I am naturally a very curious person. I like to know why and how things happen. I really love to learn and figure out new things.
One of these things I really wanted to understand was the TERF (Trans- Exclusionary Radical Feminist) mindset. Being AFAB at birth but always wanting to be male, it never occurred to me to be upset about AMAB people wanting to be female. I am not happy in my body, so once I learned that there were people unhappy in their male bodies, it all seemed to make so much more sense.
But…being a white male does come with privilege, whether or not you want to believe it. It’s very rare that a boy is told he can’t do math as well as a girl (yes, this happened to me in 6th grade.) A boy is never told to “stop running around like a little boy,” (which also happened to me when I was 10.) While men are often victims of sexual assault in the military, statistically women are more likely to be sexually harassed and assaulted in the military. So when someone AMAB transitions, they often find themselves suddenly marginalized, disrespected, and treated like a second class citizen. I am sure it is jarring.
What started me on this whole “WTF is a TERF” journey was a twitter post where someone was complaining about puberty and how miserable it is for some girls, and I really identified with the post. But multiple people called the person who wrote it a “TERF” and said that comment was very triggering for trans women. I don’t really know how it could be triggering because some of us really fucking hated puberty. I know lots of boys who really fucking hate puberty too. If I heard a trans woman say that her boy puberty was the worst thing ever, I wouldn’t think anything of it or find it triggering. That’s her experience and I’m not sure that someone’s experience can be triggering for me if I never went through it either.
There’s not any shared experience that defines a “woman” or a “man” completely. Both have their own unique rites of passage and a sort of commonality that binds those members who define themselves as one of the other. (I want to talk about identifying as non-binary separately, this is just for people who identify themselves as male or female.) Do all women get periods? Not necessarily since health issues, birth defects, and hormonal problems can interrupt the process. Do all women grow a “standard” size of breasts? Nope. Some barely grow and others grow way more than is comfortable. Are all men tall, muscular, have tons of facial and body hair? No, no, and no.
So why would a feminist want to exclude trans women? What is the motivation to leave out this wonderful group of women? Are there situations where it’s ok for AFAB people to separate themselves from AMAB people? I’m not really sure who has started this whole “women don’t want to see male genitalia in the locker room nonsense because honestly, I don’t look around the locker room at other people changing. It is highly unlikely that I would ever even notice anyone’s genitalia in a locker room unless they were walking around completely uncovered, or showering in one of those very open showers. I’m not sure who is busy scoping out women in the locker room. I’m attracted to women and that was never, ever something that crossed my mind to do in there. This weird fear is as asinine to me as trans women in public women’s restrooms. Come on, it is not dangerous in there for women if an actual trans woman is also in there at the same time.
“But men will dress up as women then and rape girls and vulnerable women in the women’s restroom.”
What??? Anyone acting creepy in the women’s restroom is likely to be stared down by a pack of women who won’t be shy about telling someone like that they don’t belong in there. How do I know that? Because I have been gawked at and questioned in the women’s restroom and I AM AFAB and not on any hormones and pre-surgery. And there are so many aggressive women who make me uncomfortable every time I go in there.
The women’s restroom isn’t some strange haven of happiness, either. It’s just a place with (hopefully) a bunch of stalls, sinks, and hopefully paper towels and not a high speed hand dryer to blow fecal matter around. Sometimes there’s a weird couch right before you get to stalls, but I rarely trust that it isn’t also covered in disgusting bacteria. Generally you might find some kids sitting on it waiting for their mom, or a breastfeeding woman.
But let’s dissect this for a moment…”men will dress up as women” Oooookay and? Trans women usually have their makeup on point, they are dressed very feminine, and they don’t look directly at anyone. They seem to be scared to be called out at times and just want to get into a stall and use the bathroom and GET OUT. Men dressing up as women to get access to women to rape is the problem here. Why don’t we punish rapists as harshly as punish drug dealers? Why do we put the victims of rape under a microscope instead of the perpetrator? And most of all, why is there any leniency for rapists because it will “ruin their lives” or “it’s only this one girl” they’ve raped. The message that this society continues to send is that rapists aren’t the problem, trans women who just want to live their lives are the problem. Just let them live their best lives.
Today I was reading along in one of my many social media groups and I found myself upset with something a trans woman posted. She was celebrating having her mammogram today. That’s not how AFAB women act. That’s as pleasant as a gynecologist appointment, having a tooth filled, or prepping for a colonoscopy. Is it an important part of being a boob-owner? Of course. And good on her for taking care of her physical wellbeing. But if complaining about AFAB puberty is TERFy, than what is celebrating something that equally frustrates a trans male called? What about the trans women that have celebrating being cat called in public? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen that and it makes me see red. Cat calling is terrifying for most women and the attention can be very uncomfortable. I find it so strange that trans women who would celebrate cat calling would also want to be in the same spaces with women who are terrified of cat calls.
I do understand that cat calling is a form of validation that you are seen as a “real woman” but at the same time, not understanding how scary it can feel to other women is part of the problem. I do know trans women who are very uncomfortable with that kind of attention as well, because they are afraid of getting attacked if these men figure them out.
There’s no “path to being a woman” that is easy to understand so that trans women can instantly fit in, just like there’s a ton of unspoken rules about the men’s bathroom and what urinal you can use in any given situation. So much of these unspoken understandings are indoctrinated into us in childhood and we just learn to behave in the way we are told.
Which is why all bathrooms need to be revamped into gender neutral, single stall bathrooms, like permanent port a potties, but with real plumbing.
Tomorrow I will write about how I wish there was no binary and how I think non-binary is the coolest thing ever, even though I don’t identify that way.