Monday, March 7, 2011

Radical love, radical inclusion... and the stereochemistry of gender inclusion

I know there's some renewed attention right now to the issue of cisgender-women-only space/the exclusion of transgender women in certain kinds of Paganism.

(Please note that I am not following, or interested in, that debate, and please don't ask me for information about it.)  

A number of people have spoken to me quietly about the issue -- because they're hurt or just plain puzzled by the fuss, or because they're trying to figure out their own complicated reactions to it.

I've also been trying to discern what, if anything, I should say publicly about this issue.

I realized I'm led to share a response I sent to one of those friends.  Part of why I'm comfortable sharing it is because it turns out there's nothing in this letter that I haven't said to other people, both electronically and in person, in public as well as in private.  

Apologies to my beloved former chemistry professors for the oversimplified explanation of stereochemistry. 

- sm

Dear [name],

Cis *isn't* being used because it's the opposite of trans -- it's a termed borrowed from chemistry [for one], and it's being used because it's a good descriptive term for people who were born into bodies consistent with their gender identities.

In chemistry, there are types of molecules with two different kinds of structures -- cis and trans. In one structure, the component groups are attached to *opposite* sides of a molecule across a (double) bond; that structure is called trans, or different. In the other structure, the component groups are attached to the *same* side of a molecule across a (double) bond; that structure is called cis, or same.

Take a look at the second set of pictures here to get the idea (the ones with the big green circles with no rotation): http://www.chemguide.co.uk/basicorg/isomerism/geometric.html

You and I were born into bodies consistent with our gender identity -- the same, or cis; "the same" with our gender identity, or cisgender.

My friend [name/mutual acquaintance] was born into a body not consistent with her gender identity -- different, or trans; "different" from her gender identity, or transgender.

If you don't like the way it's being used by transgender women in the [blank] debate, then you're giving too much credence to the commenters there, IMO.

If you don't like how it's being used by transgender women in general, I'm sorry. That sounds difficult. It's often difficult to listen to people with less privilege when they confront us, and it's true: you and I have cis privilege.

But the term cisgender is *not* being used exclusively by transgender women, any more than the terms heterosexual, straight, white, temporarily able-bodied, upper class, or male are being used exclusively by lesbians, gay men, bi people, transgender people, disabled people, people of color, poor people, working class people, middle class people, or women.

You also need to understand that transgender women experience a terrible amount of misogyny, and that they get it both from men and from other women. I don't know about you, but I don't want to be another woman who behaves that way towards women who also happen to be transgender.

My own journey towards transgender inclusion has not, and still isn't always, an easy one. I've been part of a Quaker lesbian organization that was torn apart over the issue of including transgender women; I couldn't have told you then if I thought it was better to exclude or include transgender women. I have also been incredibly honored to get to know a number of transgender women and men in person, as real people, most but not all of them through a deeply Spirit-centered Quaker organization that walks its talk of radical love and radical inclusion. It has become very, very clear to me where I find the Goddess, and where She leads me, when it comes to this issue. I can be sure of that even when I'm not 100% comfortable; it's a very different kind of discomfort than when I'm not certain.

So I hope this helps some. 

Love and blessings,
Stasa

5 comments:

Sterghe said...

Very well voiced, Friend. Thank you for the post! :)

~Weavre Cooper

credencedawg said...

I cried when I read that. I'm not trans but this whole issue of gender and "gender reality" hurts and injures us all so much I feel. I really feel we only start to see the nature of things when the hard shells of our hearts are broken.

thank you and peace

Mo

staśa said...

Thank you both.

{{love}} and blessed be.

In Friendship,
Stasa

Yewtree said...

Great post - I usually explain it by comparing it to Transalpine and Cisalpine - but I think your stereochemistry explanation is awesome. (Also, I am not sure what the Alps have to do with gender!)

staśa said...

Hee! Yes. Thanks, Yewtree! (But really, what does stereochemistry have to do with gender, either?)