Thoughts

On giving a fuck about trans women

Do you give a single fuck about trans women, or do you pretty much only care about cis women? Oh wait, let me guess, you’re an “ally” because you don’t go out murdering us and we should be grateful for that.

 

Some of the bravest women I’ve ever had the honor to know are trans, and one of the few times in my life I’ve ever thrown a punch was in their defense as they were being physically harassed by a transphobic piece of shit.

As for being an “ally,” I’ve never really liked that term, especially in the context of trans/cis feminism, because even though it’s meant to be supportive, it still has the effect of othering trans women.

Now, if something that I’ve said (or haven’t said) has led you to the conclusion that I don’t give a fuck about trans women (or trans men), then by all means, light me up.

I understand that your indignation isn’t really about me, but you did choose to direct it at me, so if there’s a specific conversation you’d like us to have, please let me know. I’m totally open to it.

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88 thoughts on “On giving a fuck about trans women

  1. Frittata says:

    I love the last part of this reply. I’ve been trying to be less combatative in conversations, use less violent communication and the like, and this is an excellent way to approach someone who comes at you from a place of anger and hurt. Understand that this isn’t really about you (so don’t get defensive) and be willing to open up a dialogue about why this is being directed at you.

    Thanks CT โค๏ธ

  2. Anna says:

    I wanted to talk about how new media and alternative media portray issues that affect various minorities, and how creators can relay voices that are not theirs, and I might still do that, but I suddenly caught on to “one of the few times in my life Iโ€™ve ever thrown a punch”.
    A few times ? Really ?
    I think we’ve found the first domain in which Coquette could possibly be considered boring.

    • A/c says:

      Not sure why throwing a punch makes someone exciting. It’s really irresponsible to stomp around town hitting people.

    • Anna says:

      So many boring pacifists ๐Ÿ˜‰ is being butthurt and extrapolating meaning from innocuous comments part of being a pacifist too ?
      Veryoff : interesting to see that even as a child you were quite confrontational. Since we’re exchanging stories, my first good punch was at 13! Grief induced adrenal high.
      A/C : be assured that outside of a sporting context, I don’t start fights. I prevent and/or put an end to them.
      O : join a martial arts class ! Your body will thank me later.
      And Whaomi, don’t worry, in a brawl my fists are not my only ressources feet, knees, elbows also do the trick.

          • Anna says:

            I’m going to sound like a weird old karate instructor, but the key is core strength and coordination. You need some shoulder strength to throw a good punch but relying on distal rather than proximal muscles results in a situation where you may be able to throw a punch with a certain impact but you won’t be able to get in and out fast enough to avoid the other person’s counter punch.
            TL;DR : I’ve got chicken arms and I still manage to throw a good punch.

          • Anna says:

            Hm, pretty late here but I’d like to apologize: I have RA in the family and have had a couple episodes of inflammation myself, it sucks (the pain and the effect on joints), and I totally feel like an idiot for the previous comment.
            So continue to rock that metal bat ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Grouch says:

      “The few times” makes it MORE interesting. I’m surprised Coke has ever thrown any punches (as an adult, childhood scraps don’t count), and I’m wondering what situations were enough to call for it. Actually, I kind of hope there were brass knuckles involved, there’s got to be some kind of fancy designer brass knuckles that she’d tote around, but never actually use.

    • kai says:

      Coquette could probably eviscerate anybody on the planet with a look or a few words. I suspect she doesn’t NEED to throw punches.

  3. JC says:

    Love this response. I would like to add that there are many groups who take active shits on their “allies.” It is not helpful. It discourages people to do good things and makes people who try to do their best feel like nothing is good enough. It’s time to emphasize people’s motivations and (if there is the need to adjust) to approach that from a respectful place. I think CQ’s response is 100% perfect in that regard.

    • willow says:

      Allies are there for their movements, not the other way around. I agree that there are a lot of social justice witch hunts that can deprive people of the positive reinforcement they need to learn, but ultimately we don’t do this for pats on the back or to be “one of the good ones.” You do it because you care about the people you defend, and because you want to amplify their voices, not be the next person in line to speak for them. A big part of that is having the humility to recognize that the reason you will never be more than an ally is because you can’t replicate the set of experiences characteristic of a life you will never live. Sometimes you witness an emotion that confuses you, and you just have to say, “Well of course it does. I’m not them.”

      • bea says:

        A big part of that is having the humility to recognize that the reason you will never be more than an ally is because you canโ€™t replicate the set of experiences characteristic of a life you will never live. Sometimes you witness an emotion that confuses you, and you just have to say, โ€œWell of course it does. Iโ€™m not them.โ€

        – thank you for articulating what i’ve being struggling to explain for the past year now.

  4. VeryOff says:

    I think Cqt is a manager. “…if thereโ€™s a specific conversation youโ€™d like us to have, please let me know” is so corporate “it hurts.”

    Love,

      • VeryOff says:

        It’s the booze. It was meant to be a callback to the whole “you’re so white it hurts” drama we had here. Believe me, I would kill to have a manager as ethical and clear as Cqt.

        • HMM says:

          It seems like your appropriating the “so white it hurts” statement to harness the tone in your corporate statement, which is probably why it’s coming off condescending.

          • VeryOff says:

            Yes. But to me the whole thing was ridiculous. So I understood why you read it that way.

  5. Nat says:

    I don’t like the word ally either. Calling yourself an ally feels like making whatever minority status you don’t have somehow all about you… as if the person who’s usually in the majority just can’t bear to be othered by the people who are usually in the minority.

    That, and it’s a shame we even need a word for not being a dickhead.

    • WhoAmI says:

      To be honest ally in the LGBT community is pretty useful for people who are in the closet but still want to interact with the community.
      It’s easier to have your parents know you support “Gay Rights” than to have them you know actually are The Thing (TM) (or maybe they’re THAT deep in the closet and they haven’t fully realized who they are yet).
      Lots of people support LGBT rights without labelling themselves as allies, because after all your actions should speak for themselves and that’s not a label you really need, right ? Except if you are in the closet.

  6. Rainbowpony says:

    I thought the word ally was a word preferred by those with minority status. It says, I support those with this status in their struggle, but I acknowledge that I, in some ways, can never know what is like to have that status. I didn’t perceive ally as some word invented by those without the minority status othering those with it.

    • Ki says:

      It is when too often “allies” make it about putting themselves on a pedestal for support and understanding that should be inherent. Or, even worse, about the plight one gets for being a supporter when it can never compare to being the actual ostracized minority. Hence the minority becomes “other”, and the ally becomes the voice of the disenfranchised. It’s a nasty little cycle in all honesty.

      • Becky says:

        Yeah, but that’s not a function of labeling. That’s a function of people carrying their privilege and entitlement with them into their activism. Which is a crock of infuriating shit, but it’s not because they put a label on it.

      • JC says:

        People who are actual ostracized minorities sometimes want to have a pissing contest about their pain. I get that you’ve had shitty things happen to you. That does not mean other people have not had shitty things happen to them. Some shitty things crush you emotionally, or give you PTSD and anxiety. Other shitty things keep you impoverished and unable to improve your financial standing regardless of hard work.

        Everyone needs to learn how to be more respectful of the challenges faced by others. Everyone needs to start being an ally to everyone else. Your comment suggest allies are putting themselves on a pedestal simply for not being an ass, and that’s sometimes true. At the same time, being part of a minority group does not automatically give you “most oppressed person status.” Start listening to other people’s pain rather than arguing that yours is so much worse.

      • kai says:

        This is why I don’t usually like being labelled an ally. Like, I’m not an “ally.” I don’t need a label just because I try to be a decent human being.
        I feel like I’ve met too many people who are all like “Hey look at me! I’m not being a giant gaping asshole. Now I want a gold star for not being a giant gaping asshole! Why aren’t you paying attention to me?!!!!!111!!!!!11” Great, you’re wonderful, we get it. Now how about instead of bitching and moaning about how no one is paying attention to your epic struggle to be supportive and tolerant (don’t even get me started about people who are PROUD of MERELY being tolerant), you go and actually DO something to help people with real fucking problems.

    • Nat says:

      I don’t know why/where it originated. I’d like to know.

      I think it’s good to be an ally (i.e. speak out for others rights, while admitting you don’t live their experiences, like you said) but calling -yourself- an ally feels weird, and it’s often shitty people who do it (i.e. those who say “Oh, but I LOVE trannies” and similar :/).

      Sometimes people label themselves as an ally and then use that as an excuse for bad behaviour, and to separate themselves from other white/straight/cis people (but also from the minority group) e.g. “[I’m an ally, so] you know I didn’t mean it like THAT”. It’s not like you’re an ally or you’re not, there’s definitely grades of support/understanding.

      Sometimes it’s people who are trying to “collect” black/gay/trans friends to prove how cool and tolerant they are.

      Sometimes people put themselves in dangerous and/or shitty positions to help a cause (Peter Norman seems like he was a good guy http://griotmag.com/en/white-man-in-that-photo/), but it’s pretty gross for anyone to do it like an act of charity or be smug about it (acting like some kind of saviour), as it just highlights the powerful position they’re in to make that decision compared to the person they’re supposed to be supporting.

      My intuition is that “ally” is not a word to label yourself and that people in the relevant communities get to decide whether you are an ally and how good an ally you are.

      And apart from that coke makes a good point that asking “are you an ally?” implies (in this case) “you’re not trans”.

      • Tillzilla says:

        Fair analysis I’d say. I’m coming up to ten years in the queer community / out of the closet (clichรฉd homo-with-Catholic/conservative-parents) so I’ve seen plenty of variations on “allyship” and what people do with it.

        People proclaiming how strong of an ally they are more often than not find a way to revert attention to themselves, rather than actively create spaces / settings for queer peeps to discuss their issues. I’m generally pretty skeptical of “allies” for this reason — actions (such as Coke’s decision to answer this question-as opposed to the multitudes she could have gone with) tend to carry more weight and have a more positive effect overall.

        • Metlotter says:

          I think sometimes a problem with allies (at least with the queer community) is that some don’t accept that they are a tangential part of the community. A lot of minority communities form from people with similar experiences coming together to feel safe and support each other. It’s great that there are people with different experiences who also support the community, but they don’t necessarily need/deserve access to all of the spaces that community has created.

          • Metlotter says:

            Of course they can secretly be part of the minority, but there are times when in order to feel safe, a minority might need to be sure there are *only* minority members present. If the ally is a “secret member” they might need to disclose that to the group. A marginalized group isn’t required to let everyone into their spaces at the expense of their own safety just to be sure they aren’t excluding “secret members”.

          • WhoAmI says:

            I do believe in safe spaces, I don’t believe in them having to be closed in no way whatsoever tho.

    • willow says:

      in all other contexts I agree, the term “ally” is meant to center the marginalized people so the movement isn’t railroaded over by loudmouthed white males. But I like Coke’s variation on this particular issue, because this question is not about trans* people in general but trans* women. She’s answering from a feminist perspective, and her rejection of the term in that context to me is an affirmation of trans* womanhood. To call yourself a trans* feminist ally as a cis woman is to say that trans* women should be quarantined into their own sector of feminism. It’s a complex issue and there are some things that cis women know nothing about but if we’re talking about feminism, I think it makes more sense just to call yourself a feminist.

  7. Brynn says:

    I’m enjoying the group hate on the word “ally” as it applies to sexuality and gender systems. Gotta add all your opinions; it also affirms the gender binary.

    At what point are you no longer an ally? At what point are you a full-fledged trans woman? When are you just a woman? Are you no longer an ally when you start revealing to people you don’t think of your gender in terms of your birth sex? Are you only trans when you start wearing dresses or bandaging down your breasts? When you employ surgical alterations to your genitalia?

    Do you have to live every day as one specific gender, or is your identity allowed to fluctuate?

    If gender is a spectrum – and I’m saying that it is – where do we draw the line? What do we do with all the people in the middle? Is calling an agendered person an ally much different than calling them a man/woman?

    • VeryOff says:

      I love you for bringing up the hate on the word ally. I for one thought, “why would anyone hate an ally?”

      As for the rules, I refuse to proceed until a gender rulebook is published. Everyone has to agree on the standard or there’s no point in having it. Just put it all in a book so we can study it and then forget about who the hell is fucking who with what.

    • Becky says:

      I think you’re looking for too much of something prescriptive in a tool that is by its nature descriptive. There are many, many terms for many different locations along the gender spectrum and ways of interacting with gender. You can be gender queer if you don’t identify as trans but don’t perform gender in a traditional way. You can be fluid if you feel like your gender expression changes by the day. You can be, as one of my favorite activists called their gender expression, “dapper of center.” You can be some or none of those things. The entire purpose of the movement is to detach gender from language because people so routinely use it to prescribe what someone should do instead of to describe what they already do. My advice? Let go of the need for words to describe a person’s gender in the first place.

      • Rainbowpony says:

        The weirdest thing about trying to wrap your head around gender is that gender doesn’t really do anything, in other words, either gender (or every gender) can equally claim that any activity or expression reflects or doesn’t conflict with their gender.

        It’s an academic argument and it doesn’t really matter; people should lead their happiest lives. But if you think about it too hard, gender as a concept seems like a house of mirrors.

      • jdavrie says:

        This is spot on. I don’t even like the term “spectrum” to describe gender – bear with me – because it conjures an image of some sliding scale. The point of calling it a spectrum, to me, is simply to disrupt the entrenched binary; it’s a rhetorical device, not an alternate measure. That would be an equally ridiculous way of limiting the concept.

        Of course, if the analogy of a spectrum helps you to express your own experience with gender, then by all means use it. But it need not be limited to a spectrum for everyone.

        Gender a social construct: it can adopt whatever meaning we give it. Putting it on axes is doomed to fail. If we have to describe it in geometric terms, I guess I would say “space,” but really I think trying to turn it into a measurable system is a misunderstanding of what it is.

        • WhoAmI says:

          let’s all stop calling it the gender scale or gender spectrum in favor of “the gender nebula”
          you know The Gays love themselves some space shit

          • jdavrie says:

            Or maybe “the gender non-Euclidean space.” What about “the gender curve?”

            For the record, I get the utility of the term “spectrum.” I just think some people take it a bit too literally.

          • WhoAmI says:

            The Gender Manifold ! That would be a good one.
            Yeah, people think of the visible light spectrum and how it goes on a straight (!) line from violet to red and that’s about it. And you have to remind them that there are other kinds of EMR.

        • Brynn says:

          I admit that I believe ‘spectrum’ serves a purpose (which I go into below), but I feel ya. I’m loving Whoami’s suggestion, “the gender nebula.”

          • WhoAmI says:

            Manifold is a way more elegant metaphor me thinks.
            But yeah it’s probably way too nerdy. Although a very nerdy word like that would make it so people in gender politics would take interest in advanced mathematics and others wouldn’t get a wrong idea stemming only from what they know from the term.

      • Brynn says:

        This is exactly what my questions are meant to be prodding towards – they’re more rhetorical than genuine. I think with English, we have the (somewhat unique) linguistic tools to distance ourselves from the concept of gender. When we jump on board with certain concepts, such as being an ‘ally’ to trans people, it denies the fluidity of our gender, and the fluidity of their gender.

        There are currently gender rules, however, and we have some responsibility to acknowledge them. A man approaching a woman on a city street is not the same thing as a woman approaching a man. Therefore, ‘male’ has a descriptive purpose used to distinguish one rule set from the other. Unfortunately, that is also, by nature, prescriptive. What else is gender besides a set of social expectations? Some of those expectations are very important, and some are not. But since you are socially slotted into a gender, you don’t get to pick and choose what people expect from you.

        As an adult, it’s easier to deal with other people’s expectations. You can use your personal judgement to say, “Well, I won’t approach this person on the street, but if wearing a dress makes them uncomfortable they can go fuck themselves.” As a child, however, you don’t get to pick and choose how you will be influenced. What’s the difference between, “You should never hit a girl,” and, “You should never wear a dress,” when you’re <11 years old? They're just rules being imposed on you. Understanding comes later in life. You can't separate the descriptive qualities of gender from its prescriptive qualities.

        So, for right now, I think it's important to look at gender as a spectrum. It gives us a tool with which to acknowledge certain rules while disregarding others. It grants us an authority to pick and choose what moors we follow within a set boundary. It's a system we can use to undermine a more destructive system, and it will need to be undermined one day as well.

    • Anna says:

      I don’t live in an English speaking country, so I might not quite get the concept of “ally”.
      I thought it simply meant “to actively support a group”. But I’m getting the feeling that it also implies a level of self-identification with the cultural or social or political structures that are associated with that group ?

      As for gender, I’m glad that we don’t have clear cut rules for defining who is trans or not. I love the grey area. Personally I don’t get gender, I don’t feel it, never have, don’t know if I ever will (I don’t identify as agender though). That’s why it’s so bloody fascinating for me to talk to trans people about their experiences with gender. Makes it a little less elusive. The one thing I’ve noticed when talking to people who’ve been good enough to share is that the younger they are, the more diversity there is in personal identity and experiences with gender. I think it’s really interesting and I am genuinely excited about future developments we are going to see in concepts surrounding gender and how people experience gender.

      • Brynn says:

        Pretty much. You can’t be an ally of your own ingroup, you’re simply a member.

        I’m there with you on gender. Personally, I’m particularly fascinated with the division between myself (agendered, I suppose you’d say) and someone who is trans. I very much understand feeling disconnected with your birth gender, as well as feeling more connected with the opposite. But I don’t share the desire (though I do respect it) for people to acknowledge your personal pronouns, or to shape your body in accordance to your gender. What really doesn’t make sense to me to is to dramatically break with gender rules in order to closely observe gender rules – that’s part of the reason that ‘ally’ irks me.

      • Margaret says:

        I am also wondering that, but Coke can answer anything they want. IMO, Coke hasn’t warranted the agitation given by the OP. Oh well, Coke knows the right words.

        • JC says:

          I think she rightly points out that the person’s hostility is not really about her. The OP has a lot of pain they are dealing with, and they are misdirecting it at her. I feel really badly for what trans people deal with in general, and the particulars of what they are dealing with in our society now, but that is not an excuse to lash out inappropriately at everyone who is not trans.

  8. Rainbowpony says:

    I like cokes response, that said it’s almost jesus-y how it reflects kindness toward hate. We may admire it, but i’m curious as to whether coke, or others, think that one should always act this way in such a situation, or if it’s above and beyond. It can be very challenging to respond so positively and calmly to that type of negativity. Are you bad if you can’t do it?

    • unicornsrpeople2 says:

      As someone who really struggles with this, I don’t think it makes you a bad person, but it does mean that there is room/need for personal growth.

    • Bruce says:

      I’ve been thinking about your comment, and I think this is a lot less about responding to hate with kindness and a lot more about responding to obvious pain with compassion.

      • Rainbowpony says:

        That’s true.

        I also spent half my life observing monkeys, and a really common behavior is: monkey a hurts monkey b, monkey b doesn’t feel like he can take monkey a, so he redirects his aggression toward smaller monkey c.

        It’s good to stop the cycle with compassion, then again, I ain’t your monkey c.

        • Bruce says:

          “I ain’t your monkey C” lol. And sure, I am actually against being Jesus-y all the time. A lot of the time negativity deserves to be shut down hard, because you’re a person worthy of respect and you owe it to yourself to teach people how to treat you.

          But sometimes it’s so obvious that someone snapping at you is a dog caught in a trap that it’s just not sensible to strike back.

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