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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



VIEWS End of gender or start of community: Thoughts on MichFest
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times

This article shared 4852 times since Wed Aug 7, 2013
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My life changed eight years ago when a friend, moving home to Pakistan, gifted me their copy of Read My Lips: Sexual Subversion and the End of Gender by Riki Wilchins.

"I have begun speaking simply of gender as a name for that system that punishes bodies for how they look, who they love, or how they feel—for the size or color or shape of their skin," Wilchins wrote. "I do this not to collapse our differences, but to emphasize our connections."

It was the first time I truly understood gender and the first time I understood why lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people share one acronym.

Gender was a rule set that historically kept women from voting, that forced men into stoicism, that branded gay people as perverts and that placed the bodies of transgender people under scrutiny.

Wilchins' book was also the first I learned of Michigan Womyn's Music Festival and the ban on transgender women, because Wilchins was instrumental in fighting the ban early on.

Over the last several months, Windy City Times has highlighted voices on both sides of the MichFest debate.

In LGBT media especially, however, we understand that there are times when two sides of a debate are not equal. The concept of balanced LGBT news is predicated on the belief that being LGBT is fine. The voices of vehemently anti-gay activists are not usually necessary to our stories, nor are they healing for a community historically under attack. This is the value of Windy City Times. It is not just that we tell local LGBT stories not available elsewhere. It is also that one needs not wade through abuse to get the news.

But the arguments published against transfeminine inclusion at MichFest do little to heal, enlighten or move the conversation forward.

It is unacceptable and counterintuitive to argue against the inclusion of transgender women in women's spaces. It is not simply that most transgender women intimately understand gender-based discrimination and violence or that socialization is far more complex than childhood teaching. As LGBT people, we have raged for the right to self-determine and for those identities to be seen and respected. We know that no one has the authority to tell us how our bodies should look or behave or tell us who our families are. We look past the simple facts of birth and societal rules in pursuit of something more complicated, courageous and honest.

Transgender women face hate violence, unemployment, lack of access to medical care, police misconduct, housing discrimination, family rejection and other forms of bias at astounding rates not understood by most of us.

In this context, the argument that transfeminine people have not lived enough "as female" to understand gender-based oppression is senseless. It is further unreasonable to assume that transgender people, many of whom unknowingly betrayed gender rules from infancy, did not experience the ache of growing up in a society that casts you as wrong or less than due to your gender.

What could be useful is a more complicated discussion on our myriad identities, the privileges each of us— including trans people of all identities— carry. It is helpful to hold all of us to better ways of being in community so that identity-exclusive spaces are less necessary in the future.

But as long these identity spaces exist, let them embrace shared histories of gender-based resistance. Let us push our communities to grow and affirm, rather than shrivel into old understandings of themselves.

Socialization has no end point. I was gendered female for much of my early life, but my socialization continues today. I am a white masculine presenting person. In LGBT spaces, I am constantly bombarded with the message that my voice is more valuable than that of many others around me—femme people, transgender women, people of color, to name just a few. I need to try to recognize and fight those messages off.

Gender is a set of rules, not a set of anatomy. Any associations we have that link our traumas to the bodies of other people, are our own to process. No one's body is wrong. What is wrong is a society that devalues all kinds of women and condones violence against them.

We can find common ground without erasing our varied experiences and gender identities.

Expanding our communities gives them strength and beauty. Alienating our own from them only hastens their demise, and for good reason.

Kate Sosin is associate editor of Windy City Times.

See related article, Michigan Fest Our Bodies Ourselves, by Tracy Baim, here: .

This article shared 4852 times since Wed Aug 7, 2013
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