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Pre-2008 Posts

ENDA and “Gender Identity”: A Feminist, Woman-Centered Response

Feminist Reform Toolkit

Does [the theory, idea, strategy, law being proposed or advanced] materially improve the lives of women, and if so, which women and how many?  And where?  And how quickly?  And can we understand it?

Does it build an individual woman’s self-respect, strength and confidence?  [If it is a theory] what is the price we must  pay to master it?

Does working for it give women a sense of power, strength and imagination as a group and help build structures for further change?

Does it educate women politically, enhancing their abilities to criticize and challenge the system in the future?

Does it weaken patriarchal control of society’s institutions and help women gain power over them?  And does it enable/encourage us to construct alternative institutions?  Or does it replicate [patriarchy]?

–Charlotte Bunch, in The Reform Tool Kit, Building Feminist Theory:  Essays from Quest, A Feminist Quarterly, New York, 1971

In recent weeks debate has been raging over the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a proposed federal law that would prohibit discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation.   The bill passed by the Education and Labor Committee last week,  H.R. 3685,  excluded the following “gender identity” language which was part of an earlier version of the bill, H.R. 2015:

The term `gender identity’ means the gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth.

The bill now goes to the House Rules Committee, where Representative Tammy Baldwin (D, WI)  will attempt to introduce an amendment returning this language to the bill. 

Following is a woman-centered, feminist analysis of the issue of inclusion of these “gender identity” provisions in ENDA, written by Davis, a good friend and colleague of mine who is a feminist attorney, over the course of an online debate.   I put it all together because it is brilliant and insightful and I think it deserves a much wider reading.  — Heart


The assertion that we need to put trans in the ENDA to protect “gender variant” people of all stripes is false.  Sex discrimination law already protects men and women from that form of gender discrimination. So-called “gender variant” behavior is already protected under current Title VII law through good old-fashioned sex discrimination law. It is already illegal to discriminate against women because they’re not feminine enough or too masculine, or against men because they’re not masculine enough or too feminine.   In Hopkins v. Price Waterhouse, Ann Hopkins sued precisely because of this type of discrimination: not being feminine enough, not wearing make up, wrong haircut, etc. In short, Hopkins was discriminated against because she was “too masculine”. That’s exactly what Hopkins and Title VII forbids, as does Smith v. City of Salem, a 2006 case finding discrimination against a  transsexual woman illegal under Title VII because it was illegal sex stereotyping as defined by Hopkins.

Under Title VII, if I don’t wear makeup, am “too aggressive” or do anything that society thinks of as “masculine”, and my employer discriminates against me because I’m “too masculine” or not “feminine enough”, I can sue for illegal sex stereotyping discrimination as the woman I am. Title VII says, you don’t get to discriminate against people because of how you think men and women should act or be.

Under ENDA*, if I don’t wear makeup, am “too aggressive” or do anything that society thinks of as “masculine”, I am automatically presumed to be demonstrating some “gender expression” to go with a “gender identity”, presumably an identity that’s masculine or “man”, whether I actually have that identity or not.  Everything I do and am, becomes about my supposed gender identity.  ENDA forces gender on me, because [in order to be included in its scope],  I have to go along with the assumption that what I’m doing is antithetical to my biological sex, i.e. a gender identity that isn’t “womanly”.

This is a prime example of the totalizing and hegemonic nature of trans theory:  everybody has a “gender identity” that they show through gendered behavior, clothing, expression, etc. — which is EXACTLY what ENDA says and imposes.

You may think that what I’m wearing is about “gender expression” and “gender identity”.  I don’t.  And why should I have to accept what you think about me to be covered by anti-discrimination law? That in itself is discrimination. But that’s how ENDA is being proposed to work: every woman who isn’t stereotypically feminine is presumed to be expressing a “gender identity” at odds with her physical self, i.e.,  meaning “man” or masculine. 

The protections against sex-stereotyping already in Title VII and case law protect me, a non-trans, but not stereotypically feminine woman, from bigotry, without me having to claim a trans identity or any kind of gender identity at all. Title VII protects me as the woman I am.  ENDA would not do that.  In order to get protection under ENDA, I have to get shoved into the box where everything I am and do is seen through the lens of “gender identity”  In ENDA, gender identity isn’t actually limited to what we think of as gender identity:  i.e., the internal sense of self as a man or woman.   “Gender identity” extends to what we look like and how we act and “other gender-related characteristics.” It imposes gender on people and gendered explanations on everything everybody does.

Under Title VII, I don’t have to point to myself, I can just say that the discriminator is wrongfully imposing gender/sex stereotypes on me. Under ENDA, the stereotypes are accepted as true and I’m the deviation from the gender norm. By protecting “gender identity” in the way it does, ENDA presupposes proper gendered behavior and marks everybody who deviates from it AS a deviation from those gendered norms.

I don’t need to be protected on the basis of my “gender identity” because I’m not trans. Anything like “gender identity” protection won’t protect me because I don’t have a gender identity problem. To the extent I may be deemed too masculine, or too unfeminine, I’m already protected as the woman I am. To sue for gender identity discrimination, in my case, would be a lie because it’s not about gender identity.

Gender identity provisions will NOT protect women because women don’t have a gender identity issue. We are women. To the extent that we may be deemed too masculine or not feminine enough, we are already protected.   To push the falsehood that women need the protection of a trans-inclusive ENDA  is to co-opt women’s lives and deny the reality of our lives. Gender identity discrimination is NOT the same thing as discrimination because one does not meet gender stereotypes. Transgender advocates should conflating them for their own purposes and should stop co-opting my life to push  their agenda. If transgender advocates don’t think that their lives are enough to support their own political agenda, I’m sorry, but that’s their problem.  They don’t get to take over my life for  their ends. 

— Davis

*References to ENDA above mean ENDA which includes “gender identity” langage


Go hereherehere, here and here for analysis of the history of dissensions and conflicts between progressive people which ENDA has brought to the fore, and which is a bit more substantial than standard blogosphere fare, i.e., “Whoever disagrees with a trans-inclusive ENDA, or with any position at all that is not rubber stamped by the ‘T’ contingent of  ‘LBGT’ must be quickly decried as a bigot/transphobe/insert-hated-persona-du-jour here.”  That kind of rhetorical hammering has silenced far too many intelligent voices, for far too long, women’s voices especially.  Maybe there’s a change in the wind. — Heart



122 thoughts on “ENDA and “Gender Identity”: A Feminist, Woman-Centered Response

  1. I’m so glad I don’t live in the USA.

    *groan* ….

    Ah yes, the trans agenda – – coming to a nation state near *you*.

    Oh, you lucky women.

    Posted by Mary Sunshine | October 21, 2007, 8:12 pm
  2. I can’t believe no-one has responded to this post, it having been here all day; or maybe I can. What your colleague has written is very good. As I understand it, I agree with it. And I am so tired of being bulldozed by men and ‘former’ men with a men’s rights agenda.

    Posted by Sis | October 21, 2007, 10:34 pm
  3. I’m a bit confused. I read the bill (ok, most of it) and it only addresses sexual orientation. So why does it need a definition of “gender identity”?

    And, I don’t get how this applies: “I have to go along with the assumption that what I’m doing is antithetical to my biological sex,”

    I do not mean to distract from whatever discussion you wish to have about this amendment. I feel a little silly admitting, at my age, that I know very little about this trans vs women conflict.

    If you don’t want me to comment in your threads, please email me, and I won’t.

    Posted by thebewilderness | October 21, 2007, 10:58 pm
  4. I don’t understand the law very well, and its implications, but transsexuals could get protection under anti discrimination laws WITHOUT implying that biological “gender identity” is factual.

    Posted by Kiuku | October 21, 2007, 11:40 pm
  5. What always intrigues/irritates me about the whole trans issue is that it’s supposed to be a huge edgy thing about challenging gender norms, when all it does is enforce them. Adopting the exteme stereotypical look of the gender they’re going for doesn’t actually challenge anything.

    What’s really challenging is doing what you want and wearing what you want and not worrying about it.

    Posted by Miranda | October 21, 2007, 11:44 pm
  6. thebewilderness! Whyever would I not want you to comment in my threads?! The very idea! I love you to comment anywhere that I am! Do we need to talk about something? if so!

    Yeah, Miranda and everyone, what you all said. Transgender advocates pressed for the addition of protections for “gender identity.” When it was apparent the bill(s) wouldn’t pass if these protections were included, transgender advocates’ view was, ENDA shouldn’t receive support at all.

    thebewilderness, you should read the links at the end of the post, they provide really good background and are not boring in the least– very interesting, at least to me!

    As to this:

    “I have to go along with the assumption that what I’m doing is antithetical to my biological sex,”

    What Davis is saying is, we are already protected, under Title VII, for presenting any way we want to present as women (or men). Case law is on the side of, for example, women who appear to be “masculine” (for whatever reason) and transwomen, for that matter, who are fired because they aren’t dressing/presenting/behaving according to gender stereotypes. The gender identity language creates a situation in which these same choices so far as presentatin become “identities.” Under Title VII, what you have, for example, is a woman with very short hair wearing jeans and flannels and protected by Title VII *as a woman*. Under ENDA the short hair/jeans/flannels equals “gender identity.” Even if she wants nothing to *do* with any “gender identity,” because she is a woman, dressing however the heck she feels like, full stop. Essentially, the language gathers every person who doesn’t conform to gender expectations/stereotypes under the “trans” umbrella and protects them *as transpersons* as people with various “gender identities”, as opposed to what Title VII does, which is protect the rights of all people, whoever they are, to present in any way they like. Biology equals nothing so far as how a person presents, iow. This is the premise that Title VII protects. ENDA says, biology equals certain presentations, and those who present outside of those presentations deserve protection because they “deviate” from these presentations. As opposed to protection for whatever presentation, whenever being protected, regardless of biology.


    Posted by womensspace | October 22, 2007, 12:02 am
  7. but transsexuals could get protection under anti discrimination laws WITHOUT implying that biological “gender identity” is factual.

    Kiuku, exactly.

    Posted by womensspace | October 22, 2007, 12:05 am
  8. OK, so I get that the bill is to address discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
    So I looked in the dictionary to see what I was missing, and it says that gender applies to language, not to people. There does not appear to be any such thing as gender identity, except with regard to nouns.
    Clearly I need to get up to speed on this new and rather odd way of seeing myself, not as a woman but as a part of speech.

    Posted by thebewilderness | October 22, 2007, 1:12 am
  9. Sorry, I’m not usually this uninformed about political issues. When did transexual transmogrify into transgender? In recent legalese?

    Posted by thebewilderness | October 22, 2007, 1:24 am
  10. thebewilderness, I don’t think transsexual has transmongrified into transgender. With respect to the inclusion of “gender identity” in ENDA, what it boils down to is that protections for presenting in ways that are not traditionally feminine (if you are female) and male (if you are male) are viewed as included under protections of “gender identity.” So instead of asserting our rights, as women, to keep our jobs even though, say, we have very short hair –because to fire us is sexual discrimination under Title VII — we are to agree (with patriarchy) that if we have very short hair and we are women, we must have some “gender identity” which needs to be protected by the law — even if we don’t in fact have any such “gender identity.”. Even though so far as we are concerned, we are simply women with very short hair, resisting patriarchal pressures to comply.

    The definition of gender is contested among progressive people. I believe gender is about subordination, specifically male subordination of female persons. I think gender is “real” but it isn’t true. There’s nothing “essential,” innate, inborn about it, whether biologically, genetically, spiritually, mystically, whatever. What we call gender, I think, is really the result of constellations and myriads of coercions and socializing processes which result in behaviors, gestures, language, realities that are different for female persons than for male persons. I think that sex, as opposed to gender, is a biological reality. People are born male or female, with a tiny number born intersex. The socializing processes of gender begin at birth, with the pronouncement that someone is a girl or someone is a boy.

    So it makes no sense to me to speak in terms of a “gender identity.” I was born female. I have lived all of my life as a girl and a woman. I don’t “identify” “as” anything, the fact is that I am a female person, subordinated on the basis of my sex.

    Trans advocates take a various positions with respect to gender, but in general, they view gender as an identification that people can take or assume, something they “feel” or “believe” about themselves, something that happens in their heads or their bodies or spirits or whatever, such that their “gender” is one thing and the fact of their physical bodies is another.

    But it’s a problem to deny the reality of having been socialized from birth on the basis of one’s physical body. Everybody has been– it is unavoidable. The problem with including women who are not stereotypically feminine amongst those with divergent “gender identities” is, our ground to challenge male heterosupremacy and subjugation is located in our shared experiences of subjugation as female persons, which experiences I believe *are*, in fact, “gender. Viewed that way, notions of “gender identity” make no sense. Gender has been forced on me. It is not an “identity” I assume. It’s something I want out of. As compared with the many transpersons who want into what I want out of. Saying that gender nonconforming behaviors are gender identities makes our lives as feminists resisting gender, resisting “gender identities,” invisible, hidden beneath all of these ideas about gender being something someone “decides” to be. On a deeper level, the suggestion is that gender identity is a desirable thing, instead of a set of subordinating mechanisms to be resisted and challenged.


    Posted by womensspace | October 22, 2007, 2:49 am
  11. Janice Raymond wrote the definitive analysis decades ago in her book, The Transexual Empire, which followed a Ph.D. dissertation on the same topic while Raymond was a grad student of Mary Daly’s (before Daly lost her professorship in the 21st century).

    Then Raymond was vilified as few feminists other than Andrea Dworkin (and Daly) have been. A feminist being vilified and falsely called a “hater” for telling the truth about the real “haters” (patriarchy’s misogynists) usually points to a great truth being told.

    Instead of believing the loaded online diatribes against Raymond, you would find informative her book on the trans empire, highly recommended. Her other major book, A Passion for Friends, is also wonderful (if somewhat academic). In the Friends book, Raymond compiled info about women’s community (like the Beguines and Chinese marriage resisters) that I’d never before seen.

    Blessings of friends,

    Posted by JB Sproull | October 22, 2007, 2:54 am
  12. Hey, JB, as I know you know, utter the words “Janice Raymond” in progressive circles and you are in deep doo doo. Although probably only 1 percent of the people casting you into the doo doo have even read the book, they are in accord that Janice Raymond is a hater. Sort of the way Mary Daly gets similarly excoriated by people who have no clue what she has actually written. I sure do. I have ever book she has ever written, I have read them all, some of them many times, and I got a signed copy of Pure Lust last spring in Santa Fe at the Feminist Hullaballoo, where I at last laid eyes on her, heard her speak, and told her how much her work meant to me, beginning with Beyond God the Father which helped me to begin to take my life back after years in fundamentalist religion.

    I have yet to read The Transsexual Empire. I do have and have read A Passion for Friends and really enjoyed it. I should read Empire and will one of these days.

    Posted by womensspace | October 22, 2007, 3:14 am
  13. Not to be all patriarchy-hurts-men-too, but this is an example of assigning gender to activities that I keep seeing. I make jewelry, and take various classes. I can’t count how many times I’ve been with women who say “Oh, my son was really interested in this, but his father would never go along with him making jewelry.” And the woman would kind of laugh, like she understood/supported the idea.

    THAT’S an example of the kind of attitude that needs to get fought if you’re really going to do away with gender. And of course another good thing to fight would be to convince women they don’t need to hook up with jerks like the fathers.

    Posted by Miranda | October 22, 2007, 10:35 am
  14. She makes some good comments about the nature of gender, but I’m not sure what that has to do with ENDA itself (what she wrote seems to be more in response to what some people have claimed that ENDA could achieve).

    I think Davis overstates the level of protections that gender nonconformant women have, and the uniformity with which some current protections are applied. She makes it sound as though Title VII is enough, currently, to protect women from being fired for being too masculine (well, enough to let them win a court case about having been fired). But that’s not really so.

    And while I don’t think nonconformant people should be shoehorned into some gender-identity paradigm, I do think that the PERCEIVED part is important. It doesn’t/shouldn’t matter, for instance, whether I’m in fact a lesbian if my boss fires me because s/he perceives me to be one. Unfortunately, external standards of labeling and judging are what discrimination is about.

    If an employer claims that a lesbian worker is fired not because she mentioned having a girlfriend on the job, and not because she’s dressing too “butch,” but because she’s “obviously trying to be a man,” by wearing, say, the “male” pants uniform and not the skirt/hose/heel uniform, I’m not sure that it matters whether the fired employee sees what happened as sexism, homophobia, or both. If firing someone due to someone’s “gender related appearance” is still legal, she may not be able to prove that what happened is because of what her employer believes a woman should dress like (even if that were adequately protected, which it is not), rather than because of HOW her employer believes a woman IS.

    So, I’m not sure I buy Davis’ reason to question/resist the gender identity inclusion (though I think it could be worded better, maybe, and do agree with her critiques about gender itself), and I wish she’d discussed any other ill effects that she see’s ENDA potentially having on women. Because as it stands, I don’t see a reason not to support the inclusion of trans categories in the bill.

    And as deeply as I disagree with certain trans theories and issues, shrugging off job discrimination isn’t the way to deal with that, IMO.

    Posted by funnie | October 22, 2007, 11:51 am
  15. Brief googling brings up this example of why it’s not quite correct to claim that because of the application of Title VII, “[t]o the extent that we may be deemed too masculine or not feminine enough, we are already protected.”

    Posted by funnie | October 22, 2007, 12:07 pm
  16. OK, then why would legislation prohibiting discrimination based on *appearance* not be sufficient to address trans, as well as size / height / poverty concerns?

    Shotgun approach.

    Posted by Mary Sunshine | October 22, 2007, 1:36 pm
  17. How did the appeal find?

    Posted by Sis | October 22, 2007, 2:24 pm
  18. That IS the appeal.


    Employers very much want to discriminate based on appearance, and most people find that reasonable (“professionalism”), so I don’t understand what that legislation would look like or how it could conceivably pass, Mary Sunshine.

    Posted by funnie | October 22, 2007, 6:02 pm
  19. I don’t know enough about American law to even recognize the players language. But I do recognize that this is just one group of patriarchal bullies duking it out with another.

    Posted by Sis | October 22, 2007, 6:42 pm
  20. I think the language is harmful to women because whereas previously, our dress/presentation was protected under sexual discrimination law no matter what it was, now to have the same protections, we’d have to (1) conform to gender stereotypes, or (2) agree that our nonconforming presentation equals our having some “gender identity.” When it does not.

    I agree the language protects trans-identified male and female persons. The problem I have is that it makes life more difficult for women.

    Posted by womensspace | October 22, 2007, 10:39 pm
  21. A trans-inclusive ENDA would not override or eliminate any protections in Title XII. Your dress/presentation will be protected under Title XII the same as before, without the need to make any claims of “gender identity”.

    Posted by neitherday | October 22, 2007, 11:19 pm
  22. Except that I don’t think that’s the way the law works, as a practical matter. One thing Davis said in the previous discussion was that over time, transpersons, including trans-identifying male and female persons, would ultimately have enjoyed greater and greater protection under Title VII, based on current case law and the direction of the decisions of various courts. If people who are discriminated against, or their attorneys, repair to their or their clients’ “gender identities” as a defense against employment discrimination on the basis of presentation, eventually that is what will effectively *be* the defense, as opposed to the defense being that to discriminate on the basis of presentation is sex discrimination. Women are not benefitted when they must defend against discrimination on the basis of their “gender identity,” because the focus then is one step removed from issues of sex discrimination. The issue iow isn’t a patriarchal, male heterosupremacist boss who wants girlie girls and manly men working for him, the issue is a patriarchal male heterosupremacist boss who doesn’t accept various “gender identities.” Now the focus is not on educating employers about sexism and eliminating it in the workplace, the new focus is on educating bosses about “gender identities” and protecting them in the workplace, and women routinely discriminated against *because* they are nonconforming end up invisible behind all of these persons now called [insert identity here] — including many men — whose gender identities must be understood, recognized, acknowledged and affirmed, as theirs do, too, if they are to be protected, even if they don’t fracking have or want any “gender identity” but they are told they need to say they do because it is the quickest way to end employer discrimination against them. Not the first time by far that this kind of thing has happened in the logic of trans/queer. For a long time transpersons (according to them, this is what I have heard/read them to say) routinely faked various psychological symptoms and histories, etc., in order to get a psychologist to diagnose them with GID so they could get “treatment” in the form of hormones/surgeries. They did this not believing they had any disorder but because that way they could get the system to work for them. Now that all of that isn’t necessary anymore, there is all of this backtracking, “Well, we only said all that stuff about ourselves so we could get the diagnosis which would allow for our treatment.” This reminds me of that. Just recognize all deviations from patriarchal dress codes as “identities”, we are told, even if that’s not the way you feel about how you dress, even if you think it’s politically regressive, and then all the deviants are protected. Except they aren’t deviants. They are men and women, dressing the way they choose. Which should continue to be protected under Title VII, sex discrimination law.

    Posted by womensspace | October 22, 2007, 11:33 pm
  23. The way gender theory works is on the presupposition that it’s everywhere whether we want it to be or not… invisible, socialized. I don’t really see how protecting individuals from discrimination based on deviation from accepted norms applies only to people of trans orientation or makes things more difficult for women.

    Posted by Katie | October 22, 2007, 11:34 pm
  24. The way gender theory works is on the presupposition that it’s everywhere whether we want it to be or not… invisible, socialized

    And the way feminism works is on the presupposition that we challenge that invisibility and socialization. That’s what feminism is — making gender visible as the subordination of female persons that it is. Making the socializing processes and mechanisms of gender also visible so we can challenge the sexism inherent in those processes and mechanisms.

    The word “gender” has meaning, and it is not value-neutral, non-political, apolitical meaning. Gender equals masculine — aggressive, hairy, muscle-y, manly, strong, stoic, dominant etc. — and feminine — passive, weak, feminine, nurturing, emotional, submissive, etc. Clothing and presentation apportioned culturally to “masculine” and “feminine” are similarly gendered. When people refuse to conform to gender expectations while remaining men and women, they are *resisting* patriarchal gender norms. They are refusing them. This is a political act, an anti-sexist act, and a feminist or pro-feminist act. They are saying, I am a woman, but I’m not going to *be* feminine, etc., or I am a man, but I’m not going to *be* masculine, etc. When refusal to conform to gender instead equals some new “gender identity”, where is the political progress? Where is the challenge to sexism? There is none. There is just agreement with male heterosupremacy that those who refuse to conform to gender expectations are not men and women, but something else, some other “gender identity.” Which hurts women far and away most of all, because it means that we continue to have the vast majority of citizens who are patriarchal men and patriarchal women, continuing to conform to patriarchal expecations, and everybody else gets their own non-man, non-woman category called “gender identity”. And sexism continues unabated as everybody continues to be man/masculine or woman/feminine or “gender identity”/something else. Where is the confrontation of gender, of masculinity and femininity, in that? Where is the resistance? Where is the challenge? Where is the revolution-making? There isn’t any. You have a certain number of marginalized people with various gender identities possibly a little safer in those gender identities on their jobs. Meanwhile, nonconforming women (and men) who refuse to call themselves [insert gender identity du jour here] as a matter of feminist integrity and resistance to gender ultimately stand to lose the protections they already have under Title VII should Title VII protections end up trumped by ENDA’s provisions for “gender identity.” As will happen. Because whatever most benefits women rarely, if ever, prevails against what also benefits men.

    Posted by womensspace | October 22, 2007, 11:50 pm
  25. The only way Title VII protections will go away is if legislation is passed that repeals or overrides Title VII. Trans people claiming ENDA protection in court will not negate or change any precedents set under Title VII. Even if, as you worry, claiming discrimination based on gender identity becomes more common than Title VII claims, Title VII claims will still be just as valid. Title VII and ENDA are wholly separate.

    Furthermore, the gender identity text in ENDA does not ascribe a “gender identity” to you or force you to claim one, it’s not about you — you still have Title VII and no inclusive-ENDA supporters suggesting that that be changed.

    Posted by neitherday | October 23, 2007, 1:26 am
  26. Even if, as you worry, claiming discrimination based on gender identity becomes more common than Title VII claims, Title VII claims will still be just as valid. Title VII and ENDA are wholly separate.

    I understand that Title VII and ENDA are wholly separate. I think, though, that if employment discrimination claims based on ENDA became the rule, the case law that attorneys will rely upon in bringing claims will ultimately be ENDA case law, meaning over time people who experienced sex discrimination would find fewer and fewer attorneys who would represent them under Title VII.

    Furthermore, the gender identity text in ENDA does not ascribe a “gender identity” to you or force you to claim one, it’s not about you — you still have Title VII and no inclusive-ENDA supporters suggesting that that be changed.

    ENDA ascribes a gender identity to me any time I am urged to file what is actually a sex discrimination claim under ENDA.

    The way it works when you (rhetorical you) go to an attorney asking her to file a lawsuit for you is, you tell the attorney what happened to you. You give her the facts. Then she takes a look at the law and decides how likely you might be to prevail given the facts of your case and under which claims. You have a voice in everything and can ultimately decide not to file suit, of course, but the attorney makes the decisions as to whether she will represent you and on what claims. In general, she is going to base her decision on how likely she is to win whatever lawsuit she brings on your behalf.

    If she looks at the facts of your case and the law and it looks like the best shot is an ENDA claim, then you’re going to be filing an ENDA claim, and your defense is indeed going to be that your nonconforming presentation equalled a “gender identity” You can say no one would be forced to claim a gender identity, and you’d be disingenous, but right: people would only be forced to claim a gender identity if they wanted to bring an employment discrimination suit. You can say no gender identity would be ascribed to anyone, and you’d be disingenuous, but right. A gender identity would only be ascribed to someone who needed a lawyer who would bring a discrimination lawsuit.

    I think ultimately ENDA would be more attractive to mainstream society in general than sex discrimination law is because ENDA affirms what mainstream people already believe: the gender nonconforming are deviant “others” and their protections should be on that basis. Sex discrimination law is a far greater threat to the status quo: it says that no man or woman can *be* deviant, no matter how he or she presents. Them’s fighting words to to the mainstream.

    Posted by womensspace | October 23, 2007, 3:02 am
  27. This thread (blog) is such a women’s studies course. Whew. I’m struggling but I think I just might get my degree.

    Posted by Sis | October 23, 2007, 3:36 am
  28. “Gender identity” issues carry a large social stigma. For that reason alone, I doubt very seriously that there will be a rush of women willing to drop sex discrimination lawsuits in favor of gender identity discrimination lawsuits. Mainstream society views transgender issues through the lens of the Springer show. Why would a lawyer attempt to fight that level of stigma where Title VII was still reliant? Title VII is something anti-discrimination lawyers are very familiar with. It’th their home turf and it much broader than dress/presentation. Virtually every anti-discrimination lawyer in the United States will still have to be well versed with it, ENDA or no. It will continue to be a relevant, well oiled part of the anti-discrimination toolkit. Far from being an easier suit to win, anti-discrimination lawyers would be giving up something tried and true for something untested and stigma-laden. Why would they do that?

    Posted by neitherday | October 23, 2007, 5:12 am
  29. Unfortunately it is about us, because it involves Patriarchal gender assigning. It involves discrimination, and it involves women. A good topic to discuss is the increasing ability of employers to discriminate against women for not being feminine enough, which in turn hampers our success.

    Posted by Kiuku | October 23, 2007, 9:23 am
  30. It has occurred to me lately that the patriarchy vehemently discourages any trend toward real individualism. Aside from female and male *realities* (and, yes, of course, intersex realities), “identity” is entirely manmade – gender identity, family identity, national identity, racial identity, scholarly identity, etc. So long as people are willing and eager to subsume their own individualities for the sake of harmonious belonging and acceptance in manmade societies/groups, the patriarchy will be perpetuated.

    The desire to “identify” as a deviant is exactly what the patriarchy thrives on. Someone’s got to play the part of the underdog, aka submissive, after all.

    Posted by justicewalks | October 23, 2007, 1:00 pm
  31. Heart, thank you for this so carefully thought out and articulated analysis.

    The effect of this, that or the other project on the status and well-being of females always is the last thing taken into consideration.

    Also, it’s a case of master’s-tools master’s-house. Legality necessarily and essentially carries with it the maleness of violently-imposed authority. Changes in it to the “benefit” of females can only ever be short-lived, and over-ridden by changes even more damaging to women than the original status-quo.

    Posted by Mary Sunshine | October 23, 2007, 2:20 pm
  32. It has occurred to me lately that the patriarchy vehemently discourages any trend toward real individualism. Aside from female and male *realities* (and, yes, of course, intersex realities), “identity” is entirely manmade – gender identity, family identity, national identity, racial identity, scholarly identity, etc. So long as people are willing and eager to subsume their own individualities for the sake of harmonious belonging and acceptance in manmade societies/groups, the patriarchy will be perpetuated.

    Yes, yes, yes, yes. People cannot even claim their own identity on the net without the net police forcing one on them. I am under attack for this very thing right now.

    justicewalks, when will you be opening your new church, so you can preach! LOL!

    Posted by ekittyglendower | October 23, 2007, 4:07 pm
  33. What an odd thing to say in this context, Neitherday, that gender identity issues carry a large social stigma so there won’t be a large rush of women willing to drop sex discrimination lawsuits in favor of gender identity discrimination lawsuits.

    This thread is about the gender identity provisions which transgender/transsexual activists wanted included in ENDA. There was the predictable, “Oh by all means, include the gender identity language, heaven forfend someone will call us transphobes if we don’t!” With apparently no interest at all in taking a look at those provisions (which got dropped, but are supposedly going to get added back in by Tammy Baldwin) for how they might affect women.

    Gender nonconforming women know all about social stigma, you know? If a woman is being discriminated against on the job because she has very, very short hair, is read as a man, and so on, she knows *all* about social stigma. The “social stigma” of any trans-inclusive language is not going to be an issue for her, her own invisibility inside of that language is going to be the issue,most importantly of all, all the ways she has been stigmatized and discriminated against, *as a woman* are going to be the issue. She wants to bring a claim against her employer because she is just as much a woman and entitled to protection as any other woman, however girlie girl — this as a matter of her politics, because why does woman have to equal girlie girl — and she deserves protection in that, and yet now we have this language that says she isn’t a woman, she’s someone with some sort of “gender identity.”

    I think lawyers who bring lawsuits, bring lawsuits they think they can win. You may be correct that the effect of trans-inclusive language in ENDA would not be immediate. But transpersons are a litigious group, as you, I am very sure, and I both know. The machinery would stoke up, the lawsuits would be brought, and won, under trans-inclusive ENDA language, and now we would have this body of case law protecting the woman in my paragraph above, not as a woman, but as someone with some sort of “gender identity.”

    Also, the gender identity language in ENDA essentially creates those with “deviant” presentations as a protected class. Not talking now about transwomen, transmen, women, as protected classes (which I believe all should be). Now we have people who, according to patriarchy, look different, look funny, don’t tow the patriarchal line, who comprise a non-woman/non-man class. As justicewalks has said, that’s what the patriarchy thrives on, the creation of these deviant underclasses.

    And that’s why this language is wrongheaded and regressive. Title VII protects the rights of all people, men and women, to present any way they want to present. Over time, under that theory, nobody is stigmatized because of the way he or she presents. A man can look/be any way at all. A woman can look/be any way at all. Maybe you look out over the crowd and you can’t discern who is who. Yay!! As opposed to looking out over the crowd and saying, as ENDA would have us say, Okay, I see girlie girls, manly men, and “others.” Because all that is is patriarchal same old same old (except that the “others” are now somewhat protected, so long as they agree that they are “other” and are willing to petition the powers that be *as* “other.”)

    Posted by womensspace | October 23, 2007, 4:20 pm
  34. And you know, here we are, at the reasons radical feminists have opposed transgender theories from the get-go. Yes, now that we have transgender persons and a successful transgender movement, I want the civil and human rights of transpersons to be protected. But I believe it to have always been, and to still be, wrongheaded for transpersons to constitute a class that is “other” than men and women. Transpersons are entitled to the protection of their civil and human rights as female- and male-born persons no matter *what* their presentation, what they look like, how they present, surgeries or no, just as all men and women are entitled to the protection of their human and civil rights. In the struggles to assert protections of transgender identities, female persons have suffered when they want their rights, as female persons, honored and protected, not because they are “transgender,” but because they are women who have a right to be/live/do/present in any way they choose without being punished for it. Instead they get shuttled into “trans” identities they do not want, do not choose and which do not honor their lived experience and reality as female persons.

    Posted by womensspace | October 23, 2007, 4:30 pm
  35. Davis: “Under Title VII, if I don’t wear makeup,: am “too aggressive” or do anything that society thinks of as “masculine”, and my employer discriminates against me because I’m “too masculine” or not “feminine enough”, I can sue for illegal sex stereotyping discrimination as the woman I am. Title VII says, you don’t get to discriminate against people because of how you think men and women should act or be.”

    That’s false. See Jespersen v. Harrah’s Casino. Title VII doesn’t cover dress code.

    Posted by M. Abernathey | October 24, 2007, 2:50 am
  36. M. Abernathy, I have edited out the harassing and trolling parts of your comment, i.e., 90 percent of your comment. I have saved it off if anyone wants to determine for herself whether or not what I edited was harassing and trolling. You may disrupt, troll and divert feminist discussion in many places. Neither you, nor anybody else, will do that here. I have posted the only part of your comment which was substantive.

    And now I’ll respond to it.

    Re Jesperson v. Harrah’s Casino

    In this case a female bartender brought suit against Harrah’s because it required her to wear lipstick, blush, and eye makeup at work. She was a great bartender and was appreciated by everyone.

    From Prawfsblawg in a discussion of the court decision.

    the en banc decision explicitly holds that sex differentiated grooming codes can be challenged on the theory that they are the result of sex stereotyping, as well as on the theory that they impose unequal burdens on men and women. However, the majority holds that Jespersen did not raise a triable issue of fact as to whether either of these were the case with respect to the Harrah’s grooming code. This is of course incredibly sad for Jespersen, but given the conservative makeup of the en banc panel, I’m relieved that the door is not completely closed on victims of sex discrimination by employers who choose appearance as the medium through which they will put men and women workers in their respective places.

    Link to court decision:$file/0315045.pdf?openelement

    Citing to one court decision — especially this one in which the court holds that sex differentiated grooming codes *can* be challenged on the basis that they are sexist — in no way demonstrates that Title VII does not “cover dress codes.” That’s just false.

    Davis in her post cited to to other cases as follows.

    Smith v. City of Salem

    Sixth Circuit upholds officer’s TG discrimination award

    Court says again: 1964 Civil Rights Act includes transgender and some gay bias

    by Eric Resnick

    Cincinnati–A $322,000 award to a transsexual police officer demoted by the city of Cincinnati was unanimously upheld by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on March 25.

    The decision reinforces the circuit’s position that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects transsexuals from discrimination based on sex-stereotyping, and creates more opportunity for the other eight circuits to follow suit.

    The circuit first reached the landmark conclusion in June in a case involving a transsexual firefighter. That case, Smith v. City of Salem, was the first such decision in the nation. Both cases result from the 1989 U.S. Supreme Court decision Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, which defined sex-stereotyping in a way that made the later suits possible.

    The three judge panel made seven references to the earlier case as it affirmed all the decisions made by the lower court in favor of Officer Philecia Barnes.

    Barnes filed the suit in October, 2000 after being demoted in 1999 from the rank of sergeant after the city began, according to one of her colleagues at the trial, “to scrutinize [her] and to document every mistake [she] made so that [she] could be failed on probation.”

    Barnes, who is also a former Marine sergeant and Desert Storm veteran, had a clean record as an officer for 18 years, then scored 18th out of 150 applicants on the promotion exam. She also holds a master’s degree in social work and was part of the unit that deals with issues of mental health.

    Before the promotion, Barnes, who was then male but living as a woman off-duty, had a “reputation as a homosexual” within the department, and was often photographed by the Cincinnati vice squad at night.

    The city claimed it demoted Barnes for “lack of command presence,” and because she had difficulty with paperwork.

    The city also claimed Barnes had “grooming deficiencies,” which the jury found to result from her French manicure and arched eyebrows.

    At trial, assistant police chief Ron Twitty testified that Barnes did not act masculine enough.

    The jury awarded Barnes $320,511, which included $150,000 compensatory damages, $32,511 back pay and the option to take $140,000 front pay instead of returning to the sergeant rank.

    Judge Susan J. Dlott later allowed Barnes’ attorneys Alphonse Gerhardstein and Jennifer Branch to multiply their fees, also charged to the city, by 1.75. This is allowed for difficult federal civil rights suits.

    The anti-gay Citizens for Community Values and its spinoff Equal Rights No Special Rights attempted to intervene in the case, alleging that Charter Article 12 supported the city’s position. The measure, repealed by voters last fall, was in effect at the time. Judge Dlott denied their request.

    In its appeal, the city raised 13 objections and points of error, including the jury instructions, the attorney fees, and their belief that Barnes had no claim under the 1964 act because transsexuals were not covered.

    The court dismissed all 13 as “meritless.”

    The decision was written by District Judge David W. McKeague of Michigan, who was on the case by designation. He was joined by Circuit Court Judges Ronald L. Gilman and Jeffrey S. Sutton.

    Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins

    No. 87-1167

    490 U.S. 228; 109 S. Ct. 1775; 104 L. Ed. 2d 268; 1989 U.S. LEXIS 2230; 57 U.S.L.W. 4469; 49 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 954; 49 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P38,936

    October 31, 1988, Argued
    May 1, 1989, Decided



    DISPOSITION: 263 U.S. App. D. C. 321, 825 F. 2d 458, reversed and remanded.

    DECISION: Employer shown to have considered gender in making employment decision held properly required, in federal civil rights action, to prove by preponderance of evidence that decision would have been same absent such consideration.

    SUMMARY: A woman who was employed as a senior manager by a nationwide professional accounting firm was proposed for partnership in the firm by the partners in the office where she worked, and the firm, following its usual practice, solicited evaluations of the woman from all of its partners, nearly all of whom were men. In those evaluations, which split sharply on the question whether the woman should be granted or denied partnership, her supporters strongly praised her ability and her record of securing major contracts for the firm, but a number of evaluations sharply criticized her interpersonal skills and specifically accused her of being abrasive. Several of the evaluations on both sides made comments implying that the woman was or had been acting masculine, and one partner, in explaining to the woman the firm’s decision to hold her candidacy for reconsideration the following year, suggested that she could improve her chances for partnership by walking, talking, and dressing more femininely. After the partners in her office refused to repropose her for partnership the next year, the woman resigned and brought an action against the firm in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, which action alleged that the firm had discriminated against her on the basis of sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 USCS 2000e et seq.), partly on the theory that the evaluations of the woman had been based on sexual stereotyping. The District Court (1) held the firm liable under that theory, as it found that (a) the firm and its partners had not intentionally discriminated on the basis of gender, but (b) the firm had consciously maintained a system which, in this and other partner-candidacy decisions, had given weight to biased criticisms without discouraging sexism or investigating comments to determine whether they were influenced by sexual stereotypes; and (2) ruled that, while the firm could avoid equitable relief such as an order for backpay by proving by clear and convincing evidence that it would have placed the woman’s candidacy on hold even absent the discrimination, it had not met that burden of proof; but (3) concluded on other grounds that the woman was not entitled to any relief except (a) attorneys’ fees and (b) the difference between her pay and that of a partner from the date she would have been elected partner until her resignation (618 F Supp 1109). The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (1) affirmed the District Court’s judgment with regard to liability, although it held that an employer may avoid liability, and not merely equitable relief, if it proves by clear and convincing evidence that it would have made the same employment decision even if discrimination had not played a role; (2) reversed the District Court’s judgment with respect to remedies; and (3) remanded the case for the determination of appropriate damages and relief (825 F2d 458).

    On certiorari, the United States Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals with respect to the firm’s liability and remanded the case for further proceedings. Although unable to agree on an opinion, six members of the court agreed that (1) on some showing by the plaintiff in a Title VII action that an illegitimate factor such as gender entered into an employment decision–which showing had been sufficiently made by the woman in the case at hand–the employer may be required to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that it would have made the same decision absent consideration of the illegitimate factor; but (2) the courts below had erred in requiring the defendant firm to prove this point by clear and convincing evidence.



    I will approve comments and responses in this thread so long as they are (1) substantive; (2) respectful; (3) relevant.

    If you want to hate, attack, troll, bait, lie, distract, divert, flood the thread with useless propaganda and thought-stopping cliches, go elsewhere, thanks. There are plenty of dishonest folks around who will be happy to have you.

    But I won’t.


    Posted by womensspace | October 24, 2007, 3:48 am
  37. P.S. Bolds mine. I also will not be including a link to your blog, because of your history, M. Abernathey, of slandering, defaming, and lying about feminist women, especially radical feminists. I’m not going to direct traffic to anybody who does that, including you. When you write carefully and honestly, I may reconsider.


    Posted by womensspace | October 24, 2007, 3:55 am
  38. If this Abernathey person’s presence is so fraught, why interact with his/her post at all? I’m missing the value-added, since I mentioned the very same Harrah’s case in comments I thought were substantive, respectful, relevant, honest, careful, etc…

    I don’t know anything about the law involved, but I still don’t think it’s entirely correct to say that women ARE protected from discrimination based on gender-derived appearance standards under Title VII. Maybe we can be protected under it, and maybe if/when Title VII’s pushed hard enough we will be fully protected, but currently? No, reading the Harrah case there is no way to win a case on sex-based gender-normative standards unless you can prove that what happened is sex stereotyping (meaning that the court has to believe that women AREN’T naturally like that) or that the standard places an unequal burden on men and women (meaning that the court has to believe that what happened is a hardship above and beyond what men suffer in shaving their faces daily and learning to tie a necktie). In other words, for you to win, the court has to recognize that the gendered thing that happened to you IS sex discrimination (in order to support a Title VII claim), and while feminists agree that gender enforcement is sexism, most of society doesn’t. Meaning most judges and juries don’t. So if they see it as not-all-that-burdensome (rather than discriminatory on its face) or as somehow a natural assumption (rather than a stereotype) you’re SOL.

    And the standard for proving that your full-face-of-makeup and teased/curled hair requirement was *discriminatory* is pretty hard to meet.

    In fact, the very next sentence in the Profsblawg post you quoted is: Instead, the case seems to me to represent yet another instance of the evidentiary burdens on Title VII plaintiffs being raised to ridiculous heights. I’m pretty sure we don’t need expert witnesses to tell us that a rule that women should wear makeup and men should not stems from a sex stereotype about how men and women should look.

    Except that apparently this woman did, since the result here was “of course incredibly sad for Jesperson.”

    I like the basic *truth* in Title VII – that sex discrimination is unallowable. But I’m a little uncomfortable about whether it protects enough in a society that already does view gender as a natural and immutable separate characteristic from sex discrimination, and I’m also uncomfortable with its use to protect men from gender-related issues.

    I think it’s simultaneously too hard to use on women and too easy to use on men, such that “sex discrimination” doesn’t mean a lot. And for that reason I think employment language that is mushy and broad and inclusive of all manner of gender inferences (like that in ERISA) isn’t a bad idea, necessarily. To me, it looks like it would get rid of gender-related appearance mandates without having to first prove that such standards are discrimination.

    Posted by funnie | October 24, 2007, 11:43 am
  39. Funnie, whatever you believe about sex discrimination reading Harrah Harrah is one case. I didn’t respond to your earlier comment because I thought Davis might and figured I’d wait to see if she did since she is an attorney and I’m not. Now that you’ve reminded me that you originally linked to that case (which I had forgotten) I feel irritated because I see that it wasn’t even original to M. Abernathey. It was another instance of grabbing something one feminist said and attempting to use it against another feminist, no interest in doing the homework, coming up with something original, nothing.

    Maybe we can be protected under it, and maybe if/when Title VII’s pushed hard enough we will be fully protected, but currently?

    I think the woman and the transwoman in the cases I linked up there were protected under it. Did you read what I posted there about those cases? Did you read the cases? As Davis said, in the original discussion, and I have already referred to it in my post above, over time, women and transpersons would be fully protected under Title VII, and in fact, they have been protected. That is the direction the courts have been moving. While my sense is you’ve made good points about Harrah, I would want to read the entire case to make additional response, not sure if I can today.

    If this Abernathey person’s presence is so fraught, why interact with his/her post at all? I’m missing the value-added, since I mentioned the very same Harrah’s case in comments I thought were substantive, respectful, relevant, honest, careful, etc…

    funnie, the history is, M. Abernathey (and others, Abernathey is not the only one) have made a project of demonizing radical feminists on their own blog, elsewhere on the internet, wherever women gather in woman-only space, and in real life. There are several blogs and venues on the internet which for the most part are active only when there is opportunity to lie about radical feminists or distort what we say, particular around the issue of transgender. If I completely ignored the comment (which I would have if it did not have that one line in it because the rest was trolling), I would get a bunch of incoming links, probably all caps, shreiking to the high heavens about my “censorship” and telling lies about what was attempted to be posted. You may not see why this is an issue — I didn’t see how it would be either at one time — but walk a mile in my shoes. Find yourself stalked, harassed and attacked continually, with really messed up, not-okay people willing to straight up lie, who lie when they are confronted with their lies, following you around wherever they can get to you, disrupting your discussions with tales of your “censorship” and what a bigot/hater you are and nonsense which is really unbelievable if you haven’t lived through it. Those of us who are outspoken about transgender issues, as I am, have to be careful to a faretheewell about what we do/say. One mess up, one wrong decision, one wrong word, will be used against us. These are people who support cancelling and boycotting the performances, speaking engagements, and work of women who publicly engage with their ideas in any sort of critical way. Since I am a public person, and I do engage and interact in venues in which I can be affected by this, I have to be circumspect and careful about everything I do.

    I do not mean to belabor this but need to because it’s important. Those of us who stand for woman-only space and the lives and realities of female persons face a lot of harassment, some of it rising to the level of real life, serious threats from time to time, some of it including disruption of our lives and work. I’m hoping everyone who comments here will take that into consideration. This is not just a matter of internet trolling. It is a matter of real attacks on the real life lives of real women for, for example, writing blog posts like this one, and having comments threads like this one. I continue to write and speak on this issue because I think it is important and relevant. Others do as well and providing safe space for all of us is critical. For some, this is just another internet discussion. For me, it isn’t. Everything I say on this issue I have to think about very carefully. I have to *be* careful. Nobody should take anything personally. I hope everybody will keep what I’ve said here in mind in commenting.

    Posted by womensspace | October 24, 2007, 12:16 pm
  40. I feel irritated because I see that it wasn’t even original to M. Abernathey. It was another instance of grabbing something one feminist said and attempting to use it against another feminist, no interest in doing the homework, coming up with something original, nothing.

    Yeah, that’s what I was irritated with, too – not your decisions about how to engage with the poster.

    I totally agree that it’s definitely a minefield, being outspoken on trans issues when you have concerns about the fundamental reasoning involved, and it’s definitely not my place OR intent to try to influence how you’re moderating!

    Thanks for all the thought and effort you’ve put into this thread. I’m really not sure what I think and am trying to understand what’s going on. 🙂

    Posted by funnie | October 24, 2007, 12:59 pm
  41. Sorry, my last post was kind of a cop-out. Let me try my first paragraph again:

    Yeah, that’s what I was really irritated with, too – I’m really sorry that I was distracted by it enough to frame my complaint around your decisions about how to engage with the poster.

    And also, to be cleare and more emphatic: I think the way you and others have been targeted is beyond disgusting, and I really hate the way that women silence and censor and guard themselves on the web because of what they know very well will happen if they don’t. I know they/we need to do it, but I so hate that it’s necessary.

    Posted by funnie | October 24, 2007, 1:21 pm
  42. I think Davis overstates the level of protections that gender nonconformant women have, and the uniformity with which some current protections are applied. She makes it sound as though Title VII is enough, currently, to protect women from being fired for being too masculine (well, enough to let them win a court case about having been fired). But that’s not really so.

    It is so. That it doesn’t work 100% of the time doesn’t mean it isn’t so. That the law needs development doesn’t mean that it isn’t so. So let’s stop pretending that the protections don’t exist in the law because people can find cases where they didn’t work. I have read tons of cases where people didn’t get relief for the sex and race discrimination they’ve suffered. Does that mean Title VII doesn’t prohibit race and sex discrimination? No, it doesn’t. So let’s stop splitting that particular red herring.

    One of the problems with a poorly written trans inclusive ENDA is that in discourages development of the law in the area of combatting gender stereotypes. An area of the law that has, in some cases, been extended to protect both gays/lesbians AND trans folks. (Which isn’t to say that prohibitions on gender stereotyping address the unique problems of trans folks. It comes up short there. So a trans-inclusive ENDA is a good idea. It just shouldn’t sweep too far.)

    And that’s a problem because ENDA doesn’t address gender stereotypes so much as it addresses misclassification of stereotypically gendered people. ENDA doesn’t attack gendered stereotypes, it just says, insofar as people have a “gender identity” that doesn’t match their physical body, you can’t misclassify them by expecting them to act in conformance with that physical body. You have to treat them according to the gender stereotype they want to, or do, exhibit.

    Title VII says: you can’t treat people differently based on your gender stereotypes b/c gender stereotypes are antithetical to the law.

    ENDA says gender stereotypes are true. If a woman has “masculine” behaviors or attributes, she’s expressing a “gender identity” at odds w/her physical body. And you can’t discriminate against “him” based on an inaccurate classification of “him” as “her”.

    EVERYTHING becomes evidence of “gender identity” and the focus is on the person who’s “showing” the “gender identity” and what that means. The focus is moved off of the wrongdoer and their enforcement of gender stereotypes. Because ENDA accepts gender stereotypes and really says that anybody who doesn’t conform to a gender stereotype is “really” expressing a “gender identity”.

    That’s a problem. It’s a problem because it makes the law conform to something that’s not real for most people in the U.S. MOST people aren’t expressing a “gender identity” by doing anything in particular. To the extent the law forces that p.o.v. on people, it’s wrong to do so.

    It’s also a problem because it ignores gender stereotyping law that’s already out there and, from what I’ve read, seeks to supersede that law based on something called “gender identity”. Which is wrong for the reason stated above.

    If gender stereotype protection isn’t strong enough right now, the answer is to strengthen that law because it reflects the reality of what’s happening to men and women right now. The answer isn’t to replace it with a law that forces men and women into the trans gender identity stereotype.

    Posted by Davis | October 24, 2007, 3:17 pm
  43. Hey, funnie, no sweat, thanks, and I e-mailed you back. 🙂 I know you are just working things through in your mind, as I am too, as I think we all are. Some of us have a history on feminist boards going back years and we sort of take up where we left off every so often, sometimes not really thinking about the way various considerations may have changed.

    Thanks for that clarification, Davis, much appreciated.

    Posted by womensspace | October 24, 2007, 4:22 pm
  44. I wonder what “gender identity” ENDA would say a woman was “expressing” if she had, say, very short hair and wore flowered clothing.


    Posted by Branjor | October 24, 2007, 6:13 pm
  45. They really need to come up with professional standards that are unisexual. I think hiring a woman, as a bartender for instance, under the idea that she is a commodity as a woman, because she can be hawt, and sexay, is selling sex, and illegal. It should be illegal to force women to wear makeup as terms of employment, which is no different than telling them to be hawt and sexay. Where will it stop? Requiring women to wear skirts, pantyhose? It’s already happening. But the purpose of this laws seems to have been to protect against that. Unfortunately I think the other one is just going to validate gender roles, such that if a woman wanted to wear a pantsuit and tie, she would have to prove that she is gender variant.

    Sex stereotyping and “professional” dress codes/standards based on gender hurt women because no one takes “feminine” seriously.

    Posted by Kiuku | October 24, 2007, 7:42 pm
  46. This undue burden B.S is hilarious too. If you follow that logic, all you have to do is require the men to adopt additional masculating practices and then you can force women to wear skirts and panythose and a little extra makeup, afterall it’s not a greater “burden” than what the men have to do.

    Where the -actual- undue burden comes in with forcing a woman to comply to sex stereotypes is the proven fact that sex stereotypes hurt women in the workplace.

    We should actually be looking at the purpose. If the purpose of a man shaving is to present a clean and tidy appearance, than a woman washing her face should be sufficient to present a professional appearance. Nothing about wearing makeup provides a clean appearance but rather an attractive -feminine- appearance.

    Sex stereotypes hurt women in the workplace. How is a law that at its basic premise validates gender stereotypes not going to be harmful to women’s progress in the workforce, especially considering that transsexuals already have won lawsuits and already have protection here?

    Posted by Kiuku | October 24, 2007, 8:07 pm
  47. Just wanted to give “Neitherday” a little support here.

    What strikes me is the similarity of argument between those who would limit Title VII to covering biological females and those who would oppose extending hate crimes legislation to cover gays and lesbians and anyone perceived to be a sexual minority. In both cases, opponents of the extension of protection to the newly proposed group argue that such protection isn’t needed, because existing legislation covers the proposed group already.

    For example, gay and lesbaian people are told that they don’t need ‘special protection’ because the law protects all people from unprovoked assault. If somebody assaults you he will be prosecuted under existing laws. But what is not acknowledged is that the very reason you as a gay or lesbian person are assaulted is because of your perceived sexual orientation.

    It’s important that society enact additional protections for targeted groups. We do this for police officers and politicians, because public order is threatened when representatives of the state are attacked. We should do this for all victims of hate crimes, because crimes motivated by what group someone is identified as belonging to (race, sex, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, etc.) undermine law and social order. They go beyond simple assault of one individual on another, however horrific that assault may be.

    Similarly, transgendered persons are assaulted not because they are gay or lesbian, or because they are male or female. They are attacked because their not belonging easily to some assigned sex/sexual category unnerves a lot of people. A subset of the unnerved, attacks transgendered people.

    As a lesbian with a traditional feminine appearance and many feminine social ways of behaving (often to my own rueful self-assessment!), I am much safer out on the street and than my transgendered friends. I will not be attacked as a woman who is lesbian nearly as often as friends who are women biologically but who don’t “act that way”.

    It’s so clear to me that either separate legislation or expanded Title VII legislation needs to be passed to protect transgendered persons. It’s also clear to me that objecting to the expansion of Title VII seems really, really selfish. I don’t understand radical feminists who promote this exclusivism.

    Posted by twitch | October 24, 2007, 8:56 pm
  48. Similarly, transgendered persons are assaulted not because they are gay or lesbian, or because they are male or female. They are attacked because their not belonging easily to some assigned sex/sexual category unnerves a lot of people.

    If transgendered persons are read as men or as women, they are no more likely to be attacked than other men or women are.

    If lesbians are read as men, they are as likely to be attacked as transgendered persons are.

    If gay men are read as women, they are as likely to be attacked as transgendered persons are.

    At the core of these attacks is sexism, not transphobia. At the core of these attacks is regulation of gender stereotypes. Men are supposed to dress like men, women are supposed to dress like women, says patriarchy. This is as true for transgendered people as it is true for non-transgendered people.

    A transgendered person isn’t attacked because that person is transgendered. The person is attacked because the perception is (by the mainstream, not most progressives who know better) that this is a male person who is not dressing or presenting like a man should, or a female person who is not dressing or presenting like a woman should. It’s the presentation that is being regulated and punished, not the “gender identification”. The presentation is regulated without regard to who the person in question loves, or what that person’s biological sex is or whether that person “identifies” in whatever way.

    As to denunciations of radical feminists as “really really selfish,” I think great care has been taken to explain why it is that gender identity language in ENDA will likely hurt female persons. Female persons had best get a whole lot more selfish than we are — a LOT more — or we stand to lose everything feminism and feminists have won for us. We are forever, as women, putting ourselves last, and why’s that. Because we are socialized to put ourselves last. As women, our impulse is always to put our kids first, our husbands first, men of our racial/socioeconic/ethnic group first, always before ourselves. And we have so paid for it. So. It’s time for some very healthy selfishness when it comes to our own basic humanity.

    There’s nothing “exclusive” about the defenses of Title VII. Title VII protects all people, as has been demonstrated. ENDA’s gender inclusive language will not protect women in the same way, and here, it’s all about the women.


    Posted by womensspace | October 24, 2007, 9:09 pm
  49. Uh oh..not selfish! Those horrible selfish women.

    Posted by Kiuku | October 24, 2007, 9:11 pm
  50. I think the time should be far past that women scold women for being “selfish,” honestly. That is the *least* of our worries.

    Posted by womensspace | October 24, 2007, 9:12 pm
  51. Let me know when women are protected under “hate crime” assaults as women, then we can talk.

    Posted by Kiuku | October 24, 2007, 9:13 pm
  52. Really, re women protected under “hate crime” assaults! Or raped under hate crime assaults! How often do we read crap like, “Students murdered.” “Student assaulted/raped.” When it’s a WOMAN who was murdered/assaulted/raped and not by a woman, either.

    Posted by womensspace | October 24, 2007, 9:17 pm
  53. “I think the time should be far past that women scold women for being “selfish,” honestly. That is the *least* of our worries.”

    Seriously. It has to go.

    Posted by Kiuku | October 24, 2007, 9:19 pm
  54. “Really, re women protected under “hate crime” assaults! Or raped under hate crime assaults! How often do we read crap like, “Students murdered.” “Student assaulted/raped.” When it’s a WOMAN who was murdered/assaulted/raped and not by a woman, either.”

    Exactly. Most assaults on women are committed by men. I guarantee most every assault committed on a woman has been committed on her because she is a woman. A man might assault a man because he did something or he didn’t like him as a person, but the majority of assaults on a woman happen because she is a woman. If that is not the definition of a hate crime, I don’t know what could be.

    In fact, he/she can call us selfish when women have attained full economic freedom and when women everywhere have obtained freedom from oppressive sex stereotypes. When there is no longer discrimination, when there is equal pay for equal work, and when there is no longer sex harassment, THEN you can call us selfish, sure.

    When there is nothing left to threaten then you can call us selfish, but what little progress we have made, through the blood sweat, tears and LIVES of feminists, continues to teeter and is under constant threat of being pushed back.

    Of course we stand for the oppression of all to end, but never at the expense of someone elses or our humanity.

    Women have been expected since the dawn of Patriarchy to suffer for the sake of others, any others. Is it possible that a man can be selfish, ever? No. Give it a rest.

    Posted by Kiuku | October 24, 2007, 9:26 pm
  55. To womensspace:

    You wrote:

    “If transgendered persons are read as men or as women, they are no more likely to be attacked than other men or women are.”


    “At the core of these attacks is sexism, not transphobia. ”

    My gut tells me you are wrong on these two points, the heart of the argument about the reality of transpersons’ lives, really.

    My gut tells me that you are parsing words to make a group of people who don’t fit easily under current categories of woman and man into legal categories that are meant to protect women.

    And my gut tells me that the terror that brackets transpersons’ lives, their every public moment, is a terrible burden.

    I’m not going to tell my trans-neighbor dressed in his/her Superwoman costume and locked behind his/her apartment door that he/she should go find protection under current Title VII regulations or that all he/she has to do is choose a gender to sue under.

    I will give what you and others written more thought, but my take on this is that our realities, the way we have experienced our lives thusfar, are different. We see the world differently. I don’t know how to bridge that.

    Posted by twitch | October 24, 2007, 10:10 pm
  56. Heart,

    You’re missing the point here, when you write

    “If transgendered persons are read as men or as women, they are no more likely to be attacked than other men or women are”

    A transgendered woman will not be read as a man–she’ll be read as a woman _pretending_ to be a man. That evokes vicious responses from society. That is one of the main reasons why transgender people need additional protections.


    Posted by tracy | October 24, 2007, 10:37 pm
  57. Would that you would express the same passion, twitch, for the terror that brackets female lives, our every public moment — inside of our homes, behind locked doors, and outside as well. Would that you would feel that terrible burden as most of us here do.

    You can call it your gut if that’s what you believe it to be. My hunch is it might be that engaging with female-centered persons disturbs you. We are too selfish. Given that it’s unthinkable to envision female persons putting the lives of female persons first, then we must be doing something else, like “parsing words” or being “exclusive.” Because who in her right mind would put female persons first, front and center? My god, what hubris.

    Your gut tells you we’re wrong. My lived reality as a female person tells me otherwise.

    Posted by womensspace | October 24, 2007, 10:44 pm
  58. I think you miss the point, Tracy.

    a transgendered woman will not be read as a man–she’ll be read as a woman _pretending_ to be a man. That evokes vicious responses from society.

    As a woman who refuses to conform to gender stereotypes will not be read as a man — she will be read as a woman pretending to be a man. That evokes vicious responses from society.

    In both cases the issue is refusing to conform to gender stereotypes.

    Posted by womensspace | October 24, 2007, 10:46 pm
  59. There’s nothing “exclusive” about the defenses of Title VII. Title VII protects all people, as has been demonstrated. ENDA’s gender inclusive language will not protect women in the same way, and here, it’s all about the women.

    Look, I’m not against extending protections to trans folks either through sex stereotyping precedents under Title VII or through passage of a trans-inclusive ENDA. I think additional protection for trans folks is needed. Some courts have extended Title VII to trans folks, some have not. And the way some courts have offered trans folks protection under Title VII doesn’t recognize their lives as trans folks. So there’s gaps, there’s holes, and I’m all for filling those gaps and holes.

    BUT, having said that, a badly drafted trans inclusive ENDA, which this one is, has the potential to do very bad things to women and very bad things to the law. And it cuts off very important conversations we should be having about gender and gender stereotypes and who’s “trans” and who isn’t and why we should be talking about that very seriously and why we should get some clarification on what “gender identity” is supposed to be before we start writing laws about it. Because I know FOR SURE that what ENDA describes as “gender identity” — well, it doesn’t describe me, it forces a gender on me and creates the potential that, legally speaking, I won’t be entitled to protection from certain kinds of sex discrimination if I don’t acquiesce to having somebody else’s idea of “gender identity” pushed onto me — i.e. the idea of gender and gender identity expressed by the drafters of the ENDA.

    Posted by Davis | October 24, 2007, 11:28 pm
  60. I assume twitch is a mtf? Or is speaking for them. I understand the sympathy, and I also understand, if this is a male, why he does not realize the terror women live with. Every day, every night, everywhere, for themselves, their female children, their aged mothers, any woman they see walking biking or driving alone. Anywhere.

    No. They just do not get it. They are now stunned, terrified and surprised, and mis-allocate the reason for the hatred.

    Posted by Sis | October 25, 2007, 12:26 am
  61. All I want is the enda GENDA. Period.

    Sorry, I just had to.

    Posted by Branjor | October 25, 2007, 12:49 am
  62. Dear Heart,

    So that’s your lived reality. Okay. We differ. But no need to attack my honor, intent, psychological state, or feelings toward women. I try to conduct myself online as I would in person. For that reason I am not going to launch my ship of sarcasm in your direction.

    In my opinion, some of the comments on this issue have reflected not feminist insight but rather female chauvinism. What bothers me the most about some comments and your own in the last post to me is what seems a false opposition of transpersons’ interests versus women’s interests. I see no logical opposition of these persons’ needs for rights and legal protections. And I don’t see how being female-centered abrogates one’s responsibility towards other dispossessed groups and individuals.

    I do not see how empathizing with the burden that my trans-neighbor lives with negates the burden of fear I have to live with every day as a woman. Do you really think I can accept without regret or rage the fact that I can’t walk through my favorite city park because of the prevalence of rapes perpetrated on women there? Do you think I am okay with the fact that I hang on the telephone line until my girlfriend, currently living 3,000 miles away, gets out safely from the parking garage at night? Living with the terror of rape or worse 24/7 may be like breathing for women, an involuntary muscular response learned from girlhood, but it doesn’t mean I have ever gotten used to its injustice. I just don’t think my own terror is the exclusive provenance of women. There are others, like transpersons, who live a similar reality.

    Posted by twitch | October 25, 2007, 3:09 am
  63. In my opinion, some of the comments on this issue have reflected not feminist insight but rather female chauvinism. What bothers me the most about some comments and your own in the last post to me is what seems a false opposition of transpersons’ interests versus women’s interests. I see no logical opposition of these persons’ needs for rights and legal protections. And I don’t see how being female-centered abrogates one’s responsibility towards other dispossessed groups and individuals.

    Welcome to Feminism, Twitch. No what bothers you is not female chauvinism but female centeredness. This is a woman-centered board. We put women first. We don’t advocate the rights of anyone that would threaten the rights or empowerment of women toward equality. For instance, however romanticized the fetus is in our culture, we don’t advocate the rights of preborn that would require the forfeit of the right of women. We don’t feel a “responsibility” to negate our rights and our empowerment toward equality. This is a woman-centered board, with women first. I’d say you’re new to that kind of thing.

    I see no logical opposition of these persons’ needs for rights and legal protections.

    We do. And because we do, we don’t have a “responsibility” to negate our own legal protections, and what we believe our right as women to not be discriminated against based on sex-stereotypes and our right to not have cultural gender identity forced on us as a prerequisite to legal protection. We don’t have a martyr complex, and we feel that Transsexuals SHOULD and CAN get legal protection that doesn’t involve our sacrifice which we will vehemetly fight for, but again, WOMEN FIRST. If you don’t see a logical opposition, then I understand if you support this. But you should understand why feminists who do see a logical opposition to it, won’t be swayed by being called selfish, and won’t be swayed toward emotive calls for women’s “responsibility”. We support the end of oppression of all people. Again this is Feminism and it is woman-centered.


    Too often Feminism has become about the rights of others, all and any others, women’s “responsibility” toward others, except women. I’m glad that I’ve found a truly woman-centered blog and Feminism as it needs to be, and be brought forth. Now is the time. It is desperately needed.

    Posted by Kiuku | October 25, 2007, 4:15 am
  64. female chauvinism..sounds like something an MRA came up with. It sounds -really- anti feminist. I know Heart has written some good articles on the impossibility of female and minority racism and prejudice that might help.

    Posted by Kiuku | October 25, 2007, 4:21 am
  65. Twitch: So that’s your lived reality. Okay. We differ. But no need to attack my honor, intent, psychological state, or feelings toward women. I try to conduct myself online as I would in person. For that reason I am not going to launch my ship of sarcasm in your direction.

    I appreciate that, appreciate the overall tone of your comments quite a lot, actually. But to me it feels like some of your comments have attacked my (and others’) “honor, intent, psychological state”, i.e., suggesting that we are “selfish,” or that we are parsing words(the suggestion being that we are being disingenuous), that we are promoting “exclusivism.” I’m not actually complaining about that, because in general, I appreciate what you’ve commented here. I’m saying we’ve both likely felt the pointy end of a similar stick.

    In my opinion, some of the comments on this issue have reflected not feminist insight but rather female chauvinism.

    That’s an interesting way to put it, “female chauvinism.” Chauvinism is unreasonable partisanship. I don’t know that women can *be* chauvinists wrt sexism. How “reasonable” are we obligated to be when it comes to our own liberation?

    What bothers me the most about some comments and your own in the last post to me is what seems a false opposition of transpersons’ interests versus women’s interests. I see no logical opposition of these persons’ needs for rights and legal protections. And I don’t see how being female-centered abrogates one’s responsibility towards other dispossessed groups and individuals.

    You’re right, twitch, being female-centered does not abrogate our responsibility towards other dispossessed groups or individuals. And in many ways there is no logical opposition of transpersons’ and women’s interests. I have already said in this thread, more than once, that I believe transpersons ought to enjoy human and civil rights as all disenfranchised/marginalized people should, that I support them in their insistence that they *have* human and civil rights.

    What female-centeredness means is, I am going to evaluate everything with a view towards how female persons might be affected. I, Davis and others have carefully explained our objections to trans-inclusive language proposed to be added to ENDA, i.e., it is is poorly written, it is likely to cause harm to women, it cuts off an important discussion we ought to be having about gender, like, for example, what does anybody even *mean* by “gender identity”? What is it, even?

    One reason for my own intensity and occasional (apparent) unreasonableness is, I have watched as over and over, loudmouths in the transgender movement tell progressives and feminists to “jump,” and the only response is, “Okay, by all means! How high?!” Without anybody even *bothering* to ask questions, like, “Wait, let me think about it. How is this going to affect me as a woman? Why do we need this? What is this going to mean for me?” A prime example is the torpedoeing of Catherine Crouch’s “Gendercator” in various venues, which was supported by lots of people who had never even *seen* the Gendercator and knew nothing about it. That makes no sense. Same thing with the lawsuit against VRR. Transgender persons and their advocates immediately signed on to the denunciations of VRR without evidencing the slightest interest in learning about the organization, it’s history, about the facts of the situation, about the issues involved. That’s scary, and especially in that female lives have been deeply affected, women have been hurt, by this rush to support whatever some loudmouth says is what is best for transpersons. I *want* what is best for transpersons, but I want what is best for female persons *equally*. I think it is wrong to expect female persons to be willing to always be the ones to take a back seat, to self-sacrifice. And *especially* when, if we are invited to the table, we will probably be able to hammer out the issues in ways that create the possibility at least for a win/win solution. I am not saying that transpersons do not need more legal protections than they already have. I think they do. I am saying, not at my expense. Not at women’s expense. It’s as though it is just expected that women, including feminists, should support anything transpersons want for transpersons. No. We have an obligation *to ourselves* as historically disenfranchised and marginalized people, to act in our own self-interest, in the interest of our own liberation.

    Instead of just knee-jerk signing on because Susan Stryker said so, I think women should ask, at a bare minimum, “What are we signing on to? How is it going to affect us?” Instead of this almost-panicky rush to ZOMG, absolutely, sign me up, whatever you say, who cares what it might mean down the line, for women, for transpersons, for that matter?

    I agree with you that transpersons are not safe, women are not safe, we all share many of the same fears. That’s the tragedy of all of this– that so often the view is that transpersons’ fears matter more and ought to be more central than the fears of female persons. I am not saying women matter more, our struggles are more real, I am saying women matter *as much* and our struggles are every bit *as real* and we should not be expected to go along with *anything* without being very sure, at least as sure as we can be, that over the long haul, we are not going to be hurt by whatever it is we are expected to support.

    Posted by Heart | October 25, 2007, 2:06 pm
  66. So, ok, say someone wins a lawsuit against a workplace superior for discriminating against their chosen or preferred gender identity. Can that superior then appeal to ENDA (if the employer threatens to sack him for the behavior) and claim that behaving the way he did is consonant (“gender related characteristic, blah blah blah”) with his preferred gender identity: aka, real man.

    I’m being silly, yes, as I’m ignorant of the law so I really can’t be much more than that. So this is me shutting up, even though it seems that people similarly situated have no intention of doing so.

    Still, I think it’s interesting how some people (actually, 99% of people) have gender identities only when it’s rhetorically necessary for these discussions. Hence the idea of those “real men” appealing to their right to gender expression being elided from the conversation.

    OK, we all know that [insert hated political figure] has a “gender” and it’s bad, bad, bad and he’s bad, bad, bad for it. Yet, at other times, as anybody with a “gender” is automatically a “chick” of some sort (from post op transsexuals to liberal dudes who think it’s ok to beat their wives provided they do it with a $200 riding crop from a fetish store), meaing the BAD GUYS out there can’t be in on the gender gang, too.

    “like, for example, what does anybody even *mean* by “gender identity”? What is it, even?”

    It means, like, I friended you on Myspace so you’re super cool now.

    Posted by Mr. Rich | October 25, 2007, 2:53 pm
  67. Great point, Rich. Does everybody’s “gender identity” get protected? If not, who is going to decide which ones get protected? As though we all don’t know what the answer to that one is.

    Posted by womensspace | October 25, 2007, 3:26 pm
  68. Which is why it might make sense to, for example, make an effort to define “gender identity” before we protect something without even knowing what it is we’re protecting.

    Posted by womensspace | October 25, 2007, 3:27 pm
  69. Heart,

    Running out of battery here, so I have to make this quick. Just wanted to thank you and the poster Kiuku for the last couple of posts explaining your positions on and oppositions to parts of ENDA as currently presented and written. I understand more where you are coming from. I think there is always a tension between advocating for one’s group and including others’ needs — sort of on a spectrum of separatism and all inclusiveness. Each moment in history, in each of lives or movements, needs some sort of mix of the two (and a whole lot of disagreement and discussion). I don’t have the magic bullet answer as to the right mix. I think each of us chooses along that spectrum based on the issue, the moment, our temperament, our experiences, our judgment.

    Also, I should probably say here that my use of the term selfish’, in raising the hackles of just about everybody, was a poor choice of word. Maybe “short-sighted” was what I meant more. I know that’s not going to mollify anyone who believes opposing ENDA as currently written is the right move, but at least it will emend/delete a word from the discourse that has so many implications and connotations when it comes to women standing up for themselves. I didn’t think about that word ‘selfish’ at the time, how it has been used to tell women for millenia to shut up and take a back seat. I didn’t mean it in that way at all.

    Posted by twitch | October 25, 2007, 3:47 pm
  70. Thanks, twitch. Actually I like “short-sighted” a lot better than “selfish.” I also like “wrong-headed.” I do get what you’re saying.

    I like what John Aravosis said in the second link I posted at the end of my post:

    People are simply afraid to ask any questions about this issue, and those unresolved conflicts are coming home to roost. I know I was afraid to write about this issue, and still am. I thought long and hard about even weighing in on this issue last week. Did I really want to have to deal with people screaming and calling me a bigot? And I’ve got gay journalist friends and gay political friends who have sent me private “atta boy”s supporting my public essays, while refusing to go public themselves.

    There is a climate of fear and confusion and doubt about the transgender issue in the gay community. And no one wants to talk about it. And when you don’t talk about your small concerns, when you’re afraid to talk about them, when it’s not considered PC for you to talk about them, one day those small concerns turn into big problems and the revolution comes tumbling down.

    SO TRUE. I think radical/lesbian feminists and transgender persons can, and should, be allies. But being an ally doesn’t mean asking how high when your “ally” tells you to “jump.” It means *listening* to each other, paying attention, caring about how what you are proposing affects everybody, not just your folks, and above all getting really creative, brainstorming, so solutions can be reached that everybody can really get behind and promote with energy and enthusiasm. Otherwise what ends up happening is, people get pushed too hard and they bail, say never mind, I don’t need that kind of “ally.” And we all lose.

    Posted by womensspace | October 25, 2007, 4:27 pm
  71. Gender Identity is pretty much something the Psychologists came up with whereas Gender was something Anthropologists came up with to describe a cultural ideology vs. a biological state like sex. Your sex is female but your gender is, for instance, woman. I definitely think for some reason or another people can be born identifying as the opposite -sex-, and therefore I believe, like Ghost of Violet, that sex identity is probably a better term. There is nothing biological about gender, if it varies across culture and time and it is very ethnocentric of so-called Evolutionary Psychologists to try very hard to conclude that gender is biologically determined. It gets even worse when you realize that there are not two whole separate genders, like those proposed in gender binary beliefs so it becomes really hard for me to suppose that a person could possibly have a gender identity vs. say for instance a SEX identity. A person with the wrong sex identity would naturally want to and lean toward those attributes society prescribes for that particular biological sex.

    The term sex identity could avoid certain arguments.

    The problem, really, for women is that sex stereotypes (cultural gender beliefs) have been proven harmful to women in the workforce where the majority of these discrimination litigations will take place. Does that mean that we shouldn’t have an extra anti discrimination law for individuals who, because of their sex identity, do not conform to gender stereotypes?

    As a woman, I wish that I could get the same anti discrimination protection -because I am a woman-, a human free to present a professional appearance/clean appearance that doesn’t necessarily reflect a gender, and not because I have a different sex identity. While transsexuals should also be free from discrimination on the basis that anyone should be able to present in either gender neutral or gender oppositional attire given it is professional and clean. Meanwhile it bothers me that society would extend anti-discrimination benefits to a small group before women get full protection.

    Posted by Kiuku | October 25, 2007, 8:44 pm
  72. Yeh Kiuku. Women last. A noted breast cancer advocate mentioned that many years ago, when she pointed out that the male centric medical profession, the media and the public in general did not take the breast cancer issue seriously until the BC advocates adopted the (male defined) tactics of the AIDS advocacy movement. Men you see, don’t take no for an answer; they are still, no matter what gender or orientation, still buttressed along on that tide of male privilege and entitlement.

    Posted by Sis | October 25, 2007, 9:55 pm
  73. What a notion! Women put their own interests first! Yes, we should be radically selfish. Even Ayn Rand, no feminist, thought self interest was the real course of freedom.

    When you are 53% of a population and still have men running wild in the streets, that says something about how far women still have to go.

    Does transgender serve women in the ENDA language. To tell you the truth, it’s very hard to tell. I still want the ERA passed, remember that old chestnut?

    Posted by Satsuma | October 26, 2007, 12:06 am
  74. Again with the insertion of one trans voice the discussion veers off and begins the dissolution of female needs, desires, intents and rights.

    I personally don’t give a rat’s ass over how twitch finds and finagles minor points to rebuke in this discussion. The big (IMHO) point is that having the government suddenly step in and take on the task of (eventually) having to define who is female/male or woman/man takes us down a very dark & scary road of government intervention in private lives.

    Putting ‘gender’ into the hands of politicians gives me nightmares of having to pay way too much attention to how others perceive me and having to adjust myself according to their notions of how I should be. Fuck that noise.

    Gender is about ownership and control of female agency. To see that clearly you don’t have to look any further than the fact that inanimate objects are most overwhelmingly referred to as ‘female’, particularly when they’re a source of pride. Ships, boats, airplanes, cars, etc etc . She’s a beaut, huh? ‘Mother nature’ is benign but the ‘forces of nature’ are ‘degendered’ and referred to in terms of masculine power, force and destructiveness.

    I think that putting gender into the law in this way is going to result in a new wave of institutional oppression for women in that it will now be the government’s job to police gender, develop guidelines, and deciding who has it and who doesn’t and bringing the misfits & contrarians (ie lesbians & gays) into line with the status quo.

    Posted by Amazonnights | October 26, 2007, 5:59 pm
  75. Amazonnights has some excellent points here regarding ENDA.
    Do we want the government having any say whatsoever into “gender.” With the use of “gender” I notice that women get left out of this equation.

    Gender studies, blender studies as Mary Daly once put so well.

    If women aren’t in the title, we will be made invisible again.

    So is the addition of “transgender” or “gender expression” in ENDA really about the male agenda once more distracting women from the feminist agenda?

    Is all this a distraction from the real issues that women are out of equations at every opportunity?

    I’d say that with every effort to make something institutional, I’ve seen the decline of a radical feminist politics. Whenever this male agenda gains hold of anything, even lesbians who should know better get sucked into the contamination.

    Even when lesbians actually RUN a gay and lesbian center, somehow the resources just disappear for lesbian feminist political agendas.

    So ENDA will not improve the material position of women or lesbian women. Just as having a woman secretary of state will not change the male war machine.

    When companies adopt domestic partner rules and regulations, our freedom is gone. Then we need papers from the state verifying that we are a lesbian couple, when before we could just be without any state interference.

    To tell you the truth — the LBGT agenda is just that…it’s about a coalition’s “agenda” it is not about real change that benefits women. It takes up the air in the room, and the passion and love simply evaporates.

    Do you ever get bored of an LGBT centered news cast? Have you ever seen a gay and lesbian business group actually court the military industrial complex? Well that’s what happens.

    Lesbian feminism is not about legal change in this way, and when laws get written you’d better be very careful. The government is on the verge of getting into the gender regulation game, just as the medical establishment worldwide is on the SRS band wagon. Now why would that be?

    We have to be suspicious of large institutional support of things like gender, because as lesbian feminists we reject the law itself as patriarchy. We may live within laws, but we know working to get a law passed doesn’t really serve sisters now.

    We as a lesbian feminist community need to get back into the community of support. We create the networks, we create the art, and we create the wealth. If we focus on each other, and supporting women no matter what, the way this site does, then we’ll see revolutionary progress.

    Thanks Amazonnights for pointing this out yet again! Think how radically empowering the “about this site’ statement really is. This site is for women only, period! There is no apology, there is no ambiguity, and that’s what gives the writers here so much power, so much passion.

    We have to remember what this power feels like, because we all get sidetracked with the nonsense of everyone’s issues and ways of life but our own. It is radical for women to say we come first, period end of it, no discussion on this point.

    To even say this yet again is still a radical statement!

    Posted by Satsuma | October 27, 2007, 9:14 pm
  76. Well indeed. Gender is really not about women at all. When women break out of the stereotypes we have feminist revolution. Last time I heard, there were no historical movements for freedom bred in doctor’s offices.

    Anything that has the word gender in it, is just a way to distract from women’s needs, and laws that actually protect women.

    I wondered why Mary Daly and Janice Raymond disappeared from the feminist commentary scene. I remember coming across Raymond’s “Transexual Empire” in 1980 or so, and being amazed that anyone would even consider so small a group “an empire.”

    Now the very academic programs that Daly and Raymond pioneered have rejected them. They were some of the greatest threats to patriarchy with their ideas, and as I have said to many a person who attacks Daly — you can only attack her on a personal level, but you’ve never read her books, and if you did, you’d never be able to refute her logic.

    Incidently Heart, I have my own autographed copy of “Pure Lust”– I treasure my memories of the Daly lectures I attended.
    Janice Raymond is a wonderful woman too, and I loved “Passion for Friends.”

    If you build a life using Daly’s principles, you really will be able to unmask the patriarchal tactics again and again to great personal and collective advantage.

    I call this applied lesbian feminism. I’d like to hear a blog on this applied lesbian feminism — what we’ve all achieved as a result of living this in our daily lives, and how we do this.

    Might prove very interesting!

    Posted by Satsuma | October 27, 2007, 9:43 pm
  77. Let me start by being straight forward with you by stating that I’m a pre-operative transsexual woman. You can now proceed to throw daggers at me if you wish 😉

    I would like to voice the opinion that the concerns expressed in the main article above seem very valid to me and I hope with all my heart that no woman has to ever defend her right to express herself by falsely claiming she has an incongruent gender identity that must be expressed differently from other women. She should, and I believe she can based on the case law for Title VII, always claim that sexual stereotypes should not be forced upon her.

    What the main article did not point out though is that the courts have consistently ruled that Title VII does not protect transgendered or transsexual people. As a result, in 37 states, any person perceived to be transgendered or transsexual may be fired and there is no means of legal redress for this.

    So yes, if a woman’s employer comes in one day and declares she is dressing too manly, right now she is protected by title VII. But if the employer comes in and declares that he believes her to be a transman (a female to male transsexual) based but not stated by how she dresses and fires her accordingly, she has no recourse in the courts. This is called perceived gender identity and discrimination against this is currently not prohibited by Title VII or any other section of the US Code.

    For those of you that do not believe you have a gender identity, consider how you would feel if you had ovarian cancer that metastasized, resulting in both a hysterectomy and double mastectomy. Besides the truly harrowing feeling of being devastated by the removal of your sexual organs, would you still wake up each day believing you were a woman and not something in between woman and man? I believe every woman who has posted a response would proudly declare she is a woman because she knows that to be the case both in her mind and in her heart, regardless of how her body appears.

    I do not know why God allows people to develop with a gender identity of one sex and the physical characteristics of another, but this mixed up development does occur regularly both in humans and in nature. I wish, and every other transsexual I have met has similarly wished, that I could either have been born fully female or fully male, but not a mixture of both. This has been a really tough existence trying to live in the world with the physical characteristics of a man and an identity that tells me everyday I should have been born a girl.

    I know that no one wants to loose any of her rights or to be further denigrated. I know women have been fighting for their rights for way too long and they have so far to go in their quest. But please try to show some compassion for people who for reasons beyond their control have a gender identity that does not match their physical gender characteristics, and as a result are now incapable of earning a living and providing for their children because of discrimination.

    I feel that I am a very lucky person and I still have my job. As a result, my two daughters continue to go to private colleges. Both of my daughter’s education would be terminated if my job was lost due to discrimination, as my daughter’s birth mother contributes nothing to their higher education costs. Unfortunately, I have one post-operative transsexual woman friend who is not as lucky as I am and she has been unemployed for 1 1/2 years. Her children are not as well financially cared for.

    So please try to show some compassion here. I understand your desire to not be further denigrated by men or by women who take control over women, and I understand you are fighting for your rights also. But please try understanding, though, that there are many transsexuals throughout the US, both those born male and female, that need legal protections in the workplace.

    By the way, if you wish to read the inclusive version of the ENDA bill, do a search for “H.R. 2015” on HR 3685 is the version of the bill with gender identity stripped out and HR 3686 is the version of the bill specifically protecting gender identity. If you have specific concerns about the wording of ENDA, please get hold of Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, D-WI, immediately about changing the wording of ENDA to meet your needs and concerns. This is the time for a change, not after the law is enacted.

    I hope I did not offend any one and I hope one day that you can learn to accept people like myself that just want to ease the pain of being transsexual.

    Mara Drummond

    Posted by Mara Drummond | October 30, 2007, 12:20 am
  78. I feel that I am a very lucky person and I still have my job. As a result, my two daughters continue to go to private colleges. Both of my daughter’s education would be terminated if my job was lost due to discrimination, as my daughter’s birth mother contributes nothing to their higher education costs.

    I’m very glad you still have your job.

    However, I have to ask:

    Why did the woman who brought your daughters into the world relinquish her parental rights?

    If she didn’t relinquish all parental rights, why are you referring to her as a “birth mother”?

    Why would a “birth mother” be responsible for financial support of children?

    How much money does this woman earn per year?

    (More or less than you do?)

    And: your daughters could attend even the most expensive school in the country without taking money from either you or their mother. So, no, their education wouldn’t have to be interrupted if you lost your job.

    Posted by funnie | October 30, 2007, 11:09 am
  79. And … if she is their “birth mother”, then who is their “father”?

    And how much of your line of bull do you figure your daughters buy?


    Posted by Mary Sunshine | October 30, 2007, 2:49 pm
  80. I feel that I am a very lucky person and I still have my job. As a result, my two daughters continue to go to private colleges. Both of my daughter’s education would be terminated if my job was lost due to discrimination, as my daughter’s birth mother contributes nothing to their higher education costs. Unfortunately, I have one post-operative transsexual woman friend who is not as lucky as I am and she has been unemployed for 1 1/2 years. Her children are not as well financially cared for.

    Your daughters’ education would only be terminated if they decided they didn’t want to continue their education. I am the mother of 11 children, six of them daughters. My sixth child, a daughter, graduated from a private college last June. She went on a combination of academic scholarships, Pell Grants, Stafford loans and work study. She worked her ass off for four years and graduated with honors, with only very meager financial contributions from me. I also would like to know what you mean when you refer to your daughters’ mother as their “birth mother”? Were your daughters adopted by you and later reunited with their “birth mother” and that’s what you mean? But if they were adopted by you, why would their “birth mother” be dissed by you for “contributing nothing” to their higher education costs? Maybe she contributes nothing because she has nothing (financial) to contribute? Three of my adult kids go to college right now, I work my ass off to support my children remaining at home, and I also do not “contribute” much money to anyone’s higher education, because I don’t have much left after paying the mortgage, the grocery bills, the car note and so on. This says nothing about what my contribution has been to my daughters’ lives, beginning with giving birth to them and taking care of them through adulthood and making sure they knew how to get themselves through college if they wanted to go.

    As to your transsexual friend’s unemployment, don’t even get me started on the jillions of women in the world who are unemployed or underemployed for reasons having to do with being born female.

    Please do not insult any of us by comparing MTF transsexuality/transgender with our bodily experiences as female persons, regardless the state of our breasts, uteruses or other female body parts. The two situations are not comparable.

    I think progressive/feminist female persons have shown so much compassion for transgendered/transsexual persons that we’ve caused harm to our own lives. We don’t have our own spaces, unless we don’t tell anybody anything about them and keep them secret. The tiny number of female spaces people know about have been, and continue to be, routinely violated and disrespected, including via lawsuits brought by transsexual/transgendered people which have closed some of our organizations down and have cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars, which could have been used, for example, to support victims of rape and domestic violence. Our artists are boycotted and their performances canceled because they perform in this tiny number of female only venues. This even though the venues are not actually female only, even, because they are egregiously and regularly disrespected and violated by transgendered and transsexual persons. So I’ll thank you to reconsider scolding us about our level of “compassion.” I have compassion for struggling female artists and rape/dv advocates and organizations (and victims) who have had to pay dearly because of all of this “compassion” shown by their sisters, which has routinely and regularly been shat upon by a certain number of transgendered/transsexual persons.

    If it’s true that transgender persons are not consistently protected under Title VII, and I think it may be based on what Davis has said, then let’s work on getting those protections. *But not in ways that will cost female persons.* Let’s think a little bit before we urge anyone to pass an ENDA which includes language which will hurt female persons, and before we insist ZOMGS no ENDA unless this (harmful to female persons) language is included.

    Posted by womensspace | October 30, 2007, 4:42 pm
  81. 🙂

    Posted by funnie | October 30, 2007, 4:54 pm
  82. To the person who attempted to comment and wondered whether any of us here knew any transpersons, please read this thread:

    My experience is, leaving aside transpersons themselves, those who are the loudest and quickest to take up the offense against female-centered persons in issues around female-only space are the ones most likely to themselves have never actually known any transpersons.

    Note: this thread is going to be strictly moderated, as all my threads are, nevertheless, just letting everyone know. We’ve already had lengthy discussions of transgender issues (see link, for example). We are not going to revisit and rehash all of those issues in this thread.


    Posted by womensspace | October 30, 2007, 4:55 pm
  83. Well we’ve got a lot of commentary here, and I understand Heart’s desire (always wanted to use that phrase) to keep us all on point here.

    The issue of jobs is kind of a red herring here. We need to examine all potential bills for the potential harm they might actually do to women.

    I am going to sound selfish here, but after 30 + years of feminist activism, there a dozens of jobs I never got, promotions I got way behind men, clients lost, colleagues who were hostile to me in the work place etc. etc. I don’t really depend on laws for protection at all, because as a lesbian feminist, the law is about patriarchy.

    So I am not going to support any proposed law that will in any way hinder the cause of women. Never again… (remember those two words?)

    One thing I’ve chosen to do is to not sue or attack patriarchy in jobs, but to encourage and work with women so that women become more powerful.

    I have nothing personal against any transgendered person, and base every ally or friendship on the character of the person. The truth is, I am far more generous with gay men, straight men, MTFs, FTMs, straight women… wow what a long list we have, then these groups have ever been with me.

    Every day, I am in business settings where women are made fun of — the little jokes, a man who pinched my butt last week at a party… and on and on it goes.

    We are dealing with patriarchy here in all its evil forms.

    The rights of transgender persons have the same fragility as my existence as a lesbian feminist, and the irony is, I have come to the defense of transgender people many times.

    What I get angrier than hell about is how transgender activists try to shut down our movies at film festivals, invade rape crisis centers, and help to ban lesbian singers at Dyke marches. That’s what makes my blood boil.

    It is the constant devaluing of women’s space that is a crime and an attack on the very feminists who fueled the movement in the first place.

    Why do feminists make spaces for others, when it gets turned against us every time? Now why is that?

    These questions are for Mara Drummond, who I think is not an attorney. If you’ve had as much experience as I’ve had with patriarchal use of the law, then you really should be weary.

    But you haven’t had this life experience at all as a seasoned feminist activist. So you don’t know how this all goes down eventually.

    I’m not throwing daggers at you, and I certainly wouldn’t want you to lose your job for any reason. That’s not what I’m saying.

    Let me put it simply: if a new law turned out to punish or hinder women or lesbian feminists, but gave rights to MTF transgendered persons, you would vote for the proposed law at our expense without thinking or knowing what you had done!

    You should be writing to the Boston Dyke March committee with your outrage over a lesbian singer being banned!

    Most of the transgender women I’ve met are excellent people, but hopelessly politically clueless. They have no idea what sexism and the hatred of women really is all about. It’s an ignorance based on no life experience and no political credentials.

    We are in a real war against women right now, in case you haven’t been watching the rise of FOX news and religious fundamentalism. The stakes are very high, and I will not in any way endanger the rights of women. I will not take chances on the rights of women who were once men to make any laws at all. I hate to be so harsh on this point, but I truly hate male supremacy in all its forms.

    Some idiot out there is going to call my LIFE a gender construct! Geez 10,000 goddesses in India! Kind of reminds me of dopey straight people who refer to lesbian life as a “LIFESTYLE.”

    Posted by Satsuma | October 30, 2007, 6:52 pm
  84. Would someone please explain how Title VII provides legal protection to someone like Peter Oiler? Because case law syas otherwise.

    The court relied heavily on the case of Ulane v. Eastern Airlines Inc., 742 F.2nd 1081 (7th Circuit, 1984), cert. denied, 471 U.S. 1017 (1985). Ulane involved a male airline pilot who was fired after attempting to return to work as a woman following sex reassignment surgery. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the word “sex” in Title VII meant “biological sex,” not “sexual preference” and/or “sexual identity.” Many courts after Ulane, came to the same conclusion.

    In Oiler’s case, the Louisiana District Court also came to that conclusion. The court found that being “trans-gendered” or suffering from a gender identity disorder, was not a characteristic based on “biological sex.” The court also concluded that terminating Oiler for cross-dressing was not a situation where Oiler had failed to conform to a gender stereotype. The court noted that Oiler’s situation was not simply a matter of an employee of one sex exhibiting characteristics associated with the opposite sex. Instead, it involved a person of one sex assuming the role of a person of the opposite sex.

    The court noted however that the court’s function was simply to construe the law in accordance with the proper statutory construction and judicial precedent. The court declined to make a moral judgment or a “just cause” decision.

    Oiler’s other claim was that he was the victim of disparate treatment because Winn-Dixie did not terminate the employment of female employees who dressed in men’s clothing. Apparently, the only evidence Oiler submitted that involved female employees wearing male clothing involved female employees who wore jeans, plaid shirts, and work shoes while working in Winn-Dixie’s warehouse. The court found no evidence that these women were trans-gendered or that they were cross-dressers; in other words, the court found no evidence that they impersonated men and adopted masculine personas or had gender identity disorders. As a result, the court concluded that the women were not similarly situated to Oiler and that there could be no disparate treatment on that basis.

    Based on all the foregoing analysis, the court issued summary judgment for Winn-Dixie and dismissed Oiler’s complaint.

    ENDA, with a provision of “gender identity and/or expression” would provide protection to folk’s like Peter Oiler.

    Posted by Donna | October 30, 2007, 8:02 pm
  85. By “birth mother” I meant to distinguish between the woman who bore my daughters versus their step-mother (I was married twice). I proudly fathered my daughters, consider myself to be their father regardless of my transition and I have raised them to the best of my ability. I waited until both of my daughters reached adulthood and were in college before going forward with my transition out of respect for their needs while growing up. I never plan to stop supporting my daughters.

    With regards to their birth mother, she decided to remarry 15 years ago and had 6 additional children from that marriage. As a result she has no income of her own (her new husband supports her financially) as she is taking care of the children from the second marriage at home. This is why I pay all of the costs associated with my daughters’ college educations and why I do not ask her to contribute financially. She legally give me full custody and responsibility of my oldest daughter 7 years ago as a result of problems that arose between her and my daughter. She has never given one dime of support since that time for her care. They currently see each other roughly twice a year, an hour at Christmas and an hour or two during the summer. Sadly, they generally do not communicate in between these visits.

    Both of my daughters are doing very well with my changes. My oldest daughter is my most adamant supporter. She will be graduating this spring with her undergraduate degree in Graphic Design and a minor in Print Making. She currently has a cumulative 4.0 GPA. My youngest daughter still loves me very much and is trying to deal with her fears of being rejected by her peers as a result of being the daughter of a transsexual, which is something she is slowly coming to grips with. She has two and 1/2 years before she graduates from college and she has a 3.96 cumulative GPA.

    Getting back to ENDA, it appears that women have valid concerns with its wording and how it may negatively impact them. I would just like to suggest that maybe we all should be working together instead of attacking each other so no person or group is accidentally hurt by this legislation should it ever be enacted in our lifetimes (I’m not holding my breath on this one).

    Rep. Barney Frank’s office drafted the original legislation and has been responsible for the current splitting of the legislation into two pieces. It appears though that Rep. Tammy Baldwin may be leading this fight into the future. There is a coalition of groups that came together to form United ENDA ( that is pushing to get this legislation passed. Maybe a group of women from womensspace could contact the leaders of United ENDA and bring your concerns to their attention.

    I would strongly suggest you try to get a visit with Rep. Tammy Baldwin’s office on Captial Hill and voice your concerns directly to her or her office staff. You don’t have to be a paid lobbyist to do this. Anyone can visit Congress or local congressional offices and speak their mind. Don’t just voice your opinions here on a website. Let the people in power know you have legitimate needs and concerns that need to be addressed. Write letters. Visit in person. Be heard.


    Posted by Mara Drummond | October 30, 2007, 8:51 pm
  86. I would just like to suggest that maybe we all should be working together instead of attacking each other so no person or group is accidentally hurt by this legislation should it ever be enacted in our lifetimes (I’m not holding my breath on this one).

    Yes, I definitely agree that we all should be working together and not attacking each other. My experience is, as female persons, whenever we stand unapologetically for female persons, we are attacked for it, including by a specific subset of transgender/transsexual persons interested in making a project out of us and who generally have no clue what our actual politics or views are. I would like to see that come to an end as a good first step.

    I’m glad you seem to have taken your responsibilities to your daughters seriously. I am still bothered that you call your daughters’ mother their “birth mother” though. If you obtained full custody of your oldest daughter seven years ago, she would have been a teenager or very close to it at that time, given that she is graduating from college this spring. I’m thinking she must have been about 15. That means her mom was in her life for many years before she gave you custody. The fact that your daughter and her mom aren’t getting along right now doesn’t change that, and doesn’t mean they won’t get along well in the future, work things out together. In the meantime, you didn’t say much about your younger daughter. So I’m still not sure what calling your ex their “birth mother” was about.

    As far as not providing one dime of support, you are able to send both your daughters to private college. That means you are very well off and can handle it. Why would you mention how much money your daughters’ mother has paid in child support in this thread? What does that have to do with anything? Including how good a mother your daughters’ mother may have been? Teenage girls at odds with their mothers is unfortunately not that unusual under male heterosupremacy, and especially given what I am seeing here: a father who is transitioning, a transwoman who calls her daughters’ mother a “birth mother” and who publicly derides her for failing to provide a thin dime, apparently, over the last seven years, even though she is completely able to foot the bill for two daughters in private school. I could understand complaints about lack of child support if your ex was in a position to provide it and you were suffering and struggling. But that is not the case.

    You should never assume that what women write here is the sum total of their activism. Take a look at the tab on the top entitled “Practical Radical Feminism” to get some idea of the level of activism all of us here engage in. It’s beyond annoying that you think it’s up to you to tell us how to do our own activist work.

    Posted by womensspace | October 30, 2007, 9:15 pm
  87. I generally just refer to my daughter’s mother as their mom. I used “birth mother” in this post to distinguish my first ex-spouse who bore my daughters from my second ex-spouse who helped worked hard to help me raise them for over a decade. I’ll use mom from this point out. I did not mean to offend anyone with the term birth mother and I apologize if i did.

    My oldest daughter came to live with me when she was 13 and in the first half of 8th grade (I guess this is 8 years ago now as she is 21 now). She had become very depressed due to the poor relationship that existed between her and her mom. She had wanted to live with me for years but her mom would not give up her custodial rights to me. When the school, doctors and the courts intervened, I took full custody of her, got her all kinds of counseling and psychiatric support and she has grown up to be an incredible young women.

    My daughter and her mother had a conflict that had nothing to do with male heterosupremacy. It had to do with my daughter having an Inattentive Activity Deficit Disorder (Inattentive ADD). Her mom failed to recognize this problem. She punished and harrassed my daughter daily because she believed my daughter was being disrespectul to her authority. This harassment got to the point where my daughter wanted to kill herself. When my daughter came to live with me, I got her the appropriate psychiatric care. With medication, counseling and a parent who cared for her properly she was able to overcome the inattentive ADD and the depression to become a beautiful (inside and out) young woman.

    My youngest daughter continued to live with her mom for six years despite attempts to get the courts to allow her to come to live with me. Her mom freely gave up custody of my oldest, but fought tooth and nail to keep the younger. I thought this was sad that two daughters were split by the court. Part of the reason for this split was that my youngest daughter was told by her mom during the custody battle that I was transgendered in an effort to turn her against me. Although my daughter reacted negatively for the first year or so after being told this, being an intelligent young woman she realized over time realized that I was a really great parent. We have a wonderful relationship at this time despite her mom’s efforts to destroy it.

    As you surmise, I do make a very good living from my current job. Being able to have a very good job is one of the things I always took for granted prior to transitioning. Transitioning has awoken me to the discrimination that exists in society towards both women and towards transsexuals. I realize that no matter how hard I try, though, I will never be able to realize all the discrimination and prejudices each of you as women may have felt in your lifetime or witnessed in the other women you have helped support.

    Having my transition made public at work came with a huge risk. If I would have lost my job, the odds of finding work while transitioning would have been low. As a result, I would have lost my home, which is also my daughters’ home, and I would have lost the ability to pay for my daughter’s education. I’m not rich and I don’t have the savings to pay the $60K is costs for college each year without a job.

    The point of this is that people look at me and other transsexuals in disdain and say that we deserve whatever hardships fall upon us. But they don’t realize we have families who are dependent on our ability to support them. When I’m discriminated against, its my family and in particular my daughters who feel the brunt of the discrimination.

    My daughter’s are incredible young women that I am so proud of. They are the people you are supposed to championing for as feminists. When I’m hurt through discrimination, they are hurt. Its that simple.

    Nobody deserves to be discriminated against in employment. Not women. Not transsexuals. If you can do the job you deserve to have the job. If you do the job well, you deserve to be paid fairly. No one deserves to be harassed, intimidated, threatened, assulted, sexually assulted or worse on the job because of their gender, gender identity or how they express either. Its sad we have to even ask for this protection.

    Posted by Mara Drummond | October 30, 2007, 10:09 pm
  88. Here we go with the cisgender rubbish. No, they don’t want to define us! Right.

    Posted by E. K. "Kitty" Glendower | October 30, 2007, 10:36 pm
  89. Kitty, that comment wasn’t supposed to be approved, so I de-approved it, sorry you (or anyone) had to come across it.

    Mara, I completely agree with you that nobody deserves to be discriminated against on the basis of sex, race, who they love, whether or not they are transsexual/transgendered, class, ethnicity, religion, marital status, size, age. We are in complete agreement there. I *do* support you in your demand for justice, as I support all transgender/transsexual persons in their demands for justice. In no way, shape or form should your transsexuality be used against you, to keep you from housing, out of jobs, to ostracize or harm you in any way. This kind of discrimination is *wrong* and I am completely willing to stand alongside you there.

    I am saying that the language which is used to protect you against this discrimination ought not cause harm to female persons. We have to find words and language which protect all of us, not some at the expense of others. That’s what Davis’s post here was about.

    As to the rest of your comment, I think patriarchy/male heterosupremacy has *everything* to do with issues around ADHD, with diagnoses of ADHD being contested, and with what I’m guessing — very educated guess, though — are the reasons your ex has six children and punished your daughter as you describe. These are *political* issues. These are *feminist* issues. All allopathic diagnoses are feminist issues and especially as they are applied to females, and particularly female children.

    But that’s another thread, for another day.

    We can stand along side one another, if we can agree that the lives and realities of female persons, those born female, raised girl, lived as girl and woman all of our lives, are *as important* as the lives of transgendered/transsexual persons.


    Posted by womensspace | October 30, 2007, 11:06 pm
  90. I think it’s pathetic and miserable that on a woman centered blog one should have to assert that women’s lives are “as important” as transgendered/transsexual lives. I am a woman, a woman gave birth to me, all the love and warmth I have ever known has come from women. Women are basic to the human species, I think, in a way that men are not. I agree that everyone, women, trangender/transsexual persons, men, deserve justice and to be protected from discrimination, but if I have to make a choice, women are more important to me.

    Posted by branjor | October 31, 2007, 12:42 am
  91. I can agree… Thanks… Mara

    Posted by Mara Drummond | October 31, 2007, 12:45 am
  92. I feel embarrassed to state this in what I consider the august presence of great woman thinkers(*1),but some ,at least this trans-woman, look to great thinking women,as yourselves as role-models and inspirations for honest women’s lives. Now, here is MY quandary. How can a feminist aware mtf woman, avoid “colonizing” when this person wishes greatly to avoid doing the wrong thing? IF this colonizing is also merely who I feel I am? I would never try to sneak into mwmf? Someone EXTREMELY ashamed to be even vaguely associated with Kimberly Nixon and her (sorry,have to say) wrong fight with VRR? I try to study and understand,and I’m still not sure how to avoid being a colonist,tho I want to,avoid being that.

    To the original point?

    I don’t think that any law should be passed that removes
    from the legal potential of ,or disrespects women; maybe
    just because I feel rather invest legally on this side of the
    line (there is a lot more to it than that,I’m sure you realize,
    but it is a objectivist-type statement of blatant (hence more
    believeable) self interest).

    My fear is that regardless of how I ,or any analyst,like
    Davis interprets it ,is how it will be enforced and thought of
    that there will be un-intended and un-exepected consequences we can’t envision now.


    (*1) yes, I read heart and few others
    (*2) unreferenced, I’m honestly not trying to suck up.

    Posted by Diane | October 31, 2007, 3:01 am
  93. Mara, another thing I wanted to say:

    The point of this is that people look at me and other transsexuals in disdain and say that we deserve whatever hardships fall upon us.

    I cannot tell you how deeply I despise this kind of hatred and vindictiveness you are describing here. It is in large part the reason the world, for most people, is a miserable place right now. I have never lived in a time, in all of my life, of such deep and unapologetic and ugly hatred– of everybody, by everybody! All sorts of people, all across the political spectrum and apolitical people as well, pride themselves in how ruthlessly ugly they can be towards other people. And find themselves to be so smart and funny when they can humiliate someone or score points at his or her expense.

    I detest this. I think it is horrible and I want no part of it. It’s what makes the world hell, for most people.

    I am a radical feminist, first and foremost, because I believe in love. More than anything else, I want a world in which all people can love and be loved and can know that there is no coercion or force or shame or blame or vindictiveness, control, power-over in the love that they receive and give. I don’t think we can get to that, as female persons, so long as we remain second class citizens. I center my life around justice for female persons first and foremost because it’s the only path to relationships, institutions, a world which is characterized by love. I’m not resistant to this ENDA language or to intrusions on female spaces because I’m mad at anybody, including men, or because I hate and want away from anybody, or because I think some human beings are more worthy than others. My politics are what they are because if the world is ever to change, female persons must be free. If I am ever to know real love in my lifetime, I have to be free. I may die trying to get to this, but the struggle will still be worth it to me.

    I’m saying this to say that I do not for one moment wish ill on you or any person, honestly. I don’t wish for harm to befall anyone. I don’t want anyone in the world to hurt– ever not ever again. My acting out of a core commitment to female persons has to do not only with my own love for women, has to do not only with what I’ve suffered in my life or what I want for my daughters and sons, it has to do with what I want for the whole world. I am personally diminished and harmed by *all* hatred, including of the type you describe in that sentence and I am *so* against it. I oppose war. I oppose capital punishment. I oppose the prison system. I oppose violence of all kinds and dominance and submission of all kinds, the whole paradigm by way of which the strong hurt the weak, or the stronger hurt the weaker, I oppose.

    I just wanted to say that.

    Posted by womensspace | October 31, 2007, 3:20 am
  94. Diane, I think you already know how to avoid colonizing; your own words are the evidence. You care enough to wonder and especially, to ask, and to give thought to the importance of language. You recognize that words matter and that they can have consequences down the road for all of us, and for that reason, we have to think deeply about what those consequences might be. What is of central importance is that we respect one another, care enough about each other to consider, deeply, whether whatever we give our support to will be good for all of us over the long haul, and if we can’t agree, agree that we will keep talking, keep working at it until we can.


    Posted by womensspace | October 31, 2007, 3:37 am
  95. The whole point here is to be careful of alliances, and to be very careful what you allow into the language of law.

    Women are very powerful right now, and have a kind of drive and access to education and jobs unheard of just 30-40 years ago.

    I have seen a lot of groups receiving more support than lesbians, but I am perplexed as to why lesbians get involved in the struggles of others who have no intention of “payback.”

    It is very hard for men to really imagine how sex discrimination works, and even Mara now gets that now that she has become a woman. How she is treated is pretty much how all very out and outspoken lesbians are treated in the straight world.

    This is one of the few spaces that demands that women be given # 1 status in everything, and we are number 1.

    I don’t value other groups as much as I value women. It’s not that I hate or even dislike MTF or FTM or even men for that matter. But I don’t care about them the way I do women, and I wouldn’t fight as hard for anyone’s rights other than my own.

    I’m single minded, and when men are like this they become national heros. When women say we’re number 1, our cause is the best in the world, we want statues on the boulevard, and parades and museums in our honor. This choice to be number 1 is the sign of mental health in women.

    The care of others at our own expense has been our downfall throughout all of HIS-story.

    It is unfortunate that MTF and radical lesbians clash, but we are two very different species. By nature, the radical lesbian feminist doesn’t even support the family — we don’t support straight norms. We are a fighting people to my mind. We are the women warriors, and I see myself riding a horse with my saber and going to war against any who would oppose our rule in our own lands. We rule, we conquer our enemies, and we show little mercy. I really get annoyed with mercy and kindness to my enemies. They are just that, enemies, plain and simple.

    At least I have the sanity to see an enemy and not marry one for goddess sake!

    Posted by Satsuma | October 31, 2007, 8:42 am
  96. I think if some of us — a lot more of us — don’t put female persons first, then female persons will not be free. I am committed to the wellbeing of female-persons, and unapologetically so.

    I do, though, think men can change. Yes, it’s an old argument in radical/lesbian feminist circles. Can men change? Is there any hope for men? Are they naturally ___________?

    Despite what I’ve been through in my life, despite what I know men to be capable of, I think men can change. I’ll go a step further and say I think men *have* changed, in my lifetime, because of feminism. And I think they will continue to change. I don’t think a Y chromosome equals/predestines/predetermines violence/rape/mayhem/cruelty/woman-hatred in the person who has the Y chromosome. I think a Y chromosome means that the person who has it is going to be treated, from birth, as though he is entitled to certain things and that that makes his reality, his experience of the world and of people and animals, different from mine and all female persons’.

    My 29-year-old son is getting married in January to his beautiful and wonderful and amazing girlfriend of many years. He is *so lucky* and I am so lucky that she will be in my life. She is an only child, and the wedding is going to be formal and elaborate. We all got together this past weekend, the families and the wedding party, my sons’ friends and his fiance’s friends, their partners and babies, etc.

    I was watching my sons’ friends, whom I’ve known since he was a teenager. Two of them are married with babies. I was sitting next to one of them and holding his little son, 10 months old, tiny little dude, because he was born very early. He was actually one of a set of twins, and his brother died at birth. He was in the hospital for a long time. But he’s catching up. Though he’s tiny for his age, he is quite sturdy and was “standing” on my lap, chewing my necklace, grabbing my hair, and so on, very active. I was talking to his dad who was explaining everything that had happened during his wife’s pregnancy and her and the baby’s long hospital stay. He told me about the heart problems his son had had, all the ins and outs. After a bit he went and got a bottle for his son and held him and fed him quite tenderly, as we continued our discussion of pregnancy and birth and babies and doctors and his son’s development and so on.

    That’s new. That is a change, in my lifetime.

    I grew up in a household in which the men and boys did not, as a rule, care for the babies. They might hold them for a minute or play with them, but they didn’t feed them, change their diapers, and they didn’t educate themselves about child development, pregnancy, birth, etc. That was women’s work.

    The husband with whom I had seven children, in the 19 years I was married to him, probably changed a diaper less than five times, in the course of raising nine children together, because I had two babies when I met him. He *never* cooked a meal, ever, or fed a child. Never. And would not have. That was women’s and girls’ work– to feed the children, themselves, and *him*.

    But these young men, these friends of my sons and daughters– they are different. There has been a global, sea change, in the U.S. around the issue of caring for children. Yes, there’s a long long way to go. Yes, it is disgusting the way some men expect medals for doing what women have always done because it was expected. Yes, it is disgusting that some women go ga-ga-goo-goo because a man is taking care of his own child, as though that is extraordinarily… I don’t know. Selfless or something. And yes, there are plenty of men who pretend to be great dads in public and don’t do a damn thing at home.

    Be all that as it may, nevertheless, men have changed. In my lifetime. I see it. There’s a long way to go, but I still see it. Even pretending to be a good dad in public while being a shitty dad at home is a big change. It means there is social pressure on men to *be good and attentive and nurturing dads*. That is an important change.

    And I believe it will continue. That’s not where my own heart is, i.e., my own life is not about getting men to change, see the light. I don’t think I or any woman can do that, meaning get men to change. Men have to change because they decide to, want to and encourage each other to. But I think as feminist women we can be proud of the fact that the general consciousness of the population in the U.S. has been raised. I think we can be proud of the way the bar has been raised so far as certain kinds of male behaviors. Of course the progress is not what any of us would like to see. We still live, in general, in a misogynist, sexist, male heterosupremacist world. I oppose all of the mechanisms which allow for its continuance, including the traditional family, civil marriage, and so on, and that is part of my own focus as a feminist. Still and all, pessimistic as I generally am, I do find reason to continue to hope, and plenty of reason for feminists to be proud.

    So I am not one who thinks that men qua men are doomed to be _______________. I think they can, and should, change and I look for them to continue to change, and I think they will continue to.

    While in my moments of rage and bitterness, and I still have those from time to time, I do feel as though I wish all women would leave all men behind and forget about them and stop pouring all of that amazing women’s energy into their relationships with men — because I do believe that most of what passes for love in het relationships is actually traumatic bonding — I don’t think women are desecrating themselves in having relationships with men. I also don’t think that partnering with men, even bad men, means a woman doesn’t have good sense. There’s a saying in ex-cult-member circles: “Nobody ever joins a cult.” And, nobody ever does. People trust. They believe. They risk. A beautiful picture is painted for them of this community of love to which they are invited, and they step over the threshhold, and then they find that they have been deceived. They have been lied to. They are actually a member of a cult. But they never knowingly or intentionally joined it; it was bait and switch. I don’t think they should be targeted for judgment or recriminations of any kind. The cult leaders, those who benefit directly from leading the cult, are wholly to blame for the way they destroy peoples’ lives and lie to them.

    It’s no different for women. Nobody ever marries an abuser. She trusts. She risks. She loves. A beautiful picture is painted for her of a loving relationship, and she walks into it with so much hope, and learns too late, after she is trapped and ensnared, that she was lied to, not just by her husband but by the whole world, and now she is alone to make sense of the prison she is living in. I don’t think we blame her for trusting, or risking or loving. She was doing the best she knew how to do in the circumstances she found herself in, and she deserves our support in getting free. And our continued dedication to finding more and more ways to keep women from becoming similarly ensnared.

    Well, this is long. I do, in fact, think radical lesbian feminism and separatism are amazingly beautiful and inspiring, no question. I think, though, that it is wrong headed to judge or blame women for the choices they make in this messed up world, no matter their choices. I think believing men can’t change is also counter productive and wrong headed and just not true.

    So, those are my thoughts at the moment.


    Posted by womensspace | October 31, 2007, 1:50 pm
  97. ***I oppose all of the mechanisms which allow for its continuance, including the traditional family, civil marriage, and so on, and that is part of my own focus as a feminist.***

    Civil marriage is a mechanism of a misogynist, sexist and male heterosupremacist world. So is roman catholic marriage, in spades.

    Posted by branjor | October 31, 2007, 2:11 pm
  98. ***While in my moments of rage and bitterness, and I still have those from time to time, I do feel as though I wish all women would leave all men behind and forget about them and stop pouring all of that amazing women’s energy into their relationships with men***

    But, you see, that is when men, if they are going to change at all, will change the most. That is why you are seeing some change in the young men of today, even if they are only public, not private, good fathers. The second wavers *did* threaten to leave men entirely behind and that is the scond wave’s legacy to this day. That legacy is a good part of the reason (I think it is *mostly* the reason) why men have made any changes at all. “If you don’t, your women will leave you.”

    Posted by branjor | October 31, 2007, 5:16 pm
  99. Heart,

    That was a beautiful piece you just wrote in post #96.

    May I add one thought? It is from talking, and yes, sometimes debating, that we expose ourselves and others to new ideas, new ways of looking at things.

    I am reminded of this many a Monday night when some friends gather for dinner and wine and talk at a house in Farmington, Connecticut. There are usually four of us — two women and two men. Sometimes we end up hurting one another’s feelings in the midst of putting forth our experiences, our judgments, our disagreements. We make nice. We move on. I hope that we grow and change. Overall, it’s really been a tremendous experience.

    I’ve learned more about upstate Connecticut politics, computer programming, The World of Warfare computer game, science fiction, music, electronics, attitudes toward pot, growing up in Van Nuys, living in a rustbelt town, the Philippines, depression, Pearljam, etc. than I ever imagined. And some of them have learned more about politics, feminism, lesbian experiences, a passion for language, sixteenth century European history, etc. than they probably thought imaginable.

    I’m moving tomorrow to San Francisco, my home town. I will miss those conversations in Farmington.

    Posted by twitch | October 31, 2007, 5:37 pm
  100. Branjor, I disagree with you. I do not believe that people change — other than in transitory, superficial ways — because they are threatened, made to be afraid, punished, disciplined or coerced. I don’t think other than a very small number of men in the U.S. has changed out of fear women wouldn’t want them. There have always been a Godzillian of women who would, for one thing, no question, and they knew that, we all do. I think feminism has been responsible for the raising of consciousness of the vast majority of Americans, even when they deny it. There’s plenty of feminism, for example, amongst conservative Christian women (which they deny), and thats really the reason for the Patriarchy/Quiverfull movements, etc., to rein all of that in.

    This is a very basic disagreement we have as to feminist strategy, and I am not really inclined to hash it out here right now, just being honest and up front. I do not believe, generally — with some exceptions, this is a huge subject, complex, multilayered — in coercion, other than in very limited ways and for limited purposes, with many, many qualifications. I do not believe in causing people to be afraid, or using whatever “power over” we may have, in the attempt to get what we want, even if we think what we want is right, just, best for everybody and so on. I think that’s a hair of the dog that bit us and in the end is counterproductive and ineffective. It doesn’t create a new world. It’s just using the weapons used against us, this time against men. That’s not revolution, that’s paybacks. And the world we would “build” that way would be same old same old, just with women on the top of the hierarchy this time instead of men. Maybe I’ll post something from Beyond Power by Marilyn French on this, though honestly, I really don’t think I have time to do justice to this type of discussion, and I probably won’t be able to give it much time right now.

    Thanks, Twitch. Your group interaction sounds interesting! And good luck on your move back to San Fran.


    Posted by womensspace | October 31, 2007, 6:05 pm
  101. The change was not transitory, Heart, because they found that they *liked* it to some extent and it kept many women from leaving them. The change, however, *was* catalyzed by the threat of women’s leaving them. As for “a godzillion of women who would want them, no question” I think that for a brief instant in history, what men knew was that there was a godzillion of women who wouldn’t want them and more women seemed to be joining those every day. Whether or not it was actually true that women would leave men en masse, for a brief instant in hisstory it seemed as though they might. That is also why abortion was legalized, as Sonia Johnson said in Wildfire.

    Posted by branjor | October 31, 2007, 6:23 pm
  102. Just to clarify further, I was *not* suggesting that women leave men as a strategy to get them to change. It is only something to do if you actually *want* to, for positive reasons of your own. I was only saying that the spectre of women leaving men did in fact catalyze some changes on their part. I personally do not care if men change or not.

    Posted by branjor | October 31, 2007, 7:09 pm
  103. The majority of those second wavers who turned their backs on their male partners live the lives Satsuma scorns; in poverty, scorned by the women who’s admission to universities and careers we put our bodies on the line for, so stupid were we.

    Posted by Sis | October 31, 2007, 7:21 pm
  104. Many are also resented by their adult children and their extended families because they left their children as part of their feminism. They had a right to do that but they were severely punished for it, not only by their kids/family but by a surrounding culture which (1) tells women they “chose” to marry/have kids when most women do no such thing, even when they marry and have kids, it’s bait and switch, it’s mass delusion, it’s hope, it’s trust; (2) tells women who have abandoned their children they are dirt.

    What that means is, they married, they had their kids, they devoted X amount of years/money to that project, then finally moved on, left their kids behind and tried to build lives for themselves. Sometimes they were able to, sometimes not. They were basically saying good bye to any hope for the support of their families and often of their friends, ever. Because what kind of mother leaves her kids?

    Now many are disabled, many are dependent on all manner of drugs, medicines — you should see how many women at the Festival are disabled, use walkers/scooters, rely on various kinds of machines, etc. — many are sick, and also marginalized by an ageist marketplace which would far rather hire 20-somethings for chump change than mature, highly educated women for a living wage, especially lesbians, radical feminists and gender nonconforming women. They may have been brave as all heck in rejecting patriarchal wifedom/motherhood, leaving husbands/kids, and they have that satisfaction of having lived by their own lights, but that doesn’t fill their bellies or keep the lights turned on.


    Posted by womensspace | October 31, 2007, 8:45 pm
  105. Let that be a lesson to you, ladies. Leave your male partner and you will DIE IN POVERTY.

    Unfortunately, the women’s movement dropped the ball, many women didn’t leave and they didn’t destroy patriarchy. I don’t know what plans, if any, many of those women had for their own survival post husband and family. Women came running back to patriarchy after the passage of Roe vs. Wade and all the air went out of the movement, as Sonia Johnson further recounted in Wildfire.

    Posted by branjor | October 31, 2007, 10:26 pm
  106. Heart’s comments about what happened when women left families or children because of a desire for freedom is very true.

    There is a lot of social support for women in patriarchy, that’s why is remains in place.

    There are millions of women who don’t even discover their lesbian identity until they are well into their 40s, for example.

    Change will cause resentment. Children will resent lesbian mothers who leave for some other life.

    People will suffer and have setbacks etc.

    Even in perfect patriarchy, women will not have what they imagined.

    The fight is its own reward.

    Posted by Satsuma | October 31, 2007, 10:39 pm
  107. Everything you’ve said, but for the leaving of children and being a lesbian (which I acknowledge is an added difficulty I didn’t have to deal with). I honour the fact that I had brothers by calling myself Sis. I really don’t have brothers and haven’t since I shamed the family by being a feminist.

    I buy my clothes at the thrift shops if I do, go without healthcare (which is actually my preference as long as I can) while all my family own land, two or more homes, have great careers which gave them fantastic savings and where applicable, pensions. Have everything. Even a millionaire who used to come to me when he had disagreements with his family. I haven’t seen him since. He and all the men in my family, and their wives even moreso, are ashamed of me. Oh yeah they do brag about, I’ve heard, how a member of their family was a big time beauty queen in her day.

    So nice to know I still have value.

    Posted by Sis | October 31, 2007, 10:49 pm
  108. Oh and, so many women seem to think when your marriage ends, you’ll get half of everything. Ha and ha again. You’ll get something but the law views whoever he is currently f**king to be his beneficiary, and for anything you get even in cooperative divorces, you’ll have to prove your worth as a wife and mother, and fight a costly fight.

    I guess I just proved Satsuma’s point.

    Posted by Sis | October 31, 2007, 10:53 pm
  109. People do change when they are threatened.

    Just look at Communist countries where the entire population is held hostage.

    Women’s natural state is threatened constantly by rape, the threat of rape and male supremacy, and women stay trapped in patriarchy.

    Just the mere threat of social rejection is enough to keep loads of lesbians in closets across the world, and load of straight women who are afraid of being lumped in with in their place as well.

    Threats work. Men don’t get away with as much in the workplace because they will be sued, not because they are nice.

    The catholic church will finally boot out pedofile priests because the liability of letting them run amok is too high. It was change under the threat of lawsuits and loss of income.

    When women have enough power to make discrimination not only a crime, but perhaps a reason for a complete and total loss of social acceptance, well then men will change too.

    Everyone toes the line because of threats, we just are in denial about it. We don’t realize how much our actions are controlled by the state, and by the threat of arrest.

    We are always living under threats, and we obey them because we know that stepping outside will result in some sort of punishment.

    Closeted people are especially aware of this, even though nothing much happened to me after I came out after all.

    I actually made more money and become more successful coming out in corporate America than was the case before I did this. Maybe because I was finally free to do my job and not worry.

    Nevertheless, threats do work. If men knew that they would never have sex with women again if they didn’t stop war, or if they knew that no woman would ever marry a sexist, believe me things would change very fast.

    I believe that men are essentially dumb creatures, and that if women got their acts together, they would not be so troublesome in the world.

    How can you defeat the patriarchs at work if some woman is feeding them and caring for them at night?

    How do you expect to end war, if women continue to marry soldiers?

    Really, women keep doing things, the same old things and expecting something new to happen. And its not.

    Posted by Satsuma | November 1, 2007, 12:58 am
  110. I am a MFT transsexual and, as of a couple of weeks ago, have been an attorney for 25 years. I mention this not because I believe it entitles me to special treatment or consideration but only so you know who I am and can take my comments with whatever “grain of salt” you think is warranted. For some of you, that may mean that you aren’t going to read any further. So be it.

    Before I went to law school, I worked as an investigator for a state civil rights commission investigating employment discrimination claims, mostly claims of sex discrimination. I continued my interest in employment discrimination law in law school but did not end up practicing in that area. My interest or, more properly, my passion for this area of the law has only returned in the last couple of years, partly due to my own self-interest as I transitioned to living as Abby for the rest of my life, but more due to my anger and sadness at how people harm each other in such a critical area of our lives by assuming the right to determine who is worthy and who is not simply because of who we are. (Fortunately, I work for myself and am respected by at least some people for what I do. Thus, so far I have been free of such discrimination. As I like to tell people, I am very fortunate that my employer has been very understanding during my transition. LOL)

    I have been moved by much of what has been written here, especially Heart’s comments about her belief in the power of love to transform the world and her desire to create a world where “there is no coercion or force or shame or blame or vindictiveness, control, power-over in the love that they receive and give.” (Post # 93) I too believe in that power. In fact, the motto for my practice for many years now has been “practicing law with love.” It isn’t a concept that one encounters very much in my business (or many others for that matter), but I’ve seen the power it has and refuse to practice law any other way, because that is who I am. Unfortunately, I have also been saddened by much of what I have read, because I think there is a misunderstanding of how a gender-inclusive ENDA would work that has created unnecessary divisions between people who should be allies.

    It was very heartening to me as a transgender woman to learn that the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals extended the rationale of Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins to protect a MTF transsexual because she did not conform to the gender stereotypes her employer and coworkers insisted on. That interpretation of Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination makes perfect sense to me and has, in fact, been adopted by a few state courts and state civil rights commissions. However, at least at the federal level, it is still largely limited to the states covered by the 6th Circuit (Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee). Furthermore, some courts continue to reject the idea that transsexuals should be protected. For example, just over a month ago, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, while paying lip service to the Price Waterhouse rationale, rejected the claim of a MTF transsexual, declaring that firing her because she planned to use women’s restrooms as part of her transition (living full time in every part of one’s life, including restrooms, for at least one year is presently required to qualify for sexual reassignment surgery in the U.S.) was not illegal discrimination on the basis of gender stereotypes since both men and women were required to use the restrooms designated for their biological sex. Now, it would seem to me that there is not much in terms of behavior that I can think of that is more non-conforming to gender stereotypes than a “man” using a women’s restroom, but that’s what the court said nonetheless. (The case is Etsitty v. Utah Transit Authority, and you can read it here: It is not my desire or intention to start a debate about whether transgender men or women should be allowed to use the bathroom designated for the gender to which they identify. That’s a whole other subject for a different day. But my point is that, as hopeful as the Price Waterhouse may be for providing protection for transgender people, it hasn’t yet and may never provide adequate protection. And it certainly isn’t going to do so any time soon. From this comes the desire to remove the uncertainty by enacting a law that will expressly prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

    The apparent misunderstanding that I mentioned above seems to come from the belief that, in order to be protected against discrimination under ENDA, the plaintiff, whether a masculine appearing woman, a feminine appearing man or a transsexual going either direction, would have to assert that she was discriminated against because she is transgender or that, even though she is biologically female, she “identifies” as a man, or vice versa. Obviously, there are many women that others perceive as “masculine” who are quite content and confident in their womanhood and have no desire to be perceived or treated as, or to be, a man. Instead, their appearance is about the freedom to dress and act as they desire, not as others think they should. The same, of course, is true of a man that others perceive as feminine but who has no desire or intention to be anything other than a man. I reject any system, legislative or otherwise, that forces people into “boxes” or to conform to labels mandated by others in order to be protected against discrimination. I also agree with those comments expressing fear of the government dictating what my or anyone else’s “gender identity” is or must be in order to enjoy the basic human right to earn a living based on ability . . . and nothing else. Fortunately, IMHO, that is not what ENDA is intended to, or would, do. Instead, a version of ENDA barring discrimination on the basis of gender identity would, in essence, enact into law the rationale of Price Waterhouse that none of us should be denied employment because we fail to conform to the gender stereotypes held by others.

    In her original analysis, Davis quoted the definition from the gender-inclusive version of ENDA (HR 2015, That definition states that, “The term ‘gender identity’ means the gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth.” What hasn’t been done yet in this thread, however, is to look at how that term is used in the rest of the statute and, thus, what a plaintiff under ENDA would have to prove to be successful.

    ENDA states that, “It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer . . . to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual . . . because of such individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.” The key phrases in understanding ENDA are the phrase “with or without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth” in the definition of gender identity and the phrase “actual or perceived” in the provision banning discrimination. Together they mean that an employer is prohibited from discriminating against someone because she is acting in a way that fails to conform to her employer’s stereotypes based on her “actual or perceived” gender identity, regardless of whether she was designated male or female at birth.

    For example, if an employer perceives an employee as female, regardless of her genitals or chromosomes, and fires her because she is dressing or acting too much like the employer believes a man, rather than a woman, should dress or act, she would have a valid claim under ENDA. And she would not have to prove that she is transsexual or transgender, i.e., wanted to be, or become or be perceived as a man, or fits into any other gender identity “box,” in order to be protected. ENDA does NOT ban discrimination because someone is transgender; it bans discrimination based on the fact that the employer doesn’t like a person’s “gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics.”

    Admittedly, I still don’t practice employment discrimination law, at least not for now. Nonetheless, I believe that what I have just described would happen under ENDA is exactly how the rationale under Price Waterhouse works. Ann Hopkins’ employer refused to make her a partner because she was “too aggressive” and “not feminine enough” based on her employer’s perception that she was (and, in fact, is) a woman. She didn’t look and act like they thought a woman should, so they didn’t promote her and the Supreme Court said that was illegal under Title VII.

    Now, if that is NOT how ENDA would work as it is currently drafted, and would instead limit in any way the protections that currently exist under Price Waterhouse for you or for me, then I DON’T WANT IT EITHER. Instead, we need to rewrite it to ensure that it does what you and I both want, i.e., ensure for us all the freedom to be who we are and still be able to make a living.

    I know this post is long and convoluted and probably sounds like a lawyer wrote it. (I’m afraid that’s hard to avoid, since I am one. LOL) But I feel passionately about working to remove barriers that divide us unnecessarily when, I truly believe, we all want the same thing.

    Blessings to all,

    Posted by Abby | November 1, 2007, 5:30 am
  111. Abby, thank you so much for that comment and for offering your interesting analysis. I agree with you that until your post we hadn’t really discussed what a plaintiff under ENDA which includes the gender identity language we are arguing about would have to prove in order to be successful. If your analysis is correct, then I am not as worried about the addition of gender identity language as I was before I read it. But this is where I need to hear from attorneys, I guess, especially attorneys who think you are wrong. 🙂 We can then continue to argue, or not, from there!

    I really appreciate your taking the time to read carefully and comment here. Your thoughts and contributions are valuable and I will think about them, and I know the other women here will as well.



    Posted by womensspace | November 1, 2007, 7:37 pm
  112. I moved this comment here. Sorry for any confusion.


    Posted by CoolAunt | November 1, 2007, 7:58 pm
  113. Okay. I’m just glad to find out that I hadn’t left two comments but only remembered leaving one. Whew!

    Posted by coolaunt | November 2, 2007, 1:01 am
  114. I too would be interested in what other attorneys have to say. Is it possible that Davis could comment?

    And thanks for making me feel welcome here. It’s a lovely feeling.


    Posted by Abby | November 2, 2007, 1:52 am
  115. Thanks Abby for your legal explanation. I must admit, this law is very hard to understand.

    My bottom line is, I don’t want any new laws out there that undermine women’s rights.

    Law is very tricky. Just when you think it will definitively solve a problem, something new comes up.

    You’d think it would be common sense by now that all people should have a right to jobs, homes, social support etc. just because we are all human.

    I just can’t imagine anyone firing someone who is good at their job just because they are lesbian or transgender. I’ve worked with so many great people over the years, and they have all been very different people.

    There is one thing you mentioned in your post — you now see first hand what sex discrimination is all about. Hard for men ever to see this, just as it is very hard for white people to SEE racism.

    But anyway, that said, you can reveal the secrets of what men do to stop women. Since you were once a man, you know how they are. You know how they lie about working for any equality, and I have always wondered.

    I have a very bad opinion of men. They either annoy me mildly or I long to take up arms and go to war against them. That’s how strongly I have hated those heteropatriarchs for a very long time.

    I believe all people should be heard, just be mindful that you were once a man, and probably got at least 75% more air time for your spoken and written words. To this day, I have to interrupt men in meetings just to be heard. They don’t “call” on women, so I have to take the mic from their hands and demand the floor. MTFs have to be aware that radical lesbian feminists won’t be very patient with what we perceive to be as “men talking too much” and taking up all the space again.

    Women who really know this, will know that the male mouth is talking too much “at” women, and not doing enough hard time listening. That’s one of the main dangers of MTFs in lesbian space in my opinion.

    I am sure you will come to understand that the worst thing men do is TALK– all the time, on radio, on TV, in pulpits as Bible belt smarmy idiots… We hate this. We don’t tolerate it, and will do battle if this happens. It’s just the war we fight all the time against any perceived male supremacist in our midst.

    Posted by Satsuma | November 2, 2007, 5:19 am
  116. I agree, the protections offered by the 6th Circuit in Smith v. City of Salem only extend to the 6th Circuit. I said they were partial and not enough. So, to the extent you think you’re correcting something I’ve said, you’re not.

    And, yes, ENDA turns the focus from sex stereotyping to a person’s “gender identity”. So, yes, under ENDA one DOES have to claim discrimination on the basis of gender identity as that’s ALL ENDA protects against – gender identity discrimination. It does NOT protect against sex-stereotyping discrimination regardless of one’s gender identity. The danger is that under ENDA, ALL sex-stereotype discrimination will be morphed into gender identity discrimination.

    So, yes, practically speaking, under ENDA one is protected because of one’s “gender identity” and, in practical terms, that means because one is “transgender”.

    Does one have to say “yes, I’m transgender” to get the protections of ENDA? Maybe not, depending on how the statute is interpreted and applied. Nonetheless, in order to be protected under ENDA one DOES have to claim a gender identity and one DOES have to claim that that gender identity is why one was discriminated against. The practical effect is to morph all sex-stereotype discrimination into “gender identity” discrimination.

    Moreover, practically speaking, what feminine woman is going to be discriminated against on the basis of her “gender identity”? Because she’s acting too feminine? Really? Well, that’s just plain old fashioned sex discrimination so on Abby’s reading ALL sex discrimination would be morphed into “gender identity” discrimination.

    So, the over-reaching nature of ENDA is clear: read it as its supporters suggest, all remedies for sex stereotype discrimination and/or all remedies for sex discrimination, period, are subsumed by ENDA’s gender identity provision.

    So, ENDA overreaches in, at least, two important ways: it ascribes to everybody a gender identity and in so doing it overwhelms sex discrimination law and makes everything about “gender identity”. Much like women’s studies has been overtaken and subsumed by gender studies. In either event, discrmination against women is hidden and ignored in favor of a pantheistic and unrealistic theory of gender identity discrimination.

    And, in fact, this is what’s being said here:

    Instead, a version of ENDA barring discrimination on the basis of gender identity would, in essence, enact into law the rationale of Price Waterhouse that none of us should be denied employment because we fail to conform to the gender stereotypes held by others.

    See, no such thing as sex discrmination – it’s all gender identity discrimination. Price Waterhouse IS law, because it’s an interpretation of Title VII. Title VII already outlaws the type of discrimination you say that ENDA needs to outlaw. So, why do we need ENDA to do what Price Waterhouse already did? We don’t. Price Waterhouse is the law and to pretend it isn’t, to pretend that Title VII doesn’t outlaw sex stereotyping discrimination, is wrong at best and disingenuous at worst.

    If you’re an attorney, you practice in some other field than employment law, that’s for sure. Indeed, it’s clear that if sex stereotyping is already illegal under Title VII (which it is) then the only “benefit” offered by ENDA is to transmogrify “sex stereotyping discrimination” into “gender identity discrimination”. Who does that benefit? Not women. Not women who know we are women and know we aren’t being discriminated against because of a “gender identity” we don’t have.

    So, the rest of what you’ve posted is meaningless. We don’t need to ENDA to protect men or women from discrimination “because he/she is acting in a way that fails to conform to her employer’s [gender] stereotypes”. We already have that in Title VII. Protections which have been partially extended to transfolks and, given time, would probably fully extend to transfolks. (And probably wouldn’t take any more time than getting enough people together to pass a trans-inclusive ENDA.)

    So, the only thing ENDA does, as a practical matter, is require everybody who would otherwise sue for sex discrimination to sue for gender identity discrimination.

    The “perceives” language, BTW, doesn’t extend to whether an employer “percieves” your sex as male or female. It only applies to whether the employer perceives you as having a gender identity. It’s NOT your “perceived sex” that matters, it’s your perceived gender identity. That’s what “based on actual or perceived gender identity” means: the employer perceives you as having a masculine or feminine gender identity, such identity consisting of your “gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics”. Which is how ENDA enshrines gender stereotypes in the law: your gender identity (actual or percieved) is how you’re stereotyped based on how you act out gender stereotypes. If you act “masculine”, that’s your “gender identity” upon which you sue. If you act “feminine”, that’s your gender identity upon which you sue.

    So, again, what employer is going to discriminate against a woman because she’s too feminine? Even you don’t posit that situation. And if the employer does discriminate against a woman for being too feminine, i.e. womanly, and she sues, how is that not sex discrimination? And how does ENDA then not subsume it, based on your interpretation?

    So, you’re misreading what I’ve written but in doing so you’ve reaffirmed the totalizing nature of “trans theory” and a so-called “trans-inclusive” ENDA. I’m all for a trans-inclusive ENDA. I’m not for an ENDA that would displace sex discrimination law and replace it with “gender identity” discrimination law because a) that’s not actually what’s happening and b) it forces everybody to have a gender identity which necessarily means that everybody is forced into a trans paradigm that isn’t true for most people.

    Posted by Davis | November 2, 2007, 7:37 pm
  117. Satsuma,

    In response to my post, you said, “There is one thing you mentioned in your post — you now see first hand what sex discrimination is all about. Hard for men ever to see this, just as it is very hard for white people to SEE racism.”

    Actually, I don’t think I said that. If I did, I certainly didn’t intend to. What I did say was that, before I went to law school, oh so many moons ago, I investigated claims of sex discrimination filed by women with the state civil rights commission that I worked for. Through that work, I saw some of the effects of sex discrimination. But I have been very fortunate never to have suffered sex (or transgender) discrimination myself, at least, in part, because I’ve worked myself for the last 10+ years. I have, however, been warned by many people, especially other women attorneys, that I will be treated differently than I was before my transition by judges and others, but have yet to experience that myself. So, I DON’T know what it’s like to be a woman in the workplace seeking a new job, a promotion or just the respect of my coworkers. That may change in the future if I decide to change the nature of my practice and go to work for someone else. Until that happens, however, I won’t know what it’s like to be discriminated against, except to the extent that I am able to empathize with those who have.

    I hope I haven’t, and don’t, talk too much here. I am well aware of how women can be shut out of conversations by men and have no intention of acting in that way. I came here to find out what was being said about ENDA in this space. I found that, but more importantly, I have been given the opportunity on these pages to learn about the views of feminists as they relate to transgender people and issues, something that I haven’t understood and sometimes felt anger about. I still don’t understand it all (I don’t know if I ever will), and I don’t necessarily agree with all that I’ve read so far, but I know that there must be away to bridge whatever gap there may between us, since I too believe that we are natural allies.

    Posted by Abby | November 2, 2007, 8:21 pm
  118. To Satsuma

    Regarding your post #109:

    I think you are in part right that people change only when threatened, but I would refine that a bit. First, I think people change when gently persuaded, appealed to, etc., especially when urged to by those they love or respect, or because they witness things that stir their concience or disturb their sense of how their world works.

    Second, people change, as you said, when they are threatened. But I think it goes beyond mere threats to encompass all behavioral change that is initiated from above and beyond the self and that circle of acquaintences one chooses to take cues from.

    I am reminded of the Enlightenment and the eighteenth century physiocrats who were convinced that by shaping people’s behavior, one could eventually shape their thoughts so that they willingly took on those prescribed behaviors as correct and good. The French Revolution participants picked up on that idea and delivered the modern social animal in spades. Their success in harnessing the nation to the ideals of government leaders has provided a revolutionary blueprint for modern governments and popular movements ever since.

    Modern governments have consciously worked to shape people’s behavior, anticipating that such changes would change hearts and minds too. For better or worse, behavioral change does very often change even deep-seated beliefs. This can include the benign, such as the act of following traffic laws. Following these rules reinforces incipient notions of order present in all humans but highly developed in people living in complex, modern societies.

    But behavioral change can also include the sinister in the name of good: practices of self-denunciation by communist believers at Stalin’s show trials are evidence of this. Defendants acceded to claims that they had attempted to derail the revolution, even though they were still loyal participants. They were convinced that their individual lives and bourgeiois measures of justice mattered less than the possibility of disturbing the grand scheme of dictatorship by the proletariat, were they, the accused, to call the accusations against them a fraud.

    The accused would never have engaged in this absurd practice of self-denunciation without their prior avid participation in months and years of a regimen of self denial in the name of group well-being. They had acquiesced to the revolutionary authority’s directives and their own local small-group’s majority, even when such directives or group decisions had meant harming otherwise innocent people who stood in the way of social change. When these revolutionaries’ numbers were called, they stood up and took their own lives in the name of Soviet Russia’s greater good.

    Anyway, I’ve gone on a bit long here. But I found some of your examples compelling, and I wanted to add my two cents here. I am a historian by training and we do have a tendency to give “terminal ear”, as my uncle used to say!

    The phenomenon of how and why individuals and societies change over time is at the heart of historical concerns. That’s as true about feminism’s impact on modern people as it is about other triggers that people initiate conciously to try to change others actions and thoughts.

    Posted by twitch | November 2, 2007, 8:22 pm
  119. Hi Twitch,

    I loved your post about the French Revolution as the birth of these modern concepts on what changes human behavior.

    I love academics when they come here. One thing about feminism out in the wilds of the Internet forest, is the separation of the academy from activism. This is something that has been going on for a long time.

    So this is real grass roots commentary, that academics or others included in can just jump in on.

    ‘Terminal ear” is not a term I ever heard before, but it made me laugh!

    The great repressive cults of the 20th century, namely Stalinist Russia, Hitler’s Germany and Mao’s China all had this self-denunciation game going on. So these “cooerced confessions” were not real. But I believe those regimes really changed people and scared them. I saw this when I traveled throughout China for a month on my own in 1985.

    There you could see the daily abuse of power and identify just what Communism or some other ism does to people– the looks on their faces etc.

    Lots of regimes have tried to change people, and advertising really has changed human behavior in America. American advertising propaganda gets people to do the most amazing things — not always a positive.

    How does the world change? Well Gandhi said it began with each person BEING the change they want to see in the world.

    I know this has really worked for me, in how our office, which used to be very cold and straight male acting has now feminized. Hard to put my finger on, but I did take some chances. It’s a slow sort of thing.

    What I don’t want to worry about is whether men change or not. Banjor and I agree a lot on this topic. We think it far better for women to just move forward and let the men fend for themselves. But expecting or thinking they have changed is a bit naieve considering all the backlash against women that they engage in. The eb and flow of male vs. female power in the world.

    It’s fascinating to watch the Obama / Hillary dichotomy — men can’t quite trash Hillary as openly as they’d like to, and white people can’t trash Obama too much either or the jig as they say would be up.

    Those two are presenting a very interesting contast to all the Republican candidates, who present in a visual metaphoric waythe contrast between OLD male supremacy, and it’s newer “kinder and gentler” public face.

    What I’m concerned about is not being fooled. I try not to put much faith in people when it comes to my rights and territory in the world. Lots of lip service to gay and lesbian rights, for example, but straight people really don’t have much access to our real lives. They don’t. They can’t take our blunt life truths at all really. Too bad but true.

    What issues do you fight for? What’s number one on the list? For me, it’s important that I change by not supporting anything that doesn’t also give me some immediate advantage.

    Work place issues for women are big for me, because I benefit from changes just as straight women benefit. That’s a win-win. Higher wages for women, will help me as well.

    Anything to do with things that won’t benefit me as a lesbian feminist I let go. Don’t waste your time on trying to change anyone here. Just be you.

    People adjust to new images and new social realities.

    For example, our entire chamber of commerce went to a straight chamber of commerce’s mixer. We were all business people and could relate on that level, and straight people had a chance to meet us as a united group.

    This type of coalition can obviously change how straight people perceive lesbians, for example. They get more used to the radical lesbian feminists like me, but I am under no illusion that straight people will do much of anything for lesbians, except perhaps tokan acknowledgement. So big sacrifices for our rights, but lip service is now better than the previous complete silence when I’d walk into a room. Or an entire dinner table getting up and moving when my partner and I sat down– true story circa 1989.

    Straight people are not overtly abusive to me in public, but that doesn’t mean they have really changed. They don’t dare do that these days, because I have become much more intolerant to any social slight. Waitors know they better not say one wrong word… or no tip at all. I have the power of the purse so to speak, and that is when men are at their very “nicest” to me. Hmm. But they haven’t changed they simply know one wrong move and no business at all. They know this about me without my even having to say one word. Must be the blank unsmiling look I give them, pleasant but not gushing. Serious in that classic lesbian feminist way that was so parodied by the homophobes. No sense of human, badly dressed, working class, bad grammar… the usual.

    I don’t see the same passion for lesbian rights that I saw for transgender rights within liberal groups, for example.

    I guess I still believe people won’t do the right thing unless a law threatens them. Just think of the recent court decision against the right wing church that picketed the funeral of an Iraqi war csualty. They said, “gays are going to hell,” etc. etc. and the court gave a $10,000,000 ruling against this awful church.

    When the dreadful church did this same thing at our AIDS funerals in the early 90s, nothing happened. When right wing christians actually came to West Hollywood to “convert” us, they were almost killed by a mob of gay and lesbian people. They narrowly escaped because a lesbian pastor intervenedand got them out of there. Even she was shocked to see lesbians and gays she went to church with and thedible hatred of our people let loose on the right wing invaders.

    As a woman, I am often surprised that one half of the population still can’t rise up and take over. We have the numbers? What gives?

    Clearly the life experience of an average heterosexual woman doesn’t even begin to come close to the outrages I experience daily out in the “mainstream” of society. The veneer of heterosexual privilege in America, makes most women content.

    Feminists 30 years ago were really attacked by a lot of non-feminist women. Some of the meanest things I’ve heard about Hillary’s candidacy come from straight women.

    So straight women don’t really want change as much as I do, because I am more annoyed at male supremacy than most women are. I think if you love men, you have more vested in believing they are changing. As a lesbian, I just laugh at this idea I guess.

    Since much of humankind is still mired in religion and superstition, you’ll have a hard time of appealing to logic. Andrea Dworkin, many years ago, wrote a book called “Right Wing Women” in which she explained women’s fear of losing traditional protection and privilege. The fear of this keeps women in line definitely.

    Change comes to those who have little or nothing to lose. Think of all those college students in 1968 — rising up everywhere, precisely because they had the time, and no adult responsibilites.

    Go into African American communities and you’ll be surprised at how tied they are to “tradtional values.” You might think them enlightened because they favor civil rights, but just bring up lesbian rights and watch the fur fly.

    African Americans are my heros and heroines, because they helped fight for a world, that made it easier for me. To this day, African Americans continue to model success in the corporate world. They even recommended me for my current job, because we sensed we needed each other. We all felt alien in a straight corporate setting — me for being openly lesbian, and they for the color of their skin. We have one black man in my office and one out lesbian, that’s it. We help each other and support each other. I don’t trust the white men at all, but I do have a little more trust in a black man who has some idea of the abuse I have faced, because he’s been there too. We know what real oppression feels like. We know it, we bond over it, and we achieve and superachieve just to keep “the man” off our backs!

    Posted by Satsuma | November 2, 2007, 11:46 pm
  120. RE: Abby’s previous response

    And I did want to follow up with Abby’s previous post, which I missed because of Twitch’s commentary. I know I should post a little mantra on my computer “scroll up scroll up wherever you are…” Not used to this conversational style, but I’m getting the hang of it a little.

    Anyway, thank your clarifying your position on the job discrimination law that you worked on for a decade. That alone should provide insights.

    I wouldn’t necessarily go into a false worry over a discrimination as a transgender person that people warned you about. Every life is unique, and you are living in 2007 not 1962. The world is bigger, not more enlightened but simply bigger.

    I don’t go near small towns, because I don’t want to have to deal with straight people at their redneck worst. If they are uneducated or fundamentalist, it’s a waste of time.

    A big city, however will be an entirely different matter. So depending on where you live, the dynamics are different.

    You’ll have some very valuable insights into what it is to be a new immigrant to the new country called women, compared to your native land of man. I like to look at transgender in this way.

    Getting jobs is always a bit tricky, but you do have a profession, and you can continuously build on it.

    The advantages I have as an out lesbian are enourmous in the business world. I have access to “markets” how I hate that word to describe people, but there you have it, that my colleagues don’t know exist. I am more adept at spotting things that straight people miss. We just have a sharper eye and ear.

    So it will be interesting to see ultimately what will happen with ENDA. I find this endless legal battling over job protections amazing. What is it, people can’t adapt and work with everyone? They won’t hire people outside their comfort zone?
    I hire people all the time who have no connection or similarity to me whatsoever. I try to be conscious of people’s needs and what income they might need to support their families.
    Many times I help immigrant women negotiate better wages, and this is an amazing process, because they don’t speak English but their small children do. There are some pretty sharp 9 year olds out there!

    In Los Angeles, immigrants from Mexico are being attacked all the time, and I find this lack of hospitality appauling. Since I know what it’s like to be excluded all the time, I am very sensitive to this happening to newcomers. I support upholding the law as to new people coming in illegally– big business wanted cheap labor, and selfishly this is what this led to. But it is a question of paying attention and having an ENDA for all people I think.

    “All people are created equal, period end of it…” should be the ultimate law of the land. I’m not sure what’s so hard about this.

    I don’t know how a transgender self will affect actual employment. It’s hard for me to even analyze my employment situation, am I really making less than men, or if I did one thing differently would I suddenly have access to more? These economic questions of the monetary cost of discrimination absolutely fascinate me.

    Perhaps you’d care to share legal insights into just how much money women lose in job discrimination.

    I feel a certain amount of solidarity with transgender people, because I myself have never conformed to gender dress codes, gender mannerisms or whatever. This often gets me into a lot of trouble. Even my speech is much more aggressive and argumentative than straight women will ever be.

    I sometimes have to “tune it down to WASP level” as Adrienne Rich once said of her Jewish roots and mannerisms. So part of it is very aggressive Eastern European Jewish intellectual tradition — picture two Rabbis battling it out over a torah passage at the top of their lungs in a cafe, and you get the picture.

    So will a transgender self have to “tune it down to female level” who knows?

    And yet, all of this is truly the real me. I find in conversation with MTFs a more aggressive intellectual style, which I definitely feel a kinship with. You have not learned to be slavelike, you have not learned the codes that keep women in their place– I call it the curse of heterosexual women. They are stuck with this kind of thing, and don’t even know it. Second class mannerisms become so natural, that it frightens me to watch this day in and day out.

    Anyone who disrupts the gender caste system will have people reacting. And it is a caste system as rigid as India’s in my opinion.

    What I hope to do as an ally to transgender people, which I am, is to have a meeting of the minds. You’ll read the furie in these posts over transgender activists getting lesbian feminist movies banned, or the constant harrassment transgender activists put on the Michigan Women’s Music Festival. The demands of MTFs to gain entry to this women’s only space just looks like male supremacy and male aggression to our eyes. Women who were born women would simply not try to gate crash.

    I don’t gate crash on gay male space, I ask permission for entry, and I accept the need of gay men for their own spaces.
    I know we come together, and I know we have separate space. Lesbian only space is very important to me socially, because I don’t want to negotiate straight people after a hard day at work. I just don’t want to be with them at all, unless it’s a neighborhood event or a business event.

    I never attend social events where heterosexuals are overly heterosexual — weddings, baby showers (the very worst), baptisms, or fashion shows to name a few.

    So I hope you can pass this information on to transgender activists you meet, so that they don’t unintentionally duplicate male supremacy in “female form.” It’s new law and new social territory Abby, and I wish you much luck and success.

    Posted by Satsuma | November 3, 2007, 6:12 pm
  121. Satsuma,

    Thanks for all your kind words and thought-provoking comments. I think you and I could sit down and have a very interesting conversation on a whole variety of topics for a very long time. Maybe that will happen someday. In the meantime, I’ll try not to wander too far afield here.

    You said, “‘All people are created equal, period end of it…’ should be the ultimate law of the land. I’m not sure what’s so hard about this.” There’s nothing hard about it and I agree completely. Unfortunately, there are some people who believe that they should have the right to choose who is deserving of equality based on their own “moral” or religious judgments. I agree that we all should have the right to decide who comes into our homes, but beyond that and similarly private arenas, and especially in the business world, which is public and secular, not private and/or religious, equality and nondiscrimination should be the rule. Like you, it’s hard for me to understand why tolerance is such a difficult concept for people to understand and practice.

    I’m afraid I don’t have any particular insights into the economic effect of employment discrimination on women. The statistics that I saw in the newspaper recently said that women’s wages have increased from around 50 cents for each dollar earned by a man in the late ‘60’s/early ‘70’s to around 72 cents today. That’s a significant improvement but still pretty dismal. (Given the nature of my practice, I already make far less than most attorneys, so maybe I won’t be affected by this ….. or maybe I already have been. Who knows?)

    Your comment regarding your own “transgression” of society’s gender “code” brings up an argument why all LGBT, as well as straight, people, not just transsexuals, should favor passage of a gender-inclusive ENDA. As you and others here have acknowledged, protection against discrimination based on gender stereotypes is important to women born women, regardless of sexual orientation. Enacting a law that specifically grants that protection and, thus, is not dependent on the willingness of judges to interpret Title VII broadly, like they did in Price Waterhouse, insulates that protection, at least to some extent, from the whims of the increasingly conservative federal judges appointed by the Bush administration.

    Sadly, due to the House leadership’s mismanagement of ENDA, the current situation could result in something far worse than merely the failure to enact specific gender identity protections. Barney Frank’s tactics in including and then removing gender identity protection from ENDA, and especially a vote rejecting Tammy Baldwin’s proposed amendment to add gender protection back in, have the potential to undermine or even eliminate the protections against discrimination based on sex stereotypes currently available under Price Waterhouse. I won’t go into a detailed explanation of how court’s interpret statutes, but suffice it to say that they could easily interpret the legislative history leading to the enactment of a version of ENDA without gender identity protection as indicating that Congress did not intend the ban on sex discrimination under Title VII to protect against gender identity discrimination, as it currently does under Price Waterhouse. That would be a very sad day indeed but one that has a real chance of coming to be, especially with the conservative makeup of the current Supreme Court. Frankly, given that the chances of ENDA actually becoming law before 2009 are zero to none, I think the best outcome of the current situation would be for the House to drop ENDA completely until after the 2008 elections.

    As for “tuning it down to female level,” I haven’t had to do that yet, but I recently had an experience where I wondered if I needed to. I am the president of a newly formed nonprofit corporation set up to serve as a LGBTQ teen support group here in rural Arizona. Last Sunday, we had our first formal meeting of the board of directors. One of the items on the agenda was the adoption of bylaws. We had a quite “spirited” discussion regarding one particular issue that didn’t seem to be going anywhere. As the discussion came close to an impasse, I realized that I was feeling, and acting, to some extent like my old “male” self in trying to convince the other board members that they should agree with me. Fortunately, we were able to find a compromise that satisfied us all and none of us had to walk away feeling like we had “lost” anything. For that I am grateful, but understanding that there are other, and, I think, better, ways to operate in groups than trying to convince, or, goddess forbid, force, others to agree with me is still a work in progress.

    At the same time, however, I feel no need to be shy about stating my opinions on issues that concern me. The difference I think lies in both the methods we use and the nature of the goals we are seek to achieve, i.e., choosing methods that don’t rely on dominance and force and choosing goals that don’t require “winners” and “losers.” Those aren’t necessarily exclusively female traits but they are certainly much more prevalent among women than among men. Perhaps not surprisingly, they have long been my preferred methods of operation.

    I’ve only just begun reading the thread regarding the banning of the Gendercator from the San Francisco Film Fest and the tactics used by some transgender activists to gain entrance to the Michigan Women’s Music Festival, issues that I have never fully understood. I’m not ready to comment in detail. However, as I was contemplating my response to your post, I had an insight that I think will help me to figure out my own positions on those issues. What I realized is this: from a feminist point of view – a point of view that I don’t think is or should necessarily be exclusive to feminists – what is important in these disputes is NOT who is “right” and who is “wrong.” In fact, based on much of what I’ve read here so far, it’s clear to me that the goals and desires of feminists are very much in line with what I and other transgender people want. (Given that, I can see how these incidents might be especially painful for you and other women who see themselves as allies, not oppressors, of transgender people.) Instead, what is important is that no one has the right to force their way into to some place where they are not wanted or to impose their political or other views on anyone else. The claim that, “because I’m right, I should get what I want” is very much a male trait. If methods of persuasion and community building are not enough to convince the organizers of the MWMF to allow trans women to attend, then I and other transgender women need to accept that while, at that same time, we try to change it or find other ways to build community with women born women. But what isn’t acceptable is to use tactics of power and dominance to insist on having our own way.

    After living a lifetime of wanting to be part of women’s culture and society and never feeling comfortable as a man, accepting that there are places where we are not welcome is hard for me and other trans women to accept. For me, it triggers old memories of not being allowed to be myself and not having my needs and wants respected by others. But I can also see why women born women desire a space of their own and see the tactics of some transgender activists as an extension of the male heterosupremacy under which they have already suffered so much.

    Obviously, these thoughts are only beginning to form, but I do know that, whenever it looks like there are only two choices, black or white, right or wrong, my way or the highway, there is always a third way, however hard it may be to find. That’s what I’m looking for.

    All of this is definitely new territory for me, Satsuma, and I am SO very glad that I finally have the chance to explore it. I am also grateful for you and the other women who are willing to help guide me through it.

    Posted by Abby | November 3, 2007, 10:39 pm
  122. Abby,

    Thanks for your detailed update on ENDA and the case law that it could supplant. Believe it or not, my conservative company has a “gender identity” or “gender presentation” protection in our code of conduct/ HR regulations.

    We all were required to read the policy and pass an online test on it– all very cute and video high teckish. I was charmed by its cuteness. They even had little rainbow flags to illustrate the gay and lesbian parts.

    This is progress, but if you came to my company, you wouldn’t really feel that they lived these policies, just that they added them as boilerplate to protect themselves from anticipated lawsuites.

    Large corporations are actually way ahead of Congress on all these legal issues. I find it interesting that the law is behind corporate policies now in many instances.

    I agree with you that ENDA won’t pass now, and that we should try again after the elections. Clearly, even the democrats are playing it very safe as they campaign right now.
    Hillary just has to not goof up to win, and she is playing those careful poker hands– never grandstanding, just folding after a bad hand and waiting and staying in there until she wins.
    Tammy Baldwin and Barney Frank really should have co-ordinated with each other more. This put trans in take trans out nonsense is making the whole thing a bloody mess.

    Put trans in gets the religious right all in a diither. They use trans rights as a wedge issue to report on the horror of gay and lesbian rights…. “See what sin this is leading to….” they say on their right wing talk shows.

    You can get selfish and think, well I’d like gay and lesbian to be in ENDA and get the damn thing passed. But if I put in Transgender protections then I won’t get my rights. It’s tempting to think these things, because this history of getting shut out dates way back to Susan B. Anthony and white women not getting the vote before African American men got it. Even white supremacy was trumpted by male supremacy in this bit of history.

    So women have to make sure that ENDA is fair to all, and doesn’t undermine our rights that we fought so hard for. I think we can all figure it out, but we have to be careful.

    Incidently, Hillary’s poker strategy was what Nixon did in the Navy, and he used his poker winnings to finance his first congressional campaign. I recognize the political strategy very well.

    Still Abby, we have a very long way to go. The hard part also is the relationship of all the people in this grand coalition known as bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich (LGBT) 🙂

    Coalitions are very hard to deal with, and I must admit, I am suspicious of them, because it’s usually everyone else first and women last. Or gay men first and lesbians get left behind.
    Women have a very hard time with the concept women come first, no negotiation. So I am unwilling to work on any projects jointly that don’t involve an immediate benefit to me AS A LESBIAN. I come first!

    If we can make the workplace better, I’m for it. If we can raise women’s wages, I’m for it. If it’s about reproductive rights, I’m not interested. That sort of thing.

    We have to focus on what we want to work on and how much time we have to devote to it. I believe it is in my best interest to be in solidarity with transgender people, because I know what this type of discrimination is like. Straight women and people in general thinking I am a man, or then they think I’m a woman. Women are supposed to smile a lot, which I don’t. But when I do smile they then correctly get my gender right.

    It’s weird. I appreciate your concern for women born women’s spaces. I don’t know what all the transgender activists are like at Michigan Women’s Music Festival, because I have never attended it. It’s up to you to help out here if you want to.

    The idea of what is “male” and what is “female” is complex. I’m very aggressive in public spaces, so it is easy for me to argue back, and take back space. Men are afraid of me, and I don’t care how afraid they get.

    But I do know that I have more heavy lifting to do in male meetings where I am the only woman. They’ll go into sports banter, and in the past they would go into sexist banter, now they don’t do sexist in front of me ever. The consequences would be severe for them.

    There is critical mass when men lose social power in an organization — I think when men are a minority, they stop their antics, and I do numberical calculations to see what this “tipping point” is.

    There is a power dynamic with men present in any meeting at all. It’s why Mary Daly taught women only feminist classes at Boston College since the 70s, and ultimately the administration fired her for doing this. Long story, check Mary on google.

    All of western philosophy was developed by men in male only groups. It’s why the public sphere is governed and the private sphere is not. Men exert incredible power over women in the public sphere but then become something completely different in the private sphere. It’s why straight women don’t have a killing anger toward men, because they see some other side of them that I don’t. I see the male in public space, and I go into battle mode.

    So the law is an interesting thing. A creature of the male mind, just as western views of sexuality were created by celebate males in the catholic church. Law and church law had built in the hatred of women as the subtext, the fear of women’s power.

    I grew cynical Abby, and thought, ok, if men are so threatened by strong women, why not terrorize them more, and take the war out in public. They’ll be sexist anyway, no matter what women do, so we might as well just antagonize the hell out of them anyway. It was a very lesbian feminist warrior me.

    Even most lesbians don’t show that kind of anger in public on their own very often.

    But I digress a little here.

    I hope transgender people and lesbian feminists can share ideas, and grow strong together. What is it that we can learn from each other? How can we change the world and make it a fairer place?

    Tolerance is a difficult word. I don’t trust it actually. Tolerance? What, you “tolerate” my presense!? Doesn’t that sound truly condescending?

    We can move beyond that word and go into genuine and real conversation, and we can be honest about who we are as human beings. People who were once men, will now have an insight into what women go through in male conversational settings. Just take a look at classes and who raises hands and talks the most? I can go to public events, and almost every time it will rarely be a woman who asks the first question, or it will rarely be a dozen women in a row who are called upon, but it will easily be a dozen men in a row that they call on. I can tell whether a man or a woman wrote the script for a movie or T.V. show within the first five minutes of the show. 80-90% of the time I am right. It’s a game my partner and I play all the time. We can tell when men are putting words into women’s mouths and vice versa. Is it important that more women write stories for T.V. you better believe it!

    We have watched men’s stories ever since T.V. was invented. When something is really different– you can bet the rare woman was involved in the screen writing process, for example.

    At one event, a male pastor who controlled the microphone, said he was anti-patriarchal! Imagine that. He gets to call on people, he holds the microphone that HE passes out, and yet he doesn’t see the irony in this at all. Naturally, I just stood up, seized the floor and challenged his power. I yelled loud! It made people VERY uncomfortable, but hey, I’m not going to let some man with a microphone claim to be not patriarchal.

    Women in the room got scared, men got scared… But I will not tolerate situations like that.

    So this is the challenge you face Abby. How aggressive should you be in meetings? If you are too quiet, you may be imitating women’s slavelike habits, not their real human selves deep down. If you are aggressive and talk too much, you are being a man in public, which is ironic since you transitioned to a woman. You may never feel sexism the way women born women do, because you weren’t indocrinated into the ever present “act like a lady” (i.e. second class citizen) since childhood.

    Look at Barak Obama. He lived in African countries, he did not begin life in a white world, and his style is very different from African Americans. The same is true of Collin Powell. When I meet Africans from Ethiopia, we have an instand rapport. I love their culture and language, and I just wear my heart on my sleave. There is a deep connection. They don’t put up a barrier “uh oh white woman” they simply respond to my loving connection. It’s my sadness to see barriers between African Americans and white people, but I know how badly white people have been and still are. I know white culture has truly damaged with great evil the African American soul.

    Racism has not even begun to be over yet.

    I often get the feeling that most men have no idea how bad they are, or how oppressive they are. Especially in public spaces which they control and terrorize daily. People don’t fear women at night, they fear men. That should tell you something.

    I’d even advocate one day a week where men are not allowed out of the house at night, so women would have free reign in a large American city, for example. We need to see what the world is like without this constant terror that women deal with.

    These are just ideas, just examples, just trying out new ideas. They are not literal things, they are speculation and supposition.

    Men would be offended if they were confined to their homes one day a week. They’d scream bloody murder. But they never question the fact that they dominate spaces seven days a week to the detriment of women. They think “oh every one has a right to be anywhere at night…” But the effect is women are afraid to enter certain urban spaces.

    I think this is how I developed my protective coloration. So I could go anywhere day or night without having men bug me.

    Just personal tales of gender to share with you Abby.

    Thanks for being an ally! And I hope to be an ally to you as you struggle to make the law work for everyone.

    Yes, we all have these moral codes that say one group is sinful or one group is weird, and thus they don’t deserve equal protection under the law. I don’t know why this is.

    I’m as bigoted and narrow minded as anyone. Probably I struggle to by an ally more, because I have such knee jerk reactions. I can be very overly mean to people, just because I have become indifferent. I have lost the ability to have empathy, and I think this is a result of fighting for so long, that any criticism at all makes me feel coldly contemptuous. That is wrong, but it is probably a defense mechanism to deal with hostility that comes my way.

    One thing that I’ve learned is to keep open. No one is automatically bad just because they are ________. Be open and you’ll find true friends and allies who are sincere, and who do care. Never judge people, because you’ll miss a chance at true acceptance. These are ideals Abby. But then I get mad and say, damn it Janet, I think all _________ are jerks! Judgemental me!

    Oppression is out there, but we can all try to deal with a disease called oppression sickness. It’s when one oppressed group has it out with another, and the battle becomes epic. The Michigan Women’s Music Festival is one such battle ground. Assimilationist gays and lesbians has become another. Straight African American fundamentalist christians vs. out gay christians is another flash point, and on it goes.

    Sorry this is wordy and wandering. I’m not a focused and trained legal mind the way you are Abby. I’m an opera loving financial advisor! My opinions come out like Pavarotti’s voice — loud blasting, even though Pavarotti is a terrible actor.

    My partner nicknamed me “Blastoise” after the Pokeymon character that is a turtle evolved into a bazooka carrying ray gun shooting creature. Wish I could post a picture of Blastoise and you’d get the idea.

    So here’s the deal. I will try to be as open and honest with people on this blog, so that we can all really advance to a greater human good, so that we can all bring about a world better than the one we’ve got.

    I believe that transgender MTF can provide real insight into how to end gender oppression. Just as I believe radical lesbian feminists have the brilliant ability to see and critique patriarchy. When you don’t live with men or depend on them for income, then you get a different picture from women who really do live with men in their own homes, and who are dependent on them for economic support. It really is different.

    That’s the gift of the radical lesbian feminist. That’s my gift to you, and your support is your gift to me. It’s about “gift economies” vs. ‘exchange economies.”

    Posted by Satsuma | November 4, 2007, 4:31 pm

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The Farm at Huge Creek, Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, The Feminist Hullaballoo