beatrice_otter: Me in red--face not shown (Default)
[personal profile] beatrice_otter
For those of you fortunate enough to not know what they are, TERFs are trans-exclusionary radical feminists.  There are a wide variety of them (and some sound reasonable at first blush), but those few "man-hating feminists" who actually exist are all pretty much TERFs.  And part of what their extremist response to men ends up as is a denial that transwomen are women.  (Hence "trans-exclusionary.")  Feminism isn't about equality for all people, to a TERF; it's about advancement for biological females.  These are also the people behind "queer is a slur which can't be reclaimed!"  Because queer is an umbrella category, see, which makes it a lot harder to police who is a "real" LGBT+ person than any other term.  And if you can push some people--aces, genderqueer, transpeople, bi/pan people, and others out or at least to the fringes--you can much more easily separate out who the "real" women are, and who "deserves" support, from those who "don't".

Anyway, I was listening to the On Being podcast today.  (On Being, for those of you who don't know, is an EXCELLENT radio show/podcast which "opens up the animating questions at the center of human life: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live?"  It often addresses issues of religion and spirituality from a broad range of traditions.)  This week's show is a conversation with Joy Ladin, an Orthodox Jewish transwoman who is a professor at Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University.  And I was excited.  Queer representation!  Religious queer representation!  I'm not trans, and I'm not Jewish, but I am asexual and aromantic and there isn't much out there sympathetic to the intersection of queerness and religion, and most of what there is focuses on Evangelical/Fundamentalist/Conservative Christianity (which I am not) and homosexuality, no nuance or anything (and I'm also not homosexual).

A few minutes in, Joy started talking about hurtful comments on her blog posts dealing with transitioning in her forties.  These comments were from both very conservative and very liberal people, she said, and they agreed about something.  And I thought, Oh, God, it's TERFs.  I am disappointed but not surprised when conservatives are nasty to queer people; when supposed progressives are, it hits a lot harder.  Joy did not use that term, but apparently they were all very adamant that gender isn't just about presentations, it's about experiences, and they've experienced oppression because they are women that Joy hasn't because everybody assumed she was a man for the first 40+ years of her life, so she really doesn't count as a woman.  Or, at least, not as much of a woman as they are.


Reader, I had to stop listening.  Because Joy seemed to have accepted this and internalized this, from what little of the conversation about this I could stand to hear.

This is what INFURIATES me about TERFs.  I get that shared or similar trauma can be a powerful bonding mechanism; I get that someone who hasn't shared that trauma or one like it will be different than someone who has.  But TRAUMA AND THE EXPERIENCE OF SEXISM IS NOT THE WHOLE OR EVEN LARGEST PART OF WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A WOMAN.  AND EVEN IF IT WAS, NOBODY GETS TO POLICE WHOSE TRAUMA WAS "ENOUGH" OR THE "RIGHT KIND" OF TRAUMA.

Part of the TERF hatred of transgender women is a belief that because they didn't suffer sexism, they can never really be women or understand what it is to be a woman.  This comes down to believing that either a) the trauma of being TRAPPED IN THE WRONG BODY and forced into a gender presentation that is wrong for you is the WRONG KIND of gender-related trauma, or b) that it is NOT TRAUMATIC ENOUGH.  And it also says that the TERFs get to police what womanhood "really" is.

Let's break this down using Joy's experience, and mine, okay?  Joy is transgender.  They started the podcast talking a little bit about her kids (born and raised when she was presenting as male according to her genitalia).  They always wanted her to tell them stories, and she had a real problem, because she was a good dad, and knew that she wasn't supposed to tell stories about depressing things or suicidal ideation.  She glosses over that a bit and moves on quickly, but she did say it: she apparently had some depression deep enough for suicidal ideation.  She spent a bit more time on the fact that because she was so dissociated from her body, she really didn't form many memories.  She had ONE happy childhood memory suitable for telling her kids: one time, she made a poptart, wrapped it in a towel, and went outside and ate it on a cold day.  THIS IS THE ONLY HAPPY MEMORY OF CHILDHOOD SHE HAS.  If that's NOT ENOUGH trauma, well, I don't know what would be.  Do you have to be raped to have "enough" trauma to count as a woman?  Do you have to actually attempt suicide, not just contemplate it?

If it's just that it's not the right KIND of trauma, well.  Let's consider my experiences, shall we?  That icon up there, the woman in red with a flower choker and her face turned away from the camera, that's a picture of me, taken by my parents specifically so I would have a picture of me to use as an icon for fannish spaces, but I wouldn't have to show my face to minimize the possibility of my fannish and legal names being connected.  Anyway, my parents are awesome parents.  There was a minimum of gender-related stuff in my house growing up.  All three kids, me and my two brothers, learned to cook and regularly cooked meals.  Both parents shared the cooking.  All three of us kids shared equally in the cleaning and in the yardwork.  Etc., etc.  My school was on the I-5 corridor in Oregon.  While there are a LOT more Conservative Republicans on the West Coast than most people realize, they don't tend to congregate along the I-5 corridor, and my school had a minimum of gender bullshit and discrimination against women.  So did my college and seminary, and most of the places I've worked in my life have been either mostly women or extremely women-friendly.  And, as an aromantic asexual, I haven't really done much dating, and the three boyfriends I had when I was just figuring I was a "late bloomer" were genuinely nice guys, and not Nice GuysTM.  So while I know what most women go through at least at SOME point in their lives, and I've been exposed to as much media sexist BS as anyone, I have lived a life about as sheltered from sexism as any woman in the late 20th-early 21st century can.  If we're measuring womanhood with "have you faced enough sexism to really UNDERSTAND what we're up against," then I DON'T COUNT AS A WOMAN, EITHER.  And, like I said, TERFs are the ones trying to police who counts as REALLY LGBT (not queer, never queer!) so they'd have a problem with me on that axis, too.


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