Transmasculine and (trans) misogyny

September 11, 2008

I don’t have time to debunk this post other than to say “transmasculine” is not a way to be inclusive, it’s a way to exclude (see the very first comment, among other things), it’s ungendering and binaristic, and I fucking hate how trans misogynistic & femmephobic butches/genderqueers/trans men use it as a way to naturalize their privilege within the queer community, to pretend to be gender radical/subversive while upholding misogyny, the gender binary, and subversivism, and to naturalize the ejection of trans women from [cis] women’s space.

Also? Cissexual femmes are trans and their “transitions” count,* but crowdaggers and transsexual butches/genderqueers aren’t transmasculine (clearly their transitions don’t count) and we need to define terminology to keep them out of our space? Clearly when I wear a men’s dress shirt and vest and grow out some of my facial hair I’m just not being trans, and definitely not being oppressed for my masculinity? Fuck you.

*Clearly, the totally glib way of describing femme as a trans identity that’s practiced in Female to Femme is appropriative and just fucking bullshit, but I think that there are meaningful and legitimate ways in which certain kinds of femme and certain femmes could be described as transgender independent of transsexuality/cissexuality (I count myself in there, for reasons I’ll describe later).

22 Responses to “Transmasculine and (trans) misogyny”

  1. i realize this is not a complete argument (as you said you didn’t have time to do so), so please forgive me if i mistake you, but i’d like to respond to what you have said.

    “transmasculine” is a label, and like all labels is both inclusive and exclusive. it’s a necessity of language that certain things be excluded in descriptions; without that we would not be able to communicate the meaning of anything. as such, i find it hard to believe that there is anything inherently negative about a label being exclusive. it can, of course, be used in a negative way, but i think the blame for that falls on the individual, not on the concept or on just anyone who uses it.

  2. Cedar said

    Yes, but who does it exclude, and why?

    So long as it doesn’t include us, the label is inherently ungendering to masculine trans people who weren’t assigned female; it’s just about the same as defining “woman” to mean “cissexual woman”.

    Basically, a label is fucked up if you’d think someone qualifies so long as they pass as non-transsexual.

    The second question is why said label exists–it’s almost exclusively used to define exclusive trans space. It’s a justification for the denial of resources to trans women and to queerly gendered people who aren’t queerly gendered “right”. In fact, trans male/trans masculine/ftm spectrum space is, on the whole, illegitimate–not as frequently as cis women’s space is, but generally it’s about keeping out a group you oppress in order to not be held accountable to them, which is the same as trans-woman-ejecting [cis] women’s space.

    The oppressiveness of this word is organizational/institutional, not individual.

  3. shiva said

    Could i ask why you think “trans male/trans masculine/ftm spectrum space” is illegitimate? Do you think trans female/trans feminine/mtf space is similarly illegitimate?

    (I’m trying to establish my own position, rather than attack yours, here…)

  4. Cedar said

    No prob.

    The answers are: 1)it’s only sometimes illegitimate, though that’s increasingly much; and 2)there basically isn’t any.

    I’m serious about #2–take a look at trans spaces, at women’s spaces, at queer spaces–there’s a trans woman caucus at CT, and other than that… Why is that? It’s not because we’re not oppressed, that’s for sure. The only real place I’ve seen trans female spectrum only space is in youth work, and then it’s generally TWOC only (which I approve of, incidentally).

    I’ll write about it in another post, but basically, if you’re excluding people, you’d better have a good reason, exclude tightly based on that reason, and that reason has to be central to the purpose of the space–and when you’re excluding a group you have privilege over (as both trans male spectrum folks and cis women do over trans female spectrum folks and trans women (it’s pretty simple in the latter category, the former is complicated). Essentially all cis woman only space fails this test, and I think most trans man / trans male spectrum only space fails it too.

    (example from Philly Trans Health–“The Honeymoon is Over”, a space for post transition trans folks to talk about the stress of transphobia in their daily lives. Trans men only. WTF? How, other than avoiding accountability / having to see and deal with people they don’t respect, do they benefit? What about this space makes that important–and it’s not stated.)

    There’s also the matter of division of resources–spaces such as the one above are resources, they help the people who access them, they’re there for a reason. Why are we splitting our resources when we have more when we share–there are points when it’s necessary, but… and excluding trans women and visibly-GNC/femme trans men, who are more vulnerable and have fewer resources… is busted.

  5. Basically, a label is fucked up if you’d think someone qualifies so long as they pass as non-transsexual.
    but, “pass as non-transsexual” is basically a label in itself. labels are just descriptors. people (and, as you said, orgs/institutions) use them in fucked up ways.

    and my experience with the term “transmasculine” has been one of intellectual discussions, not of exclusivity, so clearly i have a different viewpoint.

    as a disclaimer to my non-response to a lot of what you said, i simply have almost no personal experience with “____-only” spaces (other than the broad, culturally instituted ones such as restrooms, and youth-only youth programs, which i think are generally empowering rather than negatively exclusive spaces). i’ve never even been in a queer-only space – the community where i live is too small for all that nonsense.

  6. Daisy said

    First of all, hi there, I’m Daisy and I really, really enjoy your blog.

    Secondly, I think Sinclair at Sugarbutch really owes you a response here — I hope you get one, if you haven’t already.

    Thirdly, I think I’m confused about the extent of your complaints here. If the transmasculine label is used to access privilege at the expense of folks on the transfeminine spectrum — and I totally believe you that it is — that’s unacceptable and unjust. But I feel like there is a legitimate space for the existence of the label, and of transmasculine space — as a way to bring together trans men, butch women, and others for dialogue. (I completely agree that it loses legitimacy once it gets used to exclude trans women in unfair ways: there’s no reason butch or otherwise masculine trans women shouldn’t be just as much a part of that space as masculine cis women.)

    Does that make sense? I definitely might be missing some stuff here — I’m just trying to sort out my own thoughts, and make sure I understand you.

  7. Cedar said

    but, “pass as non-transsexual” is basically a label in itself. labels are just descriptors. people (and, as you said, orgs/institutions) use them in fucked up ways.

    I disagree. What about “bio” or “real” or “normal” to mean cis?

    And you know what I meant. The point is that if “transmasculine” is trying to describe a particular oppression, it excludes people who suffer that oppression–because of their trans misogyny/transphobia/unwillingness to believe I exist.

  8. drakyn said

    I never really got into the habit of using transmasculine or transfeminine because I was never sure I fit into either. I’m more “glam geek” than masculine, feminine, or androgynous. So I just use mtf-spectrum and ftm-spectrum most of the time. And generally when I do use transmasculine I include butches no matter if they are on the mtf- or ftm-spectrum.
    But I am aware that other people do exclude mtf-spectrum folks from the label; should I try to make it more obvious in the future, when I use that label, that I am not excluding?

    And I do love how in many feminist and/or radical spaces, masculinity (and/or androgyny) is considered more radical/feminist/valid/natural/etc than femininity.

  9. What about “bio” or “real” or “normal” to mean cis?
    right, i shouldn’t have made such a blanket statement – i do think what i said is true of the term we’re discussing, but as you note, it isn’t always.

    clearly, i didn’t know what you meant (that’s another thing about labels – they tend to mean different things to different people). i never understood “transmasculine” to be trying to describe an oppression; i was given to understand it as simply a certain subset of gender (and the reason i like the term is that i’ve found it awfully nice to have as many options as possible when discussing gender). but, again, i’m inclined to think these interpretations arise from the difference between intellectual and experiential use.

  10. shiva said

    Here in the UK, there seem to be a lot of groups for trans women (or trans-women-and-female-identified-intersex-people), and not many for trans men. Some of those groups that i have anecdotal knowledge of seem to make it clear that they would not welcome anyone not female-identified (which would be generally defined more in a “brain sex” sense than in a “gender presentation”) sense, whereas others seem simply not to have had any trans men interested in joining them, probably largely because their discourse and social activity revolves around “female” issues (which is probably one of those chicken and egg things).

    In general, trans women seem to be “visible” and “organised” in the UK, whereas trans men seem to be… not even recognised as existing, most of the time. (Although, of course, as Lisa pointed out recently, “more visible” does not equal “less oppressed”… and i think there’s probably a strong argument that part of the reason for that disparity in visibility is that passing and stealth is generally easier for trans men than for trans women, which gives trans men access to male privilege). I’m not sure i would want to argue that either group is more/less privileged/oppressed than the other (that feels a bit Oppression Olympics-y to me)…

    Your argument makes sense, but i think i share Daisy’s point of view as well. Things may of course be very different between US and UK…

  11. Cedar said

    Daisy,
    🙂 Thanks!

    Nope, I haven’t yet gotten a response. Thanks again, tho.

    I think the question is, what alliances are being drawn, and why–who is being left out of those alliances? What potential alliances are being erased and precluded? What dialogue isn’t happening because these alliances are constructed in (unnecessary) opposition to other alliances, where social spaces almost uniformly run within these lines and thus prevent crossover and accountability.

    (I completely agree that it loses legitimacy once it gets used to exclude trans women in unfair ways: there’s no reason butch or otherwise masculine trans women shouldn’t be just as much a part of that space as masculine cis women.)

    I think that with that part taken into account and fixed, it’s fine, except that 1)the word itself has become polluted and 2)the purpose of the space makes __-only necessary, rather than __-centric (which I feel like can happen at a lower standard of ‘necessity’, though can still be problematic, as it would be without what you say here.

    I feel like we’re pretty much in agreement, tho. I should write a post about __-only space as resources, not as who-is-really-___, not as well-___-is-a-distinct-group.

  12. Cedar said

    right, i shouldn’t have made such a blanket statement – i do think what i said is true of the term we’re discussing, but as you note, it isn’t always.

    What I’m saying is that excluding trans butch women from a category that includes cis butch women is transphobic and says trans women aren’t really women, and that we aren’t treated as masculine women, and that we don’t exist. What part of this can’t you understand?

  13. I got the impression from the two posts at Sugarbutch that trans women were explicitly excluded from “transmasculine” as well as from being femme. The impression I got from that appears to define Butch/Femme as being something that trans women aren’t really seen as being a valid part of.

    The language used in Female to Femme also seems to exclude trans women by taking the terminology (transition, “female to femme”) used by trans people and casting it in contrast to trans people.

  14. Cedar said

    @Shiva:

    I’ve heard that trans men aren’t so organized there from one other person, and though it’s hard for me to really believe (like, is that true in large cities, too, or just the suburbs? ‘Coz Chicago totally has this trans middle aged white suburban women / young white trans men in trendy neighborhoods in the city / trans young women of color wherever they can afford to live or do sex work thing going on.) I’ll suspend judgement about the UK.

    One of the important things to note is that while non-inclusive but not-formally-exclusive space *sucks*, it’s a different kettle of fish, and in the states, groups that have a majority trans women are almost always trying to recruit trans men, and trans male groups are almost always formally exclusive. And since the former are largely suburban, middle aged, radical/feminist trans women really don’t have anywhere to go, period. There’s I think two trans groups in Chicago that I’m allowed to go to (out of like 10), one of which is inaccessible via transportation and not my thing and the other I’ve never been able to check out because of schedule, but I’m kinda skeptical. Some of these groups I could go to as a SOFFA, but 1)that’s really ungendering for me, and 2)Al/lison isn’t a kind of FAAB trans person who’s welcome in those spaces, so I don’t really feel like that works for me either.

    I do think it’s pretty important for trans men to admit their male privilege/privilege over trans women. I think the fact that trans guys write shit like ‘Hitting trans males is not the solution’ in response to a really mild call out is an example of privilege; as is the claim that sociologists ignored trans men until the 2000’s being “oppression”–does he have any clue *why* those sociologists were studying trans women, or what they were saying? That, like, historically Bailey isn’t that bad? …it takes a lot of privilege to be that clueless. (plus there’s the whole 98% trans female spectrum, 70% POC violence against trans folks deal. (source: an essay in Trans/Forming Femininisms: Transfeminist Voices Speak Out, otherwise a pretty problematic book…)

    Also the fact that trans guys will argue they don’t have male privilege because things don’t get better when they transition–when if they didn’t have male privilege, they’d get *drastically* worse…

  15. Daisy said

    Hi again, Cedar. : )

    I think the question is, what alliances are being drawn, and why–who is being left out of those alliances? What potential alliances are being erased and precluded? What dialogue isn’t happening because these alliances are constructed in (unnecessary) opposition to other alliances, where social spaces almost uniformly run within these lines and thus prevent crossover and accountability.

    Yeah, those are really important questions, which do need to be asked. I’m pretty sure that a lot of the people using the “transmasculine” label — like Sinclair, for one, I think — don’t in any way want to stop dialogue or erase alliances, though that is, apparently, a consequence of their actions.

    What I’m saying, I guess, is that the only people I’ve heard use it are, to the best of my (limited) knowledge (as a cissexual person), sincere in their desire to be real allies to trans women (and other trans people). I might be badly misjudging here, though I really hope I’m not.

    None of that has any bearing, though, on the fact that those questions are important ones that must be asked. I’m very much hoping that they will be asked — that people will ask them of themselves.

    I feel like we’re pretty much in agreement, tho. I should write a post about __-only space as resources, not as who-is-really-___, not as well-___-is-a-distinct-group.

    I think we’re pretty much in agreement, too. And I would love to read that post.

  16. Elly Rouge said

    What I didn’t completely get (yeah, I’m a bit idiot) is whether “transmaculine” (and I suppose transfeminine too in the other way) is about having some kind of “masculinity” and being more or less trans, and in this kind it is indeed problematic if it doesn’t include “masculine” trans women and mt*, or if it is an alternative to say “ft*” or “ftm-spectrum”; and in this case I also find it problematic, since you can be a trans guy and not be quite masculine.

    And well, this is probably off topic, but I am a bit puzzled as how in some LGBTQI environments you still are always defined according to your “dose” of masculinity and feminity, like “ah, combat boots, that’s masculine, but you have a skirt and that’s feminine, here’s a category for you”… can’t I just be myself and wear what I want to without having to ponder if this or that is supposedly “masculine” or “feminine” ?

  17. Cedar said

    Elly,

    “Transmasculine refers to any person who was assigned female at birth but feels this is an incomplete or incorrect description of their gender.”

    …”and they have some leanings toward the masculinity areas of the gender galaxy,” but in some ways I do like how inclusive their definition is. Regardless, I tend to use it to mean those of us butches, bois, trans guys, faggy femmes, and all sorts of other genderqueers.”

    See what I mean? Also, “female bodied” is a total weasel term–it communicated FAAB to folks who want to eject transwomen [sic] from and/or include transmen [sic] in women’s space, and to folks who would be so ejected, but gives the speaker plausible deniability to mean that trans female spectrum folks are included if we’ve taken hormones and/or define our bodies as such–despite the fact that the wording has the effect of ejecting us (and they either know that, or are culpable for their ignorance).

    #2)and, well, yeah.

  18. stufftransmenlike said

    So I’m a little late on the commentary, but I so agree with your post and many of the comments here.
    I never ever ever ever want someone to refer to my (trans) male body as “female-bodied”. If anyone refers to me as being “female-bodied” I assume they have no fucking idea what they are talking about, and usually that is true.
    And ugh, “transmasculine” almost seems like it was coined to marginalize and displace non-feminine trans women and other male-assigned-not-identified people.
    If something is so dependent on the birth sex assignment to make it hold together, it is no boon to trans people.

  19. Cedar said

    Thanks for the comment. I was beginning to feel a bit beleaguered about this post & the not getting it…

    and yes to everything you just said.

  20. Lynn said

    “If something is so dependent on the birth sex assignment to make it hold together, it is no boon to trans people.”

    Exactly. If it wasn’t hitched up to assigned sex I would have no problem with it.

    And thanks for this post Cedar.

    Transmasculine *and* transfeminine have always pissed me off because they feel like a judgement on my gender expression (and my butch-but-not-a-woman idenitity).

    And because I id with the term transmasculinity but its been made *very* fucking clear to me that I’m not welcome within it.

    Also when I think of transmasculine community I think of guys wearing shirts that say “Trust me I’m trans” and I wanna fucking puke. Or I think of trans guys having a skeezy male conversation about femmes and asking the opinion of my genderfluid id’d ftm-spectrum friend who likes *masculine* people and ignoring me.

  21. […] raises some really powerful critiques of the term “transmasculine.” (And he’s not the first to do so.) I was really intrigued by the word when I first encountered it — I’ve come a […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: