Today is International Women's Day, and in honor of it Renee, the brilliant creative genius behind the Womanist Musings blog has begun posting a series of interviews she conducted with eight different women. They will be posted on her blog over the next eight days, and I was honored to not only be chosen as an interview subject, but be the person that kicked off this week's series of conversations.
1) It is my understanding that you don't identify as a womanist or feminist, would you share with us some of your reservations for not owning either label?
My major reason for not claiming the feminist label was the anti-transgender attitudes still prevalent in much feminist thought and discourse, especially the radical feminist end of it. I also didn't like seeing the way feminists have disrespected women of color, so why would I try to identify with a movement that hates me on two levels?
As for as the womanist label, it appeals to me since as an African descended transwoman, it speaks more to my own core beliefs of not only uplifting the race but all people. But I haven't totally embraced it because at times I feel like I'm still not part of the sistahhood and haven't done enough to be worthy of the legacy of Audre Lord, bell hooks, and other pioneering womanists.
2) What if any positive changes have occurred in terms of including the concerns of trans women in feminist/womanist circles?
The changes I see are more on the womanist end of the scale. Feminists, and particularly the radical feminists are still clinging to the 'hate on transwomen'. screeds uttered by Janice Raymond, Germaine Greer, Mary Daly and others. I see womanists as being far more willing to accept and embrace us as friends, get to know our issues, and intelligently realize that we have many things in common. Womanists in many cases are more tenacious about speaking up about our issues and defending our right to exist than some transwomen are.
3) As a transwoman and a woman of colour do you find that you are often asked to choose between your identity as a trans woman and a woman of colour? Which if any do you consider to be your primary identity and why?
I made that choice a long time ago, so I don't get asked as much since I made it quite clear to the transgender community where I stood. I'm a proud African descended transwoman that also feels comfortable with the woman of color label as well. One of the reasons is that when I'm out and about, they see 'Black woman' long before they see the 'transwoman' part of my identity.
4) What would you like to see allies do to bridge the differences between trans women and cisgender women?
One is form friendships with transwomen. You'd be amazed how much you do have in common with transwomen and how much we desire to be full partners with cisgender women. It's a win-win situation that does wonders to break down the wall of mistrust, hurt feelings, misconceptions and anger on both sides. You gain a loyal friend, and it helps us gain confidence that we can be the types of women you expect and want us to be.
Two, realize that many transwomen take our transition into our new gender roles seriously and want to be seen as compliments to womanhood, not a joke or detriment to it.
5) During your transition what differences did you notice in how you were treated? What came as the biggest surprise?
The most glaring one was not being treated as a criminal suspect. Since I'm 6'2", the other was not being asked by whites the annoyingly stereotypical 'if I played basketball' question. That got replaced with 'Are you a model' until the WNBA cranked up in 1997.
Biggest surprise had to be discovering that I now have a doubled risk for breast cancer and have to do breast exams and mammograms on a regular basis. Next biggest was discovering how fast my intelligence was devalued. It only took three months of living full time before as I sarcastically complain, that I lost 15 IQ points once I transitioned.
Read the rest of the interview here