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.


New Black Woman said...

As a black feminist, I will support the rights of all women, whether transwoman or a woman by birth.

It sickens me to hear the hateful and vile remarks that are made against transgendered people in this country.

Monica Roberts said...

That's good to know.

Drakyn said...

I remember bfp did support trans*folk when that long ass thread happened at Twisty's (if I remember correctly--it isn't cached so I can't check). She had a fuck you post towards folks and then made a post for trans*women and/or WOC to compare similarities in how society and/or feminism treats them.
If I remember correctly, she said she didn't really care about defining borders, at least not as much about the actual hurt people, especially women, of color are suspect to.

danadocus said...

hey monica,

I'm not a woman of colour, but I am trans and I'd like to say that I have seen and felt more solidarity and support for trans people within the radical woman of colour feminist (though that term is quickly disappearing these days) and allies online community than I have in any other - including trans communities.

Jackie said...

I am not a feminist. I am a black lesbian who unconditionally accepts Transwomen as full sisters.
I remember back in the day, being invited to go with friends to the Michigan fest and turning them down because I hated the attitude toward Trans women attending.
Feminist elitist attitudes have always made me sick.

Go Go Jo Jo said...

I am Black and I do consider myself a feminist. And, like NBW, I support and advocate for the rights of all women.

I don't always see that reflected in other Black women activists types (who may or may not define themselves as feminist) which always saddens me. To me it seems only logical.

Monica Roberts said...

I know Jackie's aware of this since she was part of a panel I put together for a column I wrote on whether transwomen and biowomen could be friends, but it's important to many transwomen to have the love, respect and acceptance from our biosisters.

It makes us feel as though everything we are going through is worth the sacrifices we made to get to these poibts in our transisitons.

Many of your African-American transisters realize before we started taking our first hormones that Black womanhood is no joke or nothing to entered into cavalierly. That is one point i wish to make crea to the biowomen that don't understand where our heads are at in terms of tis issue.

There is a history, legacy of struggle and triumph that we are open to learning because we want to be worthy torchbearers of that legacy, not embarrasements to it.

Having biosisters as friends and allies who point that out to us on a regular basis in the spirit of Kingian love and sisterhood will help us become better, spritually tuned and more confident African-American women that you can be proud of.

Renee said...

I identify as a queer womanist. I completely support trans women. I think that it is especially important to note that throughout the "metamorphosis", trans women are giving up privilege and owning the identity of a marginalized identity, this is particularly so for a black trans woman. Personally I have more solidarity with a trans woman than a white radical feminist.

Monica Roberts said...

Thanks for recognizing that.

It's one of the thing I try to convey in the various blog posts and any time I'm doing Trans 101 panels

The hateful and vile remarks are only going to get worse before it gets better. The sad part is that some of thse remarks are coming from our own people.