Should Trans Men and Trans-masculine Individuals Have Access to Feminist or Queer Women Spaces?

So, I was scrolling through Facebook and a trans friend of mine, we’ll call him Bob, posted a status about feminist and queer women spaces alienating trans men/transmasculine people. Under the cut, I want to outline my views on why alienating us can be problematic for the overall cause of feminism, and also in terms of how it erases the experiences many of us went through before coming out as trans. Enjoy!

Excluding us ignores, at least in some capacity, that we get treated to the same misogyny as women when born AFAB, despite what our identities become. No matter how we identify now or in the future, we may still have been subject to misogyny for a portion of our lives and understand and relate to those experiences. We were socialized as girls and women and thus we have our own stories to bring to the table.

Bob also gave some excellent questions and points: Isn’t it also, in many respects, wrong to lump cisgender men in with transgender men because we were socialized differently from birth? Isn’t there also an issue if you grant space to trans men who aren’t quite “passing” or that far along in their transition but not to trans men who you can’t clock?

A few arguments were then presented to us. I am going to boil them down to their main points.

  1. trans men claiming a right to women’s spaces is problematic because men already have an inherent sense of entitlement and are granted more rights and importance than women in society.
  2. trans men may and have fallen into the same patterns of misogyny and toxic masculinity as cismen. In their attempts to radicalize their personal perceptions of their genders, they will inevitably fall into toxic masculinity and sexism, and even sometimes become just as predatory as cismen.
  3. women may feel discomfort around any and all types of men and have the right to express that by asking all men and men-identifying people to either leave or stay silent on certain issues.
  4. in queer women spaces, people who once identified as WLW (women-loving women) transition and eventually don’t fit into that space anymore. This also causes an issue because some WLW with partners who are FTM (female-to-male) feel like they are forced to stay in a relationship with someone who no longer fits into their sexuality. Asking for a right to these spaces regardless of our experiences is a direct act of male entitlement.
  5. regardless of socialization, the way we perceive and interact with the world changes and thus, through their transition to male, one moves up in the social hierarchy and no longer deserves access to these spaces.

Here are my responses:

  1. feminism should have an end goal and if I am correct, that end goal at once did include also breaking down toxic masculinity in all its forms as well. I find it hard to believe that feminism aims to do that without including any men. I’m not arguing that any type of man, cis or not, isn’t oppressive or predatory, but I think that barring trans men or trans masculine individuals specifically when they probably have had similar experiences when they were socialized as girls/women should mean something. I would say many trans men feel or have felt similarly to women about men before they begin passing as men and even afterwards.
  2. trans men and trans masculine people may have identified at least in some part before their transition with being queer women. Before I realized I was non binary I felt really at home in the lesbian community, especially on tumblr. I felt safe there until I was ready and able to come out as something else, and to take that away once people identify differently or transition is really messed up and problematic because it erases a part of us. If someone who now identifies as a man or identifies as one later on in life, and identified as a lesbian or bisexual woman through their formative years and found a safe space there, do they not deserve the same room as other people in that space because they eventually transitioned? Even if their feelings and experiences almost identically matched those of the WLW who still identified as female through their lives?
  3. I also wonder then if feminism is really doing the work it needs to do not just generally for equality, but also for breaking the chains of femininity and masculinity if it’s keeping men out. Trans men may or may not fall into misogynistic patterns and patterns of toxic masculinity but isn’t feminism supposed to be a part of the driving force that ends that?
  4. I don’t see these as arguments for keeping trans men out of feminine spaces, but rather an argument for trans men educating themselves before walking into those spaces and respecting the women there. Also, what are the general feelings about trans women in this view? They have been socialized as boys/men, and may still inherently have some of entitlement or privilege even after undergoing their transition? I feel like these arguments eventually lead to an entirely trans exclusionary feminism and that isn’t something feminism needs to be if it’s going to do any good.

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