An able world should be the one to change

It is with great sadness, and a great deal of frustration, that I have to inform you that I have been removed from the position of Queer Officer, at the University of Western Australia. Those who know me personally have known that I have been serving my term alongside a TERF, who has repeatedly misgendered me and otherwise made me feel unsafe in a so-called “Safe Space”. This is yet another experience of the broad left being unsafe for trans women, and for disabled people.

As someone who suffers from mental illness daily, to the point where it stops me from doing a variety of things that I would love to do – being deserted by the queer community in my time of need is unforgiveable. I have been to hospital in the past few months, because of my ailing health, and the desire to commit suicide. However, I have still taken on the duties of Queer Officer, and begun the process of long-term change within the University in changing name requirements of students, co-ordinating events that were poorly attended by UWA students [including a vigil for Mayang Prasetyo. How ironic, that they claim I have done nothing this semester, when they refuse to attend events to support trans women, women of colour, and sex workers?], and attempting to change toilet signs to gender non specific.

Instead of continuing this long process of work, they have removed me from my position, at the behest of the TERF whose term is very nearly up. A final strike to me, after rendering the space unsafe, causing me many anxiety and depressive attacks throughout the year, and finally taking my role in the community from me. The idea that disabled people should be responsible for making their community safer and hiding their disability to improve work output is an awful one. The onus of creating a safe space should be on individuals with power & privilege, not upon the disenfranchised members of society. I should not have been expected to make a dangerously unsafe space safer for myself – it should have been up to the members of the community for whom the space is already safe to do that.

However, the Queer Department at UWA is no longer safe, and probably won’t be for quite some time. I write this as a call to action – able-bodied & able-minded people – sort out your communities. Support individuals who are functioning poorly in a society which is clearly designed to disenfranchise them. Put the onus of creating a safe society, an equitable society, a just society upon yourselves, and relieve the burden that exists on disabled individuals. We will call you out if you do something wrong – listen to us, and follow our recommendations. It shouldn’t have to fall to individuals who are suffering to change the situation around.

The third-wave fight: TERFs vs trans women

A battle has been brewing across the ages – a fight of feminist ideology! A brawl between the likes of Sheila Jeffreys, Janice Raymond & Mary Daly against Laverne Cox, Janet Mock & Sylvia Rae Rivera. A battle – of TERF vs trans woman.

For those not in the know with the latest queer lingo, a TERF is a Trans Exterminationist Radical Feminist. A lot of people seem to think the term refers to Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists – but TERFs themselves changed this definition because it made them seem “too mean”. Of course, nothing is really too mean when you are trying to “morally mandate trans people out of existence”, but I digress. TERFs have been a part of western feminism and western feminist discourse for approximately 50 years now, and their attitudes haven’t really changed much over the years. They first sprung up in the second-wave, when feminists started making real headway into claiming legal rights to become more empowered in society.

At the time, there were large groups of lesbian feminists who really started to mobilize and campaign on rights of sex and sexuality. Some of these feminists advocated platforms of “political lesbianism” – that is, that sexuality is a choice, and advocates that women identify as lesbians instead of heterosexuals. This group of feminists eventually split off from other radical feminists in 1973, after they refused to allow a performance by a transsexual [an old term for someone who is transgender – considered antiquated and offensive by many] woman. This group of feminists believed that because trans women had chosen to be women, that they were incapable of understanding what being a woman is really like.

This, of course, is utter hogwash. Trans women don’t “choose” to be female, because to “choose” otherwise results in mental illness, self-harm and potentially suicide. 42% of trans women have attempted suicide, with over 60%+ of trans women currently alive having attempted suicide at least once. Sheila Jeffreys, one of these so-called feminists, believes that transness is akin to blackface performers in the 1920’s. This was then slammed by Indigenous trans people, among other trans women of colour. A lot of trans women also experience heightened levels of assault, rape & murder as a result of being trans. Trans women have a 8.75% chance of being murdered, and a 33.33% chance of being raped – but when you are a trans woman of colour has a 12.25% murder rate and a 50% chance of being raped.

But it isn’t always so bad – despite what the statistics say. Trans women can have some really good experiences in queer and women’s spaces – but these are often few and far between. TERFs tend to sink their claws into queer & women’s spaces [especially those who advocate “political lesbianism”] and rip them to shreds for any trans women who want to get involved. Cathy Brennan [or Transgender Political Enemy #1] is another woman who launches constant attacks on the queer community. Following in the footsteps of her ideological mother, Janice Raymond, Cathy & Elizabeth Hungerford [another transphobic lawyer] wrote a letter to the U.N. that basically said “trans women shouldn’t use bathrooms because they are men”.

Bathroom bill rhetoric has been something that has been constantly used to attack trans women – by assuming that trans women are men, TERFs argue that bathrooms should be sex-segregated between “penis-bearers” [apparently all men] and “vagina-bearers” [apparently all women]. I feel that it is important to note that making trans women and cis men use the same bathroom is even more dangerous to trans women. The argument against trans women, you know, using women’s bathrooms, is that they are uncontrollable creatures who rape all cis women they see. Personally, I don’t do that, and neither do any trans women – there is not a single report of trans women attacking cis women in bathrooms. Alternatively, cis women like Cathy & Elizabeth attack and demean trans women – they have even written articles about me and outed me online.

TERFs fight trans women because they perceive us to be male, but trans women are female – a woman’s body is a female body. The idea that trans women are going to assault cis women in bathrooms, or that we are “subverting and destroying feminism from the inside” is ridiculous & insipid – besides completely ignoring the work that trans feminists like Laverne Cox & Janet Mock have done. Unfortunately, this creed of transphobia is unlikely to die out anytime soon – and so the war wages on. Trans women are constantly gaining ground, however, and will soon be able to claim victory and assert ourselves on history’s page.

This article was published in the Pelican, Edition 6, Volume 85 – “War/Peace”. The Pelican is the publication of the UWA Student Guild.