Roots: Us & Them

A concept to approaching positive engagement with transphobia and effective ways to overcome it.

TERFTrans Exclusionary Radical Feminist

Big, scary term, innit?

I’ve spent most of my life scared of people who I saw fit to this label.

Well here’s the thing, transfolks. It’s a thing that most of us who have been abused by them over the years have a REALLY hard time with.

TERF is an offensive term in many cases. Many who share concerns with those who we might call TERFs do not necessarily identify with this group.

The continued use of this term in our conversations with such people disparages the genuine concerns of women who, at the end of the day, just plain don’t understand us and need to be shown that we aren’t a #transcult injecting the world with #peaktrans ideologues with a #cottonceiling we demand women break through in #totalitarian fashion.

We are not #bogeyMEN.

And neither are all the people you perceive as TERFs.

Applying this term to those who think in ways which defy our own demonizes them and causes us to pre-conceive bias against them and it leads to destructive, rather than constructive conversation.

They are humans with real human concerns over real human conditions, just like we are.

They need to be shown our Humanity if they are ever going to accept it.

But how to we do that?

My friend Rya shared with me an amazing concept for beginning the building of bridges with people like those who are infected with transphobia:

1. Demonstration of understanding

2. Nurturing of understanding

That begins a process of growth. From there, you can bridge the rest of the gap with apology and capitulation wherever necessary.

This has been my moral guide throughout this entire, often times terrible, bridge-building process. And it has begun to work. I’ve seen the potential for growth it has and have experienced first hand its uplifting of the human condition.

It has required apology and capitulation on my part. I’ve apologized for being certainly overly-liberal in application of the term TERF and for, in my fear of those who I saw as TERFs, brushing the valid concerns of women under the rug.

If you’ve paid any attention in your life to the world around you, you’ll likely have noticed that most every theology, narrative, poem, etc has a figure alluding to this sort of path. These sorts of signifiers can be found everywhere, woven into in culture.

Maybe, just maybe that’s because a lot of people have learned that it is an invaluable lesson in humanity.

Haven’t you heard? It’s a battle of words.

There is no good or bad. Only thinking makes it so.

Words, words words!

Slanders, sir. For the satirical rogue says here that old men have gray beards, that their faces are wrinkled, their eyes purging thick amber and plum-tree gum, and that they have a plentiful lack of wit, together with most weak hams—all which, sir, though I most powerfully and potently believe, yet I hold it not honesty to have it thus set down; for yourself, sir, should be old as I am, if like a crab you could go backward.

Words without thoughts, never to Heaven go.

The path to insanity is fraught with many flawed ideas.

Let’s not succumb to them.

Let’s build bridges.

Let’s overcome the obstacles that separate Us & Them and find our common ground.

The truest problem we can all face together, right here, right now, in egalitarian fashion is to volunteer our voices and time to shelters as well as donate anything we can to them. In exercising our voices, let us not use them to bicker on social media and instead use that energy to set out into the world and help shelters!

I’ve taken concerns over sharing shelter spaces very seriously and have capitulated to certain concerns over them.

Women who are traumatized at the hands of a man can internalize this experience in such a way that the experience of men by any stretch of the imagination triggers pain in them. They can’t come to accept who I am because they quite simply can’t complete the mental process. This means, that in the eyes of a survivor, a trans woman can take on the appearance of a threat. By and large, we are of course, not any sort of threat and do have every right to shelter when we need it.

Both sides have perfectly valid concerns over survivors in this argument. This, above all else, is why we need to take an egalitarian approach to this problem.

Women’s shelters, which have been built and designed specifically for women and/or children have not been made with trans people in mind and we must be sensitive to the concerns of those who run such shelters. Transwomen shouldn’t impose themselves on these spaces. Women have earned them through years of blood, sweat, and empathy. We must put forth the same effort if we there will ever be enough shelter space available for all types of people in need.

When I say “all types of people” I mean ALL types. This problem of spacial accommodation to trans people, over shelters especially, is FAR bigger than the trans/transphobe dichotomy.

If a black woman is beaten to within an inch of her life by a group of white women, where can she go?

Do we have shelters for her?

If not, we damn well should.

Equipping shelters to handle all types of people in a myriad of circumstances is no easy task, but it is a necessary one.

I have been working together with my local shelter to acknowledge and address these sorts of concerns. Here is the most relevant response I have received so far:

“Operating a shelter is a challenge and there’s no one right answer for any question when talking about shelter issues. I’ll answer your question to the best of my abilities. We work on a case by case basis with every client that comes to our shelter, because everybody has a unique story and individual needs. With that being said, we do have basic rules that everyone who comes to shelter must follow. Resident advocates do everything we can to ensure the safety of residents staying in shelter, and we have a zero tolerance policy for any violent behavior in shelter. We also have a nondiscrimination policy that everyone must agree to when they come into shelter. That includes not discriminating on the basis of age, race, creed, gender, ethnicity, color, size, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, different abilities, religion, or gender identity. That being said, we do realize that things will sometimes happen in shelter that we cannot control or that residents may break the rules. We hold all residents accountable for their behavior. We work to ensure everyone who calls us for shelter know that we serve all genders.

We train everyone in our program not to assume gender, but we know that people bring in their own biases and personal history. On our intake form we ask for gender just as we do other demographic information. If a person identifies as female and they do not have children, we have them share a room with up to three other women. If a person identifies as male without children, then we have another room for them that they may have to share if another male identifying person comes into shelter. If people complain about a person who appears to be male, we remind them that we serve all genders, and that they agreed to stay in shelter knowing that. We have clients who come to shelter who have suffered trauma from various types of relationships. Some of those relationships are same or opposite gender so they may be uncomfortable with people of their own gender. We make sure to tell everyone that they don’t have to be friends with the people that they room with, but that they must be respectful towards everyone.

We still do have basic criteria for entering shelter. The person needing shelter must be fleeing domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or human trafficking. We have a six county service area and we give preference to those meeting the criteria within our service area. People can only bring children that they have custody of, but people don’t have to have children to stay at Middle Way House.”

Let’s stop bickering and get off social media to face and end this problem together, hand in hand, fighting the tide that disparages and oppresses women everywhere while pushing to provide shelter and a safe and secure pathway to healing to everyone who needs it.

Here are some resources to help you find shelters in need:

Volunteer your time to them and donate to them for the betterment of all humanity.

Thank you.

Roots: Dedication & Identification

Roots explores the egalitarian pathway to healing through constructive confrontation of transphobic concerns in this discussion on dedication, self-identification, and the importance of state-mandated processes to transition.

I’ve spent the past few weeks of my life engaging with a group of transphobic women who I know demonize me and everyone like myself. They don’t understand my roots or the burdens I bear because of them. They degrade my human condition to psychosis and perversion.

They do not know me.

But I do know them.

I’ve suffered a great deal of abuse in my own life, the vast majority of which has been at the hands of men who viewed me as a woman throughout the entirety of our experiences together and overstepped social boundaries with me. I know what it’s like to be traumatized by those sorts of experiences.

My neighbor was recently assaulted and I intervened to stop it. This 3rd party perspective to assault has re-opened the wounds of my past traumatic events, and as a method of therapy, I set out to build bridges and to address the concerns of this group of women I had spent most of my life fearing.

I told them my story, explained how it impacted me both as a woman and as a survivor, and the response has been every bit as horrendous as you might imagine. They have crucified me over and over again these past couple of weeks.

All the while, however, I have been exercising the virtue of patience, heavily. I’ve been listening to the voices of these women and begging them to not argue over gender-trifles and instead, to talk with me about the concerns they have which are a source of fear to them and have been pushing for to spread of egalitarian attitudes toward feminism which will heal the world to the benefit of all people, in spite of our differences.

I’ve used this experience and the buzz it’s generated on social media to spread as much awareness on these issues as I am humanly possible and I am showing dedication to these women in improving the circumstances we share.

Even if they hate me.

Even if they tear away at my flesh.

Even if they invalidate my experiences.

Even if they intrude upon my life to collect my DNA.

Even if they take my bones and force them to dance a male jig.

I’m still their sister.

It’s been a miserable couple of weeks.

I’m so tired. I’ve barely slept over all this in several days.

I’m really hoping that, if nothing else, some of them might at least respect my dedication.

And that, dedication, is such an important aspect to transition that no one seems to realize. Many are of the mind that all trans women are just men who are putting on women’s clothes to invade women’s spaces and abuse women and then, once we have had our fill, we will go back to being men.

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Dave Chappelle joked in a recent stand-up special, imagining a conversation between two hyper-masculine men, “Let’s go to the hospital and cut our dicks off and make pussies out of them shits!” The idea, of course is completely ridiculous that any man would do such a thing and the transphobic mind tends to reduce our dedication to being ourselves to perversion or mental illness and that simply isn’t the case. We just want to be ourselves and live in the shape that allows us to best be ourselves and project ourselves into the world.

Much of this perception, I’ve found, comes from people who live in areas of the world where their governments have not been welcoming of transgender people. As such, those who do transition do so in reckless ways and push for what appears to be unreasonable accommodation purely because the state offers no protection to ANY women, trans or otherwise against this sort of thing. In their minds, and perhaps in their realities per their telling of it, men like those Chappelle joked about could simply declare themselves to be women one day and enter into women’s spaces. As I see it, this is a legitimate concern.

Let’s face it, self-identification, while deeply important to the psychological and social processes of gender transition, is also an issue at the state level and can be nightmarish for justice systems to deal with. In my opinion, it is crucial that governments set restrictive guidelines to transitioning in an orderly fashion to discourage and/or prevent this sort of thing.

Many states in the US have these legitimizing processes, which include several months of therapy with multiple qualified therapists, some of which in some cases are provided by the state itself.

I come from Indiana, and here, we have a rigorous legal transitioning process which is difficult but fair in my opinion. To my knowledge, we have never once had an issue with a man invading any woman’s space under the guise of being transgender, because it simply isn’t possible here! We are so well protected by our laws and legitimizing processes to transition that such things simply aren’t possible to get away with under the law.

These processes end in the changing of our identities on forms of government identification, which prove our legitimacy via association with the process. This leads to the safety and protection of all women against anyone who lacks the dedication to undergo these processes.

Any trained law enforcement official can easily recognize dedication and commitment in one’s transition by examining documentation they have available at any point in the process.

It is provable in any case who belongs where. It is easy to interpret intent of all parties in any conflict that may arise, and so peace and social order are maintained.

Such identification also protects me. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to hand my ID to people knowing that there is an F displayed on it rather than an M. For the longest time, the M was there and it led to so many uncomfortable interactions. I never could know when someone might notice and always, in the back of my mind, I was scared one who did notice might turn out to be a transphobe and proceed to bring hell to my life.

You would not believe what peace one letter can bring to a woman.

These systems protect us all from harm and I would encourage any government to adopt them.