Trans and feminism - some thoughts on the collisions
I hope this doesn't tread on too many toes. It's just some thoughts that had been echoing around in my head.
I've been reading a fair bit from sexgenderbody and other privilege challenging sites, and I've come across a moderate number of occasions where trans people and feminists are at odds - lots of talk about trans-sexims etc.
Now before I begin, I should note I am so not suggesting trans-sexism doesn't exist. I'm also not suggesting that feminism is in some way wrong. What I've been thinking about are some of the reasons feminists have difficulties with trans-folk and why trans-folk have difficulties with elements of feminism. Oh and I should also note: I can't avoid using generalisations in this sort of post, so if some of this isn't true for you - cool! If it's not your way of looking at things - also cool. If you feel offended by something, I apologise, and suggest that maybe you are not the person I mean either. It is truly not my plan or intent to hurt anyone - just to offer some ideas for people consider.
One of the big challenges of feminism is the imagery that society imposes on women. The kyriarchy pushes certain images of the sweet, white, virginal, gentle, sylphlike, compliant girl as the idea of perfect womanhood. (Well, that and the self-sacrificing mother, but she's also expected to be white, slim, gentle and somehow virginal too)
The problem is that for many boy and men, those same images represent what we can never be. We are made to feel dirty, inappropriate, lustful, crude and coarse. For most this is no problem. Sadly some of those just take up these and try to demand that they be seen as positive. Many find a more balanced middle ground. For others the opposite is true. The desire to not fit the negative male models of existance lead us to one or another form of worship of the female form or more commonly, the worship of our ideas of femininity.
Again, this isn't such a problem but these ideas usually form when we're very young. These ideas are not necessarily sophisticated and in fact are usually very simplistic. What we start to fetishise are simple images and ideas of femininity as (mis?)understood by young children. We build up our ideas and desires at a simple stage of our life, well before we can comprehend the complexity of society and the issues of gender roles. What we form are fetishes. These are very deeply encoded. You don't shape them by logic and introspection. What you know is a deep want for something. For me the desire is to be girlish - as my inner child sees it. My adult self is very aware that women are not as my inner child thinks them. I understand what society does to women and that what I wish I could be is a fantasy based on our societies ideas, not based on realistic ideas about women.
What I need to keep in mind is that, just because I love frills, pink, dollies, bows etc., doesn't mean that those are not negative when demanded of others. What I want to be is what many enlightened women are fighting to free themselves from. They have every reason to fear what that imagery represents and so many want to push back against it. What we feel is rejection by the group we most wish we were part of. What they see is someone trying to be a woman by trying to fit a stereotype that they wish gone. As far as it goes we look like people that have no understanding of feminism.
At our worst we look at our desires and, knowing that it feels right to us, we attempt to justify it as being correct and all that doesn't support it as being unfair. What I suggest is that at our best we might be able to understand that what we desire is in part a product of society, that it isn't necessarily under our control, but also that our desires do not define what others should be.
Now I can only comment on my own situation, and I know it is not necessarily true for others. Still it seems to me that if we can get our heads around this we may be able to work better to support feminism, and may, by understanding ourselves better, may be able to be more welcome in female spaces.
I suspect I may just upset people with this, but oh well. Please let me know your thoughts.