, to be a woman in this society. I’m not some newcomer to womanhood. Socially, mentally, and physically I am a woman, and nobody is going to tell me otherwise. No amount of theory, no amount of fear, no amount of hatred is going to change my girlhood, nor my womanhood. I am a woman and I’ve always been that way.
I refused to let myself describe my feelings in misleading “normal” terms and instead printed out The Ethical Prude, and chapters 1 and 8 of The Prude’s Progress. Ch. 1 is the intro, ch. 8 is about sparking and keeping the flame of feminist desire. She had never read or heard of any of this. I watched incredulously as she read the entirety of ch. 8 out loud, word by word.
I hear theory is a detached, pretentious thing. I wish I had a picture of my face as this (cis) woman I love began to read these words out loud. These words that described what I want to build with her. These words that don’t force my feelings into a constructed binary between friendship and “lovers.” These words that are written, this labor that is done, so I don’t have to start from nothing. So I don’t have to start with no words on my tongue, as I did before deciding to share these articles from the internet.
"You didn’t imagine it."
"Tell the others."
Sometimes these things are hard to hear from a person. Sometimes it takes a lot of text, instead, to hear them.
– bell hooks, in interview with Lawrence Chua (BOMB magazine, issue 48, 1994)
When you are a woman and you use a confessional narrative, people tend to think there is not some more complex structure of thinking or philosophy behind that narrative. I needed to bring some of that background thinking more to the fore, otherwise, it failed…
… I am passionate about ideas. They’re not just the stuff of spectatorship and entertainment to me. They’re a life-blood, and that’s what makes the intellectual process so radically different from the academic process.
Part of the challenge for insurgent intellectuals, particularly those of us who are artists in this society, is to pull back from academe, actually, and academic settings, precisely to break this notion that has become so popular in the culture, that the two experiences are one.
– bell hooks, in interview with Lawrence Chua (BOMB magazine, issue 48, 1994)
At the conference, I confessed that I have really violent impulses that sometimes listening to some panels I had wanted to come out and shoot people. The audience laughed, but I wasn’t being funny, and I wasn’t saying it to be cute or exhibitionist.
I was acknowledging that the violent impulses don’t just exist out there in black youth or in the underclass, but that they reside in people like myself as well—people who have our PhD’s and our good jobs.
But that doesn’t mean that my life is not tormented by rageful or irrational, violent impulses. It does mean that instead of shooting people, I go home and write a critique. My irrational impulse to want to kill people who bore me or whose ideas are not very complex, clearly has to do with an exaggerated response to situations where I feel powerless.
One reason that so many people claim to value protecting trans women, but won’t go to bat when it comes time to follow through, is that they’re actually only interested in protecting hypothetical, innocent trans women. What these people fail to acknowledge is that, by definition, innocent trans women do not exist. Under patriarchy, “trans woman” and “innocent” are opposing concepts - we are defined as wellsprings of male violence even though, and because, we are some of its primary targets. Trans womanhood is a kind of alchemy that transforms violence committed against us into violence committed by us.
Nine year old trans girls forced to use men’s restrooms at school, homeless trans women forced to stay in men’s housing at shelters, activist trans women driven from “queer” or “women’s” community spaces, incarcerated trans women in men’s lockup or solitary, that isolated trans woman in your area who you’ve heard of but avoid because you’ve heard rumors that she’s “fucked up,” “predatory,” or “crazy” - these articulations of transmisogyny share in common a (partial) basis of defining trans women and our bodies as inherently violent, effectively displacing the blame for male violence onto its victims. This has two consequences. First, by defining trans women as perpetrators of male violence, it also defines us as worthy targets for it. Second, the actual perpetrators and beneficiaries of male violence, men (in this case, especially trans men), are freed from scrutiny (as an aside, this is part of how there are so many aggressively heterosexual TWEFs - you know who you are, lol).
To be a trans woman is to be called rapist as you are raped, batterer as you are beaten, and abuser as you are abused. It is the paradox of being utterly destroyed by the very violence that you are said to embody.
i’ve been thinking about women, transition, and the infantilization of women. i feel that i often hear trans men talk about being women or little girls previous to transitioning - girls who grow up to be men. similar phrasing, ‘boys or men who grow up to be women’ by contrast, often sets trans women on edge. i don’t have data on this, just personal observation.
lately, i’ve been wondering about the way that our culture infantilizes women and formulates men as adults - full and actualized humans. i wonder if the relative comfort some trans men display with language like ‘manning up’ or talking about their ‘female history’ relates to this infantilization. transition for trans guys doesn’t explicitly challenge the notion that manhood a is full and actualized adulthood while womanhood is a prolonged state of childhood or innocence. in contrast, transition for trans women would violate this narrative by moving us into a full, developed self as a woman having previously (for some of us) held some outward form of manhood (although i can’t stress how laughable i find it to think about any previous ‘manhood’ or masculinity i was compelled to express).
its not that i am blaming trans men for infantilization of women, but i’m curious about how this idea about women interacts with the way that cis people and cisnormative society responds to our transitions and thus what language we find ourselves bristling at or not.
It goes hand-in-hand with my pet theory of trans men becoming something considered admirable (men), while trans women reject the power and prestige associated with maleness and therefore must be “broken” or “incomplete.” I never really likened it to the tendency in western cultures to treat women as children, but it adds up
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to psychoanalyse myself out of whatever genderfuckery is going on with me and one of the things I found was that for me a big part of feeling incapable of being masculine and rejecting maleness means feeling incapable of being an adult and rejecting the demand to be an adult. And this is not meant to argue against the OP, it is just kind of a related thing, a psychological tangent to a political point (I take that to be the primary intent of what you said? ). From that psychological viewpoint there is a sense that it shouldn’t have negative connotations to be seen as child-like. I feel like embracing that child-like state or aspect of myself is something that helps me embrace and stop repressing the genderfuckery.
Well, fuck it, not all of us got the chance to go through childhood, right? It’s into the fogged tunnel at 10, or 13, and then we stumble out, coughing and rubbing our eyes, sometimes decades later. And even then we’ve got the choice: we’ve only got so much energy, does that go toward clawing back a future or a past? I think it’s very understandable that childhood / the possibility of childhood / child-ish-ness can mean something very different for trans women.
Trans writers shouldn’t be drafted into playing the the summarizer games over and over. We have new ideas.– Aoife Emily Heart, Aoifeschatology and the Number of the Beast
Theory is ultimately not about being ‘academic’. You want to slag theory, you see it as pretentious and impractical… all right, that’s your opinion. For me? Theory rebuilt my world. And believe you me I did not have much will, faith, or desire to build a birdhouse let alone a future. But with theory, with coming out — I discovered possibility. And I want to share the projects of possibility and therefore resistance that feminist philosophy can enable.– Aoife Emily Heart, Aoifeschatology and the Number of the Beast
– ace-muslim, When the answer is always no: Sex aversion and my sex-negative feminism
When the answer is always no, when I will never give consent, then sex will always be rape. I usually avoid the R word, phrase it as “sex would be a site of oppression for me”. Saying that all sex is rape, even if I mean just for me, sounds radical feminist. The whole sex-positive movement defines itself in opposition to radical feminism. And the asexual community is very sold on sex-positivity.
Sometimes it seems that to be anti-sex is to be a “bad asexual”. You always have to preface your discussion with “but it’s totally OK with me if other people have sex!” and “of course, I only apply this to myself” and a dozen other hedges to reassure people that you don’t mean to hurt the feelings of those who enjoy sex and that you’re not a prude or trying to moralize to others (i.e., sex cheerleading).
The idea that sex-positive people might ever need to reassure me or check if they’re hurting my feelings or imposing their views on me, never seems to cross anyone’s mind.
– Slightly rephrased from this post about the anti-trigger-warning campaign
We have “subversive, liberal” professors claiming that they need to be able to use traumatic material to break down the smug, privileged mindset of white dudes. They have to show rape so that men might realise it’s bad.
This is utterly out of tune with the needs of us who already have a good idea, thanks, how bad it is. We don’t need someone at the front of the class telling us we have to live in the real world, man, we can’t just pretend this doesn’t happen. Who deliberately catches us unaware with it to use the moment of shock as a “teachable moment”.
But the kind of student for whom the idea that rape exists is shocking is not - and must not become - the only kind of student in the classroom.