Content warnings:

Sexual assault, Transphobia

“We need to talk about the reality of women.”

This is something I hear a lot. And okay, let’s talk about my reality for a bit.

When I was 9 years old, I got repeatedly sexually abused by a guy much older than me, repeatedly.

Today, when I dress up for a party I can be called whore just by walking from a train station.

Going home to fetch something I forgot while going to another party has a creep come up to me trying to get me to sell him sex.

Yet another time, I was in a hoodie and sweatpants trying to buy asparagus (and other things, for some reason my brain has latched onto the asparagus and calls this the “asparagus story”), where a group of no less than 3 creeps follow me around in the store. Every time I turn a corner, they’re there, watching me, sort of laughing. I tell myself “you’re just being paranoid”, but I take a VERY weird path through the store just to try and make sure I’m not being followed. They follow me for a bit, but after a while it becomes obvious I’m just walking super weirdly, so when I’m about to retread my steps in a loop, it becomes obvious and they stop following me. Instead I find them waiting at the checkout. The frozen meals are close to the checkout, they spot me picking one out, this was late at night, about 10 minutes before the store closed. One of them now breaks from the group, comes up to me, looks down my basket and goes “Hey, what’s for dinner tonight?”

This just confirms my paranoia. I’ve felt like I’ve been stupid the entire walk through the store, nobody is watching me, I’m just… overly paranoid. Now I’m terrified, I kinda clutch my basket and head to the checkouts with a cashier (as opposed to going to self checkout). They go out through the self checkout. Then just… hang around the inside watching me pay, pack my bags. I pack veeery slowly, while also picking up my phone and call my aunt so I have someone on the phone as I’m leaving.

A security guard comes up to the group and goes “Yo, we’re closing, gtfo!”. I don’t know if the guard knows what was up, but I thank her with my life for throwing them out of the store, because they apparently gave up at that point. I saw them entering their car and drive off as I was sneaking up to my own. I was terrified.

So yeah, this is my reality. This is the kind of crap I have to live with. We can’t deny the reality of women!

And, if you’ve seen my other posts, you probably already know that I’m a trans woman, this is the reality of ALL women. And it’s a weird feeling, living the reality TERFs and other transphobes are using to try and strip me of my gender. If womanhood is defined by trauma, and I share that trauma, don’t I fit into womanhood?

Sidenote, this is the point people pivot to pointing at the fact that I don’t have a womb. And I point to the fact that there are cis women without wombs as well, and then it pivots to me not being born with a womb. It’s not like my argument will make a transphobe stop being a transphobe. They will pivot to something else, like I don’t have a womb, and then when I point out the flaws in that that I wasn’t born with a womb. Transphobes and TERFs SAY all these things about why trans women can’t be women, but they just jump around the actual issue. Their root reason is “we don’t like trans people”, and nothing about “the actual experiences of women” or “the existence or lack of wombs” etc.

I recently read a great article that said this:

They [TERFs] claim that to be a woman you need to have two specific things: you have to have been born “biologically female”, and have been raised to experience the traumas that our all too misogynistic world subjects on women everywhere.

This definition is a whopper. It manages to both exclude trans women, and include trans men or nonbinary people who really don’t want to be seen as “biologically female”. It also ties up the notion that womanhood is defined by how trauma and how society treats women.

Humor me for a moment: imagine we lived in an ideal society where we didn’t have discrimination. Feels nice, doesn’t it? If we lived in that society, would women still be defined by misogyny?
Zack Zoetic, Ministry of Bigotry: A Primer on Transphobic Logic & the JK Rowling Scandal (CW: The site hosting the article has some NSFW content on it, the article itself is not, however, NSFW)

What I’m trying to do here is take this premise, and expand upon it. We don’t have to live in an ideal society where we didn’t have discrimination for the argument “misogyny and a history of sexual abuse is what defines women” as an exclusion of trans women being a bad argument. Defining gender based on discrimination and trauma makes escaping that trauma, and work for a better future… impossible. Why that is should be obvious by what Zack wrote, but let me write out a more refined example here:

Let’s say, this time, instead of complicated societal factors that make up misogyny, the issue women faced is this:

Every so often, aliens descend onto earth, spew out of their alien spaceship, each of them kick a woman, then they leave. Women of this hypothetical world doesn’t like this. I wouldn’t like it if an alien fell down from the sky just to kick me and then storm off. But over time, this is an experience all too common for women to have experienced. People start tying their identities to being kicked by aliens. “You’re not a real woman unless you get kicked by aliens!”

Regardless if these aliens only kick cis women, or all women, including trans women, is besides the point, because one day, someone figures out how to stop the aliens. Send the right codeword into space and the aliens will stop coming. It’ll solve this issue once and for all!

Would… wouldn’t those who tied their entire identity around the fact that they got targeted by the aliens like this lose their identity here? For all they complain about how unfair and unjust it is that they get kicked by aliens and the other half of the population doesn’t, if the unfairness would actually stop, they would stop being victims.

To take this back to reality. One thing I’ve observed is that there are two ways to approach oppression. Working for change, by pulling the oppressed group up, or just trying to victimize yourself from anyone you can put a different label than yourself on. If you can convince yourself you’re the victim, you can throw the “oppressor” under the bus, try to control the “threat”, separate yourself from it. IF a person like that actually gains power… I mean, just ask a Jew what the possible outcome of being seen as a threat and oppressor by the people in power can lead to. This isn’t anything new. Racism, Bigotry, antisemitism keeps popping up, because as long as you can “other” people as the oppressors, you can continue being the victim. Your identity is secured, and you can continue complaining about the “damage” these people cause as you slowly and surely strip away their rights.

I’m not saying cis women don’t face problems from men. But the thing is, trans women do to. Women are in this together, and throwing us under the bus isn’t going to make things better. But I also don’t think “making it better” is what it’s about anyway.

And this is why I consider building your identity based on trauma and discrimination is a dangerous path to follow. Yes, discrimination happens. Yes a lot of women, including me, are traumatized by the messed up shit we’ve had to deal with. But, I’m not a woman because of my trauma. I’m a woman in spite of it. I shouldn’t have to deal with it, neither should you, and we should work towards being women WITHOUT discrimination and trauma, instead of trying to define womanhood as being traumatized.

Also, a problem with sexual assault being part of the “identity of womanhood”, rather than something that happens to women a lot, means that when it does happen to men, they start to feel like they can’t talk about it unless they wanna be ridiculed for being effeminate, since “getting sexually assaulted is being a woman”. So not only does this mentality prevent us from working for actual change since if actual change would occur, the “identity” would get ruined. Some victims can’t come forward because they’d be ridiculed as being part of an identity they’re not. Being traumatized is not part of womanhood. It’s something that happens a lot to women.

– Linn