If you wear jeans, you’re not a woman: Transphobia at women’s shelters


The case of a women’s shelter in Maine handily demonstrates the true inanity of policing gender via its expression:

But the women who complained said they believe that in at least one case, it was a ruse. They believe one of the people in question is a man who occasionally dresses as a woman to get into the shelter, perhaps for voyeuristic reasons. That person did not have any feminine mannerisms and often dresses in a T-shirt and jeans, sporting a 5 o’clock shadow of male facial hair, they said.

“If they’re really living as a woman, I think they have every right to be there,” said one of the women who complained. “But he wasn’t wearing makeup or wearing eyeliner or anything. Just a man wearing a skirt. It was just odd.”

Let’s take a moment to consider the following advertisement.

levis-womens-jeans“Women’s jeans”? This is clearly a contradiction – anyone wearing jeans, logically, cannot be a woman. Note also this recent photo of Lady Gaga without makeup.

rs_634x851-130724115515-634.LadyGaga.mh.072413In the absence of any eyeliner, how can we possibly accept that Lady Gaga is a woman?

Oh, that’s right – nobody questions or doubts the very genders of cis women who wear shirts and jeans, or don’t put on makeup. That unique treatment is reserved for trans women. Cis women can dress as they choose, and while they too are scrutinized no matter how they present themselves, none of this is seen as invalidating the fact of their womanhood. When cis women wear jeans, nobody claims they’re actually men. Yet trans women are held to a higher standard: the jeans and shirts that would be acceptable for cis women now only erode our own legitimacy as women.

Cis genders are solid and stable enough to withstand any change of dress, but trans genders are seen as so flimsy that the mere absence of makeup can upend them. We thus face the dichotomy that we must be either far more exaggeratedly, stereotypically feminine than is expected of other women, or risk being treated as “men”. What sense does this make? It is an instance of cissexism: the attitude that cis people’s genders are more real, more important, and generally superior to those of trans people.

Shelters are a crucial and necessary resource for homeless, abused, and vulnerable women, and it’s very important that these shelters remain safe for their residents. These concerns are also not exclusive to cis women. Trans women need these shelters just as badly – and they need them to be a truly safe place to stay.

In a 2011 survey of 6,450 transgender Americans, 22% of trans women reported experiencing domestic violence due to being transgender. 19% of respondents had been homeless at some point in their lives, a number which rose to 48% among those who had suffered domestic violence.

A significant portion of trans women will require the services of shelters at some point in their lives. However, 34% of trans women who had attempted to access shelters were denied entry outright. Of the respondents who did manage to access a shelter, 25% were evicted after it became known that they were trans. 55% were harassed by shelter staff or residents, and 29% of trans women were physically assaulted. 26% were sexually assaulted at shelters. Overall, 47% were treated so poorly that they chose to leave the shelter.

Again, this took place in shelters that are intended to serve as a safe, supportive environment for abused and vulnerable women. Think about what that means: At least one in four trans women in shelters have been physically or sexually assaulted while residing at the shelter.

Many trans women are clearly in need of these shelters, and they urgently need these shelters to be a safe place to stay. But in pursuing the wholly valid and important goal of ensuring the safety of shelter residents, too many people have mistakenly viewed trans women as a problem, a danger, a threat. In rightfully seeking to keep women safe, they’ve wrongfully treated trans women as inherently suspicious un-women, refusing to see them as women who are just as much in need of support as everyone else there.

Fortunately, the shelter in Maine has refrained from casting doubt on trans women’s genders, and treats them as equally legitimate and worthy of respect. Yet the exclusion and mistreatment of trans women at shelters remains a widespread problem. The concerns that lead to this mistreatment neglect the reality of the situation: trans women are not the threatening ones at women’s shelters. They are the threatened ones.

And the more that people engage in this hostile, insipid questioning of trans women’s pants or makeup choices, the fewer trans women will be able to access these much-needed services during some of the most difficult times in their lives. This isn’t protecting women – it’s failing them.

Comments

  1. CaitieCat says

    We thus face the dichotomy that we must be either far more exaggeratedly, stereotypically feminine than is expected of other women, or risk being treated as “men”.

    With the added frisson that if we do choose to accommodate the comically exaggerated femininity required of us, we are then not-infrequently derided as being gender-essentialists and sellouts to the patriarchy.

    CFWN*, that is.

    Good post, ma’am.

    * Realised on preview that this is a personal usage: Can’t Fucking Win No-how is the definition.

    • Dawn Radford says

      I wear jeans, sometimes have a little stubble, don’t always wear makeup, and most days I don’t even tuck. What I do have is a carry letter signed by both doctors supervising my transition, and not just anyone gets one of those.

  2. Arashi says

    While I fully agree that this behavior is sexist, stupid, and just plain wrong, I do want to point out one thing. Cis women are also expected to wear makeup at all times; if you don’t, it’s proof that you’re either a) a lesbian, or b) a lazy slob. Many jobs also require that women, cis or trans, wear skirts or dresses, and you can be sent home for showing up in pants (because that’s “too casual” for the workplace). Heaven forbid you show up braless; that one can get you fired. So it’s not wholly a trans-phobic reaction, though I don’t doubt that is a major component.

    • Alexandra Erin says

      It IS wholly a transphobic response. If it wasn’t, then the trans women would be being identified as lesbians or lazy slobs. The fact that we’re not put into the same categories as cis women who commit these “failings”–that we’re not even allowed in the category of women–should tell you that it’s not the same thing.

    • Happiestsadist, opener of the Crack of Doom says

      Exactly. While there is a preference for cis women to be charmingly decorative, no shelter would turn a cis woman away for a lack of bronzer and mascara.

  3. Johan says

    Well, let’s investigate the emperor’s clothes. This is a shelter where women who often have been abused or even worse, raped, seek a safe environment. Many of them are afraid, to their spine, of men that have done them harm. In comes a woman with man junk between her legs and manly facial hair. The women in the shelter are now asked to suspend their fear of they perceive in their gut to be a man, in the name of tolerance. If these women are transphobic for not feeling comfortable around such trans women, then maybe we should also ask them why they are so misandristic.

    Note that I’m juxtaposing those things to point out the irony here, not to suggest that women in women’s shelters are misandristic. My point is that shelters should be safe havens, and at some point you have to draw the line.

    • says

      Being afraid of physical and sexual abuse is a terrible situation to be in. Actually being physically and sexually abused is also a terrible situation to be in. I would draw the line – at a minimum! – at whatever conditions are leading to a situation where a quarter of trans women in shelters are actually being physically and sexually abused. If the safety of women is something that matters to you, it is plainly a serious safety issue that such abuse is regularly taking place in many of these shelters.

      • Sissy Krystal says

        Wow that story really sucked Zennia and even though I’m 4 hours away it still brought tears to my eyes, really makes you love people in general doesn’t it. I’ve tried to understand why and how so many people become so mean hearted and even vicious to their fellow human beings. Of course we all know if the tables were turned those same mean spirited people would be crying foul even louder, but sadly they w\ill never change. I wish i were very well off so I could donate to these kind of causes and sisters in need. Will you be following up to see if she finds her way safely ?

        Sincerely

        Sissy Krystal

      • Sissy Krystal says

        Wow that story really sucked Zennia and even though I’m 4 hours away it still brought tears to my eyes, really makes you love people in general doesn’t it. I’ve tried to understand why and how so many people become so mean hearted and even vicious to their fellow human beings. Of course we all know if the tables were turned those same mean spirited people would be crying foul even louder, but sadly they w\ill never change. I wish i were very well off so I could donate to these kind of causes and sisters in need. Will you be following up to see if she finds her way safely ?

        Sincerely

        Sissy Krystal

        ps OMG I’m so sincerely sorry Zinnia and to everyone as I really honestly do not know why that face is showing up as my avatar, Please except my apology

    • VB says

      Why is it we always haul out an argument with no real-world examples to back it up? How many times has the media reported a case where a male rapist has disguised themselves as a female to gain access to a female-only area in order to commit a rape? Has this ever actually happened even ONCE? I could be wrong, but I’m hazarding a guess that most male rapists would rather be raped themselves than put on female clothing, makeup, and declare themselves to be transgender women in order to ply their trade.

      • earl says

        “but I’m hazarding a guess that most male rapists would rather be raped themselves than put on female clothing, makeup, and declare themselves to be transgender women in order to ply their trade.”

        The argument here is that they shouldn’t have to. Theoretically, I could dress as I normally do, not shave, nor present in any way as a woman, and I should be able to say “I am a woman” and be able to freely enter a women’s shelter.

        As much as I sympathise with trans women in this horrible situation, it is true that trans women will be “held to a higher standard”. As unfair as that sounds, biology has put them at a disadvantage.

        • andigrant says

          Obviously not, as this particular shelter proves? See, they actually ARE sympathizing with trans women, by not policing their appearance. Whereas what you’re doing is offering a token gesture of ‘sympathy’, coupled with a nice steaming dose of “suffer under your oppression – it’s only natural”.

    • Deb says

      Fearing all men because of what one man did to you is sexist, pure and simple. I was abused by a white man for years, but I don’t harbor any resentment towards all whites, all men, or even all white men. Then again I was also abused by a woman at a different point in my life, so I don’t live in some fantasy world where not seeing penises convinces me I’m safe.

      Actually, if you are so far gone that seeing any man is going to set you off then you can’t be in a shelter in the first place. You have to be hospitalized – or at least separated from everyone else – because YOU are a danger to yourself and the other women around you. We don’t need to kick out trans folk, we need to start sorting the volatile people from the rest and getting them into a place where they don’t put everyone else at risk.

      • Ally Winter says

        “Then again I was also abused by a woman at a different point in my life, so I don’t live in some fantasy world where not seeing penises convinces me I’m safe.”

        Thank you SO much for saying this! Like you I’ve been on the receiving end of abuse from more than just men or penises, so I too don’t have the luxury of avoiding men or parts associated with them to feel safe. I have little sympathy for that kind of lazy thinking anyway, being a victim/survivor doesn’t mean you can’t be oppressive. Heck one of my abusers was Indonesian, imagine I’m gonna be crappy towards all Indonesians just for that!

        Apparently 1 in 4 trans women gets sexually assaulted at abuse/domestic violence shelters. And we are supposed to be the predators?!

    • sathyalacey says

      “This is a shelter where women who often have been abused or even worse, raped, seek a safe environment. Many of them are afraid, to their spine, of men that have done them harm. In comes a woman with man junk between her legs and manly facial hair. ”

      Let’s not ignore the role the shelter plays in this situation. Into a environment that vulnerable, abused, and possibly paranoid women have sought sanctuary comes an individual who might read to them as not a woman – do the shelter employees/volunteers side with them, questioning the new arrival’s womanhood and crank up the paranoia and fear? Or do they encourage these women to treat this person with empathy, and to see them as a woman, who, like them, is afraid, vulnerable, and in need of love and support, not torches and pitchforks.

      I can (almost) excuse the initial paranoid/transphobic reaction from the women in the shelter. I see nothing but misconduct from the people running it if they participate in driving trans women out – and lay heavy responsibility at their feet if the cisgender women lash out at the trans woman/women staying there, as I cannot help but assume they mismanaged the situation badly to let things build to that point.

      “The women in the shelter are now asked to suspend their fear of they perceive in their gut to be a man, in the name of tolerance.”

      Wrong. They’re not being asked to look past their gut reaction in the name of tolerance, they’re being asked to do so in the name of the same thing that got them there – the right of women not to be abused or killed.

      But yeah, tolerance would be nice too. I’m sure a welcoming environment of fellow abuse survivors who reach out to you with empathy is just a wee bit more conducive to the healing process then the cold shoulder of people who are merely putting up with you but want nothing to do with you.

    • says

      “Many of them are afraid, to their spine, of men that have done them harm. In comes a woman with man junk between her legs and manly facial hair. The women in the shelter are now asked to suspend their fear of they perceive in their gut to be a man,”
      Then their perception is wrong. This person is not a man but a woman.

      “in the name of tolerance.”
      More like in the name of respect.

      “If these women are transphobic for not feeling comfortable around such trans women, then maybe we should also ask them why they are so misandristic.”
      But it’s not a situation of misandry, it’s a situation of transphobia. These women are not men, they are women and should not be discriminated against because of their appearance.

      “Note that I’m juxtaposing those things to point out the irony here, not to suggest that women in women’s shelters are misandristic. My point is that shelters should be safe havens, and at some point you have to draw the line.”
      By making shelters unsafe for all women? To do what you advocate for makes shelters less safe and for no valid reason.

    • Monica says

      “My point is that shelters should be safe havens, and at some point you have to draw the line.” Meaning what, Johan?; Ah,? What do you really want to say? Be honest and say what it is really incubated in that dark soul of yours. How dare you say something so hideous, evil and criminal like?

      What you are really implying with you insensitive and fascist comment that it is Ok to denied access shelter to transgender women because they are less than dirt, they are sub-human, they should be eradicated from the face of the Earth. I remain you that in 1933 Germany they did the same thing with transgender people; they were sent to death camps along with Jews, gypsies and homosexual. I would recommend you to watch the propaganda films during the Nazi regime and see, for instance, how Jews were portrayed like RATS. I am pretty sure you, like many others, believe that transsexual women are RATS too who don’t deserve any consideration, compassion and dignity.

      Johan, go ahead, put on your brown shirt and start chanting strange hymns.

      • Johan says

        So, my argument is to allow women’s shelters to restrict transwomen from entering a the shelter if it makes the (cis)women in the shelter uncomfortable with their manly appearance. From that, you presume I’m a Nazi who want to end transpeople to the showers.

        Interesting. By the same logic, any women’s shelter that restricts men’s access to enter the shelter is a (Femi?)Nazi who want to kill all men. See how calling someone Nazi works both ways?

  4. Ros says

    I completely understand that it is in most cases unreasonably cissexist to demand that trans* women conform to the utmost of “feminine” standards before they can be considered women at all, and the example outlined at the head of the article (which, to be fair, lacks detail) is an example of transphobia, pure and simple. However, how can we then allow women’s shelters to even exist when the only type of women in need are not only cis women? Where would you draw the line on allowing someone to enter the shelter who ‘didn’t seem to be a man’? If we have reached the stage of it being difficult (and often unnecessary) to distinguish someone’s gender, and when there isn’t/shouldn’t be any rigid gender binary in place, shouldn’t we not have single sex shelters at all for fear of discrimination?

    • says

      However, how can we then allow women’s shelters to even exist when the only type of women in need are not only cis women?

      Easily, by having women’s shelters, not cis women’s shelters.

      • Ros says

        I don’t think you get what I was trying to say. In an age where we recognise that women are women not because of their physical characteristics but based on whether or not they themselves say they are women, how can we police the gender of people entering a women’s shelter? We can’t, and thus it becomes hard to justify the existence of women’s shelters at all.

        • andigrant says

          Here’s a thought: Let’s allow people to self-identify, accept them, and then lose our shit once someone ACTUALLY abuses the system in order to assault women. Let’s not assume that transgender women are 1) an acceptable sacrifice, or 2) the abusing party themselves, devoid of any evidence supporting said assumption. How’s that sound?

    • R. Royo says

      “If we have reached the stage of it being difficult (and often unnecessary) to distinguish someone’s gender, and when there isn’t/shouldn’t be any rigid gender binary in place…”

      There SHOULDN’T be a rigid gender binary in place, but sure it IS there.
      If we want to get rid of it, we can’t just ignore it and pretend gender discrimination doesn’t happen.
      Most people certainly haven’t reached a stage where it is unnecessary to distinguish someone’s gender, and they are the reason that justifies women’s shelters existence.

      • Ros says

        I guess from the perspective of the “general opinion of everyone”, that makes sense. But according to the people who run this blog and fight for trans* people’s rights, is there any reason why women’s shelters exist? I don’t think I can find a good reason, or at least a solution that means trans* people will not be discriminated against. What I’m saying is that the thrust of this article should not be on the fact that trans* discrimination exists in settings such as women’s shelters, which is horrible, but that it is impossible for trans* women and non gender-conforming individuals to NOT be discriminated against in a setting that by its nature necessitates gender-policing for the admission of its residents.

        • R. Royo says

          Well, just because you can’t think of a solution doesn’t mean it is impossible.
          People suffer discrimination based on their identities, so we must protect people that have such identity. I know it seems kind of horrible to grant oppressors the right to indirectly decide who deserves protection from social exclusion. Those oppressors get to create that “gender-policing necessity”, but they are the ones that create social exclusion to start with.

  5. Howard Usher says

    When I was homeless, I had no problem getting a bed at a shelter. There was no question of my femaleness, because I wore both a dress and eyeliner.

  6. Sarah Davis says

    What I posted at the original article website

    A shelter is there for people who need it. They have no where else to go for whatever reason. Are you seriously expecting someone who has gotten to the point where they need help from a shelter, to turn up looking as if they’ve just come from a makeover? The people who run shelters, do it for good reasons I hope, that they want to help people less fortunate than them, so don’t want to turn anyone away, and I’m sure that they have rules of expected behaviour. This is the kind of debate that would have happened years ago over the colour of people’s skin, and it was wrong then, and it’s wrong now. How come some of you don’t see that?

  7. penny white says

    Hi, Zinnia. This just shows how classism impacts the trans community.Hormones, razors, makeup, etc is not available to homeless trans women. I’m sure this poor woman felt bad enough about her unkempt appearance without being denied her gender. But why should trans people be forced to “pass” anyway? There is a younger generation of trans people who refuse to conform to the gender binary at all. (for safety reasons, I would recommend they ALL stay at a women’s shelter, whether male, female, or genderqueer). My 14 year old son identifies as male. You would NEVER know this by sight. My stubborn little kid REFUSES to take T, or even to wear male clothing. As a matter of fact, he dresses like a little Betty Boop. What the hell? I admit, I am having trouble with this. When my son came out to me on shortly after his 13th birthday, I bought the DVD “Becoming Chaz” and suggested we watch it together. My son informed me that Chaz Bono is a “misogynist butthead” and that he had no interest in watching the DVD. My kid has NEVER behaved in a typically feminine manner, but since coming out as a boy (he claims he is a gay man, because he is attracted to men) he has been like a little Marilyn Monroe on steroids. Or super-estrogen.Or something. I bought him breast binders, and he asked me to buy him push up bra’s instead. Is there anyone else out there like my son? He goes to a wonderful transgender support group, but I am afraid he is going to get kicked out for presenting more like his birth assigned gender than like his felt gender. (they have assured me this will not happen). Anyway, I’m just a crazy mom worried about her son. Sorry for going so far off subject.

    • Sarah Davis says

      You’re son or daughter (however he or she turns out, no disrespect meant here), is looking for his own identity, and if he is going to this support group you mentioned, then most likely, the other kids there will be looking for their identity also if they haven’t already found it.

      Things are getting easier for trans kids, but as they get more visible, i imagine it might get a lot worse too. The internet is helping transkids identify who they are, as in my day (I’m only in my late 30’s but this shows you the difference), had very limited definitions to identify with. Most dictionaries would describe a transsexual person as someone who’s had a “sex-change” (some don’t like that reference), so anyone pre-op, wouldn’t be. As we experience more, we are understanding more, but it’s an evolving situation.

      You sound like a cool mother allowing your child to express themself and find who they are. That’s all any parent can do really. I wish my mother had been as cool when I was that age, I might have been able to talk to her then.

      • Crysta Williams says

        Wow, such lovely hate… (Or at least bone dry ignorance!)

        It sounds like your CHILD (gender neutral) is still trying to figure out WHERE THEY FIT IN. (DO NOT resort to IT, EVER!!! And no, he/she/it is not appropriate either!)

        Grow some manners!

    • says

      Yeah, I’m happy that I was lucky enough to obtain SRS relatively quickly and not have so much facial hair. I made a tonne of sacrifices to get to the point where I could get SRS but I was able to do it. But it only instills in me why we shouldn’t expect people accessing social services to have their transition perfected to a “T” (no pun intended).

    • alliecat says

      Lots of people do reject binary gender for themselves, I have a partner for example who is a genderqueer woman. But identifying as male and presenting in ways that are typically considered “feminine” isn’t in itself a rejection of binary gender – insofar as he identifies as male (and not genderqueer male, gender fluid mostly-male, etc), he is in fact explicitly *not* rejecting binary maleness, and wearing pushup bras and stuff doesn’t in any way detract from that

  8. abigailjensen says

    I am proud to be one of the founders and a continuing Board member of a women’s and children’s shelter in a small, conservative Arizona town, which has had several trans women residents. It’s not that complicated. Everyone who identifies as a woman is entitled to admittance and to respect by staff and other residents. Anyone who objects is counseled. Anyone who violates the shelter rules or engages in other misconduct is disciplined, asked to leave and/or reported to the police.

    No one discounts the fear that women in shelters, including trans women, have of their abusers. What is not OK, however, is to project that fear onto another who has done nothing but enter the shelter herself, simply because she doesn’t conform to someone else’s feminine gender stereotypes. Trans women are not the only women with facial hair, nor are they only women who sometimes cannot afford to, or do not desire to, conform to someone else’s gender stereotypes. No one has the right to require someone else to change to make me comfortable. You are not responsible for my fears, even if I choose to project them onto you because they remind me of my past.

    Also, unless every woman who enters the shelter is subjected to a panty check, how would anyone know what someone else’s “junk” looks like? More importantly, it was not the penis (or the vagina) that was responsible for the abuse. It was the abuser. And, as others have pointed out, both men and women can be abusers. (My only experience of domestic violence was at the hands of a woman.)

  9. says

    I’m trying to understand this post. You can’t be a woman if you wear Jeans. I wear them all the time and if I can’t find any clean ones pinch my husbands. you can’t be a woman if you don’t wear make up. Can’t remember the last time I wore make up, if I ever needed some I’d have to borrow my eldest foster daughter’s make up. I can’t be a woman if I have a fuzzy chin. I’ve had a fuzzy chin since my teen years (that reminds me, I must de fuzz my face tomorrow as I have a meeting (for which I will still wear my Jeans))

    I must be a woman though, despite all the above cos I had three kids (unless nobody told me that men can get pregnant now).

    As for the abuse, a female I know was abused by her female partner.

  10. ERose says

    Obviously I don’t believe trans women should be forced to meet imposed gender standards in order to be accepted and treated as women or to receive help when they need it.
    I do have a hard time blaming abuse victims – as one of the women quoted in the story seems to be – for their triggers. Given how common it is for survivors of certain kinds of abuse to battle a pathological distrust and fear of presented masculinity, some of the reactions described could easily be something besides straightforward cissexism.
    I think shelter residents – trans and cis alike – would be safer if more shelters took steps both to mitigate the risk of abuse at their facility and to provide the resources to help survivors continue and manage their coping and healing processes. I don’t think you can really have a safe space that puts those burdens solely on already vulnerable residents.

  11. Nicky says

    My number 1 go-to outfit is jeans and a baggy t-shirt, hair pulled back into a pony tail and not a scrap of make up on me. However I am 100% woman, complete with womany bits. I have had people tell me all my life that that is not the way for girls/women to dress. As I am a woman and I dress this way, it is EXACTLY the way a woman dresses. it doesn’t matter if I wear men’s jeans or women’s jeans, men’s t-shirts or women’s t-shirts, I am still a woman at the end of the day. If I identify as a woman, I am a woman.

    If that person identifies as a woman, it doesn’t matter if they DO have a 5 o’clock shadow or no make up on, they are still a woman.

  12. Aio says

    Aside from the appearance issue – many women are told they are not women if they do not menstruate or give birth – the ability to do both those things has characterized femininity for since the beginning and in many cultures you are only a girl not a woman until you menstruate and you are not worth anything till you produce a child – that still lingers for cis women, and is something that will plague trans women until that no longer is a biological imperative that creates social patterns.

    • Eva says

      Many, many, many women, since the “beginning of time,” have not been able to menstruate or have babies, due to variations in physical sexual characteristics, chromosomes or other forms of infertility — not to mention emotional and cognitive reasons which are no less pertinent.

      Trans women will be plagued with discrimination until the world wises up to the variance in subconscious sex vs. gender expression vs. physical sex characteristics and, more importantly, that women are more than just their wombs (radical, I know!).

  13. Benji says

    I’m transgender and can sympathise with transphobia. I really can. So, I hate to play devil’s advocate here in saying that if they felt they (I say it like that not to be insensitive but because we REALLY don’t have enough information, saying they wear jeans is not specifying whether they dress like a man or a woman as yes, women can wear jeans) there very well may have been a reason. All I’m saying is that this article does nothing to tell us about the person in question. So, passing judgement on the women who felt uncomfortable and the women’s shelter for just doing what it felt was necessary to make them feel comfortable without knowing the full story is jumping to conclusions.

  14. Fred says

    When will the left finally be embarrassed by its shameless pandering to anyone who on the fringe? In the wacky world of leftist critical analysis, there is no such thing as sexual paraphilia – anyone with a fetish for wearing women’s clothing in fact presents full blown gender identify disorder. Figure it out people. just because a woman prefers wooden dildo doesn’t mean she was born a tree in a human body. Just because a man prefers a fleshlight doesn’t mean he’s a machine living in a human body. And the simple fact that a man has a fetish for womens’ clothes, absent any other indicators, doesn’t qualify him – in any legit gender “confirmation” clinic — as a transgender person.

  15. Dawna workstrength says

    A few years ago when I had no income, I was in a shelter for about 8 months… most of the women wear nothing but jeans. If you can’t pass in jeans, what makes someone think that passing is any better in a skirt or slacks?

  16. says

    I’d like to address the first exampled situation. So what should a women’s shelter do if a man in a dress shows up and wants entrance? Surely there would be an interview? Details in all situations must be investigated in order to keep a haven safe for all the women taking refuge. Wouldn’t the women questioning this “man in a skirt” already know this, considering that they’ve been through an interrogation process themselves? I wonder (possibly in ignorance, since I’m not aware of the protocol in place in crisis shelters) if this is a legitimate example at all. — I’m a cis female who automatically embraces my trans sisters as a matter of gut instinct. I know a woman, to be a woman .. to be a woman. I know a woman from a man, and voice, facial hair, features, anatomy have little to do with it, if at all. So I wonder if these women who questioned the integrity of this “man in a skirt” were actually on to something.

    • Dawna workstrength says

      A male who is ‘living as a woman’, even if they haven’t had lower surgery, should have a number of things that would indicate whether or not it’s appropriate to be welcomed.
      1) Does this person have documentation that the femme name is legal, or at least in the process of becoming legal?
      2) Does this person have/take hormones?
      3) Has there been simple things that tindicate that he/she has been living in as a woman at least a year?
      4) Could he/she give you the name of a doctor (GP or psychiatrist) that can verify some information if necessary?
      5) Is it obvious they’ve had enough electrolysis to show they’ve been committed to their transition?

      • Daira Hopwood says

        You’re showing considerable class privilege in this comment. It is extremely difficult for some trans women to access hormones or electrolysis, and the treatment trans people experience from the medical profession is a lottery.

        • Sarah Davis says

          I don’t think she is you know, but it does sound like she is making too many assumptions. Not all trans people go through the official medical channels for reasons already mentioned.

          • Dawna workstrength says

            Class Privilege? Why… because I had a job when I transitioned? Because I wouldn’t just walk away when they wanted me to? Because I was lucky enough to have a gay cousin finishing a law degree who helped me work through the system? Because I had the guts to take the necessary time take them to human rights… and after winning was able to keep working for them? Maybe you’re using the excuse of class (considering I’ve never gone beyond lower management – lead hand) to justify how well you’ve done progressing in your life. BTW within a year or two of my victory there, ‘gender identity was also included in the Canadian Rights definition of areas that are included in protection laws.

          • Sarah Davis says

            ok, I’m guessing seeing as you posted the same response to me and someone else that you only meant to respond to one of us, I’m assuming its the other person.

            Having thought about it afterwards though, I can’t even think of any id I could show to someone now that would be good enough to show. Yes I have my driving licence with a photo-card, but I know that in some states in America, you can’t change the gender marker at all or in some states until you’ve had relevant surgery. Also, if you are needing the help of a shelter, are you really going to have all the relevant documentation on you to prove who you are? Who actually does that anyway? If I go to open a bank account, they ask for proofs of address and the like, but chances are that just means I have to go back home to get them.

            It’s a sad fact., but as transwomen, we have to prove ourselveds “womanly” enough for some people, but other women don’t have to do this, so why should we have to? I don’t want to have to out myself everytime I need to do something, and anyone needing help of a shlelter, needs help then, not when they’ve managed to find proof of who they are. There’s no real winners in this situation. Transwomen who pass, probably won’t have much of a problem, but will be treated as being deceitful by some people. Transwomen who don’t pass, will either have to out themselves, or more than likely, will end up needing help but not asking for it.

            People go to shelters for simple enough reasons to understand, and that is that they have no where else to turn to, they’ve hit rock bottom, and they need help. To quote a famous mearkat “simples”.

          • Dawna workstrength says

            The reason I posted this starting another thread was because I was having trouble logging in… so I was responding to you.
            No, even in Canada you can’t change your gender on your ID until you have surgery. But hundreds of people manage to do their transitions without worrying excessively without that. I know a transwoman who had the complete acceptance and assistance of their family and employer… it happens. Depends on what situation life has given you, and what you make of it. Because I had a good record with my bank, it wasn’t trouble for me to get a credit card in my femme name way before I transitioned even – so that was my first ID in my female name. It wasn’t because I was privileged… it was because I thought stuff through.
            People in charge of shelters are also looking at the others in the shelter to see if someone who’s still genetically, and physically male is going to act like a typical male. It’s not a matter of passing, but a matter of how committed someone appears to have been to live fulltime as a woman.
            I hit rock bottom when the initial experience I had living as a woman was a ruse, and the employer was trying to motivate me to leave. I had to afterward go back to live in the male role a few months until the human rights complaint of mine was under way.
            I’ve never earned more than 30K a year in my life… so I’m hardly someone in the upper class. Just a while ago, I went two years with no income whatsoever… and I had a few thousand dollars in savings so I couldn’t even get the equivalent of welfare here in Canada.

          • CaitieCat says

            Point of interest, Dawna, actually in some provinces you can change your gender marker now by just requesting it, and I think having a letter from a doctor or psychiatrist confirming the intent. It used to be that surgery was required – this kept me from changing my marker for 12 years after I transitioned – but thankfully, that’s shifting now, on a province-by-province basis; Ontario’s already done it, don’t know about which other provinces, but I recall hearing that it’s three or four others who have. That was a couple of years ago, so there may be more by now; they don’t tend to make a big announcement, because that just gets the haters all heated up at the idea someone might be treating us with decency and humanity.

          • Dawna workstrength says

            I think it takes a bit more than asking for it… it might be similar to how someone can arrange to change their name. Even in that case, they need a clean criminal record and a good reason to change their name.

          • Sarah Davis says

            See here, if I want to change my named, I change my name. I don’t need permission from a court or anything, and why should I?

          • Dawna workstrength says

            Because there are legal repercussions if you don’t do it legally. And you might not be able to get a mainstream job if your legal name isn’t associated with your social insurance number… and you’ll be forever in a grey area between genders.

          • Sarah Davis says

            yeah, but if I change my name, I then have to notify the relevant people, but I don’t need the permission of a judge is maybe what I should have said.

          • Dawna workstrength says

            ‘Permission’ as such doesn’t come into it. You apply for it, describe the reason why you’re applying for it (and if you can’t tell anyone about your trans lifestyle, you’ll have problems later…) pay a few bucks, and a number of months later it’s legally changed. Then, when you change your ID after you get surgery (if you manage to get surgery), you can change the M on your birth certificate and health cards to an F – and have the appropriate name on it. I know 15 -20 people locally who’ve done it that way. The only ones who maybe don’t want to do that are ones who work in the sex trade.

          • Sarah Davis says

            I printed off a change of name form, signed it, got it witnessed, told my bank, told the government for my national insurance details, told the dvla (driving), bam, that was it, all my id said female. I don’t see the point of having to wait till you’ve had surgery to get the change of gender marker, when if anything, you need it changed more, before you have surgery.

          • abigailjensen says

            Dawna, in the U.S., and, probably, in Canada, since the legal systems of both are based on the common law of England, any name you adopt to identify yourself is your “legal” name, so long as you did not adopt it for the purpose of fraud. In other words, no court order is required to “legally” change your name. The advantage of obtaining a court order is that is easier to convince government agencies, banks, etc. to recognize, and change their records to reflect your new name. So, there are *no* “legal repercussions” to changing your name without a court order, although there may be some practical ones. Sarah Davis, however, managed to change hers and get it recognized without a court order relatively easily, it seems.

            Finally, your name has no impact on whether you are recognized, legally or otherwise, as one gender or the other, since those issues are governed by completely different legal regimes, even though trans people often seek to change them both at the same time.

        • Eva says

          I don’t know what the laws are like now, but when I legally changed my name and gender in California, around 2008/2009, I was told by the DMV and the Social Security Office that I could only do it if I filed a petition in court. So, I had the San Francisco Transgender Law Center help me fill out all my paperwork (which cost money), then filed a petition (some more money), then took out a small ad in the local paper (per the court’s requirement, and even more money) for a few weeks. After it got approved, I was then able to amend my name and gender on my birth certificate, social security, ID and passport.

          I remember being really nervous because I’d heard that some judges didn’t approve gender change unless you showed proof of having had SRS. But I showed proof that I had FFS and, therefore, was “visibly female”; that seemed to be good enough for the judge.

          Anyway, I’m glad to hear that things are easier now, and I kinda wish I’d waited a few years so I wouldn’t have had to jump through all the hoops I did, but you can see how costly and time-consuming the name change ordeal can be for some trans people (not to mention HRT, electrolysis/laser, and transition-related surgeries). If you can’t even afford food or a roof over your head, you most likely won’t be able to afford trans-related medical care either.

  17. D T Armstrong says

    Class Privilege? Why… because I had a job when I transitioned? Because I wouldn’t just walk away when they wanted me to? Because I was lucky enough to have a gay cousin finishing a law degree who helped me work through the system? Because I had the guts to take the necessary time take them to human rights… and after winning was able to keep working for them? Maybe you’re using the excuse of class (considering I’ve never gone beyond lower management – lead hand) to justify how well you’ve done progressing in your life. BTW within a year or two of my victory there, ‘gender identity was also included in the Canadian Rights definition of areas that are included in protection laws.

  18. Susan Quillesh-Nelson says

    I want to reply. But I don’t really know what to say. Fear is the major driving force of violance. So many of the comments that advocate the logic of treating women as women are forgeting that fear is irrational. The fact that a transwoman has conquared her fear to evn go to a shelter is a step that she should not be hurt for, but she probably will be. I have been hurt so many times by people who I thought would understand, but they did not. I pray I will never need a shelter, because the fear factor there will hurt me even more than my going to church. (I as a woman am not allowed to use the woman’s room, or allowed at women only fuctions, because I’m trans)

Trackbacks

  1. […] If you wear jeans, you’re not a woman: Transphobia at women’s shelters-22% of trans women reported experiencing domestic violence due to being transgender. 19% of respondents had been homeless at some point in their lives, a number which rose to 48% among those who had suffered domestic violence. And once in a shelter, At least one in four trans women in shelters have been physically or sexually assaulted while residing at the shelter. […]

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