Once again Laverne Cox comes to the rescue of her trans sisters, defending them against author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s bifurcation of trans and cis women along the lines of male privilege. Cox’s rebuttal is indirect and highly personal. It questions whether she, as a gender nonconforming child, experienced male privilege. But what about us late transitioners who grew up with Jerry Springer and the innate knowledge that expressing our gender variance would get our asses in trouble–not that I am sure it didn’t get Cox into trouble?
To my mind, it is problematic when cis women exclude trans women because of male privilege, as it defines what it means to be a woman through a process of pure socialisation and in this case an absence of privilege or power. Surely being female or male for that matter is more than social power. Are trans men not men because they didn’t always have male privilege? If that is not the case, then why can the power be gained unproblematically but not lost. For surely it is lost when trans women transition. Also, male privilege is clearly something that needs to end, if this happens does that mean gender is over? I imagine it will not, it will evolve.
Essentially privilege is power, it equals more advantages and opportunities. Many women have more power than others. A middle class, multi-degree holding Euro/American woman, on average, has more privilege and power than her Somalian or Saudi sisters. Does that make the woman with less power more of a woman?
Male privilege is a scourge, but to exclude trans women because they once had it to some degree is similarly wrong. After all, trans people give that power up when they move towards the feminine spectrum. They experience disproportionately less political, social, and economic power than many other women and often the male privilege which they were possibly socialised with was a source of internal dysphoria. This argument against female spectrum trans people by some feminists reduces our womanhood to a tit for tat game of who is more marginalised and powerless. Sure, many trans women did experience male privilege and this has in someway probably shaped their identity, but it is not always clear that it was for the better. And ultimately we have to accept that women come from all sorts of different backgrounds. After all, isn’t that why most of us moved on from second wave feminism? I have a feeling that because trans people choose to transition, despite the baggage, hate, and marginalisation, suggests that there is something deeper to our genders. Being a woman isn’t just as defined in contrast to being a man, it cannot be a negation.