third gendering fuck

March 18, 2009 § 20 Comments

ah fuck.


Let’s say you are talking about women, and want to be absolutely clear that you are including trans women in your statement.  You can say, “women, cis and trans.” Or “cis women and trans women.”  Or, “women, including trans women.”  Or even “female-identified people.”  What you should not say, is “women and trans” or “women and trans women,” as though trans women are never included in the category “women.”  Because “women” should always include women who happen to be trans.

i have been saying this for years.  women and trans folk.  dammit.  of course.  trans folk are not necessarily gender queer.  duh.

i mean that is the fucking subheading for raven’s eye: women and trans folk…when what i meant was, the bodies that i was really picturing were: women and gender queer.  so what is with me conflating transfolk and gender queer?  what is with me not listening to the tons of trans folk who have made it clear that they are women and men?

so this is my deep apology.

Language is fundamental to giving trans people the same respect that cis people take for granted.  It signals how the speaker sees trans people, and can shape the views of both speaker and audience.  The sex workers rights movement needs to respect people’s gender identities–whether cis or trans–and this means that everyone who identifies as a woman is a woman, and everyone who identifies as a man is a man.

so what do you guys think?  about changing the subheading of raven’s eye…


women and gender queer folk of color….

women of color…

women, cis and trans, of color…

and all of these suggestions still leave out trans men.  who live on the margins of gender.

i am still working out these issues.  and how i relate to my own gender and its multiplicity and fluidity.

and much thanks to jaded hippy for hipping me to this article in her list of links…

§ 20 Responses to third gendering fuck

  • QBG says:

    genderqueer, cis and trans women of color . . .

  • donna618 says:

    It depends on who Raven’s Eye is for. If it is meant for women of color, whether cis or trans, then it should just say “women of color”. If it is meant for women of color and trans people of color, including trans men, then you actually did it right the first time with “women and trans folk of color”. If it still makes you uncomfortable like you are third gendering trans women you could also consider, “women and trans men of color”. Women automatically includes both cis and trans, but this way you are specifically inviting trans men too.

  • How about “women, trans men, and gender queer folks of color?”

  • little light says:

    I mean, the thing is, what you’ve got is clearly the right intent–women (including trans women), and trans people who aren’t necessarily women–genderqueer folk and trans men. The trouble is how it will be read.
    If you want to include trans men, too, there’s another layer of critique to look at–does it take their manhood seriously? So much inclusion of trans men in women’s spaces or efforts is based in a fundamental assumption that they’re just sort of a species of women really than actual men. Is the inclusion because the set is “people subject to gender oppression” or “non-cis-men” or is it “people who are sometimes part of the community of women” or…and so on.

    I mean, yeah. I’m troubled by “women and trans people,” which Incite! does, too. At the same time, if you want to include trans men and genderqueer people, I’m not sure of a better way to succinctly put it without implicitly lumping in trans women away from the “women” category. I’ve been trying to think of a good suggestion for a while, since I’ve been meaning to contact Incite! about the matter, and spoke up about not doing it with Speak! as well. At the same time, for instance, Speak! was easier to fiddle with linguistically, because it is just women, cis and trans.

    And then on the other other hand, if you just say “women,” a lot of people will assume from the get-go that that isn’t inclusive of trans women, because that’s the status quo.

    I think Donna has a lot of good thoughts about the matter, in her comment. But it’s hard to suss this one out, especially since, in my experience, there are many “women and trans folk” spaces that actually in practice exclude trans women, because what they mean is “cis women, female-assigned genderqueer folk, and trans men.” I’m exhausted and exasperated with “trans-inclusive” or “trans-affirming” spaces that have no place for trans women. There’s something particularly perverse about seeing “women and trans people” and knowing that while I count as both, the door’s shut to me.

    I’ll keep thinking about this.

  • mama says:

    and the funny thing about it (for me) is that i can *hear* my brain putting trans folk in a seperate category from men and women. like its not so much about the language. its just that *i* know that the language is a reflection of this fucked up third gendering. does that make sense?
    its like there was a moment where someone recently used the phrase: having a more specific gender than others. and my brain went woah! yes.
    and yet still i can *hear* my brain wanting to define others gender for them…like oh i dont believe in the binary construct, but i do believe that i can define your gender…

  • quinacridones says:

    I unlocked a post in a my journal:

    And in the comments I get into a few reasons why I detest the phrase “women and trans” . (Someday I’ll make a more rational post. Someday)

    I know some trans people don’t really mind, but for me, “women and trans” never works out, because you label one group by their gender and another by their relation to society’s system of sex and gender.

    At this point there isn’t a nice, neat, way of wrapping up language. Like I said in those comments, even though “women and genderqueer” seems to cover a fair chunk of people, because of the communities who’ve used it, that tagline usually signifies a place where trans women/trans female/trans femininine (regardless of birth assignment) people are not welcome. It’s more important to have trans women/trans female/trans feminine people as visible members of the community and be inclusive of their perspective, than the perfectness of the catchphrase.

    I would suggest “woman of color (cis and trans) and genderqueers of color”, then in the about section you expand on that.

    and all of these suggestions still leave out trans men. who live on the margins of gender.

    To be honest, including trans men, as centered members of a space that’s dominated by people connected in some way to the woman/female gender/sex space is ungendering. (And a little suspect, considering that they’re always centered in these kinds of “trans inclusive” spaces to the exclusion of trans women/trans female/trans feminine people)

    Most trans men, as far as I’ve seen, don’t want to be included in what’s mostly a “women’s space”, because including them in a space that positions cis men as allies, is privileging their trans status/birth assignment over their real gender. The trans men/trans male people who do want to participate in women’s spaces are usually genderqueers who feel an explicit connection to those communities. Though there are still problems, as they have unquestioned entry into women’s spaces that trans women/trans female/trans feminine people do not, and it’s created a space where “genderqueer” is almost always synonymous with people female assigned at birth.

  • mama says:

    @ little light and donna

    yeah when i was mumbling to myself earlier about this…i realized i meant something like: folks who are on the margins of gender…
    and honestly i am not sure about trans men.

    i mean it didnt occur to me that ‘women and trans folk’ would mean trans men but not trans women…that actually seems crazy.

    and part of what is getting at me is that i dont want to use the prefix ‘non’ in describing us. i want us to be named in affirmative…but that us a diverse melange of lives and identifications and trying to sum it all up in some pithy slogan…

  • mama says:

    going to take care of the kid for a while. and think some more…

    oh maybe:

    Our ISSUES have been done to death, we want our LIVES…

    and then in the about page…go into more depth about who WE are…

    another suggestion…

  • little light says:

    You’re totally making sense, Maia, especially in being named in the affirmative.

    I think quinacridones has a really good point–there’s not going to be a perfect phrase. Like you said in your discussion of anti-racist work, the words and the theory and the intent only go so far. And then, after that, what’s really going to matter and make a difference are actions: are people listened to and taken seriously, are their concerns centered and treated as valid, are they treated as equal partners and not just “included” in real people’s business. And I think if you’re doing the meat of it–the actual listening and accountability and action part–the pithy phrases will be secondary. It’s not issues–exactly. It’s lives. And so long as those lives are respected, I’m satisfied. With that respect comes the chance to have conversations about the language choices.

  • little light says:

    and the funny thing about it (for me) is that i can *hear* my brain putting trans folk in a seperate category from men and women. like its not so much about the language. its just that *i* know that the language is a reflection of this fucked up third gendering. does that make sense?

    It totally makes sense. I mean, it makes just as much sense as all the white supremacy we internalize and hear, unwillingly, in the backs of our heads–or the sexism, or the heterocentrism, or the ableism, or whatever. We all absorb that stuff from our ambient environment. It just comes down to what we do with it.

  • Amapola says:

    This is pre-coffee, pre-breakfast, so I’m a little all over the place but–

    Thinking about what little light’s been saying, about lots of “women and trans folks of color” spaces not being inviting of trans women, making those words start to seem either meaningless or exclusionary— Trans women should be a part of ‘women’ in that statement, and should get to be able to trust that they are. Which makes me almost inclined to say that it might be worth keeping a similar subheading and then laying it out real clear in the “about” so there’s no question about who is included, almost to start to say “you shouldn’t have to look for a crazy elaborated list of identities under woman to know you’re included. You’re a woman of color, you don’t need an extra adjective to be a woman of color.” (Not to say that all our extra adjectives aren’t important and meaningful and part of our identities, but that they’re not necessary as qualifiers, if that makes sense).

    I’m not sure if any of that really makes sense, or if it’s the best solution. But in terms of othering/third gendering, a thing that is hard to unlearn in general, I think there’s something really powerful about not talking about the distinctions (cis, trans) all the time. And maybe a simple subheader which just identifies women as women might help reinforce that? (And then still having the about section that can lay out inclusion very clearly). It seems like that could potentially also help move the conversations around trans-issues from 101s to ‘these are things happening in our lives that are related to this part of who we are.’

    I am probably putting too much weight into a subheader. But those were the first thoughts which came to mind.

  • nosnowhere says:

    thanks for this conversation. we have been calling the allied media conference INCITE! track the Women/Trans People of Color Media Track, at first it was just Women of Color Media Track. this was easier to say and we define women to include all women not just cis. but i’ve been calling it Women/Trans … Track for a minute although its cumbersome, to make it explicit.

    what i am hearing here is that calling it like that does not reflect what we are working towards, and the woc spaces and future we’re trying to build.

  • whatsername says:

    What about “women of color across the gender spectrum”?

  • Amapola says:


    my impression is we’re wanting to include trans folks of color who don’t necessarily ID as women, in which case it would make sense to me to keep it ‘women/trans people of color.’ my sense is that having ‘trans’ in the statement is positive– it’s just also about being clear that trans women fall under ‘women’ and not ‘other.’ unfortunately, there’s only so much work that can be done in a title or a subheading though… which i guess is the problem.

  • little light says:

    Doesn’t work for the trans guys, whatsername. They’re not women of color, they’re men of color. If they’re included, they deserve the mention, but it’s not respectful to them to put them under the heading ‘women’.

    I really think it will come down to using a phrase like what’s already in use, and just explicitly backing it up with statements and actions that support trans women as women and as trans people, and buck the prevailing culture.

  • whatsername says:

    Doesn’t work for the trans guys, whatsername. They’re not women of color, they’re men of color.

    Right, and my reading thus far has suggested that mama wants to great a space for women of color. Transmen are men, thus I assumed, for my suggestion, they would not be included.

    If they are, I don’t think there is a neat or tidy title that could be put on such a blog, and I would wonder why exactly they are being included. Because of their female bodied history?

  • quinacridones says:

    what i am hearing here is that calling it like that does not reflect what we are working towards, and the woc spaces and future we’re trying to build.

    In the end, it’s most important that trans issues are recognized and become part of the way people discuss gender. Which is always an ongoing process, and I think if it’s a forward-moving process then it’s good. Since there aren’t much better alternatives, as it’s a structural problem, I’ve resigned myself to it.

    Actually, I take back the first part. The most important thing is not to act out that thought process “women and trans people”.
    Yes! This is the fundamental reason why the phrase bugs me so badly. (I’m been running round for a while now trying to figure this out.) The phrase reflects how society perceives trans people and is usually echoed by organization, groups, and individuals. To them, transness overrides our gender identities and those lump assumptions about trans identities totally override our diverse perspectives.

    Instead, such a group, needs to start at the angle that you have (or are creating) a group of people with different gender identities, gender expressions, gender histories and ideas about gender. Then we have to also remember that, you can have people in the same/similar/connected gender space, but you can’t assume that everything is the same.

    I want to be specific, but there’s a million and one things, because you’re practically rewriting the gender script and there’s so little out there that many people are building ideas into existence, almost from scratch. But it really starts with listening to people and not taking anything for granted, like with anything else.

    So it’s basically, if you use the label (or even if you don’t), don’t use the idea and eventually we can work together to create better language as we create healthier communities.

  • mama says:

    wow. thanks to everyone for weighing in. really. has given me a lot to think about. and all the wonderful suggestions. and being willing to tease this out with me.

    and as i am thinking. i am thinking that we should open this question up to the raven’s eye community (as nascent as it is)…so i think i am going to put a post up and highlight this discussion and bring more thought to it.

    oh and raven’s eye starts tomorrow…ahhhh!

  • […] crossposted from guerrilla mama medicine […]

  • voz says:

    “I really think it will come down to using a phrase like what’s already in use, and just explicitly backing it up with statements and actions that support trans women as women and as trans people, and buck the prevailing culture.”

    Little light, this is so true. We have all heard the words so many times, and had our trust violated, that we need to take back whatever words we choose and make them have real meaning again.

    It isn’t that “women and trans” violates, hurts, divides, its the thinking behind that phrase that does.

    I use “woc of all body histories.”

    This is a wonderful blog, and I am glad that i found it.

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