This post was supposed to go up ages ago—ages ago! And yet. There was illness. There was child-care. There were jobs. There was the pressing need to sleep. And more than anything, there were the hundreds and hundreds of wonderful comments, emails, and messages from people around the world supporting this statement.
The response to this statement has been amazing! Over 765 feminists and womanists, individuals and groups, have made it known that they will brook no transphobia in their feminism and womanism (though we want to note that womanism has not had such a disturbing history in that regard, as far as we know), and that contrary to claims that have been made repeatedly, transphobic feminists do not speak for more than a tiny minority of feminists. The response has been such that transphobic feminists had to sit up and take notice, and take notice they did, with a screed penned by Elizabeth Hungerford critiquing the statement. Since then, we have heard that there is curiosity about how we will respond to it.
The answer is that we’re not going to respond to it.
We’re not interested in a debate with transphobic feminists. We’re not interested in opening up a dialogue with them. Apart from the fact that it would be nothing more than a waste of our time and energy, this is neither the time nor the place for it. And here’s why:
1) As far as we, the originators of the statement and the moderators of this blog are concerned, nothing in that statement is up for debate. There is no debate to be had. We would no more debate somebody claiming that trans* people had no right to their identities or to have the legitimacy of those identities and their lives respected than we would debate somebody claiming that gay and lesbian sexual orientations are “unnatural.”
2) Transphobic feminists have not demonstrated that they represent (at least any longer) a sufficiently significant segment of feminism for debate with them to be necessary. Their statement was signed by 37 feminist thinkers and writers, some of whom have led the movement. But despite their attempt in “Forbidden Discourse” to arrogate to themselves political authenticity and the authority to speak for the movement by the invocation of their status as ‘60s and ‘70s activists, they do not have that authority. We don’t see their statements as relevant. They will, in the words of one signatory, eat the dust of history.
3) Transphobic feminists have spoken so vilely of trans* people, particularly of trans women, and so condescendingly of the cis women who support them, that we have no intention of engaging with anybody representing those views unless that person publicly disavows that sort of rhetoric and the people who use it. The one of us who is a cis woman will not engage with anybody who dismisses her as a “handmaiden of the patriarchy” or “suffering from Stockholm syndrome.” And we won’t sully this blog by repeating what they have said about trans women.
4) Finally, and most importantly: THIS STATEMENT IS NOT FOR THEM. It is not directed at them. We are not interested in their reactions to it. This statement is for us. It is for trans* people to assert their right to feminism and womanism, should they want to; it is for cis feminists to apologize for what feminists have done to trans* people in the name of the movement; it is for trans* and cis feminists to say that we disagree with transphobic feminists in the strongest possible terms, and that there is a welcome and a home for trans* people in this movement if they want it; it is for feminists who don’t wish to let the transphobes speak for us. Judging from the response to this statement, it looks like we reached our desired readers.
We really couldn’t possibly care less what transphobic feminists have to say about this statement.
All of us, cis and trans*, who want feminism to be trans-supportive can work individually wherever we are to help that happen, whether that involves raising children with an inclusive understanding of gender/sex, or making classrooms/departments supportive of trans* people, or blogging about the ways feminism can support trans* rights activism, or…fill in whatever you can do in your life.
But at least one of us was raised to believe that systemic problems need collective solutions. The question is, what’s next? What aspect of systemic transphobia—whether within feminism or the larger world–should be our priority? And for that, we want to hear from our desired readers. Where do you think we, cis and trans*, can do the most good/be the most effective? How can we take the fantastic solidarity this statement has evoked, and transmute it into a co-ordinated campaign?