March 8 is International Women’s Day, and while that sounds like such a positive woman-celebrating idea, there’s just one problem: how do trans women fit into this?
The F-word recently highlighted this problem with a particular women-only march (Million Women Rise) they’re having in London on the day:
The march has been publicized widely with flyers, and on feminist mailing lists and blogs, but conspicuously absent from the publicity has been any reference to the welcome that might be expected by trans women on this “women only” march.
After some correspondence, F-word did manage to get a nice answer affirming that anyone who self-identifies as a woman and wants to end male violence against women is welcome to march. But:
However despite our repeated requests, there has been no response about whether they intend to change the website to make this clear, and the posts about this on the facebook page have got evasive responses. For some reason, the organisers don’t seem to want to address this issue face on, and I’m not quite sure why.
Could it be that they’re worried many cisgender women won’t show up if they hear there are going to be trans women there, too? That they don’t want to scare off the transphobics, who are probably (sadly) a much bigger demographic than the trans women who’d like to come to the march? I hate to say it, but I think this is likely. F-Word points out that some smaller marches have explicitly stated that trans women are welcome:
Bristol Reclaim the Night, as just one recent example, has made trans-inclusion explicit in their publicity. But more of them need to do better, and the worst offenders seem to be the highest profile.
This is a typical pattern. The lower profile groups who have less to lose test the waters first, and all goes well. Then the higher profile groups who have more to lose finally get on board. My problem is: every damn time this pattern occurs, the results are the same. People who are prejudiced always end up going with the flow, because that’s how they ended up prejudiced in the first place: not thinking for themselves. I’m not saying all bigotry is this easy to solve – we’re talking about a few marches one day out of the year. But I do think the problem of opening your business/organization doors to That Kind is usually not as high a risk as people imagine.
In any case, we as women – whether we’re organizing marches or thinking about marching in them – need to make it clear where we stand. We may have all sorts of questions and opinions about what really makes a person a woman or man, or indeed if those assignations even mean anything. But all we’re talking about here is simply who is welcome where. If you consider and represent yourself as a woman, you should be welcome wherever women are welcome.