By Any Other Name

I was just directed to this article at Nerve by Hugh Ryan, called By Any Other Name: How My LGBT Students Taught Me to Love a Forbidden Word. You should know, before heading over and/or reading further here, that it’s about the C-word. A word that a lot of us as women, and as feminists, have problems with. And for good reason.

I’ll say up front that unlike the author, I did not like the Inga Muscio’s book Cunt. Well, honestly, I never finished it, and I hardly ever put a book down. But once I got past the indication that menstrual cramps are all in our minds (excuse me?) and the declaration that women who use hormonal birth control — women like me — don’t really know their bodies, suffice it to say that I was done. It was a shame, because I was hoping to be able to “reclaim” a word that has often felt painful to me.  And I know that some people really do like the book, and that’s fine.  But it sure as hell was not the avenue for me.

And I’m also skeptical of this article on many levels, too.

The writer is seemingly a cisgender male writing about how his trans female students taught him to love a word that is usually used in misogynistic ways. That’s not to say that he can’t possibly write with intelligence on feminist issues — I’ve seen numerous men do exactly that — but that even as he has lived in a society where “cunt” is a grave insult and means something disgusting, as a man he has never been forced to absorb the full impact and meaning of that on his own personhood.  And that makes me uncomfortable, when at the end of the piece he describes now casually using the word among friends.  Reclaiming a word has always struck me as something that ought to entirely be the domain of the people who the word has been used to oppress.

And though I’m far less qualified to say, I’d at least like to believe that it’s possible for cis people to write with intelligence on trans issues.  But I also see some significant problems with how he presents his trans students in the article.  First, I think there’s an issue throughout the piece with equating “trans girl/woman” with “desperately pining for a vagina,” which is demonstrably untrue.

And I felt that there was some serious objectification of his trans female protagonist, Diamond, going on in the very first paragraph, with the sentence:

Her breasts she’d also gotten on the cheap — hormones from shady doctors or birth-control pills stolen from female relatives — but she knew how to work all those fakes into a real package

First of all, what’s it matter where she “got” her boobs?  As a cis woman, no one’s ever talked about where I “got” mine.  Secondly, who the hell is to say that they’re “fake,” like the fake Louis Vuitton purse he just finished describing?  Who gets to decide “real”?  I can’t be the only one who finds it highly offensive to compare another person’s body to a cheap, knock-off accessory.  And third, what the fuck is the “she knew how to work it” bullshit?  She’s a high school girl, and his fucking student.  And why the hell wouldn’t she know how to make her own body look good?  Most importantly of all, why the assumption that he has a right to talk about her breasts at all? I find all of that to be wildly presumptuous, objectifying and inappropriate.

But.  I’d be lying if I said that by the time I got to the end of this essay, I didn’t quite appreciate the overarching conclusion.  And despite the serious and notable flaws in this piece of writing, I found myself quite taken with the knowledge that the word could and sometimes is used as a supreme compliment, and especially the line “I wish I lived in a world where cunt only meant beautiful.”

So do I. What a radically different world I have to believe it’d be.  I’m sad we don’t live there, and I’m extremely in love with the idea that the place might exist somewhere.

The more I think about the article, the more I find to dislike.  But I still can’t help but love the conclusion, and the event that got him to it.

So, what do you think — both about this highly imperfect piece, and “the word” itself?

[Note: transphobia will obviously (I hope) be a topic of discussion in this thread, but comments which are actually transphobic will be deleted.  That includes those which might claim that the misogyny surrounding the word “cunt” does not impact trans women.  And yes, I’m sad that I felt obligated to write this note.]


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62 comments for “By Any Other Name

  1. DAS
    April 3, 2009 at 11:37 am

    menstrual cramps are all in our minds (excuse me?)

    I once had a flatmate who claimed this. Yet about once a month you’d see her clutching at her stomach as if she had painful cramps …

  2. a. brown
    April 3, 2009 at 11:42 am

    Yeah, “Cunt” is kind of a silly book in places, but I think overall I’m glad it was written. As for this article, I can’t say the same thing. This guy has the ally hat, the ally t-shirt, the ally rubber bracelet… he really likes saying he’s a feminist (“like the outspoken feminists we were”) but saying isn’t doing. This article is obnoxious and offensive in too many places to claim any sort of thing. Did he have anyone else proofread it to see if it contained dubious statements, or did he assume since he was such a an openminded guy that he was past all that and wouldn’t make a mistake? Ick.

  3. April 3, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    It really bothers me that he starts off the article by objectifying a woman. It’s transmisogny as it plays into the meme that trans women are to be judged on how beautiful we are, that is how well we pass. I had a real problem reading the article past that point.

    The crack about how Diamond developed her breasts through illicit hormone treatments really struck me as classist. Hormones are not cheap, even with insurance. Describing the doctors who gave her hormones as “shady” just strikes me as reinforcing this classism (Plus, I’m just confused as to how exactly these doctors are shady as compared to, say, the doctor who prescribes my hormones.).

  4. mika
    April 3, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    say whaaaaa?

    i don’t remember inga muscio ever saying anything like that in “cunt”. not having the book on hand right now i can’t quote it, but i’m fairly certain she was referencing an article that debunked the ridiculous myth that menstral cramps are “all in our minds”, and had the attitude of- well, no shit, sherlock. and as for the use of birth control pills, i don’t remember her having a problem with that, but encouraged getting to know your bod. i know the worst thing about that book is that she never mentioned transgendered women in the first edition and later corrected it.

  5. April 3, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    Dug up a quote from a post that I wrote on the book when I first started blogging (admittedly, re-reading it reveals that some of my issues with the book was that it was a bit, er . . . “woo-woo,” for lack of a better term. I have no issue with “nature” stuff or however you want to put it, for the record, it’s just definitely not for me). This quote is apparently from page 65:

    The main freedom involved in using hormonal birth control is freedom from thinking about–and ultimately facing–our reproductive power. This “freedom” essentially results in ignorance of our bodies which costs us, individually and collectively, dear, dear, dearly. We cannot love ourselves if we do not know ourselves.

    There is bliss, but no freedom, in ignorance

    I really don’t want this thread to be about that book (which again, I didn’t even get through the full first third of), but you asked, there you go. This was apparently the quote, by the way, that caused me to make the decision to snap the book shut.

  6. Katlyn
    April 3, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    yeah Mika’s right.

    Muscio never said that menstrual cramps are in our minds. She was talking about how male doctors in the past believed it to be in our minds, because they felt safer believing women were just crazy then acknowledging there might be an actual physical reason for their pain.

    And the first paragraph of that article really bothers me. I really hate when people emphasize “fake” elements of a trans person. It’s like when people refer to a transgender person’s birth name as their ‘real’ name. Or sometimes how the media highlights what that person wears, how they do their makeup, if they bind their chest, etc,. as a way to say that their gender expression is like a costume, not something real about themselves.

  7. April 3, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Muscio never said that menstrual cramps are in our minds. She was talking about how male doctors in the past believed it to be in our minds, because they felt safer believing women were just crazy then acknowledging there might be an actual physical reason for their pain.

    Sigh. Alright, maybe I’m wrong. All I know is what I remember, and what I wrote forever ago, which is basically that Muscio wrote about what you’re talking about, and I was like “yes, yes, yes!” — and then she confusingly went on to switch gears and discuss that once she learned to stop hating her period, her once-debilitating cramps stopped.

    Maybe I misinterpreted something. I don’t know. But that sure as hell is what I interpreted.

  8. RD
    April 3, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    First of all, what’s it matter where she “got” her boobs? As a cis-woman, no one’s ever talked about where I “got” mine. Secondly, who the hell is to say that they’re “fake,” like the fake Louis Vuitton purse he just finished describing? Who gets to decide “real”? I can’t be the only one who finds it highly offensive to compare another person’s body to a cheap, knock-off accessory. And third, what the fuck is the “she knew how to work it” bullshit? She’s a high school girl, and his fucking student. And why the hell wouldn’t she know how to make her own body look good? Most importantly of all, why the assumption that he has a right to talk about her breasts at all? I find all of that to be wildly presumptuous, objectifying and inappropriate.

    Wow. What a creepy jackass.

  9. Laura
    April 3, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    I agree with the weird and frankly not-okay way he described Diamond’s physical features, and also was a little suspicious of the author’s continued use of “transgirls” when it was already made clear that the people referred to were not cis, I mean, I don’t know, it just felt unnecessary.

    But what I REALLY wanted is just more of what Diamond said and thought! It struck me as, at least, “inventive” that she was using a word that often bothers those of older (our) generations, and that she was indeed using it to her own purposes. Maybe among certain groups, “cunt” will mean “beautiful” (although the way “beautiful” itself is so ubiquitous and used in place of more meaningful words- ‘beautiful on the inside’ ‘have a beautiful heart/soul/mind’ etc. irks me) the way words like “fucker” are still hardly problem-free, but can be said in various ways among, say, Gen X and above.

    So really, I wanted the article to be written by Diamond instead.

  10. jen
    April 3, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    And did anyone else notice the location of the “O” in his title?

  11. JessSnark
    April 3, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    What the hell is up with this quote “It was the kind of picture that would have been disgusting under most circumstances”? (It’s referring to the picture of the vagina that the students are looking at online, for those who read the article.) So this dude thinks vaginas are gross, but he appreciates that that’s what his trans students want to have, so voila, it’s OK to use the word cunt to mean “beautiful” while still being disgusted by actual cunts?

  12. JessSnark
    April 3, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    Jen, I really don’t think he did the layout of the title and photo for the website. I didn’t notice the location until you mentioned it, and it doesn’t seem awful to me.

  13. Katie
    April 3, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    she confusingly went on to switch gears and discuss that once she learned to stop hating her period, her once-debilitating cramps stopped.

    IIRC, this was about how pressure from the world that we just continue on our day with cramps, without letting anyone else know that we are in pain or giving ourselves a deserved and needed rest, makes the cramping worse. It makes physiolgical sense; stress often can increase and intensify our experience of pain, and the stress of having to sanitize, silence, and pretend there is nothing good, healing, life-giving, or beautiful about our periods certainly leads to stress for a lot of us.

    Then again, it’s also been ages since *I* read the book, but that was the interpretation I came up with. She was basically saying, “it’s not in your heads, it IS real, and in fact being told it’s all in your heads is probably making the pain worse. By seeing positives about it and taking care of yourself if you’re in pain, the pain might decrease like it did for me.”

  14. April 3, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    JessSnark, thanks for clarifying what Jen was talking about, because I totally wasn’t getting it. But yeah, what you said with regards to it is pretty spot on, in my view.

    With regards to your other comments, I thought about that line that you were referring to myself. It did kind of rub me the wrong way. At the same time, as someone who thinks that vulvas/vaginas are just lovely and totally awesome and generally have no problem looking at them, I have to agree that a website of super-close up, semi-clinical shots of vaginas for pornographic purposes would pretty much induce a visceral “ick” reaction to me in a way that a vast majority of photographs of vulvas/vagains would not. So I thought he meant specifically “this kind of picture, when viewed in its usual context as porn . . .”

    That may just be me, I don’t know. In any case, I agree that it probably could’ve been worded better.

  15. jen
    April 3, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    JessSnark and Cara,
    Well my eye was drawn to it right away, and it does seem strategically placed and creepy to me, but maybe I just read into it too much.

  16. April 3, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    this guy is made up of white mail cis-privileged FAIL. what the f-ing right does he have to turn a woman into a bunch of body parts like that?

    It took months of pleading to get Diamond to consider tutoring. In the end, she went only because of my secret weapon — Keshawn. Most of the volunteer tutors were white undergrads from Columbia and NYU. Nerds, like me. Well meaning, but not particularly equipped to relate to or impress my kids. Many of them were nervous around my young, loud, brown students. Keshawn — well, everyone referred to him as “the hot tutor.” He was a grad student at Columbia, but he was nobody’s nerd. He was a beautiful multiracial guy with long dreads and a dancer’s body. In my mind, I’d nicknamed him “bait.”

    the level of both racism and transmisogyny in that paragraph is … stunning, to say the least.

    also, dude, it’s “trans girls” not “transgirls”. or even better, “young trans women”, or even better than better, “young women”. we aren’t third genders, dear.

    also also, i agree with you Cara that the c-word is not his to “reclaim” – he is appropriating it for his own coolness and street cred and i hate that.

    i found his article to be so offensive that i could not get anything positive out of it.

  17. Leigh
    April 3, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    Love this:
    “Cunt was the highest compliment they had to bestow, not in a righteous act of reclamation, but through a simple equation: cunts were good, therefore good things were cunty.”

    But otherwise, I’m with RD: creepy. jackass.

    And GallingGalla, I agree, his treatment of Keshawn was strikingly offensive. The “bait” thing made me recoil with ick.

  18. EmmaRose
    April 3, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Well, Hugh Ryan is pretty racist and transmisogynist, but I have to say that I enjoyed reading this article just because Diamond seems like a pretty badass person. I wish Hugh here had gotten her to write an article for Nerve instead of writing one himself.

    (Does anyone else think it’s interesting that the subtitle is “How my GLBT students taught me to love a forbidden word” when it’s almost entirely about one particular young trans woman? The whole thing is super “look how I am smart enough to have figured out that young brown people have something to contribute to the world! white people are so generous and insightful about the virtues of others!” Which I think totally misses the point about Diamond as an individual with skills.)

  19. April 3, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    Oh good, I’m glad that someone said something about the characterization/treatment of Keshawn. I was having an “is it just me?” moment with that one, and just didn’t end up getting to it. But yeah. That definitely seemed, uh, off. Particularly the “bait” part. When you have a “secret” nickname for someone, you don’t tell them about it for a reason. And the reason is usually that it’s offensive.

  20. Amanda
    April 3, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Yeah, the whole thing reads like a bad Dangerous Minds.

    The word “faggot” is merely “problematic?” Yes, let’s please not get him started on the “N-word.” Really. Don’t go there please.

    And it really urks me when he describes “stretched vag.” He’s just having way too much fun congratulating himself on his new found street cred. And it’s so much fun now that even his mom says “cunt”, which is especially funny because obviously mothers are the geekiest, most out-of-touch dummies in the world! Moms are so lame! hardy har har

  21. Lynn
    April 3, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    Just from reading the first paragraph, its very obvious the author thinks trans people don’t read the internet.

  22. Mama Mia
    April 3, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    The c-word is regularly thrown at me in the comments of my parenting blog if I ever dare to talk about anything beyond diapers, like, say politics or feminism. It has always had a sense of verbal violence to it which makes me physically recoil everytime I hear it. I actually find it more offensive when it is used casually by women, cis-, trans-, or otherwise.

    I don’t want to diminish the fact that the author connected with his students and that they benefited from his dedication, but I am not interested in reclaiming the word. It felt that the way he used, as well as the way his students used it, was rooted in its shock value, not in an interest in changing its meaning. I’m bothered that these young women have adopted it. It just feels to me like an extension of the “Girls Gone Wild” faux-empowerment thing.

    That said, as a white middle-class woman in my mid-thirties, I don’t know if younger people have started eroding the original meaning of this word, the way they can throw around “douche” so casually without having the horrified reaction I have. Are there any youngins who can fill me in on this?

  23. The Opoponax
    April 3, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    the level of both racism and transmisogyny in that paragraph is … stunning, to say the least.

    And pretty seriously hating on nerds, too.

  24. JessSnark
    April 3, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    Cara, I think you’re right that he didn’t mean that sentence to say that vaginas are necessarily disgusting. I wish he’d got an editor to look it over for him, though. Or just taken a second to stop and think – “hey, what are some possible alternate interpretations of what I’m saying? Are any of them going to offend people that I don’t mean to offend? and how can I clarify what I’m saying to avoid that?”

  25. piny
    April 3, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    First of all, what’s it matter where she “got” her boobs? As a cis-woman, no one’s ever talked about where I “got” mine. Secondly, who the hell is to say that they’re “fake,” like the fake Louis Vuitton purse he just finished describing?

    This standard is pretty obviously cissexist: a trans woman whose breasts grow on hormones “gets” her breasts the usual way: her body redistributes its fat.

    I kind of love this phenomenon–cunt is the new awesome–but Cara’s right about the transphobia and transmisogyny. And yes, it’s possible to describe someone as handsome without calling him chum to the girl sharks. I doubt Keshawn is oblivious, anyway. I don’t remember being very subtle in eleventh grade.

    I kind of wonder how much sense it makes to link “cunty” to a specifically transfemale understanding of cunts, which Ryan seems to be doing. It seems like “cunt” is on the upswing among younger women in general; I know some queer women who prefer it to words like “pussy,” not to mention the erotically inert “vag.” I like it better than any other word I know for my genitals, and it’s the only one I actually find hot.

  26. April 3, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    Totally uninterested in standing up for the author, but just wanted to put it out there that I read his use of “transgirls” instead of just “young women” as a way of pointing out that these girls suffered very specific harassment and ill-treatment. Harvey Milk is a school for a variety of LGBT youth; some, but not all, of the students are trans. I interpreted his point as being that all the students there were treated like shit at their old schools, but that the transgender young women faced treatment that made them act and react in very specific ways. Agreed that he could have done a better job at it, but I’m not sure his intention was to divide the “transgirls” from the “cisgirls” — I think it was to highlight the fact that transgirls do get treated differently than young women who are perceived to be cisgender.

  27. April 3, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    Jill, “transgirls” (and similar words like transmen, transpeople, etc) thirdgender trans people. Cedar explains this really well.
    Moreover, imo, it’s sort of like saying gaymen or alot (instead of a lot); it looks like someone needed to proofread better.

  28. April 4, 2009 at 7:55 am

    Jill, “transgirls” (and similar words like transmen, transpeople, etc) thirdgender trans people. Cedar explains this really well.
    Moreover, imo, it’s sort of like saying gaymen or alot (instead of a lot); it looks like someone needed to proofread better.

    Drakyn — thank you so much for sharing that post. I try really hard to pay attention and make sure that I’m using the correct words/phrasing for a whole lot of things, because I know how important language is, but I obviously fucked up on this one. I usually leave the space out. Reading that post now, it makes absolute sense, and I’m extremely appreciative to have read it. Thanks again, and my sincere apologies to anyone who has been uncomfortable/offended in the past by my ignorance in that regard.

  29. April 4, 2009 at 9:39 am

    jill @ 26: the basic problem is with the spelling: “transgirls” as opposed to “trans girls”. i am not normally a spelling policewoman (in fact i hate that language-policing shit normally), but this is important: saying that i am a “trans woman”, using “trans” as an adjective, acknowledges the fact that i am a woman who is also trans – intersectionality and all that. saying that i am a “transwoman” – making “trans” part of the noun” states that i am some kind of wierd species that is not really female, and is third-gendering.

    i also objected to the use of “girl” for obvious anti-sexism reasons – these people are young women, not little girls.

    and i feel that once you use “trans women” initially, to make it clear who you are talking about, it’s not necessary to keep calling us “trans women” over and over again … after all, we’ve established that context, and we are women, right? yes?

    ‘k. s’pretty basic stuff, i think.

  30. The Opoponax
    April 4, 2009 at 9:56 am

    After all, they showed up after I started taking medication that adjusted my hormones. Guess they’re just fakey fake fake fake.

    Yah, srsly… Are my breasts fake too because they were indistinguishable from mosquito bites until I went on the pill? Do real breasts actually exist? Well, anywhere except in clueless mens’ brains, anyway?

  31. April 4, 2009 at 10:38 am

    Yeah, that totally makes sense re: “transgirls.” Again, I’m really not trying to defend the author or his use of that term, and when I was reading the piece it definitely rubbed me the wrong way. I was just trying to come up with why he would have used it.

  32. April 4, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    Despite the implied shame on women who choose to use hormonal contraception, there are good reasons to get off The Pill. For one, female contraception puts virtually all the responsibility of regulating pregnancy on women’s shoulders rather than men’s.

    I, personally, felt liberated when I chose to stop contraception and start telling boyfriends, “You get me pregnant, YOU get to deal with the consequences. And no, that doesn’t mean you get a say in what I choose, that means you get the abortion bill or the child support bills. And by the way, you lose my trust and my companionship.”

    Getting off BC helped me gain control of my emotions and my body (depo made me constantly hungry, for example) and so it was well worth it for that. One boyfriend turned out to be an asshole about it, but in the long run, it wound up making me a happier, more liberated person.

  33. piny
    April 4, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    I, personally, felt liberated when I chose to stop contraception and start telling boyfriends, “You get me pregnant, YOU get to deal with the consequences. And no, that doesn’t mean you get a say in what I choose, that means you get the abortion bill or the child support bills. And by the way, you lose my trust and my companionship.”

    Dang, an unwanted child and no more dates? That’s harsh.

    Well, your uterus is your uterus, and birth control pills don’t work for many women.

    But how is it an improvement to treat your reproductive potential as punishment for somebody else? Isn’t it better to see children as facts in and of themselves, and stop trying to tie moral responsibility to a physiological roulette wheel?

    I, personally, find it far more liberating to just prevent pregnancy rather than trying to get my partner to deal with their share of the “consequences,” whether it’s child support or the price of an abortion. I take birth control pills because it’s the most straightforward way for me to not get pregnant; I require that my partner wear a condom because it’s additional prevention and the most straightforward way for me to keep clear of STDs.

    If I chose not to take birth control for health or logistical or philosophical reasons, that would also be my business and right–but my partner would have to make his choice independent of mine. And while I would expect cooperation if we conceived, I wouldn’t make my fertility into some sort of moral test for either of us. It seems like that would work about as well as it ever has.

  34. The Opoponax
    April 4, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    Elaine, I’m no longer on hormonal birth control, but thanks for the boilerplate.

  35. UnFit
    April 5, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Huh, I just really don’t think there is any perfect method of birth control out there. I’ve never taken hormones, I now got my tubes tied, which was a huge relief to say the least.

    But, without trying to get too far off topic: condoms annoy the hell out of *me*. You always get this image, from doctors, STD prevention workers and whatnot, that it’s the guys who are bothered by condoms, it’s alwas them who try to ditch them… I do use condoms with most of my lovers, because everything is better than catching an STD, but I feel that the darn things irritate me at least as much as they do my male partners.

    So, just out of curiosity, does anyone else here feel that way?

  36. April 5, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    Condoms annoy me, too. Heck, they can make it downright painful sometimes. I ended up getting a copper IUD (despite the added monthly pain) just so I wouldn’t have to deal with them any more. Yay for mutual monogamy!

  37. voz
    April 6, 2009 at 4:28 am

    well, it’s comforting to see a trans thread get back to centering cis concerns again. I would have freaked rt out if I saw a cis group actually stay on trans issues.

    Guess all is rt in feminste land, now that the cis ppl have stomped on trans discussion YET AGAIN.

  38. April 6, 2009 at 7:33 am

    yeah, voz, i had noticed that too, though in my case, i had just given up, so thank you for pointing this out.

  39. Kathryn
    April 6, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Not all discussions that crop up will be concerns to all women. Isn’t that bound to happen? Do trans women not ever have dealings with prophylactics?

    Anyway, I am young, I live in the UK, I have no more problem with the c word than the word ‘dick’. It seems we like to use genital names as insults, for the connotations that they are unsightly. As a man may tell a woman “suck my dick”, I may suggest they do likewise, with my c*@t.

    But I don’t think it has ever had such misogynistic connotations over here.

  40. piny
    April 6, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Not all discussions that crop up will be concerns to all women. Isn’t that bound to happen? Do trans women not ever have dealings with prophylactics?

    Of course they do–would a conversation about, say, safer-sex PSAs and cissexism be of any concern to you? I think it is fair to call the condom part of the discussion a derail. It’s not like it has much to do with the topic of the essay or with trans women, and it is happening on a thread about a slang term used by young trans women discussed in a trans misogynistic article.

    I was mostly just replying to Elaine, whose comment rubbed me the wrong way, as usual. But I’m sorry for the part I played in the side conversation.

  41. April 6, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    Not all discussions that crop up will be concerns to all women. Isn’t that bound to happen? Do trans women not ever have dealings with prophylactics?

    oh, christ. this thread deals SPECIFICALLY with an issue that SPECIFICALLY impacts trans women, namely, a trans misogynist and sexist article written by a cis man.

    discussing cis concerns wrt condoms is, i think, a bit of a derail. but you just go right ahead and assert your cis privilege until we trans women get sick of it and have to leave yet another space. not it hasn’t happened to me like 23 gazillion times before.

  42. April 6, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Voz and GallingGalla, thank you for saying something. I will be more careful moderating comments for derails in the future.

    And Kathryn, making excuses is out of line. I’d hope that readers of a feminist site would call out your explanation that “not all discussions that crop up will affect everyone” as bullshit if a feminist discussion on a male-dominated site kept coming around to issues affecting men. It’s no different here.

  43. voz
    April 6, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    “Patriarchy hurts clueless, trampling cis women too”

    YVW, Cara. And thanks for the props…

    many private expressions of hopelessness were exchanged before I came here with the much needed snake and nape.

    Hopefully, cis women will unfuck themselves enough to stop trampling trans women’s discussions every damn time! cuz callin cis women on their shit is the ultimate in job security.

  44. voz
    April 6, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    …and, it gets…OLD!

  45. voz
    April 6, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    Nerve has a history of exloiting transfemales for sensationalism.

    Who can forget “tranny chaser” by Annalee Newitz, where she describes how edgy and cool she is for exploiting no-ho no-op transfemales. That was also published at Nerve some time ago.

    Exploitation of transfemales by cis women is a sadly common theme, and feminism has a long and sordid history of profiteering off of transfemale lives and oppression, while working very hard to ensure we stay extremely marginalized and oppressed.

    (trigger warning)

    [Removed by mod.]

    If this seems brutally unfair to you, then you are asking the wrong question. The right question is…

    Why is it OK for so many cisgender women to aid and abet the brutal oppression of trans females?

    What will it take, short of the most brutal inhumanity, for women with trans histories to be treated as peers and equals to ciswomen?

  46. April 6, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    Voz, I understand your point fully, but there are a million ways that you could have made a point about the rape of trans women in prison by men than how you did.

    If you would like to again talk about the rape of trans women in prison, and how cis women will most likely never be forced to exist in a jail cell with male prisoners, that’s fine. Do it. But not like that. What you wrote will never in any form be allowed on any of my blogs, no matter who it is directed at.

  47. voz
    April 6, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    Fair enough.

    But, notice the power differential you just exercised?

    Think well on that. As long as it’s trans women getting exploited, all too many ciswomen are perfectly fine with it.

    A twoc comes along and turns the tables…intsant vapors.

    Please think long and hard about this before getting so smug about the correctness of ur decision.

    Trust me, we all noticed how quickly you stomped on a transwoman making a point, and how long it took you to act on ciswomen oppressing trans women here. Never mind that two tran women had to come here and do your job for you.

    Think about that.

    Some material to educate urself with in the meantime.
    Annalee Newitz talks about her fetish for some women like me.

    http://www.nerve.com/PersonalEssays/Newitz/trannychaser/

    And, some commentary:

    http://cheerfulmegalomaniac.wordpress.com/2008/04/03/transfetish/?referer=sphere_related_content/

  48. April 6, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Voz, I understand that you’re mad and I expected you to be. But I assure you that if anyone here had said what you said with regards to trans women, they would be banned. Instantly.

  49. April 6, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Voz, I also tried to email you with the email address you use here to leave comments, but got it returned. I merely wanted to explain my decision to you more fully in a way that I unfortunately can’t here without basically repeating what I just deleted.

    If you wish to email me using your real email, my email address is cara.kulwicki at gmail dot com. That is of course entirely up to you, and if you don’t want to hear what I have to say about it, that’s totally fine and probably to be expected.

  50. voz
    April 6, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    Stop focusing on the tone, and address the concerns I have raised, please.

    Ban me if U like, but the fact remains that u slapped down a twoc instantly, and let oipen cissupremacy linger until we did ur job for you.

    My email had a blindinbgly obvious typo, which I had now fixed. Emails sent.

  51. April 6, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    Um, apologies to Voz. I don’t know why the email was returned saying that the address didn’t exist, but I just got an email from her from the same address. I didn’t mean to offend her or anyone by implying that she was using a fake email address, nor was I aware that saying such a thing was a slur. I use a fake email address here myself, because otherwise my own comments go to the spam filter.

  52. voz
    April 6, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    Thank you very much.

    Let’s talk about it all. ur choice of venue, ur choice of participants.

  53. April 7, 2009 at 5:22 am

    So, if we’ve moved beyond the usual cis fail on a trans topic can we get back to the article?

    Ryan has written the article as if he’s a tourist who went to a foreign country and came back speaking with their accent and don’t they have such interesting customs there? He met this really beautiful, exotic woman there who taught him an Important Life Lesson. Haven’t we read this story before?

    The whole article fails if we don’t engage in Ryan othering of Diamond as outside of our (presumably) shared experience. If we instead see her as a student just struggling to get an education while dealing with the realities of growing up as a trans woman of colour in a racist, sexist, transphobic society, the whole thing falls apart. It works only by engaging in the superficiality of life tourism. Like Laura said above, I really wish this had been written by Diamond instead.

  54. April 7, 2009 at 8:24 am

    @lucy, agreed. he’s turning Diamond into a shaman to give him a Great Consciousness-Expanding Experience, which dehumanizes Diamond. white cis ppl do this a lot, both on the basis of race and gender identity.

    what saddens me is how some pretty well-known trans* folk also engage in this; writers like feinberg, bornstein, and bernstein-sycamore position us as Speshul Spiritual Representatives In Communication With The Gods, or Grand Court Jesters of Gender, or The Vanguard of the Binary-Smashing Revolution, when really we are trying to live our lives in peace and in one piece. but i guess this is one of the things that happen when we are colonized by cis ppl.

  55. April 7, 2009 at 11:45 am

    @GG you mean you’re *not* here to show cis people the way to enlightenment, or to serve as a super ace rhetorical model for some feminist and queer writers to break apart teh Gender Binary?

    For shame. Me, I stand on the corner doling out fresh lingo for Proper Real People tm to spice up their lives with.

  56. piny
    April 7, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    Lucy, that’s a really good way of summing up the dynamic in the article. Thank you. Tourism makes a lot of sense. And Ryan felt free to take what he liked and leave the rest.

    Re: Gender Third: I understand how tempting it can be to feel like the constant abuse and brutality has some sort of higher purpose, but…the jester model is not revolutionary. A society that contains critique and difference to that extent is a deeply reactionary society. Jesters had a formal position back in the feudal system. They didn’t challenge the omnipotence of the King. They symbolized it.

  57. April 7, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    piny, you asked “But how is it an improvement to treat your reproductive potential as punishment for somebody else?”
    I think you misinterpreted my statement. I said nothing about punishment or morality. I talked about responsibility. If a guy I slept with didn’t want me to get pregnant, he needed to do his damn best to prevent that. I never implied that a child was a punishment. You made that inference yourself.

    vox, sorry if the conversation derailed. I thought it was just as much or more about the word “cunt” and BC and bodies as it was about trans people. I thought it was all intertwined.

  58. voz
    April 8, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Elaine, shut the fuck up. Please. Just Stop Makin It All about the Cis.

    A completely agree with Lucy, and I would like to add the exotification factor in as well.

    The trope of the Mysterious Other is at the root of much misappropriation of minority concerns.

    The Magical Negro
    The Hot and Spicy Latina (u kno ur Latina is ppl treat u like a chili pepper in language)
    and The Trans Woman who pays dearly to teach some stupid cisperson a lesson that they promptly and publicly misuse.

    We have heard it all before. Move along. Move along.

  59. voz
    April 8, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    Elaine, my name is voz, not vox. I am Latina, not Latin. Believe it or not, there is a difference.

    Maybe you should take a lil time to step aside and learn why ur behavior is so upsetting, instead of boring us with ur justications for bad behavior, and o so edgy misspelling of my name.

  60. The Opoponax
    April 8, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    voz, just FYI, Elaine is a troll who only ever comes around to pontificate about not taking hormonal birth control or how everyone should be vegan. Feel free to ignore her.

  61. voz
    April 8, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    Oppanox, thank you. I am sorry if I offended the ppl respectin the discussion here.

    u should also kno, that the publication, nerve, has a bad history with dealing with trans women.

    http://www.nerve.com/PersonalEssays/Newitz/trannychaser/

    this pub has a history, and it aint good.

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