I Ain’t Got No-Body

(I wrote this post a while ago, but forgot to put it up.)

Call it synchronicity or blind luck, but at times multiple posts converge into one line of thinking for me. The Kim Nixon case is one such intersection. Ms. Nixon was rejected from the Vancouver Rape Relief Society training program when they found out that she was transgender. Ms. Nixon brought a suit against the center. You can read more about that here and here.

I found the Rape Relief’s argument interesting.

“While it may appear that Rape Relief discriminated against Nixon because she was born with a penis, they have a different rationale. Rape Relief’s collective belief is that far beyond a person’s biological make-up, socialization and experience are what shapes individuals. It’s part of their philosophy that women experience the male-dominated world differently than men. That was the 34-year-old organization’s original argument for why they should be allowed to exclude men when their women-only policy was first challenged in the 1970s, and they feel it’s relevant to whether they should admit transsexual women.” queerty.com

Rape Relief’s stated belief that socialization and experience seems logical but further inspection brings many questions to the surface. When counseling a rape victim, does one need to have experienced the crime, the life, or the upbringing of the victim? It would seem to me that the counseling skills of the person would be most important, not any personal background.

Over at Women’s Space/The Margins, Heart makes the argument that it isn’t possible for women to discriminate.

“Except that nobody, including VRR has discriminated against transpeople. In my view it is not possible for females to discriminate against transpeople. That’s the province of men and only men.”

“But it’s for the reasons I provided there that in my view females (women born female who have lived all of their lives as girls and women) cannot “discriminate” against transpersons. They can be nasty and mean. They can be unkind and assholish. But they can’t “discriminate”– because discrimination is a function of power, and females/women (born female who have lived all of their lives as girls/women), in fact have not, and do not, enjoy sex privilege with respect to transpersons. They may enjoy race privilege/class privilege/non-disabled privilege/privilege based on being heterosexual instead of lesbian/thin privilege, but they don’t enjoy sex privilege.”

I’m not sure how Heart comes to this conclusion. As far as the social ladder goes, the only thing lower than a transwoman, is a transwoman of color. Out trans-women have given up male privilege and aren’t accepted  wholly as women. Transwomen don’t even have female privilege. As I said in this post, power is hierarchical.

The Rape Relief’s argument that socialization and experience are key in rape counciling would suggest that trans-women (or men) are never victims of sexual violence. It also suggests that transwomen don’t live under the same threat of sexual violence (actually transwomen, as a group, are more likely to be raped and murdered). Using Rape Relief’s argument, you could exclude women of color. Without the benefit of white privilege they most definitely have a different socialization and experience. Sure there are similarities, but there are similarities in a transwoman’s life too that are common among women.

The question in this case wasn’t whether Kim is a woman or not. It’s a question of whether or not a group can discriminate in choosing their volunteers. The answer? Yes. Under Canada’s Section 41, a non-profit with the “promotion of the interests and welfare of an identifiable group or class of persons” they can pick and choose who they can hire.

Do I think it’s fair or just? No. But it is the law.

Now why did I mention convergence in the first paragraph? Because men’s rights activists have been attacking me over a post I wrote over on my personal site. One of their sites drew my ire because of its insinuation that women often “cry rape.”

On one side, I have women born women (wbw) intimating that transwomen aren’t really experienced enough to know the life long oppression that it takes to be a “real woman.” On the other end I have MRA’s saying “Of course with your infinite wisdom as a woman I guess a man doesn’t have to say anything. You just ‘know’ right? That’s pathetic. What you ‘think’ is not evidence. Get that into your head.”

I wonder why transfolk feel isolated in this culture? 😉

Interesting reading on this case and the response to Heart can be found here: