Today someone in a position of power over me called me “infamous.” Why is it that they always have a negative connotation when they talk about my being well-known? I’m well-known for my generally good activist work. I’m not a murderer. The specific kind of transphobia that is launched against outspoken (and, like me, generally un-formally-educated and with a background in drugs/sex work) trans women who ‘don’t know our place’ is what this is. Gross.
A reminder that the only acceptable way to be a trans woman is to be unseen and unheard at all times. We exist solely to be trotted out to legitimize the political reputations of those around us, used as proof that they’re inclusive, and discarded if we start to have opinions of our own.
My doctor, who is a trans woman, and I had a conversation today about the guy who raped me earlier this year. At first she was like “did you charge him?” When I explained that he’s a trans man of colour, she immediately got why I hadn’t. Not because I couldn’t bare to put a trans person, especially a trans person of colour, in jail (which I can’t), but also because it would cause me to be completely ostracized by the queer/trans community in Toronto. I’d be “just another crazy trans woman.” It was an uncomfortable realization for both of us to sit there, as trans women, knowing that we have literally no recourse when violence is enacted on us within the community (though if the same violence conveniently came from a white cis straight man, we would be celebrated as heroes for standing up to such an easy target, at least within the queer/trans community).
She and I both, as professionals in the community, are well aware of the fine line we have to walk in order to be taken seriously in the queer/trans community. We not only have to look a certain way (both in terms of passing and in terms of conforming to queer normative acceptable standards of appearance), we also have to make sure not to rock the boat too much. We have to appear as sane and calm as possible, no matter the circumstances. If we show too much emotion at any time (read: any inconvenient emotion), we get hit with a double-whammy of misogyny and transphobia, quickly written off as hysterical “crazy trans women.” Accuse the wrong person of something, anyone too close to queer-home, and that’s the end of our credibility and the revoking of our entrance passes to Queerlandia.
It’s exhausting having to walk such a fine line. I’ve found that there are so many “danger zones” to watch out for. Trans women have to not only be queer-literate (knowing queer social justice language), we have to be exceptionally good at using it. Any minor slip of language or politics and we’re labeled “crazy trans women” by cis people while trans men nod knowingly in agreement — rarely standing up for us, and just as often perpetuating the ‘crazy trans woman’ stereotype themselves.
I became aware of this initially through cryptic warnings from an older queer trans woman friend of mine, years before I became involved in the queer community, but I didn’t realize the extent of it at first. That is, until I was invited to participate in it. When I first became involved heavily, I befriended two trans men whom I looked up to a great deal, and one of the first conversations we had in private was a gossip session in which they “warned” me about various trans women and got me to agree that they were “crazy.” I’ve found similar conversations throughout the community, often used in a way that it makes me wonder if what’s really happening is that they’re subconsciously testing my loyalty to the queer zeitgeist. Am I good tranny or a bad tranny? Am I willing to be part of their clique, giving them the ability to deflect any and all criticism of transmisogyny, or am I a “problem?”
Before I realized that this was a system, that trans women were being systematically tested and written off, I engaged in it myself. You get a self-esteem boost, knowing that the cool kids don’t count you among those trans women. Those trans women who stepped on the wrong toes, who take up “too much space,” who don’t have the right guilt-producing identity complex to be worthy of space (disabled young trans sex workers of colour who vogue are considered highly prized friend-accessories, to be seen but not really heard beyond the occasional “gurl” for comedic effect, but only if they have the right haircut and the right clothes and are working towards a bachelors of gender studies or similarly useless degree).
Who are these “crazy trans women?” Often they are incredibly sincere activists who haven’t had the privilege of being taught all of the ins and outs of anti-oppression social justice practice that is a prerequisite to membership in this queer community. Often they are labeled “too emotional” and “too angry,” “loose cannons” who are out of control when speaking about our experiences of sex work that don’t fit into the easily digestible “I do queer feminist porn on weekends to pay for my fluevogs while I’m in grad school” vision of sex work that the queer community has deemed acceptable. Often they are trans women who are said to take up “too much space,” while everyone whispers about how “you know, I know it’s wrong to say, but she just seems like she has male privilege, you know? Like you can just feel it. Not that I’m saying she’s a man, but, you know, you never know.”
At the end of the day, this whole complex of issues is simply misogyny, ableism, and transphobia dressed up as “community accountability.” It holds trans women to impossible standards, opening us up to vulnerability to all forms of in-community violence (physical, sexual, social), and creating a fear within the minds of so many queer trans women that our second-class position within the queer community could be ripped from our hands at any time for any minor infraction.
I’m tired of trying not to be a crazy trans woman in the voyeuristic eyes of queer community.
Morgan M Page/Odofemi, 2013.
Here’s a list of ways I’ve come up with for trans people to deal with attacks by radfems.
1. Let some trans people who are being attacked (or, if you’re the one being attacked, then any trans friends you have, especially trans women) know that you appreciate them/their work, that you think they are awesome and lovely, and that you support them, and that you’re glad that they are part of your life.
2. Build community! The cure to poisonous community is not to try to save that community, but to build new, stronger, healthier community. Create events, blogs, youtube videos, art, or whatever you want that will draw in likeminded people and make a safer space for people who are awesome. Or even just have a few trans friends over for dinner (maybe make it a regular thing, or turn it into a bookclub or sex party). Eventually, most of the jerks will give up being jerks and come to the cool side of things that you’ve created.
3. Play with cats, or dogs, or babies, or books.
4. DO NOT ENGAGE. This is the most important part. Do not engage with radfem trolls. You will waste all of the energy you could be spending building community, making art, having amazing sex, petting cats, and having fun. And that will make you sad. So just don’t engage. You can’t convince them that they are wrong, usually, but you can live a much better life than theirs.
5. If you are going to engage with them, take the moral highroad. Don’t let them wind you up. Don’t let them bait you into saying things they can misconstrue as offensive or violent. Be careful with your words. This will illustrate just how hateful they are to any casual observer, because when this approach is used, they get wound up and become nearly incoherent. It’s also really funny.
What are your ways of dealing with radfem hate mongers?
All of the hateful, transphobic, transmisogynist, misogynist shit that’s been directed at me as a result of the Cotton Ceiling workshop I’m doing next weekend renews my identification as a feminist, rather than discourages it. Trans feminist for life.
Transgendered Women & Sex Work - a video connecting feminist prostitution abolition positions, trans-hate, oppression and discrimination, trans-hate in radical feminism, and transwomen doing sex work.
I’ve literally been saying some of this stuff for years.
A radio interview about HIV, trans sex lives, and transmisogyny on Sex City on CIUT with trans porn star Drew DeVeaux, HIV researcher Caleb Nault, and trans activist/artist Morgan M. Page (me!).
This looks FUCKING AMAZING, and I only wish I’d known about it sooner, because it is absolutely the kind of thing I would have come to Toronto for, no joke. I hope there will be more in the future!
No More Apologies:
Queer Trans and Cis Women, Coming/Cumming Together!
A FREE conference about social exclusion, sex, and sexual health
No More Apologies is a day-long sex talk, designed to name and address the exclusion of queer trans women from broader queer women’s sexual communities.
Social exclusion negatively impacts trans queer women’s sexual, emotional, and psychological health; meanwhile, by excluding trans women from our communities, cis queer women are missing out on a multitude of sexy, wonderful women to love, fuck, and connect with.
Join us for this long overdue conversation and call to action about how to transform our talk about trans inclusion into practice.
Because trans inclusion means more than including trans men in our communities.
Because trans inclusion means more than just saying “women and trans people” in our mission statements.
Because welcoming trans women into our spaces is not the same as welcoming them into our beds.
Because our actions are speaking louder than our words.
· 2:00-2:45PM: “What we’re all here for”: Opening plenary by Drew DeVeaux
· 3:00-4:15PM: Brazen: A pleasure-based sexual health workshop for trans women and the folks who are into us, facilitated by Morgan M Page
· 4:30-5:30PM: Concurrent break-out sessions (facilitators TBA)
o Trans women talk: A discussion on experiences of exclusion in the queer women’s community
o Cis women talk: A discussion on trans women’s inclusion in the queer women’s community
· 6-7PM: Coming/cumming together: A dialogue between trans/cis queer women (Facilitators TBA)
· 9pm: Join us for Cum2GetHer, a post-conference dance party at The Tranzac AND the launch of BRAZEN: The Trans Women’s Safer Sex Guide, a new book from the 519 Church Street Community Centre. Hosted by Drew Deveaux with homo-gogo’s and sounds by DJ L-Rock (Yes Yes Y’all) and DJ Mama Knows (Get It | Got It | Good). While the conference is only for queer trans and cis women, all are welcome to the party.
Things you should know:
· This conference welcomes both trans and cis women who have sex with women.
· The conference space is wheelchair accessible, and interpreter/attendant services can be made available upon request. TTC tokens will also be made available for conference attendees. Please let us know if there are any other ways that we can make this conference accessible for you!
· For the well-being of attendees with multiple chemical sensitivities, we ask that you please avoid wearing scented products like perfume, cologne, scented lotions, or any other chemical-based products to the event.
This is a conference I was the working group chair on! And I’m teaching a workshop at it, and organizing the afterparty! Sorry info about it didn’t get out sooner — we had issues with confirming the venue and date!
“Babe can you call me the editor of Xtra is using my boy name on his FaceBook in referring to the story I did.” I saw this in my FaceBook messages. It had been a particularly frustrating day – a hard day at work on top of having just been dumped by the girl I was seeing, and then again by the boy I had my eyes on – and I just couldn’t deal, so I ignored Lexi’s message. Not because I didn’t care, but because I only have so much energy.
The day before I had gotten a call from a reporter I knew from Canada’s Gay and Lesbian newspaper Xtra. Andrea Houston was looking for a sex worker to interview for a story she was writing on sex work – a topic that’s being hotly debated right now due to the constitutional challenge underway in an Ontario court over three of the main anti-sex work laws in Canada. I recommended my friend, trans sex worker/reality TV star/filmmaker Lexi Tronic. Lexi’s a smart woman with an incisive tongue and always an interesting take on things. She doesn’t dress things up all pretty like cis feminist sex worker activists like; she tells it like it is – the positives and the negatives – and that, to me, does more to help the decriminalization cause than any happy Gender Studies grad student hooker can.
Lexi was more than happy to be interviewed by Andrea, and she consoled me a bit on my bruised ego, post-dumpings. Lexi’s a solid friend like that. And then off the phone with me, and onto the phone with Xtra. All was well with the world.
The story went up on the online edition of Xtra the next day with the deeply unfortunate title “The Dangers of Sex Work,” but all in all, it was a decent story. Xtra has a history of being a bit sensationalistic, especially when it comes to trans and sex work stories – their profile of me a month previous described my twelve year old self in the very first sentence as a “lost and confused drug addicted trans sex worker,” for example. But, generally, it’s pretty innocuous.
Then came Lexi’s FaceBook message. She followed this up with a copy of messages sent between her, a mutual friend of ours who had alerted her of her former name being used, and the editor in question – Danny Glenwright. In the messages, a surprisingly calm and polite Lexi explained that it was problematic for him to post Lexi’s former name when referring to the article on his FaceBook wall, gave him a link explaining how to respect trans people, and then wished him, in true Lexi fashion, “orgasmic love” for the holidays.
I am not a woman trapped in a man’s body. This body is no man’s; it is mine, it is me, and there is no man in that equation. And I am not trapped in it. There are a million and one ways out of this body, and I have clung to it, tooth and claw, despite an endless line of people and institutions who would rather I vacate the premises, and have sometimes been willing to make me bleed to convince me they’re right.
This body is mine, and I claim it and its bruises, and it is not a man’s, and I am not trapped here. I have looked leaving my body in the eye and I have said, in the end, hell no. There is too much to do, too much to love, too many who need one more of us to say hell no and help them say the same.