The discussion that we had last week with the post Why Do Some Lesbians Bash Trans Men? was so engaging and enlightening for me that I thought we might continue it from a slightly different angle.
Some of the commenters mentioned that trans women are not always welcome in lesbian spaces and can also be the targets of verbal bashing by both non-trans lesbians and gay men. The same is true of trans men with relationship to non-trans gay men.
Of course, there are plenty of homophobic trans people out there, but the power differential tends to favor non-trans people in most situations, so fewer non-trans lesbians and gay men are likely to feel marginalized by homophobic trans people. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. It just means that the ramifications of trans homophobia might not be as great or extensive as the ramifications of gay and lesbian transphobia in a community that bills itself as LGBT.
But for trans lesbians who are made to feel unwelcome in non-trans lesbian space, and for gay trans men who are made to feel unwelcome in non-trans gay male space, I still think the problem boils down to a misunderstanding about what being trans is actually all about. I think this misunderstanding manifests in different ways, depending on the situation:
> As some commenters said last week (and I really appreciated having this perspective), the misunderstanding might not be on the part of the gay men or lesbians themselves. The misunderstanding could be on the part of the larger non-trans community (the “mainstream” community), who then assumes that, because trans people are, or have been, in lesbian and gay communities, that must mean that lesbians and gay men are really trans.
By separating themselves from trans people, and even privately or publicly criticizing trans people, some lesbians and gay men are trying to make it clear that “this is not me – I’m not like this.” So a general misunderstanding of trans people in the larger society could create a need in gay men and lesbians to distinguish themselves from trans people, and verbal bashing might be one way to accomplish that.
> For many lesbians who do not fully understand what being trans means (and it’s hard to expect them to when they have not experienced it, but full understanding of something is not required to accept that something is), there can be the feeling of invasion of space.
This can be particularly apparent with the establishment of women-only spaces, and an extreme manifestation of this is the creation of women-born-women (or womyn-born-womyn) spaces. (These spaces can also be created by non-trans straight women.)
I have not had the experience of being shut out of one of these spaces because I have not tried to enter one, and I believe that I have no business there. I can only guess what being excluded from these spaces feels like for trans women, and I can imagine that it is pretty awful.
But again, I think this sense of “invasion” of non-trans women’s spaces, and some non-trans women’s attempts to keep trans women out of these spaces, is a result of a misunderstanding of trans women in general.
As with last week’s post, when I talked about the male privilege that has been used against lesbians, and the resulting trans-man-bashing that might occur as a result, I think that, in these women-born-women situations, there is a sense that individuals who once had privilege (whether they really did or not) will somehow bring that privilege, as well as pieces of former masculine socialization, to these spaces.
I’m sure that this has happened or has appeared to happen . But my guess is that, in the majority of situations, it has not, does not, or would not. Many trans women were never able to internalize the masculine socialization that was forced on them to begin with. The problem is that opportunities to discover these truths are sometimes shut down before they can materialize, which then limits understanding even more.
> While most non-trans gay men (at least in my experience) do not establish “official” men-born-men spaces (the power differential between most non-trans and trans gay men seldom requires it), there can be unspoken “rules” with regard to some of these spaces, and there can be the same feeling of “invasion” that results from a misunderstanding of trans people – that sense of “you are your original birth certificate, and what are you doing here?”
The feeling of “betrayal” can also, at times, be even stronger for gay men because trans men can assimilate so rapidly if they choose to, but they don’t always possess the anticipated “equipment.”
Genitals seem to be just as big a deal to some non-trans gay men as they are to some non-trans lesbians in that they seem to represent much more than just body parts – they seem to represent an entire person or an entire life, which apparently includes every negative stereotype ever created about people who have that type of genital configuration.
So the misunderstanding continues. And the misunderstanding is a type of vicious circle, because it will never be eliminated as long as there are barriers to certain spaces, and the barriers to certain spaces will remain intact until the misunderstanding is eliminated.
My disclaimers: It would take a book to examine all possible causes and permutations of this phenomenon. In addition, what I have written about is by no means universal, it manifests differently in different communities, and in some communities, it does not manifest at all. I am writing from my personal experiences and observations, along with what other people have told me. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
And, as should be obvious, I cannot speak for trans women. I can only surmise and second-guess. So I hope we hear from many on this topic.
While I still believe that “T” goes with “LGB,” and I have my own personal arguments to support that opinion, I have heard many valid arguments from the other side. Regardless of what we do with “LGBT,” there will always be lesbian trans women and gay trans men, so the issues will no doubt continue.
Readers – more thoughts on this topic?