What is Transphobia? Cissexism?

26 08 2008

Lisa, at Questioning Transphobia, has a really important post that everyone should read.

“When you say or do the things I have described here, you are supporting a cissexist society that justifies killing trans people, that justifies slapping our murderers, abusers, rapists, on the wrist. That justifies the idea that we’re not really human. And if you insist that your own words and deeds have no importance because you are not personally out there raping, beating, stabbing, shooting, strangling trans people, then you are part of the same problem that creates Andrade, Oates, Hyatt, Blake, and men who have murdered numerous other women and men just because those men believed that transphobic words and deeds that so much of the world accepts as reasonable justified their decision to erase women and men from the world simply because they existed.

This is the system you support – a spectrum of words and deeds that ranges from “You’re really a man/really a woman” to “Man is charged with manslaughter for deliberately hunting down and killing a trans woman.”

You reify and reinforce the oppression that affects me and all other trans people.

You can’t really help it, mostly. You’re born and raised in a cissexual society, a society that programs you to believe that people who change their sex are less than you. However, once you realize that this is the case – once it is brought to your attention, once your privilege is pointed out to you, once the fact that you – like all other cis people – are complicit in oppressing trans people, if you choose to deny that such privilege exists, deny that you are doing and saying transphobic things, while deliberately increasing the intensity and frequency of these actions? You are no longer at the point where you are simply complicit due to privilege. You are now an active participant.

You can always choose to stop.”


Sparkle and Embracing the Feminine

22 08 2008

I’ve been really bad at keeping up with my google reader, so I just now got around to reading Octo’s post on Feministe about “sparkle.” Sparkle (I love this term), as Octo uses it, is ‘a catch-all for burlesque, sex work, fashion, any kind of sexy display or fashion statement.”

There’s always lots of feminist debate about whether or not sparkle can be feminist, or anti-patriarchy, and you usually wind up with sex-positive feminists on one side and radfems on the other. This debate is kind of exhausting, and seems rather counterproductive, because it often ends with sex-positive feminists focusing on a woman’s right to make independent choices about her body, and radfems talking about false consciousness and having bought into the patriarchy. Which basically, as I hear it, boils down to: “you don’t know what’s best for you, or your feminism, so we will tell you and discredit what you’re saying at the same time.” That’s surely an oversimplification, and if it wasn’t already clear, I don’t identify as a radfem, but that’s at least what it sounds like from where I’m sitting.

I don’t necessarily identify as a femme. I embrace my femme side, but it’s not an everyday thing. These days, when it comes to a label for my gender presentation, I’ve been toying around with fetch (femme + butch + new pop slang = awesome!?), and in the past appropriated a friend’s phrase “quirky femme,” but I haven’t committed 100% to any of them. Since cutting my hair and coming out (which happened at similar times, but weren’t causally related), I’ve felt more comfortable embracing my butch side. Something about making active choices (coming out, not my queerness) that fly in the face of conventional beauty standards has made it easier to be comfortable with my less femme tendencies. But this also scares me, because I think it is SO important that queer communities not reject or abandon the feminine.

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