Bypassing Authority (and trolls); trans woman inclusion and accountabilty

August 14, 2008

This is tangentially in response to this shit about Michfest but it could be in response to just about any iteration of this cis feminist conversation, so I’m not really going to link to more. You get the point. I’m thinking more about how the way Michfest’s not-policy is being discussed currently is counterproductive–LV & co have given up in all but name, and the folx defending it are little more than trolls. (if there was a (I’m-not-a-)troll bingo card, I’m sure Corey would send more than one person to bingo) While I like how the OP repositions it from controversy to discrimination in name, I feel like it’s not actually being treated that way any discussions I’ve seen, including this one. If it’s discrimination, shouldn’t our efforts be more focused on helping / encouraging / supporting the women who break that line, who enter when LV doesn’t want us/them to but isn’t going to stop us/them?

I guess what I mean is–there comes a point when the fact that there are folx who defend discrimination need not hold us back from living our lives. I feel like there’s a level of this-has-to-be-fought-until-the-jerks-agree, which in the case of Michfest is completely untrue. The battle to get in the door is won. Camp Trans sent, eight trans women that I can think of to the land this year, entirely without incident. Some Festies even *donated money,* *unasked* so that trans women could attend. A CT/Fest cooperation plans to create a shared workshop space next year. So really, it just doesn’t matter.

…and you don’t do your best educating work talking to trolls. See how much energy Corey took up? It’s dumb, it’s pointless. Say ‘That’s not ok, you’re out of touch with reality, educate yourself and come back later when you have half a clue what trans folx’s lives are actually like.’ There are folx you can educate, and you can work on creating accountability in the spaces you control. And, frankly, even if you aren’t in control of a shelter/rape crisis center/etc, you can affect the culture, provide services to trans women and other trans folx, and create accountability there without being in charge. Why are we acting on this as if the people in charge are actually the people in charge–a notion that’s deeply classist anyways? If we’re acting on this official-change level, then 1)the actual lives of trans women aren’t being improved, [cis] feminism’s image/karma is being improved and our lives incidentally, and 2)we’re waiting for the people statistically most likely to want to exclude to change (i.e. middle-class, middle-aged, white, vanilla, radfem womyn) before we take our place. Support trans women entering those spaces, support folks providing services they’re “not supposed to”. Make pressure about accepting trans staff and volunteers–something the folx in charge can actually control… Support civil disobedience when staffers are asked to kick a trans person out or if a trans person is asked to leave. create response teams, create groups of folx to advocate for trans women et al when we try to access services, create support buffers for all these times and in particular if we choose to access spaces involving “unavoidable public nudity” (one of the places the “inclusive” ENDA says it’s ok to discriminate against us)…

Promote our writing, our music, our workshops; fund our activism; educate shelter staffers, boards, volunteers; educate or become doctors, therapists, psychiatrists, social workers, clerks at public institutions such as courts, DMV’s, etc; do prison and/or police accountabilty work, check in with the trans women who access spaces you do and see what they (or, in particular, their friends that don’t access them) need. Write about the ways that trans misogyny reinforces misogynistic-not-otherwise-specified gender roles–and in particular, how it enforces them; how transphobia justifies rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, how the trans misogynistic appropriation of the term woman-born-woman has erased an important concept from the feminist lexicon, and similarly the term woman-identified-woman… write about how explicitly trans misogynistic trolls serve to eliminate accountability for more subtle transphobia, and create that accountability. Do outreach to trans women’s communities for activism you’re doing and spaces you’re creating–not just attending but also organizing and planning. Consider how and if your work improves the lives of trans folx and trans women in particular (trans women of color experiencing homelessness in particular)–and how to make it do that better. Draw the pretty-fucking-obvious connections between the radfem policing of trans bodies, makeup/heels/femininity, and BDSM/sex. etc etc.

And, you know, blog about our murders and shit. But, really, don’t make us another pawn in the 2nd wave / 3rd wave wars, erasing our own perspectives; don’t make us tokens.


17 Responses to “Bypassing Authority (and trolls); trans woman inclusion and accountabilty”

  1. Mara Williams said

    Just wanted to say I really enjoyed meeting you at the Femme Conference this weekend. I didn’t get your contact info, but feel free to contact me by email or (evil) facebook.


  2. I wasn’t commenting for Corey’s benefit. Part of it was just venting frustration, and part of it was because of the number of times someone’s talked to me about finding all kinds of depressing shit going unchallenged when surfing the blog trans wars.

    And if I hadn’t participated in that conversation on Feministing, I wouldn’t have written the posts about domestic violence and appropriating survivors’ voices, or the post you linked today about women-only spaces, which I feel added a lot more than engaging Corey could have taken away.

    Of course, I realize you’re talking to cis people here, I was just saying.

  3. Also, the number of times I surfed the trans blog wars before I started Questioning Transphobia and found all kinds of depressing shit going unchallenged.

    Also, I do think my tolerance for cis privileged bullshit is higher than it should be.

  4. Cedar said

    I read these comments early in the day but didn’t have access to a non-public computer to respond from, which had the benefit of giving me something to gnaw on at work.

    I feel like the problem with cissexual feminists engaging with trolls such as Corey, Rich, Feminazi, Heart, etc. is that it says to transsexual women: these people are wrong, but valid. They’re wrong, but we’ll let them in our spaces, even though they are effectively threatening your existence. …Even if these folks argue good shit, the fact is that almost every trans woman positive discussion I can think of has been attacked by cissexualist feminists–and the more empowering to trans women, the more viciously it’s attacked.

    What it does is say: feminism is not a safer space for you. We’ll let you in the door, and if someone attacks you we’ll back you up, but no matter how many times someone has attacked you or people like you we won’t kick them out, or prevent them from coming back in that door. It creates an atmosphere where we’re always in battle mode, where we worry that our place in feminism has to be staunchly guarded–perhaps correctly. So obviously we fight back, we parry and riposte and other violent imagery that isn’t particularly helpful–but cis feminists have the power to stop that. And that’s part of what keeps cis feminists in control of these spaces–because they’re too fucking scary for a lot of us to deal with, and because it’s hard to internalize that we could really have a feminist space free of that bullshit if we only made it a bottom line, a non-negotiable non-issue.

    One thing Julia Serano mentioned at the Femme Conference was that these people have heard it before. It’s not just a matter of educating them one more time, just telling them the right words–they don’t want to change and they ain’t gonna. This goes for us as well, but it’s particularly aimed at non- trans women (i.e. people who aren’t trans women), from whom it implies a certain bit of internalized dominance (in the *I* know how to end trans misogyny! department) and can frequently erase the contributions/voices/words of trans woman feminists who’ve already said it and aren’t getting credited.

    I dunno, there have been resources I really fucking needed that I didn’t access, not because I thought I’d be turned down but because I thought someone there, not an authority, would fuck with me and not be held accountable/it wouldn’t be prevented from continuing. I know I would take a more active role in feminism if it weren’t going to stress me out so much, and I suspect the same is true of other folks.

    So, I’m not criticizing you for arguing with Corey, so much as I’m criticizing the culture that implies you have to… the culture that makes it all about them.

    It seems to me like you’d’ve found things to write about even if that hadn’t happened on Feministing, possibly with the same inspiration, too. Cis allies don’t exactly control the whole internet.

    I dunno, lastly it feels to me like these are people picking a fight. They wouldn’t do this if they didn’t think they could get a rise out of us, they wouldn’t do it if they didn’t know they could hurt us, make us feel vulnerable, and thus further the lack of accountability to trans women of cis feminism & female-assigned-at-birth feminism. They want attention (dirtywhiteboi clearly has *way* too much time on her hands), and then we give it to them, and then they do it some more. oops. Again, it’s cis feminists’ responsibility to make their spaces places where this doesn’t happen, not our responsibility to rebut or not rebut their “arguments”.

  5. Yes, I agree with you… again. I really do feel the same way – I wasn’t justifying that Corey was allowed to run rampant all over that thread, just that my participation led to something that I think I really needed to write about. And there’s other stuff the argument clarified for me that I want to deal with. I don’t consider that this made the thread another fucking opportunity for personal growth or that I think the thread should have happened – just that my own participation was of value to me. And no, I don’t think cis allies control the internet (and what a nightmare that’d be).

    I’ve just sort of fallen into accepting that any space that isn’t trans-only space isn’t a safe space. And that feminists allow the same sort of racist and ableist crap to run rampant (like I linked in my transphobia post). Like there’s no interest at all in ensuring that anyone who isn’t white, middle-class, and cissexual feel comfortable speaking in any of those spaces, because same arguments start up time after time.

    I agree that these people won’t be educated, that they’re little better than trolls and they think it’s okay to assign an entire category of people to “subhuman.” Julia’s right that they have heard the arguments before and don’t give a damn.

    Also, it’s frustrating to see blogs with a technorati authority of 0-5 with a blatantly transphobic post get loads of attention for refutation rather than, say, anyone posting about how Amancio Corrales’ and Alexis King’s murderers both got off with “voluntary manslaughter.”

    Not that I measure worth by technorati, but nobody’s reading these people until someone gives them attention. dirtywhiteboi is definitely in that category.

  6. […] with it, and they want to make sure it stays that way. 2)the editors of the blog that I linked to in bypassing authority and trolls edited a friend of mine’s essay in their upcoming anthology to prevent her from calling out […]

  7. […] 5, 2008 Part I; Part II; Lisa Harney’s response/continuance, and ! a wonderful example of what we were […]

  8. “and you don’t do your best educating work talking to trolls. See how much energy Corey took up? It’s dumb, it’s pointless. Say ‘That’s not ok, you’re out of touch with reality, educate yourself and come back later when you have half a clue what trans folx’s lives are actually like.’”


    mind you, I spend more energy than I should just mocking the fuckers, but it does provide a temporary release, and I do differentiate thusly between “person who is talking in a way in which one can reasonably attempt to engage” and “person who has not merited anything more substantial than a loud raspberry.”

    occasionally it is worth fisking this kind of troll for the benefit of the peanut gallery, if one suspects they -might- be taken seriously by others. still, you’re not talking -to- them, exactly. i mean, you write as though hope springeth eternal, and every once in a blue moon you might be pleasantly surprised, but…

    mostly though when it gets to that point, it’s strictly about providing lulz and vindication for one’s pals.

  9. ’ Why are we acting on this as if the people in charge are actually the people in charge–a notion that’s deeply classist anyways?”

    huh. -ponders.-

    well–different strategies for different circumstances, I suppose; but I read this as “why internalize the idea that the people who are in charge are ENTITLED to be in charge, that this can never change, etc. etc.” Which is a subtle and tricky one, yes.

  10. The Femme Conference sounded great, btw…

  11. gallinggalla said

    I just was pointed to your blog a few days ago, Cedar, and I want to thank you for this post (and I’m catching up on parts 2 and 3).

    Now I understand what my frustration with so-called “accepting” feminist spaces is about, that they allow these people to just run rampant and just suck energy from everyone, but most especially trans / ppl of color / whatever other group who’s right to exist is being put up for debate.

    There are cis feminists who don’t permit this energy suck to happen, and who boot the trolls out (* GG waves at belledame *), and they are the ones that are on my blog reader, not Feministe.

    Slightly off topic … I had the idea that the Femme Conference was not particularly welcoming of trans folk; maybe I’m wrong about that?

  12. Cedar said


    2005, queering femininity in Seattle, run by Aden, the guy who does Gender Odyssey. Tobi and I were both there, we were the only two trans female spectrum folks who were essentially around for the whole bit, and we were intensely tokenized. Trans meant trans guy, there was a bunch of transphobia that had to be called out and I was so early in transition that I’m sure there was lots more.

    BUT the bigger story is that there was a huge blowup about racism, misogyny, appropriation, and manipulation/deceit on Aden’s part, which I never really got the whole story on. There was an entire alternate conference organized in protest, but I was totally out of the loop, didn’t know Seattle, and so didn’t go.

    So a new group of people decided to organize a femme conference in San Fransisco in 2006. I suspect in was in part in reaction to this whole mess, because they were/are a high percentage fat and WOC…and all cissexual. Julia Serano and Shawna Virago went, felt like the only trans women there, and were intensely tokenized, trans meant trans guy, etc. Only then Serano writes WG, and also wrote about her experience there.

    She was asked to keynote. And she did. And she was awesome.

    In response to the absolute mess of Philly Trans Health, I sent them a late request to hold a workshop, which got lost in a technical screwup, but somebody found my livejournal noticed a post I made on the subject, and emailed me asking me if I’d like to do the workshop. I did, ~40 people attended, it was seriously awesome. Mira did a workshop too.

    They weren’t perfect, nor were the attendees, but frankly I felt much more welcomed, included, and empowered than I do in most trans spaces, let alone spaces organized by cis folks. I had an amazing experience about that that I’ve LJ’d and may post about here later; it’s pretty personal and I’m still figuring that out.

  13. Cedar said

    (ps, the ’06 and ’08 cons were mostly the same people, and there was no ’07 one. Also they were committed to making it financially accessible, which they did (comparatively, anyways).

  14. Cedar said

    I just was pointed to your blog a few days ago, Cedar, and I want to thank you for this post (and I’m catching up on parts 2 and 3).

    🙂 you’re welcome!

    EVERYONE was just pointed here a couple days ago. Seriously my stats chart looks like a parabola.

  15. gallinggalla said

    In response to the absolute mess of Philly Trans Health

    omfg, don’t get me started on PTHC. I went there in ’06 and ’07 (I’m a philly native), was rather naïve about the whole thing (esp ’06, I had just started physical transition then), and boy did that open my eyes…here at a *trans conference*, trans = trans man, and trans-feminine spectrum folks were sidelined.

    When I blogged about why I would not be attending the ’08 THC, the organizers did a dogpile on me, “how dare you criticize us, we put a lot of work into this, we have always reached out to trans women, if you want to change it, why don’t you join the planning committee” blah blah… and as I am typing this, your “so shut up” spoken-word piece comes to mind.

    Also, the things that you and Lisa mentioned about Koyama’s writing – that stuff flew right under my radar when I was actively reading her stuff, but looking back, she did say some not-cool things, and that bizness she wrote r.e. “male privilege” is rather hurtful.

    I thought, though, that she identified as intersex and trans?

    Finally, a bit o/t, but are you planning to be at CT ’09? That might be the kick in the ass it takes to get me out there.

  16. gallinggalla said

    Forgot to mention, i’ve since taken my blog down.

  17. Cedar said

    I am organizing CT ’09 (not like I’m the only one, but still). So, yes, I’ll be there.

    Would you email me with what you said re: PTHC ’08? I know that Anne Tagonist didn’t go either, which was sad because I’d’ve loved to meet her (I did end up meeting Smax).

    I got into an argument with an organizer, but apparently Heather cussed one of them out. She’s on the board for ’09, and I think that a bunch of us should go about reclaiming that space. Apart from CT, it’s the space with the highest percentage feminist trans female spectrum folks and allied folks–we can make it another space to recharge our batteries, or at least to have What’s Next conversations not just stew, like CT is now…

    I’m having a hard time getting a good read on Emi’s identity, and I think she’s perfectly happy about that. I think that she’s clearly coming at things from a place of having a lot of non- trans woman privilege, but whether she has some business claiming a trans female spectrum identity is beyond my ability to judge (nor would I feel completely comfortable having that ability)

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