sable_twilight (sable_twilight) wrote in trannydykes,
sable_twilight
sable_twilight
trannydykes

Trans women, Women's Spaces and Internal Colonization

So I am taking a prejudice and discrimination in modern society course this semester, and as we go through some of the topics about how prejudice develops and how discrimination is enforced, I cannot help by find myself looking at it in terms of the transsexual experience.

Now a note, be aware that whenever I do something like this, I am acutely aware and concerned about possibly appropriating experiences and analysis of other people. I mean, I am very aware that I've not experienced the same degree of prejudice or discrimination that many other people of color or women or people living in poverty have faced. Nor have I experienced as much discrimination as many other trans people have faced. So sometimes I feel a little selfish and guilty doing analysts like this, but it is still something that has been thought provoking for me and make me look at some of my experiences in a different light.

Also, I am quite aware that there are exceptions. For instance, the Lesbian Sex Mafia is very well known for the recent inclusiveness of trans women and acceptance of tans bodies in their space. This article is not really about those spaces.

Another thing to know is also not individual acts of discrimination, but about how institutions that develop as part of women's space end up discriminating against transsexual women.

This is also a very rough draft of something that has been going through my head for about a week now.

Anyway, enough of the rambling disclaimer.

One of the topics we have recently covered in class is how a culture gains and then maintains control – internal colonization – of a subordinate group. Now, since different individuals might have different meanings assigned to the phrase "internal colonization" I will clarify the definition I will be operating with and its parameters.

There are four parts to how discrimination is maintained in internal colonization:
1) Authority over how subordinate group is governed
2) Restriction of movement
3) Belief in the inferiority of the subordinate group's culture and practices
4) Colonial Labor Principle

Most of these are I feel are self explanatory except colonial labor principle, which I go into further later in this post.

1) Authority over how subordinate group is governed

Simply put, the majority group controls over the rules and laws of a subordinate group.

When analyzed through the lens of trans women's participation within women's space, it is cissexual women who make the rules regarding transsexual women's participation within women's spaces. The are the one's who can chose to include or exclude trans women in the decision making process, to hear our voices or ignore them, to dictate the terms of our participation – what activities we can and cannot participate in – and what conditions we must meet – hormones? full time status? consistently granted conditional cissexual privilege (aka passing)? surgery?

2) Restriction of movement

That is, where is the subordinate group allowed to go.

While it would be stretching things to say we can apply simply to access, another way to look at this is "where and under what conditions is a subordinate group allowed to be seen the majority?"

When we look at it this way, and then look at it in terms of bodies, it definitely applies. Commonly even when a women's group or organization allows trans women to participate, it is still often conditional – post-operative trans women or, in the case of pre-op trans women, not allowed to expose certain part of their bodies.

3) Belief in the inferiority of the subordinate group's culture and practices

Not necessarily ethnocentrism, since one does not have to assume one's culture is superior to all others to hold another group's culture in contempt or view them as inferior.

Not as bad as it used to be, but transsexual women are still perceived as inferior or pitiable women. The femininity and womanhood of transwomen are seen as imitations, not natural or practiced. Trans women's issues, concerns or events are often dismissed in favor of cissexual issues, which are perceived as more important. Transsexual women are expected to have awareness of cissexual women's issues but the converse cannot be said to be true.

And finally, what I consider the most important element of this discussion:
4) Colonial Labor Principle

Let me start with clarification of the meaning of this. Colonial labor principle refers to the restriction of subordinate groups to compete with the majority in the market. It also proscribes what forms of competition are acceptable to the majority. Subordinate groups are allowed to entertain the majority, but only as long as they remain non-challenging.

This is the area that I feel most acutely when I participate in women's space. Now, market, in terms of capitalistic goods and services does not apply to women's space, but there is a marketplace of interpersonal interaction – flirting, dating, fucking, sucking, (and in terms of Leather women's space) beating, biting, and all sorts of kinky play.

While in women's space, I feel there is this unspoken, but understood rule, that as long as I am submissive, quiet, feminine, meek, unassuming, that my participation is acceptable. When transsexual women appear "too butch" or happen to make cissexual women uncomfortable when we challenge rules, policies or ideas, they are often accused of being too shrill or masculine or not really women.

In addition, I get the impression that it is best that trans women either stick to other transsexual women, women who pursue them or cissexual women that have had a long and well known close relationship to. And definitely do not, in no circumstances, hit on or chat up femme cissexual women, no matter how much of that behavior may be engaged by butch or masculine identified cissexual women and (edit) trans men.

Essentially what it boils down to is that I feel like I can be femme or maybe even soft dyke in women's space. That I can be entertaining, but not controversial. That I can be submissive or receptive, or if I want to be aggressive, toppish, predatory (in that hot, hit on some one way, not the creepy stalker way), than I can do so with other trans women or, maybe, other cissexual women, where is it clear I've had an existing outside relation with. But that I better not hit on the femme cissexual women or in any way "compete" with the cissexual lesbians.

That really is about as far as I am on this.
I could use some feed back on this. Are my experiences and perceptions shared by others in the community? Or am I alone in feeling like these are the unspoken rules of the game when it comes to trans women's participation in women's spaces? Are my experiences and perceptions real, but simply in the minority?

I will also admit that the majority of my experience with women's space is in the Leather community. It might well be different in spaces outside of that. Are things different in other women's communites? Especially those where heterosexual women are more common? Not saying there are not heterosexual women in the women's leather spaces, but I certainly get the impression that the majority of the women there are bisexual, homosexual or queer.

TL;DR summary:
Theories of internal colonialism can be applied to how trans women relate to women's spaces. Cissexual women make rules about transsexual women's participation in women's space. Displays of transsexual women's bodies are often restricted and conditional. Trans women are often perceived as inferior, imitation or pitiable women. And cute, passive, meek, femme trans women are okay, but better not act too butch, aggressive, hit on cissexual feminine women or in any way compete or threaten or challenge the authority of cissexual lesbians, least they suddenly fine themselves as being labeled too masculine or male.

edit: I also request that if feed back is given on things like my terminology, please reference where I used it. My remember for remembering details, even of my own writing, is rather shoddy.
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