Google Groups no longer supports new Usenet posts or subscriptions. Historical content remains viewable.

Jessi Xavier on MWMF

Skip to first unread message

Jul 31, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/31/99
Last evening, Jessi Xavier asked me to post this here on a.s.srs.


Trans Am
by Jessica Xavier

The Phantom Menace at Michigan

Yet another frustrating product of Gay and Lesbian Identity
Politics is the categorization of Transgender as a separate but only
roughly equal identity to Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual. Despite this
widespread misconception, Transgender is not another sexual
orientation. Identity politics forces its vocal proponents and silent
supporters to think only within their box, using arbitrary differences
to construct rigid boundaries that obscure the multiple intersections
and similar forms of gender-based oppression. Thus it becomes easy to
mistakenly view the various sexual identities as separate circles
floating independently of each other, ignoring the obvious overlap that
exists, simply because Transgendered people have sexual orientations,
too. So if you don't personally know someone Transgendered, it might
surprise you to learn that the vast majority of openly Transgendered
people are Lesbian, Bisexual or Gay-identified.

Thus Gay and Lesbian Identity Politics, which denies me inclusion
in anti-discrimination legislation, also would erase my actual sexual
orientation (bisexual) - if I didn't fight for it. I've also been orced
to assert my self-identification as a woman - an onerous burden spared
other women with birth privilege. Being born into a body without the
mismatch of gender identity and physical sex spares the birth rivileged
all manner of physical, emotional, social, legal and financial
hardships. Like other forms of privilege, it's possessors usually
don't know they have it, which unfortunately allows them to unwittingly
oppress transsexual women and men.

This is how some women can deny me my self-identification - my
womanhood - in spite of the terrible price I've paid for it. To them,
I'm just another male-privileged, woman-hating man - gender confused,
perhaps - but still a man.

Which brings me to the Michigan Women's Music Festival and its
"womyn-born-womyn" policy. Transsexual women who identify as Lesbian
and Bisexual have been going to Michigan and other women-only festivals
since their inception, almost always without incident. How? About a
third of us have passing privilege, allowing us to pass undetected as
nontranssexual women - thus making such exclusionary policies
unenforceable. However, unlike Lesbians who enjoy the freedom of being
out and fully themselves at these festivals, we transwomen must hide
our transsexual status, for fear of separatists bent on our expulsion.
We also must keep silent when these separatists freely voice their
misguided hatred of transsexual women - hate speech that would be
condemned if its targets were nontranssexual women. So the real
message of these exclusionary policies is that if we're not out, we can
stay in, but if we're out or outed, we can be thrown out of the

The most compelling argument used by separatists to justify the
exclusion of transwomen is preservation of physical and psychic safe
spaces that many women need to process and to heal themselves in the
freedom of a male-free environment. That's exactly why transwomen also
attend these festivals. But their other reasons seem based upon an
irrational, illogical paranoia. Transsexual women belong to one of the
most powerless, oppressed minorities on the planet - other women have
nothing to fear us from us.

In defending exclusionary policies, separatists like Alix Dobkin
argue that transsexual women are not survivors of girlhood, a powerful
but specious argument. While we have not run the life-long gauntlet of
sexism that other women have, we are survivors of transsexual
childhood, adolescence and adulthood. As children, some of us were
sissies or at best, "soft boys", easy prey of homophobic bullies. The
rest of us buried our true gender feelings while still being haunted by
them, growing up as depressed, incomplete males. Crippled by
internalized transphobia, most of us never became fully vested in the
male privilege we are repeatedly and mistakenly condemned for

When we began living full-time as ourselves, almost all of us lacked
passing privilege (as nontranssexual women) and thus we experienced the
steel teeth of gender-based oppression. During the 1994 Camp Trans
protest at Michigan, a poll of the dozen transsexual women present
found that all twelve of us had been physically abused or beaten, 9 had
been sexually abused as children, 6 had been raped, 5 were survivors of
incest, 3 had been stabbed and two shot. And who were the perpetrators
of this violence? Men, of course.

I do not mean to make the mistake here of conflating the experiences of
all transsexual women - separatists have often made this error by
claiming their experiences to be that of all other women's as well.
Every woman's experience - including ours - is different and so too,
are our individual paths to womanhood. While openly acknowledging my
own different path, I nevertheless claim my experience to be just as
valid as any other woman's. I, too, am a survivor, and as a
transsexual feminist, I like to remember Simone de Beauvoir's maxim
that "One is not born a woman - one becomes one." Sharing the common
experience of living under gender-based oppression - most of us
chronically, but some of us, acutely - justifies the welcoming of all
women of any origin in women-only spaces, to be freely, openly and
fully ourselves, without fear of male power - or separatist elitism.

So I ask fair-minded women who go to Michigan and the other women's
festivals to remember that the motives of transsexual women attending
the festivals are the same as yours. We too are seeking shelter from
the male-storm of gender-based oppression. We too want the freedom to
openly be ourselves, just like our Lesbian sisters. We too want to
experience the healing rays of the sun on our naked bodies, without
fear of male intrusion. We too want the safe space to process and to
heal our own hurting. We too want to seek solace in the arms of our
other sisters, and to celebrate women's culture and women's music with
other festigoers. As survivors in our own right, we have paid a dear
price for what other women are freely granted at birth. We have earned
our place in the circle of women.

Sent via
Share what you know. Learn what you don't.

Jul 31, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/31/99
Diane A. wrote in message <>...

>On Sat, 31 Jul 1999 13:44:49 GMT, wrote:
>>Last evening, Jessi Xavier asked me to post this here on a.s.srs.
>Sally - I have never heard of this Jessi Xavier before but what a
>wonderfuly well written and too the point article. Hear! Hear!
>Diane A.


Dear Diane,

Jessi is one of my best friends in real life, though she lives in the
DC area and I in Texas. We speak by phone quite often and have
collaborated in a venture.

I had read "Stonewall" in 1996 when I was visiting Anne Lawrence's site
and wanted to meet both Jessi and Anne. It turned out that Anne was in
the District when I had a meeting and managed to meet Jessi, Anne, ARB
and a few others at the home of a fourth friend in Alexandria, VA, in
May of the following year. We became fast friends and visited again
later that summer during the last ICTLEP meeting in Houston.

Jessi is one of our treasures, in my opinion. You can read some of her
other materials at <>.


Diane A.

Jul 31, 1999, 3:00:00 AM7/31/99
On Sat, 31 Jul 1999 13:44:49 GMT, wrote:

>Last evening, Jessi Xavier asked me to post this here on a.s.srs.


0 new messages