I facilitated a women and trans space discussion, it did not go well. I am remembering pronouns/identities as best I can, but if anyone was there, please feel free to correct me, so people identified their sex/genders and their trans status, some I am going on the context of what they said, and how I read them. So I apologise if I get anything wrong.
I started with a statement that trans women absolutely belong in women’s spaces, what with them being women and that discussion that suggested that was not the case would not be tolerated, someone interrupted me here to ask what I meant, but it seemed that he was worried that I meant that transmisogyny couldn’t be talked about or called out and seemed satisfied when I confirmed that I meant that I felt there was no place in the discussion for faab spaces, or cis women’s spaces. I wish I had stuck to that.
Both me and my co facilitator where faab (female assigned at birth), this was far from ideal, we discussed it and put a call out for a someone to speak from a maab (male assigned at birth) perspective, as this group has been traditionally marginalised and we didn’t want to continue this marginalisation. No one stepped up, I wonder now, and at the time if this might not have been the very rational decision to avoid such a problematic and busted conversation. Or perhaps it was a reflection of the relative numbers of faab trans people compared to trans women and other maab trans people.
One person (who I believe was faab and used female pronouns) raised bathroom panic, her bathroom panic in fact at a person she identified as a drag queen, and who she continued to refer to as a drag queen when I and others challenged her assumption of the persons gender identity on the basis that the person appeared to no be medically transitioning, the speakers problem was that someone at a kink party, who appeared to her to be a male drag queen used the female toilets.
I should have shut her down, I should have reiterated my points about not being transmisogynistic jerks, I didn’t, I could go on for ages about why I didn’t, (I froze, I was tired, I had been triggered by a previous discussion) but what it came down to was that I failed as a moderator from stopping a conversation for falling into the same stupid pithole, and I allowed a faab person to centre the debate on her discomfort, rather on the rights of a someone, however she identified from having some where safe to piss, I allowed a faab person to claim that her discomfort and the though of a maab person using the toilets over run the very real threat of voilence that trans people face when trying to take a piss.
In response to this person a (I think they identified themselves as a trans women) spoke up, challenged to the room to start listening to trans women rather than talking over them, and talked about how hard it was for her to access safe bathroom facilities, free of harassment. She became quite emotional at this point, I thanked her for speaking up, but she shouldn’t have had to, it wasn’t her job to control transphobes, that was mine. Later someone asked her what she wanted, while I appreciate there attempt to recenter the debate I also worried that they where putting the trans person who spoke up on the spot and asking her to speak for all trans women, and maab trans people, I asked her if she was ok with answering the question, she said she was, but I still worry about the pressure of being one of the few people who outed themselves as a trans women speaking to an overwhelmingly faab and overwhelming cis women group.
In the aftermath of this, I find myself questioning my assumptions about women and trans spaces, I have thought, up to this point, that while they often exemplify the worst parts of the transmisogynistic and trans masculine fetishistising that queer spaces do, that these where problems which could be dealt with, I thought, get more acceptance of trans women and maab non binary people, make sure that their access to these spaces is unquestioned, as well as their access to women’s spaces, and develop communities where those of us trans people who are non binary particularly those who are read as female, and face sexism in their day to day lives have somewhere safe, where non binaries don’t find every door closed to them because they have that one drop of transness. Where trans guys who are early in transition, and or not read as men can find safety and community, I had developed these thoughts over a long time, speared on by writings such as T boy jacky’s about the importance of spaces like this for him.
Now I am not so sure, having seen how early the discussion is, how comfortable people felt in excluding people they read as trans female spectrum from a bloodly bathroom, I wonder if I was wrong, if I am making things worse by having the wrong conversation when plenty of women are still kept out of women, and women and trans spaces. It was a real shock to my privilege to see one tiny bit of just how tough it still is for trans women in queer women’s communities.
I don’t have any firm views at this point, I said to my co facilitator before the event, that if we could get a couple of people thinking about the issues of women and trans spaces, thinking more deeply about how the queer community deals with trans women then I would feel like the workshop was a success, in my arrogance I didn’t think that one of the people who might be forced to think a bit deeper was me.
I would like as many people from the discussion as possible to see this, so if you where there, or know people who where, feel free to forward this on.