I’m still reading Trans Gender Warriors by Leslie Feinberg. I’m working on a post about the roots of trans oppression, but it’s not ready yet. Tonight I’m sharing a quote that I thought was absolutely amazing. Check this out:
“We have not always been forced to pass, to go underground, in order to work and live. We have a right to live openly and proudly. When we are denied those rights, we are the ones who suffer that oppression. But when our lives are suppressed, everyone is denied an understanding of the rich diversity of sex and gender expression and experience that exist in human society.
I have lived as a man because I could not survive openly as a transgendered person. Yes, I am oppressed in this society, but I am not merely a product of oppression. That is a phrase that renders all our trans identities meaningless. Passing means having to hide your identity in fear, in order to live. Being forced to pass is a recent historical development.
It is passing that is a product of oppression.” (p88–89).
This is amazing because this is exactly what I think. It’s okay to be a masculine woman or a feminine man, but people don’t think it’s okay, because they’re bigots. So masculine women have to pretend to be literally male and feminine men have to pretend to be literally female so they will be safe from the bigots who think their gender has to align with their sex. Passing means making people think you literally are the sex that corresponds with your gender expression. Not passing means that people know your sex as well as your gender. If it was okay for anyone to present how they want, then there would be no need to pass. Interestingly, radical feminists do think that anyone should be able to present how they want. The bigots are those who maintain that everyone who is feminine is literally female and everyone who is masculine is literally male. Strangely enough, modern trans activists are promoting this bigoted position toward their own community. I keep waiting for them to notice that they are transphobic, but so far, no luck.
I keep saying that Leslie Feinberg only lived “as a man” because she couldn’t live as a masculine woman. The reasons she couldn’t live as a masculine woman are called sexism and homophobia. Here it is right in her own book: being forced to pass as something you are not is a product of oppression. How refreshing, and surprising, to hear this from a trans activist!
If trans people weren’t discriminated against, then they wouldn’t have to pretend to be literally the opposite sex in order to live their lives. They’d be able to accept both their sex and their gender expression and everyone else would accept it too. There would be no rules that only certain gender expressions go with certain bodies. So, along the path to trans liberation, we need to be honest about sex and gender, rather than trying to hide one or the other. It’s okay to admit that transwomen are biologically male and that transmen are biologically female. No harm done in speaking the truth. Humans come in all types, some of us don’t look the way men or women usually look, and that’s okay! It doesn’t need to be hidden. It’s not bigoted to know who people are and accept them as is.
Also: she talks about not being a product of oppression in the middle paragraph. What she means by that is that she was not “passing as a man” in order to escape women’s oppression, as some people suggested. She was born unusually masculine for a girl, and she didn’t manufacture this deliberately as a strategy to escape women’s oppression. Just in case anybody’s wondering about that paragraph.
Sometimes I very much agree with Feinberg on something, but then other times we disagree. Following this amazing quote she talked about how we can’t define ‘woman’ in any way because defining it would leave people out. *sigh* You can’t win ’em all.