I see you. I see your issues with professors and administrators not respecting you names and pronouns, your struggles with being a part of Smith college, a woman’s space. I love you because you are strong and beautiful.
I begin this letter with love perhaps because I am socialized not to be angry or aggressive, to worry about “overreacting.” But I do feel angry. I feel hurt when you seem to think that you are being good trans* allies. I hear you say you agree that trans women belong at Smith College and all women’s spaces but the next thing out of your mouth is a concern over your own place at Smith.
“I agree ALL women belong at Smith, BUT what about ME?” is what I hear. I hear the struggles of trans women being relegated to a secondary status. Your response literally says “What about the MEN?”
What about the men? I know your relationship with Smith community is complicated but this is a women’s space. Perhaps you are reacting out of guilt that you are using the resources that are reserved for women because women are systematically disadvantaged. Perhaps you should be guilty.
I don’t know if your “I’m different from cis men because I’m a sensitive feminist” selves have realized, but when you ask how an issue of women’s access affects you as a man/masculine person, that is called MISOGYNY. I know that as men you have absorbed messages that the world revolves around you which are hard to overcome, but let me remind you- THE WORLD DOES NOT REVOLVE AROUND YOU. Trans women at Smith is not about you. It is about justice. It is about fighting trans misogyny institutionalized at Smith College.
So when you say you support trans women at Smith, I find it hard to believe you. When Q and A puts on events focused on raising awareness (see “Girl Talk” and “The Fully Functional Cabaret”) I do not see you there. When you ask Q and A to make you feel more welcome/included in their work, I want you to remember that its not about you. Its really not. If you want to know what Q and A is up to feel free to come to our meetings. Please. I’m inviting you personally. But we can’t spend all of our energy on making you feel in the loop with no effort on your part – we have bigger problems to worry about.
Please remember when you ask people to be trans* allies to you, that you have the same responsibility to your trans* MAAB sisters. Its not that hard to fucking show up. Really.
We absolutely agree with your overall point that this conversation should not be, “What about the men?” However, quite a few of the statements you have made are problematic and factually incorrect.
- Since you directed this post at the Transcending Gender tumblr, we are going to respond from the perspective of TG specifically, not the entire trans*masculine community at Smith. Furthermore, your statements seem to imply that TG is made up entirely of trans*masculine/male/masculine genderqueer people, while Q&A has none. This is factually incorrect. Q&A also has many trans*masculine/male/masculine genderqueer people, and at least one of them has been very visible in the current activism in support of trans*women at Smith. In TG, at least half of the members are trans* allies or gender non-conforming people who identify as women. If you have an issue with specific individuals in TG, we would encourage you to not assume that the opinions or actions of a few people define an entire community or organization.
- We are not sure that this question of “What about the men?” is as prevalent as you think. It is certainly not a conversation that Transcending Gender has been having as a group. While we did see a few tumblr posts asking “What about the men?” last spring when Calliope first started her tumblr and Smithies began talking widely about trans*women at Smith, in our opinion that question is not the one being asked the majority of Smithies currently. If you are hearing “What about the men?” from members in TG, perhaps we can discuss as a group the reasons why that question is incredibly problematic and transmisogynistic.
- This is not specifically a point that you make, but a common criticism of Transcending Gender seems to be that we have too many trans*masculine members and do not care about supporting trans*women being admitted to Smith. Isn’t the problem here that trans*women cannot come to Smith as undergraduates, meaning that there are not any trans*women in the undergraduate population, therefore indicating that the org for support of and education about trans* issues would include a lot of the trans* students at Smith who would probably be trans*masculine? We cannot change the fact that trans* students at Smith are currently all FAAB individuals who may or may not identify as masculine, and that those individuals want to attend meetings of TG, the group on campus that is intended to support trans*students and provide education about trans*issues. However, this absolutely does not mean we do not support trans*women attending Smith and the activism working toward that goal.
- Your conflation of men/masculine genderqueer people/trans*masculine people and your implied argument that all of these people receive male privilege is problematic. You state, “I don’t know if your “I’m different from cis men because I’m a sensitive feminist” selves have realized, but when you ask how an issue of women’s access affects you as a man/masculine person, that is called MISOGYNY. I know that as men you have absorbed messages that the world revolves around you which are hard to overcome, but let me remind you- THE WORLD DOES NOT REVOLVE AROUND YOU.” First, you are correct in arguing that men taking this issue and making it about themselves is misogyny. However, not all masculine FAAB people identify as men, are read as male in society, or receive male privilege. Furthermore, those who do not receive male privilege certainly do not receive messages that the world revolves around them. The experiences of trans*masculine and genderqueer people are numerous, and to reduce all of those people to simply “men” is ignorant of many different non-binary identities.
- In regard to the events you discuss, please take note of the fact that Transcending Gender either co-sponsored or helped plan both of them. Girl Talk was put on by PSE and co-sponsored by TG, SASA and Q&A. And perhaps the reasons you did not see any trans*masculine people at Girl Talk was because the event was specifically publicized as a dialogue between cis women and trans*women. If a trans*masculine person had attended that event, they would have been invading a space specifically for women to talk about being women. That certainly would not have been appropriate.
- The Fully Functional Cabaret was put on by Q&A, but a co-chair of Transcending Gender (Jaime Rossow) came to a Q&A meeting and helped with the planning specifically as a representative of TG. We are not sure why you did not see any trans*masculine people at The Fully Functional Cabaret, but we have seen criticisms of that group by trans*women because they potentially encourage others to mock trans*women by mocking themselves. We do not know if that is the reason some people did not attend that event, but it is something to keep in mind. Furthermore, please remember that we are all incredibly busy, especially during this time of year, and we are not able to attend every event and meeting, even when we want to.
- Finally, Q&A is not the only organization on campus putting on events in support of trans*women. Last semester, Transcending Gender brought Rebecca Kling, a trans*woman activist who gave a performance about her experience as a trans*woman and a workshop about trans* issues in mental health. TG is also bringing trans*woman and theorist Julia Serano to Smith on April 25th from 7-8:30. Serano coined the term transmisogyny in her book, Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. Here is a link to the Facebook event.
- You state, “When you ask Q and A to make you feel more welcome/included in their work, I want you to remember that its not about you. Its really not. If you want to know what Q and A is up to feel free to come to our meetings. Please. I’m inviting you personally. But we can’t spend all of our energy on making you feel in the loop with no effort on your part – we have bigger problems to worry about.” We can only assume that this statement is directed specifically at Transcending Gender, since Q&A also has plenty of trans*masculine members. First of all, not all of us have time to go to weekly meetings for two different orgs. Second, Q&A has had many “closed” meetings, making it impossible for those who are not members to attend. Third, we are not asking you put that much effort into including us in your activism. A simple CC on important emails would be fine. Fourth, TG has put effort into communicating with Q&A. A representative from Q&A recently attended one of our board meetings, and we thought we had a productive conversation about the obvious tension between the two orgs and ways to remedy that. Unfortunately, we were disappointed to learn that the representative from Q&A sent an email to the rest of the org disparaging our efforts and criticizing us unnecessarily and inaccurately. That is simply not productive. In fact, it is putting extra effort into being unproductive. TG is not asking Q&A to make org coalition their number one priority; however, it would be much more productive, not particularly time-consuming, and beneficial to Q&A to simply communicate with us and include us in your activist efforts. We are here to support this cause and help in any way we can.
Transcending Gender Board
Jaime Rossow, Co-Chair
Claire Brown, Co-Chair
Kati Giblin, Historian
Garbo Garborcauskas, Treasurer
Em Beauchamp, Social Events Coordinator and rising Co-Chair
EJ Wald, Secretary and rising Co-Chair
Sydney Sadur, Social Justice Chair