As someone who is neither a man nor a woman I have been thinking a lot recently about my relationship with feminism. Specifically I have been thinking about how I feel pressured to identify as a woman in order to give legitimacy to all of the sexism and misogyny I have experienced my entire life.
I wonder: how did feminism come to be regarded as only the domain of women? How has feminism become more preoccupied with our identities than our politics? How does feminism call responding to patriarchy with more patriarchy “justice?”
Trans inclusive feminism does not just look like cisgender women gatekeeping who is allowed to speak about gender violence. Trans inclusive feminism does not look like only incorporating binary trans women who fit normative conventions of what a woman should look, act, speak, and experience violence like. Trans inclusive feminism does not look like requiring trans and gender non-conforming people to narrate our experiences and identities through the rubric of “woman,” or else just dismissing us as “men.” Trans inclusive feminism does not look like reinforcing the gender binary by maintaining that all women are victims and all men are perpetrators. It does not look like reducing gender to our bodies, it does not look like making assumptions about people’s histories based off of what they look like, in fact it does not look like requiring someone to look like anything at all.
Cisgender feminism’s pre-occupation with the question of “Can men be feminists?” is indicative of the transmisogynist/binarist orientation of mainstream feminism. There should be nothing sensational or exceptional about men identifying as feminists.
Cis feminism continues to conflate the bodies that it regards as “men” with “masculinity” and patriarchal power. Cis feminism conflates dicks with patriarchal power even though there is nothing inherently masculine or violent about a penis. Cis feminism continues to use colonial bodily logics of reducing us to our genitalia, reducing us to our bodies — rather than holding space for all of the varied ways we have been policed for our genders, the ways in which we have been punished for embracing our femininity, the ways that we are far more complicated than what we look like.
Personally: the gender binarism inherent in feminism grants me no space to talk about how I experience constant gender violence from white cisgender women, no space to talk about how even though a doctor told my mother I was a boy I was brutalized for my gender non-conformity throughout my childhood, no space to address all of binary trans women who dismiss me as a man because I do not shave.
Why must we be “included” in an ideology that has and continues to misgender so many of us? How about doing something completely different instead.
Trans feminism looks like recognizing that gendering people without their consent is a form of gender violence. Trans feminism looks like recognizing that you don’t have to be a woman to be a feminist because you don’t have to be a woman to experience sexism and trans/misogyny. Trans feminism looks like decoupling “femininity” from “womanhood,” and holding space for a vast spectrum of femininities that grace many bodies who do not identify as women. Trans feminism looks like recognizing that we will never win if we continue to fight patriarchy with the gender binary because patriarchy is the systematic policing and regulation of the gender binary. Trans feminism looks like holding space and accountability for all of the ways that all of us (regardless of our gender) are capable of enacting patriarchal violence on one another.
I write this because I know there are many queer men, many non-binary people, and others who experience relentless sexism, misogyny, and gender violence but do not have a space to speak about it. I write this because I yearn for a type of gender justice that does not regurgitate the logics of our oppressors on one another — a type of gender justice that moves beyond the simple, the binary, the visible and explores the complicated, the non-conforming, the invisibilized. I write this because I believe that all of us have a stake in dismantling the gender binary. I write this because i know this is a very different political project than than simply granting cisgender women the space to enact patriarchal violence on others.