Guest post: People uncritically generalizing their personal experience

Originally a comment by John Horstman on A horribly effective silencer.

I was just reminded of this excellent article from a year ago (looking at some of the theoretical underpinnings/implications of the rise of use of “triggering” as a silencing tactic, among other subjects) by Jack Halberstam, a radical queer anti-capitalist anarchist who may or may not be considered trans. I’m a product of the 90s scene and theoretical perspective Jack describes in that first link, and indeed influenced by zir writing directly, which likely explains a fair amount of my views on the subject. A not-insignificant part of what makes arguments like this (which Jack notes go back decades – a point I and others have raised) so frustrating is the insistence of your recent detractors that their preferences and viewpoints are settled questions with universally-agreed-upon answers when that’s not even close to true (the first linked article discusses the insistence that “tranny” is universally a slur, irrespective of context, as another example).

I encountered similar frustration with Heina’s post where they blithely asserted that, “The fact that cis women are women is not disputed by anyone, not trans women nor non-binary trans folk nor men nor trans men. Even on the very fringes of radical non-cis thought, spaces where I often find myself, I’ve yet to see anyone questioning the legitimacy of cis women’s status as women,” which is similarly untrue, not only from a radical queer gender-critical perspective, but with respect to the constant reinforcement of cis-normativity through continual demands that cisgendered people ‘prove’ their ‘real’ gendered status through normative presentation and behavior. I’m seeing an ongoing problem with people uncritically generalizing their personal experience, and I’m sorry to say that doing so isn’t only a problem when people in relative positions of privilege do so.

@qwints #1:

To every trans* person I’ve talked to, that’s a morally reprehensible concern. AFAB segregated spaces harm trans women, and people seeking to limit protections for gender identity to maintain them are doing the wrong thing for a bad reason.

This is another one of those issues that gets treated as a settled question with universal agreement by a particular subset of the trans activist community, when that’s simply not true. As I think I noted in a comment elsewhere, I’ve encountered plenty of trans people who disagree. The most prominent example I can think of is when Kate Bornstein came to speak at my campus and was asked about her position on the Michigan’s Womyn’s Music Festival controversy. Her response was basically, “Why would I want to be around a bunch of people who don’t want me there?” She doesn’t think AFAB-only spaces are particularly harmful in and of themselves, as long as they are not the only spaces available for some kind of necessary service (and I would be happy to consider music festivals socially necessary for some, and there are a lot of music festivals that don’t have any restrictions around gender – I should know, as I’ve been to Summerfest plenty and SXSW Music once) and neither do a lot of the more radical (and gender-critical) trans and genderqueer people I interact with in our local scene.

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