Judith Halberstams lecture focused on the issues regarding transgenderism/transsexualism, feminism/trans feminism (FTM), and the relationships between them. The lecture mainly addressed the necessity of trans feminism and reasons for its absence in the present queer and feminist communities.
Trans feminism is necessary for all trans individuals. Leaving femininity behind creates a problem for FTMs. Growing up; they were subject to the same challenges that other young women faced. In fact, they most likely still do face obstacles on top of the challenges that come with not fitting in a socially proper category of gender. As Sandy Stone put in her essay, MTFs need feminism for the transition, to recognize the privileges that come with being born male and living as a man, that they dont have now but had at some point in their lives. If they get rid of feminism, then their transition can be attributed to an inherent misogyny.
Feminists also need to recognize that transgenderism/transsexualism and feminism are not necessarily odds. Feminism needs the inclusion and the support of all genders. Feminists need to have conversations with trans individuals in order to expand their movement. The necessary first step to take is to be inclusive, allow both transmen and transwomen be a part of all womens events.
Michigan Womens Music Festival is the most mentioned event that this problem arises. The womyn born womyn requirement to attend the festival is bluntly another way of saying that trans individuals are not allowed. Two beliefs prevent this festival from being inclusive: FTMs are buying into the male privilege and MTFs would be taking over the women only space because they were born male. Camp Trans is one of the ways that trans people protest this attitude. Also, The Butchies, a band that participated in the festival was boycotted because they supported this exclusion by performing on stage, and yet still use the butch image while participating. While butch does not mean transgender, it is still a gender that does not fit in one of the two neatly proscribed categories. Halberstam pointed that boycotting a queer indy band only harms the queer community as a whole.
Halberstam also mentioned the dissatisfaction of the younger trans generation with the older generation and pointed out that it is just creating more separation among the community to knock off people who came out as trans long time ago. The younger generation must realize that it was much more difficult, in the past, to live as trans. Stone says that there was all this theorizing about transsexualism but the transsexuals themselves had no participation, just like men theorizing about women.
Sandy Stone gives a brief history of the medical and psychological approach to transsexualism in her essay. The criteria that the doctors and social workers used to determine if one could have surgery was the most interesting part of it. Stone refers to the only book that was available on the subject The Transsexual Phenomena by Benjamin dated 1966. It is no wonder that all of the candidates who wanted to have surgery matched the characteristics given in the book since they had all read it themselves.
Another example of exclusion is the Take Back The Night event and the infamous Vagina Monologues on college campuses throughout the United States. Transgender youth is not involved in these events by any means. Yet, they are the most vulnerable group for sexual violence and assaults. I wonder where Brandon Teena would fit in a Take Back The Night demonstration if he were alive.
We can blame the socially constructed binary gender system for the tension between feminist and trans communities if we wish. The binary gender system is problematic for the trans movement due to its limited gender definitions. Even the terms MTF and FTM are based on this system and many trans people dont necessarily identify with them. However, if we do so, we face the question Can we be against gender?After all, in order to be able to define a groups movement, we must be able to identify the members of that group. But its not possible to just say, What’s gender anyways?” and drop all categories.
Halberstam said that we did not live in a society where we can just drop categories, and that the category will find us. This is very true but it is also not an efficient approach to have tiny different categories for every group. Even though individualism is what American culture pretty much revolves around, dropping labels and using definitions like outside the box or off the map create the problem of not being able to define the members of the trans movement or trans feminist movement. The statement Id rather not identify is also another way of identifying. The we are not like them attitude is one of the reasons for the exclusion of transmen and transwomen from the queer community in the past.
Language and society would definitely prevent us from dropping the concept of two opposite genders. The words lesbian, homosexual, heterosexual would not mean anything if we were to drop the two gender categories, namely man and woman. Gender transitivity is a broad concept. If gender transitivity is reduced to women who want to be males or males who want to be females and vice versa, we disregard many individuals who are not necessarily in between, who are the other genderwho transcend gender.