I follow the work of trans women’s inclusion at Smith and they just put out an FAQ. They’ve got some good answers you can see on the original post, but I wanted to add my perspective on a few of the questions, especially around how they are framed.
These are questions we get asked a lot…
2. Won’t trans women be a threat to survivors space?
The key to remember is that trans women are survivors, at disproportionately high levels. The real threat to survivors is denying them access to resources and education because they are trans women.
But when folks ask this question, they are usually talking about how some survivors might be triggered by penises and some trans women might have similar appearing genitals and there mightbe some convoluted way in which someone might see a trans woman’s genitals and become triggered. This scenario is incredibly objectifying of trans women and reduces us to being nothing more than walking genitals. It ignores the feelings and responses of trans women - and indeed that such a scenario is at least as likely to be triggering to the trans woman involved as the person who is looking at her genitals for some reason. Especially if she is a survivor.
Imagine, for a moment, being a survivor, having someone scope out your genitals without your permission, then they freak out and start yelling at you. Maybe they grope you to “be sure.” Maybe they look like they might assault you. You probably fear for your safety. Maybe they call security or some kind of officials to come and physically remove you. Then maybe you face possible punishment, expulsion, or arrest because you are considered a threat to survivors. The irony is painful, but that’s a real scenario that some trans women have experienced and that many trans women have to consider as a risk as long as anti-trans policies like these are in place. This is not how you support survivors.
For more, see the account included at the bottom of this post.
3. How would Smith be able to preserve its mission as a women’s college and still accept trans women?
How can Smith be able to preserve its mission as a women’s college and *not* accept trans women? Seriously, is it even accurate to call it a women’s college when some women and kept from attending while their male counterparts are welcomed? Accepting *all* women is the best way to fulfill this mission.
The reality is that many people, especially those involved in social justice, LGBTQ activism, or simply are a part of the younger generations that increasingly oppose anti-trans bias, see women’s colleges that exclude trans women as being hypocritical. I know some young women who choose not to apply to such colleges because they don’t want to be associated with this discrimination. I know others who hide the fact that their degree is from Smith because when they tell others they have been assumed to support discrimination and prejudice. Smith is quickly garnering a reputation as a school that actively harms women’s populations rather than a school that supports women. Is that a legacy you want to be remembered by?
6. Will admitting trans women cause Smith to lose its Title IX status?
This assumes that trans women are legally considered male. That’s just not the case. Even trans women with “male” on their documentation are increasingly being recognized by the courts as legal females with logistical difficulties leading to incorrect documentation. Massachusetts non-discrimination law includes discrimination on trans status and sees discrimination against trans women as illegal. Furthermore, case law around Title IX has specifically recognized discrimination against someone on the basis of being trans to be a part of the discrimination based on sexual characteristics that Title IX was created to address. While there isn’t direct precedent, there is a significant concern that discriminating against trans women is a greater liability risk than admitting trans women would be
7. What’s wrong with calling trans women “male bodied”?
Because it’s inaccurate, imprecise, there’s no consensus about what that term means, and terribly unclear what you are talking about. I wrote in detail about this problem here.
Finally, as more information for question #2, I want to include this account from a survivor discussing discrimination against trans women in a women’s play party environment and the impact it has. It applies to anywhere that discrimination is being argued for as a way to protect survivors, and for anyone who wants to discriminate against trans women in order to “protect” survivors, consider it required reading:
I know some people say that this policy is to protect survivors from being triggered by the sight of a “bio penis.” The truth is, anything can trigger me. I can walk down the street and get triggered. I can stay at home and get triggered. I can get triggered by something someone says, by how I feel, by what’s going on in my body. There are lots of things at a play party that could trigger me, and they are not trans women’s bodies.
My triggers are just that. Mine. It would not be fair or practical to ask you to try to protect me from my own triggers. They are my responsibility. I was robbed of my choices when I was abused. In owning responsibility for my triggers, I take that back. I own my experience. I get to decide what I do about it. I get to ask for help if I want, or go resolve it myself if I want. Nobody has the right to protect me from my choices.
I know what it’s like to be isolated from the community support I need. I know what it’s like to be shamed about my body. I know what it’s like to not be seen as a whole person, to be reduced to the gender box someone put me in. All of that is what perpetrators did to me. That is what LSM [the group discriminating against trans women] is doing to trans women, and it does not protect me, it hurts me. In fact, it triggers me. Thinking about how people justify this policy as a way to protect me turns my stomach into a twisting ball of knots.
I don’t want your protection. It comes at too high a cost. And I’m not just talking about the cost of trans hatred and fear in my community, which is a high enough cost for me. I’m talking about the cost to my dignity and right to choose for myself. By thinking you need to protect me, you are sending me a message. You are saying that you have no faith in my ability to care for myself. That you see me as helpless and as a victim, forever. That you would rather protect me than listen to what I really need. That you would rather decide to hide “penises” away than to set up policies to effectively deal with harassment and violence in our community. Is that the message you want to send to survivors?
Source: Argument for Stronger Trans-Inclusion at the Lesbian Sex Mafia