Hey girl, we’re a lot alike. We recognize systems of oppression that impact us. We’re both women who were declared girls at birth. We’ve both grown up under a system of patriarchy that unfairly rewarded boys for the same things we were punished for. We’ve felt the weight of our gender and gendered violence.
It can be hard for some cis-ters to wrap their minds around the fact that our trans sisters share these experiences with us, but even more extreme versions of them. They grew up under the same patriarchy, as unrecognized girls.
They were simultaneously forced into the restrictions of the male gender role and also heard and internalized negative messages about girls, including them. The gendered violence trans women face exceeds that of cis women, who aren’t exactly sitting pretty in a fortress of femme solitude.
When cis women try to deny trans women entry into places men aren’t allowed, we’re saying that the oppression patriarchy inflicted on these women matters less, that the violence they face is not our problem, and that these women are really men. There is almost nothing more harmful and less feminist we could do. If there really is a “special hell for women who don’t help other women”, my transmisogynist cis-ters will fill it.
In response to various “bathroom bills” requiring people to pee in the room associated with their birth certificate gender, proposed primarily by the same male conservative politicians we’re usually eager to fight, some trans activists have started uploading photos of themselves in the wrong-but-legally-mandated bathrooms to show that they don’t belong there. While I absolutely support their activism, I need to make something clear to cis women.
Trans women who dress butch, don’t wear makeup, and don’t “pass” as cis have the exact same needs and rights to use the women’s bathroom as the most feminine trans women. Being a woman should not be about performing gender in clothing and style, and dressing femme is safer and more pleasant for some women than others, cis and trans.
It’s also important to recognize that femininity and masculinity are subjective and influenced by racist beauty preferences. Black women are viewed as inherently more masculine than white women, regardless of their trans status. Consider the highly negative commentary about black cis world star tennis player Serena Williams, versus the commentary about white cis Ultimate Fighting Champion and transphobe Rhonda Rousey. Both women are muscular and cis, but it is the black woman most often called a man.
The right to pee safely in the women’s room needs to be protected for all women, not just whites, not just cis, not just conventionally pretty. My feminism has never been about making other women adhere to my beauty standards, and it’s not going to start now.