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  1. I’m going to open this with a disclaimer: I am not trans*. I am something called bi-gendered or gender-fluid. What this boils down to is that I straddle gender lines somewhat. In my mid-twenties, I struggled with my gender identity for several reasons only to realize that I’m simply non-binary. That being said, I have several friends that are trans-women or trans-feminine and have watched them through the struggle with it. I have watched them be excluded from various things because of the gender they were assigned at birth. I have watched them go through a very literal and very painful second puberty.

    Think about that for a second. Remember how much puberty sucked for you? Now, imagine having gone through it once feeling like your body was betraying you because it was developing in ways that felt simply wrong. Then, years later, going through it again so you can get your body to match even superficially the fundamental you that is in your mind, your heart, your soul. And doing it with very few role models out there to turn to. Not only that, being rejected by the very role-models you wish to mold yourself after. Sometimes these folks get stuck in a very long and very painful second adolescence.

    I know that as an adolescent, the world revolved around me. Even though I didn’t like myself very much at the time. There were things in my head that didn’t match up to what was outside it. And I was dealing with mental illness that wasn’t very well understood and was being, to some extent under-treated. I was very lucky that, in those painful transformative years, I had strong role models. The women in my family are very much Steel Magnolias. They’re also mostly Baptist, so there is lip-service paid to men being the heads of their families. In practice, the women often do all the de facto running of things.

    These women taught me how to be a strong woman, how to value myself, and how to value others. They taught me how to go into the world with compassion, thoughtfulness, and curiosity.

    The argument that trans-women were socialized as men and therefore will not be able to respect other women in women-only spaces tends to strike me as fear and prejudice. I have known trans-women that were pushy and overbearing. I have known women assigned female at birth that were pushy and overbearing. I have known trans-women that were loving, nurturing, and gentle. I have known women assigned female at birth that were loving, nurturing and gentle. Give me any stereotype of the feminine or the masculine and I most likely have known a woman, assigned female or not, that fits that stereotype.

    Most trans-women I have known may not have gone through the social mill the first time being told that they were lesser because they were women. Many, however, have gone through an equally, if not rougher, gauntlet of being told they were freaks, abominations, and aberrations.

    Most trans-women I have known seeking to be in women’s only spaces are not there seeking to monopolize the space. They are there simply looking to find somewhere that they can find those role-models and confidants that they could not ask for in their first adolescence. They are there to try to find a space in which they can learn how to be strong, compassionate, loving women instead of terrified, lonely, uncertain girls.

    It is the duty of women, whether assigned so at birth or self-declared, to help other girls and women find their strengths and find how to co-exist from a place of acceptance and of power. And that means whether that woman was able to claim the label from birth or if they were only able to claim it after the struggle of feeling they have been put in the wrong box, they need role models that teach acceptance, inclusion, and equality. Not one more group that tells them that what they know in their souls is wrong and to be thrown into the dark by the very people that should be holding their hands.

    tl;dr: We as women find it a duty and a privelege to to help girls learn to be women… as long as the girl is going through her first adolescence and was assigned female at birth. Why do we find it so hard to do the same for a woman that is going through a second adolescence late in life?

  2. Nicely put, Greg. I can see your ethical grappling happening as well. :) Also like the gaming example.

    My main issue is that I worry I’m potentially condemning the many of a minority because of my discomfort with a very few within that minority. OTOH, past trying to deal with each case individually — which is what I’d do, frex, with the gamers too… I don’t know what else to suggest to myself, you know?

  3. Reading about this, I can definitely see your words mirroring my own in terms of the internal struggle between exercising too much privilege, and absenting ones-self from the conversation in acknowlegement of that privilege. At the end of the day, though, there is no one answer, which you yourself pointed out.

    Complete egalitarianism – while laudible – is difficult in practice because we already do not live on a level playing field. It is considerably weighted towards certain paradigms, hence the very existence of privilege. Therefore, if certain people want to try and counteract the effect of this imbalance by creating a safe but exclusive space, then it is arrogant in the extreme to chastise them for doing so. This is true whether it is men demanding to be included in a women-only-space, or transwomen demanding something similar.

    Just because I self-identify as a feminist, does not give me the right to insist that I be included in all feminist groups. I am not applying for a job, where it is discriminatory to disallow me based on prejudice. I am instead asking to be a member of a community. And if that community chooses not to accept me, the proper response is to find one that will. Not harass them with the notion that my opinion is more important than theirs, the people that run the community.

    Now, do we tend to feel more sympathy to certain kinds of people, because they belong to a group that has a history of people doing bad things to them? Certainly. To those of us at the top of the privilege pile, it’s the pink elephant in the room, staring at us, judging us. But that doesn’t negate the fact that relationships are never binary, never black and white, and that you have to not be afraid to always examine your responses, and understand all the angles. Because when you have done so you can concretely say: “I sympathize with this person’s plight as a member of X group. That doesn’t change the fact that they are not someone I want to build a community with.”

    In point of fact, the purpose of civil rights in general was a strike against *codified* discrimination as well as psychological discrimination. When the infrastructure of society is bent against you, then working to change the status quo is a basic human necessity. Such is not the same when you are one person demanding that a small group with little intrinsic power accept you as one of them, and this is true whether you are nominally part of the sort of people this group would accept. It would be like a misogynistic gamer demanding that he should be able join my gaming group, simply because he is a gamer.

    Basically, this is a long winded way of saying that yes, details are always important, and you are absolutely right in maintaining that each situation needs to be considered separately, while maintaining a careful balance of respect for all parties involved. Because one person can only say what works for them, and nothing else.

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