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On trans exclusion, transmisogyny, and performative allyship

This past weekend was spent muting, blocking, reporting, and responding to transphobic comments and people because of an article I published pointing out that a MoCo Board of Education candidate was running on a platform of transphobia and homophobia. I am physically and emotionally exhausted from it. 

Over the course of my time running MoCo Local I have continuously called out folks for excluding the trans community from conversations or for their transphobia and I will absolutely continue to do so. The past couple of weeks has been no different. I’ve pointed out several times where the trans community has been excluded from conversations both on MoCo Local as well as on my personal social media accounts. I had a conversation with my dad a few weeks ago about the same thing. No one gets a pass, regardless of whether or not you consider yourself an ally. That’s how being an ally works. You don’t know you’re causing harm unless you’re told, or maybe you’re the kind of ally that does the work themselves without having to rely on other people telling you. Either way, allyship is something that you practice. It requires time and energy, the willingness to learn, and the courage to acknowledge that you don’t always have it right. I say practice because allyship is constantly in motion. You can’t take piano lessons for a week and say that you have mastered playing the piano. In this same regard, you can’t place a pride flag frame around your profile picture for a month and call yourself an ally.

Montgomery County is no stranger to performative allies, performative legislation, and performative working groups. When faced with a problem that really makes us question who we are as a county, instead of dealing with the problem head-on, we are given platitudes, we are given a new board to study the issue, or a working group to offer suggestions on how the county can improve. While these are sometimes needed, this shouldn’t be the first option, and it certainly should not be the only option. Being in an allyship with a community is not the same as being an ally to it. Performative allies will cause harm to the communities they claim to support, albeit not intentional harm.

Yesterday, I quote tweeted a link to an op-ed talking about how Maryland had expanded abortion access for women and how it’s important that women continue to have access to abortion care. Something that I have been a staunch supporter of considering that I was raised as, socialized as, and lived as a woman for a part of my life. I have a uterus and it’s a very real possibility that I could have an abortion if the need ever arose.

In my tweet, I pointed out that excluding trans and nonbinary people from these conversations causes harm, which it does. The op-ed purposefully focuses on cisgender women, as if the only people who face oppression from misogyny are cisgender women. By placing misogyny as oppression that only affects cisgender women, abortion access advocates ignore that transphobia and homophobia are all rooted in misogyny, and in fact are parts of it. 

Misogyny tells us that trans men aren’t men because our “biological sex” is female. Misogyny tells us that trans women are not women because they are born with physical advantages that women are not born with. Trans women playing sports with cisgender women is wrong, says misogyny. Misogyny tells us that gender is binary and not a spectrum, and because of this, nonbinary people aren’t valid. Misogyny tells us that anyone that does not fall into a binary gender is a target for oppression, fetishization, and sexualization because our bodies, our identities, or our presentation is too feminine. 

While transmisogyny primarily affects trans women and transfeminine folks, trans and nonbinary people of all gender identities who are perceived as feminine experience transmisogyny (see also transmisogynoir). You cannot talk about misogyny and not also include people at the intersection of these identities. When you do that, you continue to further the idea that trans women are not women, trans men are not men, and nonbinary people do not have valid gender identities. 

Letter I wrote about abortion care access and limiting conversations to cisgender women

Excluding trans and nonbinary people from conversations about issues to abortion care access that directly impact us just as much as, if not more than, cisgender women hurts all of us, including cisgender women. Exclusionary feminism comes in many forms. Some are glaringly obvious like J.K. Rowling, others come in well-meant op-eds that exclude groups of people specifically because they aren’t cisgender. I’m not saying that the intent of the op-ed was to exclude, but the fact remains that it did exclude us. 

Moments like these are opportunities to learn and become better people, better allies. Allyship calls for us to rise up and swallow our pride when we are confronted with something that may be causing harm. I’ve been called out several times for not recognizing my privilege as a cis-assumed white man, and each time I’ve taken that to mean I need to do and be better. Does it hurt to be called out? Yes, it does. No ally wants to be told that they are causing harm to the very communities they claim to support but being a good ally and a good neighbor is contingent on the fact that we must always recognize the harm we cause and then do better the next time. 

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