I came across this post through twitter the other day and it really pissed me off.
The Lesbian Mafia have repeatedly made the claim on twitter and on their blog that opening women’s spaces to trans women is dangerous. They say that opening women’s spaces to anyone who says they identify as a woman “compromises women’s spaces irrevocably.” In the piece linked they do not say why but on twitter they explicitly stated that they believe that allowing trans women into women’s spaces ostensibly makes cis women more vulnerable to sexual assault. Furthermore they seem to be labeling anyone who calls them out for being transphobic as a cyberbully.
The notion that trans women are a danger to cis women is not a new one, and it is steeped in transphobia. It is based on the notion that trans women are posing as women for some ulterior motive such as gaining access to women in places they would not have access to if they presented as men. This is frequently used as a reason not to grant trans women access to women’s only bathrooms. The amount of discrimination trans people of all kinds face in modern western society is overwhelming. They face high rates of suicide, murder, homelessness. Trans women face an actual and constant risk of assault because of transphobia. To me this is far more serious than the mythical risk that cis women face from trans women.The Lesbian Mafia appears to be deeply invested in policing the boundaries of womanhood. How we qualify who is and who is not a woman is deeply contested, definitions are sometimes based on arbitrary notions of presentation or the presence of certain organs both of which exclude some women cis or trans.
Trans women are deeply entrenched in oppression, they face more axes of oppression than cis women and portraying all trans women as dangerous to cis women is contemptuous. Women only spaces should be open to some of the most oppressed women in our societies.Policing the boundaries of womanhood is exclusionary, divisive and it is contrary to the principles of intersectionality. Feminism is for all women. Maintenence of a safe space is based upon a mutual commitment to the principles of a safe space. It relies on effective moderation and the ability to expel those who continually threaten the safety of a space. Trans women do not threaten the safety of a space by virtue of their existence.
The Lesbian Mafia seem to get very upset about being labeled transphobic for saying transphobic things. Transphobia is real and it hurts trans people in very real ways. It is groups like the Lesbian Mafia, who appear to be intent on fragmenting feminism that make it poorer for all of us. Feminism is about equality for all and to achieve that we need to be inclusive, and this includes in women only spaces. The inclusion of trans women only makes our movement stronger and it deeply saddens me to see statements like those being made by the Lesbian Mafia finding popular support.
At the end of the day, trans women are women and yes their word is enough for me. We need to moderate safe spaces based on individual actions.