update on 'trans feminine'
October 31, 2013
i”ve seen a bit of discussion recently on tumblr abour the usage of ‘trans feminine” and/or ‘trans femme”. It has been a few months since I posted about the why”s and how”s of my using ‘trans feminine” and figured it was time for an update since my perspective on it all has changed somewhat in the ensuing months and discussions.
At the time, I generally asked around to see how others were referring to the community as a whole… there wasn”t much consensus, which is totally okay. I think at that time, I largely settled for the nominal phrase of ‘the community impacted by transmisogyny” or something similar for when I need to use a shorthand method to refer to, well, the community of people impacted by transmisogyny.
I also made a critical error (actually two) in that post.
First was not making clear that the post was about how/why i use trans feminine, rather than making a proscriptive suggestion for how other people should refer to the community. Then (and now) I have little desire to see anyone mold themselves to my notions of language. Nor do I even necessarily think that consensus is necessary or desirable.
As an example, not too long ago a bunch of ppl jumped on my when I linked to a story that involved a South Asian organization that had ‘sh****le” in the title. I neither censored it nor trigger warned for it. My reasoning then (and I still stand by it) is that if this is how the organization and members wished to refer to themselves, then it is fine by me. If this was the term they found empowering and that allowed them to achieve their goals and aims, again I have nothing to say about that. I neither think that they should change their name to something less cringeworthy in a north american context nor do i think that any NA orgs should be compelled to use that word for themselves.
Second error (and this is the major one) was framing the discussion as if ‘trans feminine” should supplant ‘trans woman” (or whatever) as the better/more inclusive option. Not only was this misguided, it is definitely a sign of my internalized trans misogyny. I touch on this, in part, in the first footnote of the post. And since I”ve come to embrace my trans womanhoood, I definitely understand why ‘binary” TWoC I know were…. not very impressed by the post.
What it should have been about, was using ‘trans feminine” as a supplement to trans woman when it makes sense, a la “trans women and trans feminine ppl”. Not ‘trans feminine” instead of ‘trans women”. On my part, it was an act of erasure towards a community already much erased from the movements it has started.
As for when it makes sense to use ‘trans feminine” rather than ‘trans women” really are those cases where you read about a murdered ‘man” found with women”s clothing, but no name is ever given and the identity of this person is just… unavailable. This happens a lot in global news, you look at last year”s TDoR list and there are a lot of missing names. And since many of these events occur in PoC places which may or may not have their own way to denote the gender of the person, this is a context where I prefer to use ‘trans feminine”, so as not to impose an ID on the person.
But also to make it clear that the person is part of the community of people whose lives are impacted by transmisogyny.
Which actually ties into the discussions I”ve seen recently on ‘trans feminine” and seeing people use it who do not belong to the community of people impacted by transmisogyny. A cis woman who may have transitioned to being a guy for a while does not count as this.
While I generally attempt to avoid speaking of birth assignment, this is one of the times when it is necessary, since dfab violence towards the community impacted by transmisogyny is real. Moreover, trans men already have a long history of invading women”s spaces. It would not be either safe or acceptable for a dfab person to show up to a space for trans women and/or trans feminine ppl. Indeed, it would just be another example of dfab violence towards us.
Trans women have so few spaces given the way we are systematically pushed out or excluded from most of them. Indeed, I”d hazard to say that most ‘space” we are able to take up is largely conceptual. So. Yeah.
This applies with ‘trans femme” as well. I was recently surprised to see someone who I thought was a trans woman and/or trans feminine person (but used ‘trans femme”) actually just say that they were a man. Which… what. IN part, this is largely an issue of syntax. If this person had said ‘femme trans man”, i likely wouldn”t have made the mistake. Or even ‘trans femme man” and I probably would have got the right message. Otherwise, I totally understand ‘trans femmes” to refer to the subset of trans women and/or trans feminine ppl who ID as femme. So, likewise, if I were to go to some probably awesome trans femme of colour event, having a man show up would be jarring and, well, make the space feel decidedly less safe and welcoming.
I”ll leave off with a reminder that this all is about my current engagement with these terms, and not prescriptive. No one else is required to use language in the exact ways that I do (I don”t even think this would be a good thing). Just where I”m at right now, okay?