I’m still catching up, some, from the time away for the cruise, and then Thanksgiving. I spotted an article earlier this week from Forward.com author Elisheva Sokolic, wherein she talks about a transgender woman being kicked out of a Facebook group for Jewish women. For speaking up, she herself was booted from the group, and told that to get back in, she must delete the article.
Now, I’m not Jewish, so that angle is kind of lost on me–but booting out a transwoman from women’s spaces is all-too-common occurrence, one that most any transwoman you know could give you personal examples of. I myself have been asked to leave women’s clothing stores, on more than one occasion, and in some other traditionally-women’s spaces, have been confronted and accused of being a man. That doesn’t happen often, but often enough that…well, an example:
While my gal-pal from work and I were on our cruise last week, we saw on the schedule “Ladies’ Mini-Makeover and Spa” events. This happened on both of the two at-sea days on the cruise, and it is actually something I’d have loved to go to. My cruising partner, not being a very girly girl generally, said she’d kind of like to go, but would not go alone–ergo, if I went, she would.
For most cisgender women, there is where the calculation probably ends. Do we have time? Sure. Are we doing something else? Nope. All righty, let’s go!
But for me, there is a whole bunch more calculus involved. If they think I’m a guy, they’ll throw me out, so should I take my passport with me to prove it? And even if they don’t, depending on what particular pampering is going on, will I be getting the stink-eye from the cisgender women?
In the end, my discomfort with what other women might say or do won out–we didn’t go, and missed an opportunity that could have been a lot of fun. So, you see, it doesn’t take actively throwing a transwoman out of women’s-only spaces, for transwomen to get thrown out of women’s-only spaces. Sometimes, it’s been made uncomfortable enough that we throw ourselves out.
“But you’re not a real woman,” I’ve heard more than once. And on more than one occasion, from someone whom I thought to be a friend and ally. Listen up: if that’s something you’d say to or about me, we’re not friends, period, and you’re not an ally, at all. Ask around, look at my passport or driver’s license or birth certificate if you think you have to–you don’t, but I’ll be nice and show you if you ask nicely–but I’m as real a woman as I need to be. There isn’t just one way to do womanhood. We all know some seriously-girly girls, and some who are less so, women who ride motorcycles and drive semi-trucks or love glam and makeup and frilly things–heck, some of those contrasts can be in the same woman, and they aren’t judged to be less of a woman–but I am.
So think about the times you’ve been in “women’s-only” or “men’s-only” spaces. Are they actively inclusive of transgender people? If not, what lame excuse do they have for it? Do you operate such a space, or an event? Do you reach out to transpeople? You should. Make sure we know it won’t be a problem for us to be there. Like so:
Very early in my transition, I joined an LBT Women’s Meetup group near where I was living. The next event was a movie night at one member’s condo. Because of limited space, there were limited spots, so after saying I’d like to go, I messaged the group leadership,and point-blank asked if an early-transition transwoman was going to be welcome. The leader told me that absolutely I was welcome, so I felt safe going to that, and quite a few events after that, before I moved out of the area.
Be active about your acceptance. It matters, a lot.