I”ve been wanting to write about this for a long time but hadn’t gotten around to it. Back when I was on Live Journal (I think my account is still open as Tboy Jacky. I started to blog there but quickly switched to WP where I have been happy ever since), I joined a few FTM groups. I got into some arguments about “women and trans” spaces such as parties and BDSM play parties. Some trans men, for various reasons, feel that having spaces for women and trans folk that inludes trans men while excluding cis men is unfair. I don’t have time to summarize those views here but below is my own views on it (in abridged form, believe it or not!) A recent “controversy” on a Fetlife discussion group led me to write what is below. I’m sure that someone will come along and express why they disagree and that’s ok, as long as the responses are respectful and not belligerent. I will delete those types of comments.
As an FTM who “grew up” in the dyke community and who was nurtured specifically by the leatherdyke community, I feel that inclusion in spaces that I used to be a part of before transition is a life saver. To be excluded would be devastating as I have developed many close ties there in the years leading up to transition and these ties have been maintained throughout transition. I understand that some transmen do not want to be in those spaces for their own reasons and that is fine. As far as I’m concerned, if a transman does not want to attend a woman and trans space, he is free to not do so. Back when I was on LJ FTM groups, some transmen were arguing that these spaces should not include FTMs while excluding cismen. I disagree. Those transmen may not want to be included but to argue that NO transmen should be included is unfair to those of us who need that space.
As for the exclusion of cis-men, this will sound cliché, I’m sorry, but they have lots of spaces. They really do. And many of us transguys don’t feel safe in spaces dominated by cismen. I generally don’t enjoy pansexual spaces with a hetero leaning (which qualifies most of the pan spaces I’ve been to in Montreal and even a couple in Toronto) because I know that the majority of the men there will think I’m a freak. I’m intimidated by gay male spaces because I have never, even seen a gay male space reach out to transmen to make us feel included. Maybe that happens in Toronto (?) but not in Montreal. Except for one local discussion group for gay and bisexual men which specifies that it is for all male-identified people, I’ve never seen any kind of FTM inclusion.
Now, in an ideal world, there would be a nice variety of spaces available to me. Some that were women and trans and some that included cismen that were open to trans people of all stripes. As soon as I find the latter, here or elsewhere, I will be sure to check it out because I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to have the opportunity to meet men (trans and cis) who would potentially be interested in a guy like me.
As for phrasing: NO PHRASING WILL PLEASE EVERYONE. There are various phrasings such as “women past, present and future”, “women and trans” etc. All of them have their problems. There is no easy way to phrase it. My suggestion to the organisers (because they did ask me personally) is to pick one, explain their choice in their mandate somewhere and acknowledge that it’s not perfect.
Finally, someone mentioned that including transmen in “women and trans” spaces has to do with exoticizing. It might be tempting to think so but I’ve been circulating in such spaces and never have I felt exoticized. On my way home from Ottawa on Monday after attending my second Unholy Harvest (for women and trans) I commented to my girlfriend that one of the reasons I love the vibe is that everyone there is sexy in their own way and everyone there acknowledges everyone else’s sexiness. Yes, I was made to feel sexy but no more or less sexy than anyone else there. It is one of the few spaces that I can walk around with breasts and my masculinity is not questioned. I know that I could even dress up in drag with women’s lingerie (because, yes, I kept all of mine) and still be seen as a guy. Very few people that I know outside of this space are able to look at me topless and refer to me as “he.” I feel respected and validated there. I wouldn’t give it up for anything and if organisers of such event threw up their hands and made it “women only” to please some transguys who feel insulted by this inclusion, I would be devastated.
Yes, all this enhances a difference between trans and cis men. Some trans men don’t like that. They don’t have to come. They can mingle and blend in with cis men. They can create spaces for all men. They can also create spaces for all men and women of all origins that like to play with men and women of all origins. That would be amazing and I would go. But this does not take away the need for spaces for women and trans. Incidentally, I do also understand that women (trans and cis) need their space too without any men. I respect that and would respect a women only space. I also respect women in women and trans spaces who don’t want to play with men. That’s OK. All these spaces can coexist and people should be free to circulate among them.
Finally, I know there are cis men out there who are allies and supporters and who might feel excluded by women only or women and trans spaces. They can participate in the creation of all-inclusive spaces, or spaces that are inclusive to ALL PEOPLE WHO ARE RESPECTFUL of all and perhaps where education can happen about how to respect not only gender difference but also cultural, linguistic, ability, age difference and so forth.