Special Topic: Transgender Rights

Last week’s Special Topic ended with an article from Everyday Feminism that focused on what can happen when feminism is not intersectional. One example the authors give is that white women may ask: Are trans women women? I think that article leads us perfectly into this week’s special topic: Transgender Rights.

I was inspired to focus on this issue after Chimamanda Adichie’s comment from March 2017 that transwomen were transwomen, not women. Rather than just include her article in that week’s Must Reads, I decided to look further into the issue and the reactions and include a variety of perspectives that might create a conversation on the page.

I begin my list this week with a Huffington Post article that first discussed the reaction to Adichie’s interview. Of course, our editors and publishers here at ROAR were not about to remain silent, and Sarah Sandman wrote a response the next day, explaining the problematic thinking of Adichie’s argument. The Root issued an immediate reaction as well in which the writer discussed the “gaslighting” effect of Adichie’s comments. A counter-argument is presented in an article from The Rumpus. The author posits that Adichie shouldn’t be expected to embrace the ‘Language Orthodoxy’ of current feminism; however, I believe if Adichie and others do not use the necessary language, the self-identifying diction of each human’s choice, that the result will further division between groups, rather than create openings for intersectional collaboration. The issues implied in Adichie’s point run deep, but language itself is fundamental to mutual understanding. I’ve included a New Yorker article that argues that acadamia had made leaps forward ….and I myself was recently reminded by a friend/co-worker how easy we make students’ lives by simply asking their preferred pronoun…it takes nothing for us to ask and remember, and doing so opens a world of possibility and acceptance for the individual.

For people struggling with understanding the lack of male privilege trans women have felt in their lives, I’ve included an essay from Everyday Feminism where the author discusses their own questions with being non-binary and the issue of male privilege. The ideas presented here show a distinction between the non-binary and trans experience that might help illuminate the difference.

The list of links culminates with articles that touch on Gavin Grimm’s recent experiences, the rise in transgender murders in 2017, and a call for Jeff Sessions to investigate the murders as hate crimes. There’s also a piece on the origins of “heterosexuality” recently publisged in BBC. Please Read On, and add to the conversation. What’s your response to Adichie? What readings have helped you find empathy and compassion in a difficult world? We’ll return next week with a regular Round Up of weekly articles.

 


  1. While she did also add that she supports transgender people’s existence, saying they should be “allowed to be,” she ultimately asserts that their experiences should not be “conflated” with women’s experiences.

“Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Under Fire For Comments About Trans Women”/ by Noah Michelson/ Huffington Post/ March 11, 2017

 


2. She began by gaslighting transgender people. On one hand, she wanted to give the appearance of inclusion and understanding, but on the other, she stripped trans women of their womanhood. By not being able to simply say, “Trans women are women,” Adichie is categorizing trans women as an “other” from womanhood.
“Trans Women are Women. This isn’t a Debate.” / by Raquel Willis/ The Root/ March 13, 2017

 


3. If we are going to encourage a feminism that is truly intersectional, then we can not assume that trans people “sort of changed, switched gender” (Adichie interview). This language implies that to be trans, is to flip a switch, or just change clothes. I do not think we would speak so cavalierly about race, or other “women’s issues.” We must also move away from language that says, “Transgender people should be allowed to be.” They should be allowed to be what? To be themselves?
“Trans Women Have Always Been Women”/ Sarah Sandman/ ROAR/ March 12, 2017

 


4. Transgender people face discrimination in bathrooms, in housing, and on the job. They have alarmingly high rates of poverty and suicide, and often fall victim to violent hate crimes. All of this, when you get down to it, is because some think that transgender people aren’t “really” the gender they claim to be, and that they should be forced to conform to what the sex on their birth certificate says.

“The Controversy Over Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Trans Women, Explained”/ by Emily Crockett/ Vox/ March 15, 2017

 


5. Many of our feminist foremothers cautioned against such essentialism & not having an intersectional approach to feminism. Class, race, sexuality, ability, immigration status, education all influence the ways in which we experience privilege so though I was assigned male at birth I would contend that I did not enjoy male privilege prior to my transition. Patriarchy and cissexism punished my femininity and gender nonconformity. The irony of my life is prior to transition I was called a girl and after I am often called a man.

“Laverne Cox Responds to Chimamanda Adichie’s Comments About Trans Women and Male Privilege”/ by Halle Kiefer/ Vulture/ March 13, 2017

 


6. Compared to the sledgehammers of those on social media who’ve tried to bring her down, Adichie wields words like a paintbrush. She eschews excessive use of lingo, and there’s a lot of it among today’s third-wavers: TERF, transphobic, transmisogynistic, cisgendered, heterosexual, cishet, nonbinary, intersectional, and the thirteen choices for gender I was recently offered on a conference application: female, male, agender, androgynous, bigender, cisgender, gender fluid, genderqueer, intersex, transsexual, transgender, two-spirit, and gender not identified. Then there are the phrases: smash the gender binary, cishetero female privilege, coerced into a male body at birth, and this is not a debate. As an artist, Adichie shouldn’t have to use all of these if she doesn’t want to. Deviating from this language or portions of the ideology behind all of it needn’t make her an enemy.

““Language Orthodoxy,” The Adichie Wars, And Western Feminism’s Enduring Myopia”/ by Sarah T/ The Rumpus/ April 6, 2017

 


7. The 1901 Dorland’s Medical Dictionary defined heterosexuality as an “abnormal or perverted appetite toward the opposite sex.” More than two decades later, in 1923, Merriam Webster’s dictionary similarly defined it as “morbid sexual passion for one of the opposite sex.” It wasn’t until 1934 that heterosexuality was graced with the meaning we’re familiar with today: “manifestation of sexual passion for one of the opposite sex; normal sexuality.”
“The Invention of ‘Heterosexuality’”/ by Brandon Ambrosino/ BBC Future/ March 16, 2017

 


8. To transgender activists, Vogel’s stance is laden with offensive assumptions: that trans women are different in an essential way from other women, and that they’re dangerous. “The trope of trans women” constituting “a threat to women’s spaces has been tossed around forever,” Julia Serano told me. To her, it’s akin to straight people refusing to share a locker room with gays or lesbians.

“What is a Woman? The Dispute Between Radical Feminism and Transgenderism”/ by Michelle Goldberg/ The New Yorker/ August 4, 2014

 


9. What does it mean to be a non-binary (Black) person who is received as a man? Who still goes by “he” and “him” (and also “they” and “them”)?

“What I Learned from Being Non-Binary While Still Being Perceived as a Man”/ by Hari Ziyad/ everyday feminism/ February 5, 2016

 


10. Transgender people are also at greater risk for suicide, with 41 percent of transgender and gender non-conforming people attempting suicide compared to 1.6 percent of the general population, according to the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS). Researchers found that rates of attempted suicide rose for trans people who have a low household income, lost a job due to bias, and were sexually assaulted, among other factors.

“At Least 7 Transgender Women Have Been Killed in 2017”/ by Casey Quinlan/ Think Progress/ February 28, 2017

 


11. “Transgender women are often targeted by law enforcement for a variety of reasons, and as a result are deterred from seeking help when they are targets of violence or harassment,” they wrote. “Transgender Americans deserve to have these attacks investigated as hate crimes.”

“Seven transgender women have been killed this year. Democrats want Jeff Sessions to investigate”/ by Avi Selk/ Washington Post/ March 16, 2017

 


12. The 17-year-old high school senior became the face of American transgender youth when his fight against the Gloucester, Virginia school district over sex-segregated facilities climbed all the way to the Supreme Court. But the nation’s highest court decided not to hear Grimm’s case just two weeks before it was set to be argued, citing the change in federal policy made by the Trump administration.

“Trans Teen Gavin Grimm Slams Trump Policy at Congressional Meeting”/ by Mary Emily O’Hara/ NBCNEWS/ April 6, 2017

 


13. Most of all, the enemy was to be found in judges who believe decency and compassion are central to their jobs, not weaknesses to be extinguished. Who refuse to dehumanize people and treat them as pawns in some Manichean struggle of good versus evil, us versus them. Who decline to make their intelligence and verbal gifts into instruments of cruelty and persecution and infinite scorn.

“I thought I could reason with Antonin Scalia: A more naive young fool never drew breath”/ by Bruce Hay/ Salon/ February 27, 2017

 


14. 12 Trans Writers You Should Know

“12 Trans Writers You Should Know”/ PRIDE/ March 10, 2016.

 


15. I’m afraid to use the bathroom with cis people, and I’m pretty binary-presenting. Like Laverne Cox said, these bills are not about bathrooms, but about policing and criminalizing transgender bodies — particularly Black and Brown trans people, and those who do not appear to fit in the gender binary. Removing protections is basically the government giving consent to harassment and violence against transgender people. — Leo (pronouns: he/him/his), 20, University of Michigan

“12 Transgender People React to Trump’s Order on Their Civil Rights”/ Fresh U/ teenVogue/ February 27, 2017

 


Joyce Hayden left her university teaching job two years ago in order to pursue her own artistic work. An assemblage artist, painter, and writer, Joyce is currently in the process of acquiring an agent to represent her memoir, The Out of Body Girl, which describes her 8 year relationship with a charismatic gambler and the dangerous road that eventually led to her freedom. Her chapbook of poems, Lost Handprint, is forthcoming from Dandelion Review. A freelance editor and writing coach, Joyce’s writing services and a selection of her artwork can be found at her website joycehayden.com. Joyce is available for commission art work, including celebration shrines for loved ones and pets.

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