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Feminist Event - follow-up

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Last night the feminist group I belong to had a discussion about trans issues in the feminist movement - I was the organizer/moderator of the event.  The event was titled "Are Trans Women Real Women?" (the title was intentionally provocative with an obvious "YES" answer).

I was pretty nervous going in - public speaking isn't really my thing, or at least hadn't been - the group organizer asked me, before anyone else was there, if I was nervous - I said "Yes." But I also said that it would pass as soon as I started talking. I realized later what a change that was - in the past I would have been nervous until it was over, not just until I started talking. But that is what happened, my anxiety peaked right as she introduced me, and then passed immediately. The rest of the way was pretty easy going. We played 4 short videos, the first was from a TERF (just so that they're perspective was shown) and then 3 trans people (the video links are below - the 2nd one is so incredibly moving, I still can't watch it without crying). They we had people pair off to discuss the question "What is a woman?"  Then we came back together as a group and talked for about an hour.

So that put me in an interesting place - I was the only trans person present, and I was the moderator. So early on in particular I tried to hang back and let other people talk, even when I had a clear answer to a question or point. That worked nicely, there was a lot of value in letting the group work through issues that they hadn't before. The question proved particularly good as it was one that most people hadn't thought about before ("What is a woman?"). One person acknowledged that she probably had always gone through life without a definition but with a "I know it when I see it" belief.

It's a really good group, we always have good discussions, and I think some good came of this, particularly in terms of people having a better understanding of trans issues and cisgender privilege. They even came to recognize that by even having to have this discussion suggests that the feminist movement is largely a cisgender movement (in addition to being a white movement).

On a personal note, I'm thrilled at having done this. It's one more thing that I would never have thought about doing pre-transition, and now not only did I do it, but I want to do more of it.

xoxo

Chrissy

https://youtu.be/E0v_idyvjco (girl with cards)

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Posted

Excellent, Chrissy! Good for you on all of it. I hope you feel terrific about yourself. Also, I hope that you become closer friends with the women in your group.  I watched the videos, thanks very much for those, too. Here's some thoughts:

Jenni Murray: She wasn't nearly as "TERF-y" as I expected. I tend to agree with her considerations about the words, such as "chest cancer" instead of breast cancer. She sounded reasonable but also uninformed. Sure, the vicar's response to her question was odd but I suppose she's still processing so much about what to do for her parishioners, how to present herself authentically. In fairness, the vicar was raised as a male so perhaps isn't as cognizant as he probably should be about women's positions and rights. I will say I'm disappointed to hear that Jenni's opinions are based on such a small sample size.

Girl with cards: She is a sweetheart isn't she? I loved watching her story. She's on the right track and all I can say is good for her. I'm envious!

Lee Mokobe: wonderful!

Janet Mock: she's so beautiful and articulate. I read her book too and loved it. Her video was a perfect one for your meeting. Her authenticity is so undeniable. She's a woman, simple as that. 

I'm so happy for you Chrissy!

Emma

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Emma,

I have to say I disagree in part about Jenni Murray. I don't disagree about her specific point about the language, but she was being a little deceptive with what she was doing. The point started with talking about the BMA using "pregnant people" instead of "pregnant women," and she made it sound like she was being expected to refer to herself that way, but that simply wasn't the case. The BMA was trying to find language that would cover everyone they were working with, they were mandating that all pregnant people be referred to that way. So at best her point was simply stupid, at worst is demagogic in that she probably very well knew what she was doing right there.

I agree as far as the vicar, she might very well have been in an early stage of transition in which - some/many - of us do focus a lot on clothing and make-up. Her thoughts on women's place in the church were really unrelated to her own gender identity - which is true of anyone, the fact that I'm a woman doesn't mean that I now understand every issue relevant to women.

A bigger take-away for me, in watching the Jenni Murray video and then immediately the little girl (Tuesday was the first time I actually watched them back-to-back) was thinking about how happy the girl is now and how JM would want to take that away from her. Beyond any specific thing she said that makes her overall commentary very cruel.

xoxo

Chrissy

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Hi Chrissy, good points, thank you. I must admit I’ve also considered: am I a woman or a trans woman? Some months ago I told a friend that I’m a trans woman. But then, what is a trans woman? For me it’s someone who was always a female in her heart but was raised as male. Recently though in thinking about this some more I decided that indeed I am a woman, a special kind of woman, a trans woman. 

That may sound confusing to some, it is a bit for me! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Emma

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I've definitely moved around on that one - from being fine with transgender woman, to trying to ignore the transgender part - where I am now is that I am a woman, and I am transgender. I personally don't want to have the transgender or trans put in front of the woman. To me I think it suggests some "other" type of woman in a way that other modifiers don't do (like talking about someone as "white woman" or a "black woman" is never thought of as suggesting that they aren't women, just a particular intersection - putting "trans" in front feels like it suggests that we are somehow less than a woman - and people like Jenni Murray reinforce that feeling).

I think that's reinforced by the idea that - as opposed to "white woman" or "black woman," you don't hear people talking about being a "cisgender woman" (I mean you do hear the term, but few people would just randomly say it).

I was actually going to use that very point in response to her comments too - the fact that I don't want to be referred to as a "transgender woman" doesn't mean that I'll object to an organization using that term where it's appropriate - I might ask them not to refer to me that way, but I understand that it is an accepted term.

One of the better responses in our discussion to JM's complaint about language - and this applies to other (usually conservative) people who complain about new terms, is that "that's what language does! It evolves!" Which is so very true, language changes and adapts to new situations or new ways of thinking, and that's a very good thing, even if it gets a little confusing sometimes :-)

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Hi Chrissy and Emma,

First of all, kudos to Chrissy for her role as organizer/moderator of such an important topic. I enjoyed your discussion although I was at a disadvantage of not having seen the videos. What it means to be a woman is probably at the heart of feminism and being trans. In my way of thinking, a woman is a woman, no matter the way she got that way. And yes, as a former English teacher, language does evolve or we'd still be speaking old English or something even less understandable to us moderns.

This whole line of thinking goes along with the article I just read about Hiroshi Ishiguro who is making autonomous human-like robots. His background is in art, and he considers himself an artist who creates and represents what he observes and feels--in this case, what makes a human, a human.  His robots are getting so close to acting and responding like people. This is deep and heavy stuff to be sure. But what is the essence of a woman, or a man, or a human being for that matter? For now, I have to say, we are who we are, and leave it at that.

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You both raise excellent points, thank you. As I ponder this more I suspect that as I’m still so early in my transition that I’m a little shy about unequivocally believing and stating that I am a woman. All I can say is I’m Working On It! 

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Feel transwomen, both pre-op and post-op, pre-HRT and post-HRT, are every bit a woman as I am, a cisgender woman. It's all about what's between the ears!

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