Educating 101

So–thanks again in significant part to me–the thread on Cara’s boycott post has already been derailed into a thread about the problem of expecting education from members of a marginalized group.

So I figured I’d start a new thread.

Mind, this is not a 101 thread; I ask commenters to refrain from asking questions like, “What’s the difference between transgender and transsexual?” and “Why do trans care so much about gender?” and “What’s cisgender?”

This thread is for two different things, and I am hoping to host a trans-centered conversation:

1) What does educating mean to you? What do you consider due diligence? Are there any contexts or questions that annoy the living fuck out of you? Or not?

2) Are there any online discussions or posts you would like to hype here? A blog or website that you think is especially incisive? Not 101-type posts, unless you find one especially awesome, but writing that you consider brilliant and complex. And if you’ve written about having to provide information or interrupt a discussion to provide information, please feel free to link that too.

This thread is open to cis commenters and commenters who may feel unacquainted with trans-related terminology and discussions. However, this is not a thread for processing your feelings about the daunting task of learning about trans issues.

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85 comments for “Educating 101

  1. April 14, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    Okay, I’m ignorant as fuck so I usually don’t comment and opt to read and learn instead and do my own research, which is clearly not enough. In the blogosphere if you don’t comment you don’t exist, whether in-support-of or not. But when I do comment [look, I know when someone is asking me something 101 and I get annoyed and impatient, especially when it’s a 101 Gotcha! like, oh, what happens anytime Feministe hosts an abortion-related thread. And anymore, I’m impatient as hell and as likely to delete a 101 comment as I am to try and rhetorically shut it down; I can’t even imagine trying to get onto a mainstream-oriented site and argue from the margins because of what it means to my personhood] I want someone to say, look, asshole, 101, go away and figure it out yourself on your own time, you don’t get to dominate my conversation about my life. I’m cool with that.

  2. Nicole
    April 14, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    1. I would consider education at least giving the basic tools to a person so they can learn on their own. Books and links that are well regarded by the community. Or making your voice and experiences heard.

    2. Specific posts? What Trans Misogyny looks like and Fair

    General blogs, Transgriot and Questioning Transphobia.

  3. Maureen
    April 14, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    Educating means I added a new definition of “cis” to Urban Dictionary. Oh, and it also means people should Use Wikipedia Already.

  4. Emily
    April 14, 2009 at 8:38 pm

    I want to start by saying I don’t usually participate in comments on blogs, because in my experience, people always find something to fight about, no matter how minor or (in this case) serious the perceived infraction. Plus, I think it’s way too easy to misconstrue online writing- I’ve made a couple comments about this issue on various websites, and I’m still having conniptions about whether I’m going to be misunderstood.

    However, I am really stuck on the question of education. I was pretty shocked to learn in the past few days how truly ignorant I am to trans issues. I didn’t realize that the media I consume is almost exclusively filtered through the lens of cis privilege. So whose responsibility is it to educate me? I am sure it is my own, but part of ignorance for me was not realizing that it was an issue that I needed to educate myself more on. The only conclusion I can come to is that people who get it should continue to call out people who don’t and turn these moments into teachable ones. But again, that puts the burden of education on people other than the ones who need the education…I don’t know.

  5. April 14, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    I’m going to refrain from commenting much, as I don’t know as much as I feel like I should about trans issues, but I am looking forward to reading this thread.

  6. Claire
    April 14, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    I spend a lot of my time educating, both online (at forums) and in meatspace. In forums, it’s exhausting, and I’m usually practicing justifying my existence to someone. In meatspace, I educate respectful people, otherwise I don’t bother… trying to educate someone who has already decided they don’t care (administrators, attackers, bosses, etc) NEVER helps. I find it dehumanizing to have to exclusively use a restroom that is not even in the same building as my office? “Social Security says you’re male.” I’m not so confident that I’ll be evaluated fairly by all of the faculty? “*offense, rage, incoherent bleating*”

    There are a lot of people who ask because they are interested in trans issues because trans issues are my issues, and they are interested in me as a person. I don’t mind that at all. But, unlike on the interwebs, they don’t come tugging at my sleeve while I’m engaged in another conversation and ask for a 101 chat.

    Best blog post I’ve read for quite some time was little light over at Taking Steps:

    Comments are a horrorshow, of course, but little light fortunately evaded a boycott for her failure to moderate effectively. :’P

  7. Beth
    April 14, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    Educating, what it means.

    I’m an English Graduate, Writer, Tutor, Feminist, and hopefully Teacher at some point in the future. I’ve worked in and around academia for about 5 years and the one thing I learned being one of the top pupils and only tutors at my college was this: No matter who you are, there is always someone new who has never heard of what you’re talking about before. Be they a young person, or someone older who is coming back to their education. I think this applies in all areas of life.

    It is and will always be extremely frustrating to go over topics over and over ad nasuem–especially when it’s all old hat to me. But it’s not fair for my frustration to impact those who really genuinely need my help. I truly believe that it’s my responsibility bring people up to the level of learning they need to be at in order to prosper. It is an exhausting and daunting task. I have to repeat myself over and over and I have to be patient and expressive without being condescending. This is the way people learn.

    I am not trans, but I do my best to help those in my family, in my group of friends, in my extended contacts, to understand on a very basic level what transgender issues are/may be and why it’s important to care about something that can seem so very foreign to so many people.

    I really don’t think there are any questions that “annoy the living fuck out of me,” but only because those who have educated me were kind enough to deal with my questions in such a thoughtful way.

  8. Nicole
    April 14, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Ah missed the second part of 1. Stupid fullness lethargy.

    I tend to enjoy the more heated discussions and am used to places where its best to include data with your posts so I usually keep large numbers of links handy for topics that come up including Trans 101 info. My chosen path in life is in trans and to a lesser extent, GLBQetc advocacy in a public context so that plays an important part in my decisions as to when I educate. I usually figure if I educate someone a bit while also explaining to them why they should do their research themselves and not ask trans people, then they will be less likely to do it again but that may be wishful thinking.

    All of this and an openess about somethings mean I don’t get really annoyed at some of the questions and things and remind people when they want to ask a question that it has to be respectful of me.

  9. April 14, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    I don’t expect cisgendered women to understand how to educate themselves on transgendered issues. They aren’t experts. I don’t expect nontechnical people to educate themselves on how to do technical things.

    At the same time I don’t educate anyone on the subject myself. My own blog references trans issues less than Feministe.

    I don’t think its really possible for cisgendered people to really understand transgendered issues. I can’t emotionally relate to the issues I had before transitioning.

    You need direct experience with transgendered people to really understand what you need to know. Not them educating you, but them interacting with you. But wait you say “I don’t know any transgendered people”. That’s probably not true. You probably do know some transgendered people.

    So to educate yourself you mainly need to understand is that you are probably getting direct experience with transgendered people.

  10. April 14, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    Honestly, I think education on social justice issues (broadly construed) is everyone’s responsibility. Especially for those who are young enough, or uneducated enough, that they don’t realize they also need to educate themselves. But the burden falls unequally. Trans people have to go through a whole lot of life educating others about trans issues. It can fill your entire existence. And it’s close and personal.

    I think education can be a very crucial and good role for cis people to play for each other. Everyone was at least kind of ignorant of trans issues at some point. Some people had to learn the really hard way, and then they taught others. I learned a whole lot about trans issues from other trans women. Some of them taught me terrible, destructive lessons that I had to unlearn. Others saved my life. And I’ve probably taught plenty of cis friends about trans issues, or at least I hope I have. I am fortunate and privileged enough to know a lot of cis people who I would trust to teach about trans issues as much or more than I would trust myself. There are some things that can only be learned from experience, it’s true. But I don’t think those are the only things worth teaching to try and spread the ideals of trans liberation and social justice, or even the most important ones. I don’t even think you have to know everything about trans issues to be a teacher; you just have to know a little more than the person you’re helping to learn.

    And 101 questions, yeah. They are annoying. They’re also inevitable, and sometimes I am not horribly irritated to answer them, even. But it’s like not taking care of a leak, or something — you can’t spend all your time doing that, or you never get anything 201 or 301 done. So we always talk about “Isn’t there a trans 101 blog we can point people to” etc. God, I would help with that. Didn’t someone try that? I can’t remember, I must be losing brain cells.

  11. April 14, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    I more or less cut my online feminist communities teeth in groups that were downright hostile to trans women.

    I tried not to make it an issue (I’m not going to pretend that in those formative groups that it didn’t impact me — it did). But as there was a lot of petty gossip; I took the horrible scurrilous rumors about the awful trannies lying lying!* in threads about menstruation and pregnancy about their own experiences with a big ol’ grain of salt. I tried not to treat transgendered individuals who were coming off as a little … regressive … in their approach to what “womanhood” meant as some sort of overcompensation for their transition (which, I admit, was harder). But I can attest that there is a lot of needless bullshit exclusion going on in the feminist world over transgendered issues beyond just MWMF.

    I don’t really understand “the whole transgendered thing” still, and I have a wonderfully patient trans friend. Between
    Not wanting to pry too much into private matters,
    Not wanting to make her transgendered status the singularity of her existence
    Wanting to be supportive and interested in her life

    I think some really fundamental “why” questions that I have will just have to stay unanswered.

    It’s also really illustrative of our basic need to make individuals speak to the totality of their identity group, that those one or two possibly-problematic transfolk on a thread made the entire board “anti-trans.” Even if my friend uncorked and told me everything I could ever want to know about the hows and whys of transition, I couldn’t take those hows and whys and apply them to another transgendered person, who could very well have completely different hows and whys. We have to keep learning this over and over with every minority group, it seems. But I’m a big believer in the concept of evolution of thought and ideas, so I’ve always carried the torch in the “patience and education” camp. I think that some of us have our troll sensors turned up too high, and we lash out at people who are asking genuine questions as a means of educating themselves and we make more work for ourselves when we do so.

    * lying… on the INTERNET!

  12. Nicole
    April 14, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    @ Transgenmom

    “I don’t think its really possible for cisgendered people to really understand transgendered issues.”

    We had Aaron Raz Link come to our college one quarter to speak on his book What Becomes You and other trans stuff. One thing he talked about that has stuck with me was a story about when he was talking to another audience about trans issues and afterwards a cisgender guy came up to him crying and told him that he felt much the same way because of some completely unrelated thing that happened to him. It always kind of gave me hope that while we cannot always experience things that others do an understanding can be reached by shared feelings and reactions to completely different issues.

  13. April 14, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    Hey mighty ponygirl,

    If you want to ask your fundamental “why” questions to some other trans person who you’re not already friends with, you can ask me. Obviously I am not going to have the same answers as your friend, or necessarily as any other trans person, but I think we learn more by hearing the points of view and experiences of many people. I have thought a lot about that kind of thing, and talked to a lot of trans people about some fundamental-ish stuff too, so I guess I enjoy talking about it every now and then with people who are well-intentioned and smart. And I’ve read your comments and blog enough to know that you are both.

    here’s to learning stuff together, I guess,

  14. Nicole
    April 14, 2009 at 9:51 pm


    Now I want to try and make one. Good going!

  15. April 14, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    I just went back and finished reading all the comments on the Cis Privilege thread before returning to this thread. As someone who is really interested in social justice education, I’m trying to understand what was wrong with Cara’s original response to Molly’s question re “cisgender,” which was very short and directed her elsewhere for further information. It seemed like that was an appropriate way to redirect her questions to a more appropriate space and reinforce the idea that that thread was not about answering questions of terminology.

    Do some folks feel like a more appropriate response would have been to delete the comment? not respond? it seems like that might have sparked more derailing energy than what she did do. Is there some other approach I haven’t thought of? I have not had a lot of experience moderating posts, since my blog is pretty low-traffic.

    Speaking from my own personal experience as a cis woman, when I was first trying to wrap my head around these issues, I found Holly’s What trans means to me post really helpful as an introduction (thanks Holly!). Also Whipping Girl, although I sometimes hesitate to recommend the book to people who are already wary of feminist theory, since parts of it grapple pretty intensely with feminist-specific ideas and terms (which I think is awesome! but which has intimidated some friends of mine).

  16. The Opoponax
    April 14, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    I think education can be a very crucial and good role for cis people to play for each other.

    Co-fucking-sign, Holly.

    In a lot of ways, to be honest, I feel like 101 questions on any issue should be the more the responsibility of the folks who are of relative privilege and have crossed the n00b territory already. I think it’s something that is (relatively) simple to contribute, and it takes some of the load off of the oppressed group. There is no reason I need to know what it feels like to be transgendered to tell someone what “cis” means, debunk the red herring that is Teh Bafroom Issue, etc. Obviously if others disagree y’all can tell me to step off, but personally I’m happy to shoulder this sort of thing.

    (She says at 11pm on a ‘school night’…)

  17. The Opoponax
    April 14, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    @ annajcook: I didn’t get the sense that Cara handled Molly’s comment “wrong”, but that Molly had the nerve to totally ignore the clue stick she’d just been swiped with and continue to justify her right to be spoon fed everything all the time.

    When it became clear that Molly wouldn’t/couldn’t stop making the thread all about her and her googlephobia, I think Cara did the right thing in point blank telling her not to comment anymore.

    (Also, on a different note, Mighty Ponygirl, I very much hear that, as someone who cut her feminist internet teeth on the forum I believe you’re referring to. And, yes, some of the prevailing party lines really messed with my head about trans issues. It’s been a long fight to inform myself and get beyond that, but I’d like to think I’m getting somewhere.)

  18. Emmett
    April 14, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    Beth, there is a difference between teaching English and teaching trans stuff. You aren’t justifying your existence when you tutor someone on dependent and independent clauses. Yes, that the education is important I’ll agree. But as holly says, the burden falls disproportionately and it is unreasonable to expect trans people to be the ever-patient tutors you seem to suggest we ought to be.

  19. April 14, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    Holly — HAH! If I got to pick your brain about anything, I think we both know I would be asking you all sorts of questions about the gaming industry. :p

    But, in all seriousness…

    I keep circling around the idea of gender binaries vs. passing vs. surgery. When I try to reason out the questions I have… about gendered behavior and the ability to “pass”… I feel like the reasons for having genital surgery boil down to negatives … either the person could pass but has fears of being ‘found out,’ or (like in Transamerica which was a great movie) because a part of their own body fills them with disgust. And I don’t want to diminish either of those reasons because they are valid, we all have issues and I’m pretty sure we’re not living in a perfect world, but they both center around a deficiency of some sort (either societally or personally) and I can’t quite find the way to politely ask if there are other reasons that I’m missing.

    Well, that and I admit I’m curious about whether or not having genital surgery and fundamentally altering a very sensitive area of your body will de-buff your sexlife.

  20. April 14, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Also, I just want to add that the bathroom issue completely baffles me. Women’s restrooms have stalls, with doors on them. If a pre-op M2F is using the women’s bathroom, the only way to know would be to actively invade the privacy of the stall.

  21. Emmett
    April 14, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    As I said in the other thread, she should not have been provided an answer, but instead told politely that her question was a 101 diversion on a non-101 thread and directed to do her own research.

  22. April 14, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    the burden falls disproportionately and it is unreasonable to expect trans people to be the ever-patient tutors you seem to suggest we ought to be.

    I’ll second The Opoponax here and volunteer that a way to handle this might be for cis folks, who can at least offer their own experience in self-education as a resource, to step up to the plate and be the peer-to-peer tutors as it were. I’m certainly willing to do this where I can (knowledge and timing-wise).

    Though this doesn’t solve the thread-derail issue.

    It’s too bad threads don’t have a sort of “take the questioner to another room to explain” option . . . so that their needs were being met while the original post could continue without interruption.

  23. Maureen
    April 14, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    My original response was a bit curt, especially because everyone else has been so thoughtful. To be honest, I think that the Trans 101 site would be a great idea, although I’m not sure what I could contribute to it.

  24. Claire
    April 14, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    “It’s too bad threads don’t have a sort of “take the questioner to another room to explain” option . . . so that their needs were being met while the original post could continue without interruption.”

    Actually, this is a good idea… while pending moderation, you see “This post is awaiting moderation.”, and if rejected you could see “This post was rejected for the following reason: Google, motherfucker, do you use it?”

  25. ElleDee
    April 14, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    I think that it varies on a case by case basis. 101 questions can be ok when they come from well intentioned people at an acceptable time, and if someone stops to educate them, then they have received a gift that they were not entitled to. If you are polite and respectful and don’t come off as incredibly lazy (= unwilling to lift a finger to orient yourself on the issue), then you know someone is going to step in and help them out. A brief explanation and a redirect both respects the n00b and saves the thread, a person gets clued in and we all do better. If no one is willing to step in and assist than that’s proof enough for me that they either asked in a rude way or at a really inappropriate time or something, end of story.

  26. The Opoponax
    April 14, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    Anna (is Anna ok?), I suppose we could take it to email more often.

    I’m also interested in the potential of ongoing threads. Say somebody asks a Trans 101 question. Rather than answer, we direct them to a Trans 101 thread (or a separate Trans 101 blog, I suppose), where they can read up, find answers to their questions, and if they have further questions contribute to the 101-level conversation in that thread’s comments. Obviously having a whole blog for this would be pretty sweet.

    This issue is by no means limited to political or identity/oppression-related blogs, by the way. I swear I’ve told 500 Australian college kids that, sadly, it’s usually unfeasible to come to the US, buy an almost-new car, drive it around the country for six months to a year, then sell the car at profit. (Via the travel forums I occasional hang around on.)

  27. Claire
    April 14, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    Really, I think the idea of a trans 101 blog is rather like trying to drive a nail into a stud with a screwdriver. Screwdrivers are fine tools, and nails do need to be driven, but screwdrivers are totally inappropriate for driving nails. Really, what would be much better is a wiki.

    For instance, this one (, which I have just created, in lieu of musing that someone ought to create one. I’ll fill in a couple of stubs now… if someone wants in, make a Wikia account and come play.

  28. April 14, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    @Claire: you beat me to the idea I just had, and one-upped me by creating it! I’ll come and play soon, and certainly be linking to the site on my blog.

    @The Opoponax: Anna’s fine :)

    Now it’s time for bed, but I look forward to checking back in with this thread tomorrow!

  29. Maggie
    April 14, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    Hope this is not derailing, feel free to delete if it is.

    I’m a cis queer woman, and consider myself relatively well-informed about trans issues, at least in comparison to most of the cis people I hang around with. Generally, when I try to “educate” people about trans issues, I try to avoid the “what does it mean to be trans” question (since I’m SO not qualified to answer that), and focus on proper language, and discrimination and hatred faced by trans people.

    One problem I have consistently had when talking about trans issues though, is that people really like to give me the “trans expert” label, which I am TOTALLY uncomfortable with, for obvious reasons. I really don’t know how to get people to stop doing this when I’m in all-cis environments, though. It’s either, I don’t bring up trans issues at all, or I’m the only one that does, and has to do it all the time.

    Honestly, the thing that worries me most about this, is that, even though I know I can’t be an “expert,” on trans issues, there’s a certain inevitable amount of egotism that comes from being constantly treated like “the authority” on the issue. Then I start having the I-know-everything-there-is-to-know attitude.

    I guess my question is, have other people had this problem/seen this happen? How do I keep talking/educating about trans issues without people assuming I am the almighty expert on transgender people?

  30. chingona
    April 14, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    Just on the issue of avoiding derails, I’ve seen some blogs make good use of standing open threads or re-opening an old thread that is more on-topic. Like another commenter will tell the person who asked the question or made the potentially derailing comment that they are responding to them in open thread or on X old post (with link). Or a mod will tell the person to move it over there.

    If the derail is a 101 type issue, I think it also would have the benefit of taking the 101 out of whatever larger discussion is going on, while still providing a space for education. People who feel up for doing some educating can participate, but the discussion won’t be there on the main thread, distracting or alienating the other participants.

    Claire, thanks for setting up the wiki.

  31. Caro
    April 14, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    I think education can be a very crucial and good role for cis people to play for each other.

    This is true, though there are certainly limitations to it. I’m sure many of you have had the experience of being known in your social circles as the person who knows about “feminist stuff” and “GLBT stuff” — and therefore casually interested people assume you a good person to ask about trans issues. I am happy to pass on what knowledge I have learned from books, online communities (such as this one), or trans people I have known — but I wouldn’t want to let anyone think I am an authoritative source on the subject because A) I am cisgendered after all, B) I have really only been sinking my teeth into this topic for the past few years and have a lot to learn (and a lot of privilege to un-learn), and C) there are just so many better resources available out there. Essentially, my thought is that cis allies have to figure out how far you can/should go in “teaching” people before you have to admit your lack of expertise and tell people to go out there and try to learn on their own. I wonder if others have input on this?

  32. anon
    April 14, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    One thing about being the privileged “expert” is that it can make a fair amount of impact when you a) stress you are not an expert and b) push them to work on their 101 just like you did and not wait around for answers. You’re in a good position to do that, and while it won’t completely solve the undeserved “expert” status, you’ll be putting it to good use…

  33. April 14, 2009 at 11:47 pm

    Beth (7):

    I understand where you are coming from, and as a tutor, licensed teacher (though I have only taught for three months), and trans man, I want to agree with Emmett (17) that there is a big difference between helping someone to understand an idiom or what Shakespeare was saying and being expected to answer questions about your genitals. Teaching and tutoring often means answering the same question over and over again and it can get really old. But it’s what you signed up for, is often part of a system of belief about how the world should be, is something you get to stop doing when the bell rings or your session is over, and is something for which you draw a paycheque. While I believe that teaching is a vocation, most people don’t view it as part of a person’s identity.

    Being othered is a status another groups confers upon you. It is not chosen and it is not position of education; it is a state of existence. And because of the way that a privileged group views me, many members of that group think that they are allowed to ask me questions or approach me with attitudes that are not just played out but fundamentally demeaning to my humanity. I feel continually on display and because I am a teacher at heart (again, that vocation thing), I often ignore my desire for privacy and find myself answering questions that are humiliating or dehumanizing precisely because people expect me to be prepared, at all times, to educate them about my group.

    In other words, there is a huge difference between being a teacher in a classroom and being a human being in the grocery store.

  34. Claire
    April 14, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    Just to throw it out there again, we’ve started up a Trans 101 Wiki (, and anyone here is welcome to visit, contribute, and/or link to it. I look forward to its growing beyond my severely limited capacity to look after it. :’P

  35. Butch Fatale
    April 15, 2009 at 12:08 am

    Transgender 101 websites: [how helpful or accurate to their own experiences people find this will of course vary. But it is out there.]

    As a genderqueer female-assigned person, I didn’t find these all that helpful for understanding my own experience, but in terms of what’s out there, here it is. This is the result of a quick “transgeder 101” google search. People can and should be expected to be capable of this if actually wish to gain knowledge.

    Maybe if feministe had an “educate yourself” link area, 101 “ally” questions could be directed there. A middle ground between find it yourself and spoonfeeding. It also could make it easier to decide not to get derailed because there’s an easy way to direct the question elsewhere.

    My personal strategy with education is to largely not engage. I get a lot of questions about my partner and I and how we work together and who does what where to whom with what (as my father-in-law puts it). I generally answer cryptically, but I’m always tempted to ask people about their genetalia and sex lives. I don’t because I fear they’ll tell me and I want to stop the desire for intrusiveness, not be the victim of a massive overshare.

    On non-gender related issues, I try to call people out when I think they’re saying something fucked up. I try to do it in a way that will allow conversation about why I think what they’ve said or done is problematic. Jumping down someone’s throat because you want to be a better ally is not education, it’s cookie-begging. That’s not to say there isn’t a time for telling someone off – but that’s not necessarily going to encourage education and part of being an ally (I think) is not co-opting someone else’s anger.

  36. Butch Fatale
    April 15, 2009 at 12:26 am

    Ugh. Re-reading the page – I either had forgotten how awful some of it is, or never fully read through. I apologize for putting it up. It was careless of me. I shouldn’t need a reminder of how much bad or negative or inaccurate information there is out there. There are some good sites out there, but they can be hard to find. Please feel free to delete my earlier comment.

  37. April 15, 2009 at 12:29 am

    Well, my experience with gettin’ schooled was for my queer theory prof/employer to assign me the task of “alphabetizing” her personal library after I asked one too many stupid questions. It took me multiple months because I kept reading the damn books.

    In that spirit, I’ve always been fond of reading lists accompanied by the occasional short lecture on “why you’re being an idiot in five simple paragraphs.” I don’t get into it much with people online, however, so I can’t help there.

    If they actually read the books and come back with questions, they’re worth investing time in when they ask their next set of stupid questions. If they aren’t–well, they clearly don’t give a crap anyway.

  38. April 15, 2009 at 12:40 am

    i’m really glad to have found this post cause i was wondering about the silence over at the other post.

    i think creating the wiki is a great idea and will definitely sign up to support in what ways that i can.

    i agree with maggie @#29 (i think) that being a queer identified ciswoman often means in spaces where no out transpeople are doing the educating i have felt like i have been looked at an expert (and i will admit to not being quick enough or humble enough at interjecting about this.) and i am definitely not that.

    my thought is that its always important for allies to take on some of the 101 burden of discussions especially in online spaces because transpeople are probably having to feel that burden far too much in their personal lives anyway. and you just have to be more upfront and honest about your limitations as a educator.

  39. April 15, 2009 at 12:46 am

    @37 i am an avid reader and a big advocate of reading list. however i am also a big advocate of trying to understand that people have multiple kinds of intelligences. and that for some people (even people who read lenghty blog posts) learning won’t ever happen in books. one thing that i am trying in my own blog is to try and push more audio/visual links on issues that i think are important. (credit this idea basically came from Monica at Transgriot who does an excellent job of linking to youtube vids and talking up new films and documentaries on trans issues.)

  40. Borea
    April 15, 2009 at 12:46 am

    1. “Education” to me means going beyond the Oprah special and actually sitting down and talking with a trans-person. Or, more precisely, listening. I’m happy to play teacher for “Trans 101” and have done so many times. But after a while lots of trans people just want to tell their stories. It might be catharsis, it might be an effort to try and explain ALL the emotions and trials we go through. You can only learn so much by taking a class or reading a book or listening to a lecture… you gotta do all of those and more.

    As a trans person, the #1 most frustrating question I get asked is “why haven’t you had a sex change/started hormones/changed your name yet?” I’ll tell you why. Because it’s really damn expensive and time-consuming, that’s why. Of course, this is often a loaded question, with the second half “because if you haven’t had a sex change you must not be trans” left silent. Also, and this is a biggie… I really dislike people who insist on viewing gender as a binary, or on the other hand, seeing trans-people as a third gender. We are people, first and foremost. Someone’s gender identity is a personal matter that defies convenient little boxes to put people into. We are who we are.

    More than once, sadly, I’ve seen a trans-person’s legitimacy called into question because they were mtof and didn’t like dresses, or were ftom and were bisexual, or… well, I could go on. you get the picture.

    2. Sad as I am to say it, the only sites that spring to mind are two that are BAD. No, really. DO NOT USE OR CONSULT THESE SITES! They are full of misinformation or otherwise not friendly places for ALL trans-people and their allies; and Laura’s Playground. Thankfully, a few of the blogs already mentioned earlier seem to be good sources, beyond “trans101” info.

  41. Kristen J.
    April 15, 2009 at 1:00 am

    I honestly didn’t know much about the experiences of transpersons until a few years ago. Educating myself (for the most part) has been (and still is) a two stage process:

    1) STFU unless you can contribute and
    2) Listen to the experiences of other people

    If you don’t understand what someone is saying…use the google. If you still don’t understand what someone is saying…sit on it…give it a few days or weeks or months…follow the context, go back to prior discussions, listen to what they say tomorrow…eventually most of it will become clear…But ffs unless specifically invited, don’t ask people to explain their oppression.

  42. RD
    April 15, 2009 at 5:34 am

    Questioning Transphobia and Monster’s Creed both have lists of 101/201 posts in their sidebars.

  43. Simplejewel
    April 15, 2009 at 7:56 am

    I’ve struggled with this in my own way.

    A- As a TA in womyn’s studies for the past 3 yrs, everytime we get to Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege” article, we always get into a discussion about who is supposed to educate who. And every year, we get bright eyed young students with lots of privilege saying “WOW, what an eye opener!” on one hand and then “But how would I have known this without someone telling me?” and then when you explain that Peggy is a white womyn who is addressing racism, therefore a majority educating the majority, it becomes “Well then, isn’t she appropriating someone else’s territory?” and “Well somebody had to tell her first, right?” It’s a sticky situation and I don’t blame students for being confused.

    Not to mention the human curiousity of just wanting to know and wanting to join a conversation but feeling like maybe it’s not “their place”; but it only becomes “their place” when they find out. But if you’re joining a conversation and all you know is what Wikipedia told you, people shoot that down, too. So it’s a very damned if you do, damned if you don’t approach at times.

    B- I’m from a very, very small town. Miniscule, in fact. I’ve lived in miniscule towns my whole life until about 7 years ago when I moved to a capital city. And so I understand the mentality of people who come from this background of knowing everyone and their neighbour and being labeled “ignorant” when you meet those who aren’t. Yes, there is an ignorance there but it comes from somewhere. And in these cases, there are people who have honestly never met a trans person. Ever. They might know intersexed people or closeted people, but not trans in the way we are talking about here. If you’ve known the same group of people since birth and only be around those people, then a narrow view of the world is bound to crop up. And then if you’re sprung into the “bigger world” (because let’s face it, youth migration is a reality) it’s scary and you can’t help but either be terrified to ask questions or to ask too many questions.

    Sorry this is long, ha ha, but I felt that I needed to speak on behalf of the small town folk who are wandering on the interweb or in your university/college hallways.

  44. April 15, 2009 at 8:29 am

    If you don’t understand what someone is saying…use the google.

    Sad as I am to say it, the only sites that spring to mind are two that are BAD. No, really. DO NOT USE OR CONSULT THESE SITES! They are full of misinformation or otherwise not friendly places for ALL trans-people and their allies; and Laura’s Playground.

    I think this second point is why I’m reluctant to just send people off to do their own research on a subject like this without ANY guidance. Because as we all know, the great thing about the internet is that there’s lots of information out there, and the bad thing about the internet is that there’s lots of information out there. Someone looking for what the term “cis” means could stumble into a site that was transphobic or transmisogynist and not necessarily realize they were getting mis-information.

    That’s why I’m glad we can put together a wiki that can serve as a research guide, so people can feel comfortable sending other folks there for “best of the web” sources.

  45. jayinchicago
    April 15, 2009 at 9:29 am

    One thing I want to clear up that has come up a few times in the comments is using “out” and “closeted” to refer to whether you know the trans or cis status of a person. note: i am not attempting to represent a majority trans opinion or anything of the sort.

    That language is not particularly sensitive. I considered myself a “closeted trans person” when people assumed I was female and I didn’t tell them otherwise. Now that people assume correctly that I am male, I don’t see how that language reflects my life.

    Also, it is terminology more accurately applied to (and borrowed from) sexuality or LGB issues. If you use it in regards to trans issues, I might wonder if you realize that LGB and T are different, even if we tend to shove them together like that.

  46. April 15, 2009 at 9:37 am

    @ gogjojo–

    Yeah, it’s definitely true. Limiting to books also creates a class diff all to prevalent in who is “in the know” about more heady gender issues.

    Unfortunantly, I’m at a loss for good video or audio stuff—and I find people tend to trust books more anyway, even if they don’t read them. Great idea, though–good luck.

  47. Dori
    April 15, 2009 at 9:52 am

    1) Educating, in this context, can mean a few things to me and they are conditional. It can be my responsibility as someone trying to mitigate their cis-privilege and this is conditional on the context of the discussion and the manner of the question. If the discussion is about educating the clueless, or the question that is being asked does not bring the entire discussion to a grinding halt to explain basic core concepts for the millionth time, and the question is asked in good faith. As far as what it would look like in these conditions, I personally would prefer it to be giving them a reference point and channeling the discussion there. If someone is derailing a post that is not about educating them, is referencing something basic in the post that is not the point of the post, or is demanding that they be educated or else, then they are derailing the conversation and don’t deserve my attention or energy. They certainly are not owed an education by people who are immediately effected by this and whom the discussion is supposed to focus on. I get really annoyed when people make a concerted effort to avoid critical thinking, and I see that enough that any request to be educated is immediately suspicious.

    I received and continue to receive my 101 education in trans activism and issues by lurking, listening and taking it upon myself to figure out what these terms and concepts mean. I’m still figuring it out. As far as the terminology argument, that shit is basic. Its like learning any new word. You look at the context, and figure it out.

    If you want to understand, then you will make an effort to challenge your assumptions. If that effort is not made, then education from the outside isn’t worth a damn.

    2) as far as sources, may I just point out that I don’t find UrbanDictionary to be anything but a hotbed of trolls? Its hardly a reliable source in a social justice context, and as far as the specific incident in the cis-privilege thread, that commenter lost any and all credibility she had when she said she looked there first.

    I would also recommend Taking Up Too Much Space.

    My biggest concern with blog recommendations is that if someone is being clueless and is not willing to challenge their assumptions, sending them to disrupt other blogs is kind of obnoxious, don’t you think?

  48. CBrachyrhynchos
    April 15, 2009 at 10:07 am

    I find google particularly frustrating coming from the genderqueer end of the spectrum as the language serves multiple purposes. “Cross-dressing,*” for example can refer to non-traditional gender costuming, drag or female impersonation, or sexual fetishism. “Sissy,” will pull a mixed net of men talking about the politics of being identified as such out of gender-based harassment and a sexual subculture of submissive, feminine men. The dramatic increase in visibility of yaoi and slash IMO privileges the view of straight women in these discussions as well.

    * A term that I’m not entirely comfortable with because it’s from the mainstream culture’s view.

  49. CBrachyrhynchos
    April 15, 2009 at 10:13 am

    And just to clarify, I mean costuming in the broad anthropological meaning of the term rather than the idea of theatrical artifice. ie., everything is a costume and everyone is wearing a costume, unless you are naked, but even nudists can be argued to have norms of costuming.

  50. debbie
    April 15, 2009 at 10:18 am

    To jump off of what simplejewel was saying (and if simplejewel is who I think she is, I suspect we TA the same women’s studies course!), I am a cisgender, straight, white woman teaching women and gender studies to first year uniersity students (mostly 17-19 years old). For many of them, this course is probably their first introduction to talking about gender, race, class, and sexuality in a ciritical way, and is almost always their first introduction to trans issues beyond nasty media stereotyping. Sometimes, this is areally awkward position to be in, and i know that I fuck up sometimes.

    I’m uncomfortable with some of what is being said about education above (specifically Beth @ 7). Blogs are not classrooms, and a blog like feministe is not an intro women and gender studies class. I don’t consider feministe a feminism 101 blog, and while I tell my students about feminist blogs, I generally recommend just reading for a while instead of jumping into the comments. As a teaching assistant in an intro level class, I am infinitely more patient and willing to extend to students teh benefit of the doubt than I have ever been on the internet because the boundaries of a classroom, and of a teacher/student relationship are different from the boundaries of a blog, and the relationships between bloggers adn commenters, especially on a blog like feministe that has a community of long-term participants.

    I am also wary of romanticizing the work of teachers, and the relationship between teachers and students in these kinds of conversations. Renee and others have commented about doing your due diligence, and making the effort to educate yourself. As a teacher, I cannot be responsible for students who show up for class unprepared, especially students who make it clear that they have no interest in learning and expect me to just tell them what they need to know (as was demonstrated in teh other thread). And I will not tolerate behaviour that makes other students feel unsafe (i.e., making homophobic or racist comments). Why would I expect the bloggers at feministe to do so?

  51. debbie
    April 15, 2009 at 10:20 am

    And more importantly, why should any of us expect trans women, people of colour, and others, whether they are commenters or bloggers to do this work?

  52. Dori
    April 15, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Claire @6:

    The comments on that post are a mess because Margaret Jamison decided she had the right to spew her “radfem” transphobia all over the place. That woman is vile.

  53. Butch Fatale
    April 15, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Claire – thanks for starting the wiki. I wish I had read more carefully yesterday before posting – this is what happens when the only time i have for the interwebs is at night. I assume you want more people to contribute?

  54. April 15, 2009 at 10:33 am

    Moving my comment to this thread…

    Even when you have a good 101 resource, you still won’t learn everything you’ll need to know to follow more advanced conversations on the topic. There will be gaps in your knowledge. That’s the nature of the game. Like piny said, even folks who are trans go through that same learning process — it just comes of necessity. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

    So you’re going to be approaching conversations without necessarily knowing what this or that word means, and maybe you have searched around and can’t find what you need, and there’s a resource posted on the top of the page but it doesn’t address this particular question, or whatever. That’s where patience comes in. That’s where you keep reading, and trust that gap will be filled later. Trust that as you keep filling in the context, the meaning will become apparent — or that someone will say something in such a way as to make it obvious to you. Trust that you’ll have that “click” moment at some point or ‘nother.

    You have to be able to do that if you’re going to engage with these issues. Otherwise, things will get stopped up all the time. Because these issues are reallyfuckingcomplicated and there are little things here there and everywhere that aren’t really easy to understand, that take a while to explain, or that can’t really be distilled down into an easy definition, that do take years of learning that context to really get a feel for…

  55. herong
    April 15, 2009 at 10:33 am

    @ KristenJ’s #1 – STFU.

    I completely agree. Hard to learn when all you’re doing is asking questions. When I don’t understand something – anything, anywhere – I look at the context. Can I figure out what I need from the surroundings? Have other people linked to sites that might be helpful? Have I read past threads? Can I find something at another blog/site that I visit? Does the blogroll have any likely 101 sites? (Blogrolls are amazing things and remarkably educational). It is always likely that a question has been asked (and answered) before. FIND THAT ANSWER before you ask the question, derail a conversation, silence people, and make yourself look dumb. Education is about cooperation, but it is also about being pro-active.

  56. Simplejewel
    April 15, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Just to clarify, I meant “closeted” more in terms of sexuality and not in terms of “trans”. I was just trying to make a larger point about assumptions and knowing your neighbours indepth. I should have clarified that better; my apologies.

  57. April 15, 2009 at 10:37 am

    this is more a skill that privileged commenters *must* have if they are going to engage constructively on these issues. it’s an expectaction we, as privileged folk, have to hold for ourselves and each other. it’s not something transfolk (or others, we have had similar convos how many times?…*) should be expected to do for us.

    *this is what honestly gets me a bit down. we HAVE had this conversation for multiple other issues. I understand the Feministe bloggers have been working behind the scenes on some sort of solution, but. I do think there should be some central response, with some sort of approach on handling these things, and soon. so we don’t just have this same conversation all over again two months from now.

  58. adrien
    April 15, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Theoretically, people know how to use libraries, google, wikipedia, etc; why does that all go out the window when it comes to marginalized issues? For me, “good faith” means not stopping at the first word other than what was included in your initial search that you don’t understand. That’s just the bare minimum; anything less and I feel justified in assuming laziness and/or privilege.

  59. April 15, 2009 at 10:50 am

    @jayinchicago on using the term out, i can see where that is problematic and I think that i have done so in the past (and possibly in my previous comments.) but i’m equally leery of terms like “stealth” because i feel like it reinforces the idea that trans people are hiding something. i wonder if a more intentional thing to say would be trans people who are discuss their gender history? i’m not sure, its a very slippery slope.

  60. Irene M.
    April 15, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    I’ll come back to question one latter, but for now I’ll answer number two.

    Transgroup Blog highlights a diverse array of online voices. It’s a good place to go if you are just starting to look for blogs by and about transpeople.

    Here’s a good post from the Bilerco Project on why people might not want to “complete” their transition with surgery and how that doesn’t make them any more or less trans. An important reminder for new cis-allies. Also, the Bilerco site has a good series on the HRC’s horrible treatment of transpeople if you want to search for it.

    It’s been profiled here before, but Calpurnia Adam’s “Bad Questions” is worth a second viewing.

    Finally, my friend would kill me if I didn’t mention her blog combatqueer. Her post on how supposed liberals shouldn’t talk about trans-individuals is a must read.

    Also, one of my favorite posts is an Easter message discussing the blessings (yes, there are actual blessings) of being queer and Christian.

  61. Claire
    April 15, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Dori @ 52,

    Yes, I followed the thread, and I’m very familiar with the phenomenon of transphobic gender essentialists on the internet calling themselves radical feminists. (Presumably, they learned what “radical” means from the Ninja Turtles. I was just being a little snarky and pointing out that little light’s Taking Steps seems, judging from published comments, to not be a very safe place for trans people, either.

    Butch Fatale @ 53,

    Absolutely, new contributors are welcome. Like with nearly any project, I’d prefer to personally do as little work on it as possible. :’P

  62. Dori
    April 15, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    Claire @61

    I kinda figured you were familiar with Margie and her ilk, I just felt that this information needed to be acknowledged here as well. I had a throw down with her at Womanist Musings, and I have an unhealthy amount of anger directed at her.

  63. The Opoponax
    April 15, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    And every year, we get bright eyed young students with lots of privilege saying “WOW, what an eye opener!” on one hand and then “But how would I have known this without someone telling me?” and then when you explain that Peggy is a white womyn who is addressing racism, therefore a majority educating the majority, it becomes “Well then, isn’t she appropriating someone else’s territory?” and “Well somebody had to tell her first, right?”

    I think it takes lived experience as an ally (or as someone who is genuinely attempting to act as an ally) for the nuances here to set in.

    Because, yeah, as an 18 year old college kid, I really wasn’t able to think deeply about this stuff. I could read about it, and learn facts, and get that X source said Y is an issue for black women, or W source said that as a white person I should do Z. And I could accept those commands and live by them without really deeply examining a whole lot. Or worse, I would let myself “examine” them via gut reaction, which due to my privilege was often “no! nononononono! I don’t wanna!” (a gut reaction I still fight.)

    As I’ve grown in Teh Movement, I feel like I’ve developed the ability to read something and really give it time to sink in. To the point where I can use that to develop my own inner understanding of the matter at hand (or an inner understanding of larger concepts like what gender is, how racism works, what someone means when they talk about being silenced or feeling invisible, etc). “Original research”, as Wikipedia would call it.

    This can be a really hard skill to learn, and I’m not entirely sure how to impart it more efficiently in privileged people. I suppose it’s just one of those things that takes time and perspective.

  64. Irene M.
    April 15, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Oh, wow, I can’t believe I forgot Alas, a Blog’s “Non-Trans Privilege Checklist.” This should have been at the top of the list.

  65. anon
    April 15, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    Just came across this:


  66. The Opoponax
    April 15, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    If you’ve known the same group of people since birth and only be around those people, then a narrow view of the world is bound to crop up.

    As another “small town person”, I don’t really agree with this.

    I would agree that if you’ve known the same group of people since birth and only been around those people, you are likely to have a somewhat limited exposure to the world. I envy the kids I meet who are growing up here in New York, because they’re never going to have to look up “Yom Kippur” or “Stonewall” or “Dosa” on Wikipedia. And I think that’s really neat.

    I would not agree, on the other hand, that a “narrow view of the world” is a natural result of growing up in a small town or an insular community. Nor is it any excuse for refusing to expand your outlook. There are growing pains (and I’ve experienced them myself), but it’s really not that difficult.

  67. Simplejewel
    April 15, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    @ The Opoponax:

    I don’t think it’s “inevitable” and I didn’t mean to come off that way; I guess I overgeneralized for my broader point. My bad!

    In fact, I grew up in these tinny, tiny towns and yet had parents who exposed me to a broader outlook. But I do think it’s important to recognize that there is privilege in having an anti-oppression framework and when you’re elbow deep in it, it’s often easy to forget that other people don’t have that.

    What I’m sensing from this thread is a bigger question, IMO, which is: What is the role of blogs? And I guess, Feministe? Is it to “educate” (whatever the hell that means), “enlighten” (Whatever that means), discuss, expose issues, build community, etc? I don’t have an answer. I thought I did, but I’m sensing that I’m off.

  68. The Opoponax
    April 15, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    To clarify, I don’t think the folks who come out of a small town experience do it because of something their parents gave them. I grew up in a conservative family with a provincial outlook, myself. I honestly have no idea how I grew up to be the person I am — it certainly wasn’t because I got it handed to me by lucking into bohemian parents or anything like that. I’ve had to earn my anti-oppression street cred (to the extent that I actually have any) just like everybody else.

    Becoming socially aware or finding a way to pursue a path as an ally is not a matter of “privilege”. Narrow-mindedness is not an inborn trait or an ascribed status. It is something we choose to accept or reject.

    Do I think that newbies should be helped along and understood, for all their blundering? Definitely. We all make mistakes. We all have unexamined privilege. I am really ashamed of some of the things I thought, said, and did once upon a time. Back in the Bad Old Days growing up white and well-off in the South, and also as a well-meaning college kid. Shit, I’m ashamed of things I thought or did a year ago when I was traveling through India. I’m annoyed at the way I put my foot in my mouth last week. A few nights ago I dreamed that I was the subject of an all-out feminist blogosphere Armageddon because someone found out that I had (in the dream!!!!) a fetish for Asian women. This shit never stops, no matter how wide you open your mind or how far you get from Butcher Holler or Park Avenue or Laramie, Wyoming.

  69. Yoshimi
    April 15, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    When I went to Irene’s link (#65) I found a link to
    The right sidebar has a ton of helpful stuff about privilege of various sorts including cisprivilege and white privilege. I’m bookmarking it to explore in my free time. My biggest concern as a cis woman who wants to be a trans ally is that, when I educate others (which I try to do when appropriate), I’m afraid of saying something wrong b/c I don’t know as much as I think I do. I try to just explain that I’m still learning myself and lead the person to some resources I find helpful with the advice to stfu for a while.

  70. April 15, 2009 at 6:21 pm

    My idea:

    In the original post that does not welcome 101-type questions, there is a footnote with a link to a popular or voted-on 101-type resource (like the frequently linked-to Feminism 101 Blog, sorry, don’t have the link off hand). It can say something to the effect of, “If you are unfamiliar with the subject matter of this post, please visit (101 link) before commenting. No comments asking to be educated, or with 101-type questions, will be allowed and if they are posted, then they are subsequently deleted.”

    The potential problem I see with this is the fact that, well, you’d have to put that disclaimer on a whole lot of posts. But maybe someone can incorporate that general idea into a workable plan?

  71. eastsidekate
    April 15, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    As an educator, I’m compelled to point out the link between learning and educating. You can’t “educate” someone who doesn’t want to learn. This is a huge problem when it comes to marginalized communities, because lots of folks are willfully ignorant. Willful ignorance also creates a hostile atmosphere for folks who are honestly willing to admit that they’re coming from a position of privilege, and really, truly do want to learn. I find myself dealing with so many people who honestly aren’t trying, that I suspect I’m fairly unkind to those people who may be clueless through no fault of their own (to the extent that this is possible).

  72. April 15, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    i have to say that i’m like eastsidekate on this. in my experience people are often willfully ignorant about complex social issues. this makes me a lot less kind to clueless people. i have to make a conscious decision to go into educator mode. and that rarely happens around my personal identifications and communities and more about communities and issues that i feel allied to (precisely because i feel like its an ally’s job to take on some of the burden of educating 101ers and people in their privilege group.)

    this can be somewhat problematic because i”m also a strong believer that one can not try to speak for a group of people, especially a group that i am not a part of. which is why i *try* to be cognizent of and check any ego i have as an ally educator. my memory is full of more instances of where i fail at this than when i succeed. but that’s probably good because it motivates me to do better.

  73. April 16, 2009 at 7:44 am

    Whoa – so many comments that I won’t be able to read right now, so at the risk of talking out of my ass, I do want to say…

    Personally? I don’t understand the big deal with someone asking “what does cisgender mean”? on a comment thread. If just one person had responded with an answer without a huge argument erupting about whether or not that question should even be answered, how much of a derailment would it be?

    Fuck, I didn’t know what “cisgendered” meant until last year or MAYBE the year before. This despite being genderqueer, despite being a collective member of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project for a while already, despite being pretty knowledgeable about gender theory and trans history and activism. It’s still a rarely used term, and frankly one that still rings as pretty academically oriented to me. I think it’s kind of elitist to be all “Go away with yr 101” when someone asks for a definition of a relatively rare, fairly academic term. Yeah, someone can google it, and yeah, it is important for privileged allies to educate themselves. But sometimes people prefer to ask real humans or communities questions, and I think that requiring people to have completed their studies and have their vocabulary memorized before commenting on Feministe would just add to the classist & elitist attitude that’s already present on many blogs. Is that what we want to come off as? I say no.

  74. April 16, 2009 at 10:51 am

    But sometimes people prefer to ask real humans or communities questions, and I think that requiring people to have completed their studies and have their vocabulary memorized before commenting on Feministe would just add to the classist & elitist attitude that’s already present on many blogs.

    I just wanted to say I really like this point. My sister’s first-resort when she has an “information need” is to ask the people she knows who may know the answer. I don’t think that’s laziness or resistence to learning — it’s just one way of absorbing information. Heck, we library folks do it all the time ourselves!

    While I realize there are issues of appropriateness and intrusiveness, etc., I do think it’s important to remember that some people learn best in conversation — and comment threads are a form of virtual conversation (at least in my opinion).

    Don’t know how we (as a big amorphous feminist community) balance that with all the other needs here, but I think this is an important factor to consider . . .

  75. Jadey
    April 16, 2009 at 11:19 am

    @ Jack

    Because experiences differ, I want to say that I also did not learn the terms “cis” or “cis gender” more recently than a year ago, but I have come across it quite frequently since then, especially in relation to trans-related blogs or blog posts. Also, I found the term fairly easy to Google for a basic definition. This is not to suggest that your experience is not valid, but that it is also not universal.

    The problem wasn’t simply the question, it was the context of the question in the original thread dealing with the very painful and powerful acknowledgement of how trans people and trans-related issues have been overlooked and silenced on this blog, specifically in relation to persistant derailing. It clearly sparked enough debate and discussion to warrant its own thread to prevent derailing the original. I think the purpose of this thread is *not* to debate the need for 101, but to allow trans people (and allies?) on this blog to talk about what 101 and associated discussions mean to them.

    Questions aren’t ineherently bad, but mindfulness about the context in which one asks the question is important too.

  76. April 16, 2009 at 11:26 am

    Jack, the reason why is because that person is indicating that they really don’t care. If it’s too much energy to expend on googling or going to then they aren’t much of an ally anyway. Oppressed people have had enough of privileged people wanting to be spoon fed all their information. I think of it this way, if it’s too hard on their delicate fingers to type in what they are looking for into the google search and click the submit button, then it’s too hard on my delicate fingers to waste my time typing in the answer in the comment box and click the submit button here. Why is only the privileged persons time and energy valuable?

  77. BetsyTX
    April 16, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    There is a balance that can be achieved between answering silly questions (highlight and right-click on Firefox!) and educating those who want to learn. Alienating truth-seekers is damaging.

    I can’t pretend to know where to draw that line. Most things in life are in delicate shades of grey. Education-bringing the issues to the uninformed-is how oppressed persons begin to claw their way out of the pit.

    I am cisgendered, female and straight. Granted, I sought information and truth. No one handed it to me. When I die, I will still be seeking truth. I just don’t want anyone to miss out on a chance to enlighten someone else. It might be me.

  78. CatChester
    April 17, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    I’m one of those strange people who has never really judged differing lifestyles. Honestly, i don’t see the point. So a man like having sex with other men over women, or a woman prefers other women to men, or some like both from, or a man or woman likes sadomasochism… So what?

    If a man or woman thinks they were born in the wrong body, or they don’t even know which sex they identify more with *shrug*. So fucking what?

    I never have understood why what other adult do bothers other people so much. Even if I don’t agree with what certain people do, if I think it’s bad for their emotional health (or physical health) such as S&M or wife swapping or dogging, it’s not my place to judge anyone. These people are adults, they know the risks, they choose to consent. I honestly see no problem with those choices unless consent is withheld or coerced.

    Maybe I’m just too lazy to care, but I doubt that’s it because prejudice does get my back up, big time.

    Maybe it’s wrong of me to just accept that some people change sex, maybe I should read more on the subject. If you think so, please tell me. From my own point of view, if you’d be happier changing sex or living as a different sex, or just blurring the boundaries then that’s fine with me, I don’t need to know why, I don’t need an explanation. You don’t have to justify your choices to me, nor should you.

    I do however, think its naïve to think you will be welcomed with open arms into a feminist arena. Into an equality arena, fine, but feminism is by definition a gendered issue and I can see why blurring the boundaries of sex is difficult for some feminists.

    The toilet debate for example. Now I come from the point of view that I honestly don’t see why I should queue to perform a natural bodily function if there’s a facility free. As such I have used both men’s and disabled toilets. In the bad old days when it was assumed only women changed babies and so the facilities were always in the ladies, I’ve seen men in there. I don’t find it much of an issue, especially since we have stalls and are locked in from any prying eyes. But I do get why some women would find a man in the ladies uncomfortable. That’s the whole reason why most baby changing facilities now are unisex and not in the ladies (well, that and that fact more men are doing the changing).

    Changing rooms are a slightly more controversial issue though. People get naked in changing rooms. I don’t like communal changing rooms, I never have, I never will. The most I will try on in a shop that has them is shoes. I’m sorry, I just don’t want to display my body to anyone other than people who love me and wont judge me.

    While some women are fine with changing in front of other women, I get why having a transgendered person in there would alter things drastically. Most women (in my experience) naturally feel more judged my men than other women so of course having someone who is or looks male present would be very difficult for them. And I honestly don’t think those women can be blamed for feeling that way.

    The answer is relative simple, there shouldn’t be communal changing rooms, either for shops or sports facilities, all changing facilities should be unisex, individual cubicles. But until that happens I will avoid shops with communal changing rooms, I will change in the toilet stalls of sports facilities rather than the changing room and I will not blame other women because you are unsure where your place is to change.

    Maybe I’m being unfair, maybe I am in the wrong (shocking idea, I know, but it has been known to happen) and I do sympathise with transgendered peoples plight, but you need to understand that feminism’s first responsibility is to females. As a man (whether born or trans) you can be seen as the enemy, especially when dealing with issues of sex/undressing in public.

    I suppose I’m saying that while I support trans equality issues, I will not support trans over women. I will support a cause calling for unisex cubicles, I wont support your being allowed to use communal changing facilities is the women present haven’t consented.

    Is that bigoted of me?

  79. April 17, 2009 at 9:11 pm

    Wow CatChester, you just totally failed harder than a DVD rewinder.
    And yes, you are a fucking bigot and moreover you have no fucking clue what you are talking about.

  80. A.W.
    April 17, 2009 at 9:56 pm


    “I suppose I’m saying that while I support trans equality issues, I will not support trans over women.”

    For all your vaunted “I don’t care, really” I do wonder why you separated ‘trans ‘ and ‘women’. Some women are also trans people. Ergo, they should be able to use the women’s changing rooms. I mean, gimmie a damn break. I distinctly remember gym class and a pay-for gym locker room, among other changing room situations – most people out of their early teens are not, in fact, oggling their neighbor for ‘imperfections’ let alone coding them in their heads as men should they not resemble June Cleaver. As for this, “Most women (in my experience) naturally feel more judged my men than other women”. I’ve a bit of experience with such judgement, too, funnily enough. Most of the women I’ve heard complain about judgement such as weight, fashion, body-in-general (and the judgement I sometimes recieve/ed when being considered one, as my ‘passing’ as a guy is iffy I get to listen to more than enough righteous complaints) generally come from other women, by and large. Self-policing is one of the worst things about group dynamics. Considering your post is a judgement on a group of other women and who is and is – not – ‘good enough’ for the changing room, all based on looksism, your ‘men’s opinions matter more’ is a bit ironic and wildly incorrect.

  81. April 17, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    @79 — CatChester, I guess it really is all about you. Thanks for giving us a perfect example of the sort of willfully ignorant derailing that prompted the boycotts of Feministe and Feministing in the first place. And yes, you are being bigoted.

    As far as the original question… I think context matters a lot. I’ve done outreach speaking and yeah I usually get the same Trans 101 questions every time. And I’m OK with that. It is annoying as hell to expected to do so regularly in spaces like this one, in threads that are explicitly not supposed to be Trans 101. That said, I realize everyone a newbie at times, which is why I think it’s a good idea to a have a link to 101 resources (whether it’s trans topics or others).

    Attitude counts for a lot too — as in having a little humility. For example, if someone says “I’m not quite sure what terminology to use, please let me know if there’s a better way to phrase this…” I’m willing to cut them some slack. (Particularly since the trans communities don’t agree on terminology.) But I’d like them to have at least done some basic homework in a setting like this.

    I guess the one of biggest context that annoys the fuck out of me is when trans people are used as jumping off point for cis people to talk about gender theory (um folks, our lives aren’t just academic theories…).

    As far as insightful blogs, helen boyd’s en|gender has many good posts on both trans and gender issues.

  82. Sahara
    April 18, 2009 at 1:16 am

    As a ciswoman with imperfect *feminine* genes :) education means trans101, reading writings from persons who are trans and when a person who is trans is speaking to you – just listening to what he/she/they is saying as a multi-faceted human being with myriad experiences.

    I think also forgetting about elaborate theories when you have a friend/acquaintance who is trans, and also checking in and paying attention to what with the person would like to be called is also appropriate. When I first met a particular person who was pre-op, she introduced herself to me with the name she was born with then that changed to her *female* name so it’s good to just go with the flow out of respect.

    Education also means not creating analogies between personally experienced oppressions and trans issues – because you have actually reached a point where analogising does not suffice.

  83. April 18, 2009 at 5:28 am

    “Debunking Cis,” lj comm that started last week:

  84. April 21, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    This is a very good post that I will recommend to anyone needing a primer on privilege.

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