Saturday, April 26, 2008
Black Feminism and Transwomen-What's the 411?
From time to time I like stimulating my mind by engaging in hard, solid thinking as Dr. King eloquently called it.
One of the questions that's recently popped into my head since I read those jacked up comments on a Questioning Transphobia post about Black transwomen and Black women in general, is where do my African-American biosisters who consider themselves feminists stand when it comes to transgender issues?
There is a long-standing historical beef between transpeople and the radical feminist community thanks to the poisonous attitudes that Janice Raymond and Germaine Greer injected into the movement back in the 70's and 80's. Mention the Michigan Womyn's Music Fest to some of the transwomen of and before my generation and you'll see a level of bile and vitriol that's usually reserved for HRC. Don't even get me started on Janice Raymond's infamous book The Transsexual Empire. I'm also aware that many African-American and other women of color have major beefs with the feminist movement as well.
My question to those African-American women who call themselves feminists (or womanists) is what are your thoughts and beliefs in regards to your transgender sisters? Do you share the same negativity toward us as some white radical feminists do, or do you lean more toward the historical philosophy that we are all Black first, everything else second?
From what I've been able to read from some Black feminist writings, at first glance we share some similarities. Transsistahs share the experience of evolving, becoming and being Black women in a society that denigrates women of African descent. We also share as Black people the history and legacy of struggle that causes us to view issues through an African-American lens. We transwomen also share like you do the frustrations of being marginalized in a larger, white-dominated movement that doesn't speak to or is indifferent about our issues and historic agenda as African descended people in America.
In addition to that, Black transwomen are all too aware that the second we transition, we become moving targets for sexual assault and violence. You only need to look at the Remembering our Dead list and note that 70% of the people memorialized on that list are people of color to see that common thread.
But I also noted that transgender issues and their place in feminist thought are contentious issues in both camps. One of the things I find abhorrent is the recent trend by some white post-operative transwomen to appropriate radical feminist language (the WBT's) and then fashion it into a rhetorical club to beat down other transpeople who don't share their narrow, classist, borderline racist, misguided, genitalia-centered and non-reality based agenda.
We have also grown up observing our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and female friends being raised to not only have pride in themselves, but be socialized as independent, self-reliant and resourceful people.
We have grown up in homes in which parents shared responsibilities or if it was a single parent one, mom raising children and sacrificing her needs for her kids. We have seen African-American women as leaders from the neighborhood associations to the halls of Congress. That is the model of womanhood that many African-American transwomen grew up with. It is the template some of us use for our own evolution into the Black women we were born to be.
This inquiring mind wants to know and is curious to hear what Black feminists have to say regarding their transsistahs.