Archiving the latest volley of stories about transgender folk at women’s colleges, specifically paying attention to the welcoming of transmasculine students in light of continued exclusion of transfeminine students.
“When Women Become Men at Wellesley”
By Ruth Padawer
October 15, 2014
Posted to Facebook 2014-10-19 11:27:
The title itself is awful. More importantly, though, it can be more properly rewritten: When Male/Masculine Privilege Asserts Itself at Women’s Colleges. […]
Bonus points: watch for the overt transmisogyny by one dude.
Reply 2014-10-19 13:40:
Yeah, I agree, […], the idea of women’s colleges being perceived as safe(r) spaces for general queerness is probably accurate and that’s why they remain an attractive choice for some transmasculine/men folk. I mean, masculinity is a relatively hostile, hypercompetitive, and frequently toxic sphere. I totally understand any reticence trans men may feel about entering that world… but… trans women have had no choice but to navigate that realm the best they could in order to survive. And when we are unwelcome in, or barred from, these safe(r) women’s spaces, as we simultaneously see men welcomed, embraced, and celebrated in them, it becomes a really sore point to say the least.
Personally, it’s a fuzzy
line [boundary] but my feeling is that gender non-conforming and genderqueer assigned-female (AFAB) folk at women’s colleges is generally [completely] fine (provided it is not overpowered by white gnc/gq as it frequently, sadly is). The caveat about AFAB gnc/genderqueerness/non-binariness _in queer spaces_, though, one that is just about *never* spoken about (except by those left out, of course), is that it is often the default genderqueerness. Note I said _in queer spaces_ because, yeah, in general, it’s looked upon askance; however in queer spaces (touching back to your original point) you will find very few transfeminine and gnc/gq/nb AMAB folk.
In all my years of visible transfeminine-ness before coming out, I had literally nowhere to go, no refuge or safe(r) space. I’m sure my experience is far from unique. Thankfully, I had enough intersecting privilege to make it. But there are others who are quite fine with being transfeminine–who will face nastiness throughout their lives. Also, turning trans women and transfeminine folk out of (gender)queer spaces brings with it fatal consequences, especially when intersected with racism, classism, etc.
But once somebody steers towards a transmasculine identity, and certainly towards a trans man identity, then it becomes kind of shabby, appropriative, and privileged to stay, especially given the current state of colleges not accepting trans women. I mean, I happily and wholeheartedly support trans men navigating masculine spheres; it’s a rough fight. But that’s where their struggle lies–building better masculinities. It does not lie in taking space in women’s colleges.
Reply 2014-10-19 13:54:
Comment elicited by my increasing feelings of isolation as a trans woman grad student on campus:
[Our campus Q Center had (has?)] many more genderqueer assigned-female people, more then they had mentors for. Meanwhile there were relatively very few trans women or transfeminine folk actively seeking services from the center. Then I spoke with another trans woman [tangentially affiliated with campus… who] mentioned that she knew at least half a dozen trans women on campus who did not feel welcomed or comfortable in the center.
I mean, that breaks my heart, considering our Q Center, and campus, is pretty damned aware. And, like, our campus is coed and non-exclusionary to begin with. And, for as much as I see things for trans folk improving in general, it still makes me sad that some things have remained the same. I was not terribly surprised [to hear of the relative absence of trans women].
This does seem to point to something going on that keeps more trans women and transfeminine folk from either being out and/or engaging. Personally, I suspect internalized transmisogyny plays somewhat into this. Added to the high social cost of coming out toward a transfeminine direction along with the valorization of (trans)masculinity of (trans)femininity, this begins to explain trans women’s invisibility.
Earlier in that week, Janet Mock came to campus for a moderated discussion and interview. Among many other insights, two things in particular stood out for me, namely
- she said a number of times that she sees very few trans women of color, on campuses and at events like this.
- paraphrasing, but at one moment she said something along the lines, “I see mostly white trans men on campus”
Reply 2014-10-19 19:20 re: transmisogynistic student quoted in the article:
Given the scope of the article, I cannot honestly make any assumptions on what the interviewees felt toward trans women’s inclusion. But that guy, yeah, played his overtly transmisogynistic hand. It reads like standard transmisogyny.txt
I mean, it’s overtly gross that a trans person would be enforcing some surgical/medical requirement on another trans person. Like, asserting “male bodied” against trans women at a place where a lot of trans men have yet to assuage their alleged “female bodied-ness” is pretty damn hypocritical.
The hypothetical “what if she goes back to identifying as male” is garbage, precisely cuz with a defined policy in place, one stipulating any men are not admitted/allowed, the person could rightfully be asked to leave. It also jibes similar to the hypothetical argument of keeping trans women out of women’s restrooms because a man claiming to be trans *could possibly* sneak in.
Finally the trans men raised as female canard gets trotted out again as some technicality. I mean, it isn’t entirely untrue, depending on the individual. However, it entirely discounts the other ways that women come into womanhood. Hidden behind the “socialized as female” dodge is the sly implication that all trans women were raised, and enjoyed life, as cis boys in the absence of “female socialization.” [adding: these twin “socialized as” pieces of double-bind logic are used to rationalize trans men’s inclusion in women’s spaces while simultaneously excluding trans women.]
The particularly galling thing about this line is that nobody but nobody, except other trans women, realize that not only were many of our upbringings and socializations traumatic and harmful… but nobody mourns or gives a damn about our lost girlhoods. [which segues into our paths to womanhood]
And like, dude, for somebody raised as female you are being really shitty to a marginalized class of women.
Op-ed: Trans Men, Trans Women, and Surrendering the Sisterhood at Women’s Colleges
By Adrian Scott Duane
October 27, 2014
Response by a trans man in The Advocate Online.
Sisterhood should still have a place in academia as long as there are women — cisgender and transgender — who desire it.
Who Belongs in Women’s Spaces, Again? Women’s College Edition
A thorough response by Dr. Cary Gabriel Costello.
Guest Post: Fear of a trans college
A righteous post by Emma Caterine. I am still chuckling at this line.
Somewhere in hell Andrew Carnegie is thinking to himself, “Wow what a scam! I wish I had know you could do that. I could’ve gotten into the soup kitchen by saying I understand what it’s like to be a poor person, since I used to be one.”
“Op-ed: Dear ‘Anonymous’ Wellesley Trans Man, Excluding Trans Women Isn’t Really About ‘Safety'”
by Tim Chevalier
Disgust is political. In this case, the political work it does is upholding male supremacy. How? Well, the assignment of sex to infants at birth is an offer they can’t refuse. Masculinity, as we know it, is so fragile that it cannot survive the slightest bit of doubt in its superiority over all other forms of gendered embodiment. By exercising their autonomy to say “no” to that offer, which they never wanted, trans women jeopardize the precarious prestige of masculinity. The punishment they receive is disgust.