Cisfeminism,Transwomen and Male Privilege

It took becoming a woman to discover my “male behavior”- that is, exhibiting male privilege.  When I was first coming out, I used to hang out mostly with women.  Any act of mine that was learned male behavior stuck out like a sore thumb.  Things like leaping up and taking charge, even when it wasn’t called for; things like using a conversation like a sledgehammer; things like assuming that everyone owed me special consideration for my journey through a gender change- I still shudder at my arrogance.

-Kate Bornstein “Gender Outlaw”

There’s been quite a lot of criticism of Bornstein for internalised transphobia, but I find hir take on male privilege to be very refreshing.  The feminist and trans blogosphere has had a flare up on the issue of radical feminism and transphobia lately and looking back on hir words offers much needed perspective.

Male privilege is not something that disappears when a MTF spectrum person comes out.  It’s something that must be actively addressed and it takes time and work.  This seems to me to be at the heart of the debate.

Cisfeminsts must recognise that their concerns over male privilege entering women’s spaces needs to have a great deal of nuance to avoid the trappings of cissexism.  Transwomen need to recognise that the possibility of bringing male privilege into women’s spaces is very real.  Excluding transwomen is the wrong approach, increased scrutiny of transwomen is not correct either.  Every individual must be taken as an individual if the goal is to make a safe space.

So many factors go into the ammount of male privilege expressed by a transwoman; how actively she checks it, how long she’s been checking it, what age she was when she came out, when she began transitioning.  These days, when transgirls are coming out and transitioning at younger and younger ages, the diversity of experiences among transwomen is only going to increase.

There’s so much hurt and trauma behind the rift between cisfeminists and transfeminists.  We should be allies in the struggle against patriarchy, we should know that the source of that hurt is not each other, it’s male domination.  We have both been bringing cissexism and misogyny to the table for too long and it’s time to set it aside and work together because we all have a common enemy.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Heather
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 20:00:42

    Well said.

    Reply

  2. anticapped
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 21:52:58

    SUPER GLAD that you are blogging, comrade!!!!

    Reply

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