The title of this little post is a shout out to my friend Drea, who I have not seen in a while, but I will always remember her fondness for Admiral Ackbar and why (she kept an old action figure with her.) The reason that wonderful, fish-faced alien speaks to our shared experience, the trans experience so much, is his iconic line from Return of the Jedi: “It’s a trap!” Because that is just how we are treated, so often, by so many of our cis neighbors: a trap.
We are painted as sexual predators trying to invade women’s’ spaces. We are sneaking our way, in their eyes, into women’s’ dressing rooms and restrooms. Those are the two main battle fronts for us, and issues I have discussed before. What I really want to talk about, however, is how our very being is viewed as a trap for the sexually unwary.
Trans Exclusive Radical Feminists insist that we (and by we I am talking about trans* women, if you trans* men out there have similar experiences, I would love to hear your stories) are straight men trying to lure unsuspecting lesbians into sex. Meanwhile, mostly religious right-wing bigots, often Men’s Rights Advocates (and why THEY have a mad on for us I do not know) insist we are gay men trying to lure unsuspecting straight men into sex. Sometimes these groups make both of these claims, together, at the same time, without a single hint of irony.
Only speaking for myself I can say this is laughable. I do not stealth. It’s just not in me to do so, though I respect other trans* folks’ needs and rights to do so. Given that, how am I luring anyone into anything? What you see is what you get with me Admiral. Not to mention the tricky little fact that, save for one instance, all the women I have been attracted to, cis and trans, have been exclusively or primarily interested in men. Wouldn’t I be better off never telling them of my trans* status and passing fully as a man? It gets a little more complicated with men for me, but again, I don’t stealth, so the guys I am attracted to know what they are getting, or not, with me.
This is just my experience, I suspect that I am not alone in it. Details may change, but I am not the only trans* woman who has chosen not to go stealth, so as a group we are a pretty big piece of evidence against what I will now call the Ackbar Argument (how do you like that Drea?) We are not the whole, or even the larger trans* experience. A great many of our sisters (and brothers) choose to stealth. It is a difficult question for most of us to answer: who, when, where, and how much do I share of myself. The people who paint us as predators make it that much harder to do so.
Because cute Star Wars reference aside, this has serious consequences for us. This, even more than the bathroom and dressing room battles, fuels paranoia and hatred directed at us. Rape is a frightening thing, it strips away one’s autonomy as a person, in many ways leaving the victim feeling like less of a person. It has been one of the most difficult problems for the entire feminist movement to address, and I laud those who have stood up to our rape culture.
TERFs, however, and their MRA allies have appropriated that struggle. They have turned it into a weapon to beat down another group. It is not hard to understand why. The MRA’s, and their religious right backers, want to keep an oppressed group down. The TERFs? Well, they are just following a long, not-so-proud tradition of one disenfranchised group helping to beat down another to gain acceptance from the oppressor. Some do it for just that facile a reason, some do it because it makes them feel more powerful after being stripped of power their entire lives. Others do it because they just do not understand the trans* experience, which would be less offensive if they even made the effort to try.
They don’t though. They continue painting us as the boogy-man. They belittle a legitimate problem for ALL women, cis and trans, to dehumanize us. They help create an atmosphere that makes us far more likely to be victims of violence than any other demographic. We are not the trap, the internalized sexism the patriarchy has forced on you is, and I would love to help you with that, if you took the time to view me as a real human being, and not someone out to victimize you.