Why I Am An Agender Feminist and Why Nonbinary Gender Identified Persons, Designated Male At Birth (DMAB), Need Feminism

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Art by RiotCakes

I have always considered myself a feminist . At times in my life I have been a flawed feminist because I was socialized as a cis-male most of my life. I’d say that the aha moment for me came when I started working in HIV/AIDS care and prevention. I noticed many similarities between the way women were treated and the way gay men, particularly more feminine gay men, we’re treated. I read books like Homophobia, The Weapon of Sexism by Suzanne Pharr which drew clear links between people’s prejudice and hatred of gay people and people’s prejudice and hatred of women. I worked with women in battered women’s shelters and worked with a rape crisis center establishing and HIV counseling and testing program. I had a roommate for a couple of years who was an ardent feminist when I was newly out as gay, (27 years before I came out as agender), that started me thinking. There were also lesbian friends of mine that, on a now memorable occasion, (for me at least), when I was being stubborn about something, told me I was acting like “such a man.” Slowly the links between various people’s experiences all seemed to have one thing in common; hatred of the feminine.

A woman who was very important as a mentor and friend answered my questions and shared her philosophy and her stories. Her name was Dorothy Cunningham-Wixted who was a co-worker when I coordinated HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ outreach and awareness programs. She was very empathetic and loving while being strong and passionate. She encouraged and supported my activism and I supported hers. The links between oppressions became clearer and clearer. If you look at anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ activists you see they are, quite often, the same people. I even discovered that in Nazi Germany women who needed/had abortions and gay men were linked and targeted for preventing the procreation of what they called “the master race,” Today the same people that are anti-choice are frequently sexist, homophobic and transphobic.

Two other people were pivotal in my journey were Jean and Melissa. They were both Poor, African American Trans Women Living With AIDS. It was abundantly clear that sexism and what we now know as transmisogyny were major obstacles in their lives. Like so many other poor trans women, they had to resort to sex work to survive. Because men refused to use condoms they contracted HIV. Their families both disowned them; when Jean died she was buried in a paupers grave and when Melissa died the parents claimed her but the stripped her of her womenhood and placed her in the casket in male clothes and used the male name she was given at birth, a name I never once heard her use. In Melissa’s case this was particularly infuriating because at one point her mother, who at the time was her representative payee for her Social Security payments, instead of paying rent on her daughter’s apartment, pocketed the money. Forcing her to housing court where I explained what happened. Thankfully we eventually found new housing. Melissa suffered from bipolar disorder and would sink deep into despair. Later she also developed dementia associated with HIV. We had to rescue her from her home which, by then, tragically, was filthy as a result of incontinence and an inability to care for herself. The family was no where to be found and didn’t surface until long after we had successfully secured a hospice bed for Melissa. They took advantage of her severe mental impairment due to dementia and secured legal guardian status as she was dying. They tried to erase her gender and ultimately, tragically, succeeded when a stranger was placed in the casket.

Now, as an agender person, that embraces what society deems as feminine traits and feminine clothing, I face sexism and transmisogyny simply for being my authentic self. As I stated earlier because it’s the feminine that is the target of sexism, anyone embracing femininity including: effeminate gay men, trans women, dmab non-binary gender identified people, sissies, and cis women all face a form of, or offshoot of, sexism. We as members of these groups need feminism. It’s a common fight that, unfortunately, faces an enemy from within our own communities, from some masculine cis gay men who think effeminate gay men are an embarrassment or worse, to cis women who buy into trans exclusionary radical feminism, to the cis gay men and straight women who look at me with amusement and disdain when I wear a skirt. All of these people should know better because we face the same enemy. How can we stand up to sexism and stand up for feminism when some seek to divide and conquer from within? I won’t let this happen to me and I am proud to be an Agender, Genderqueer Feminist!

I disvovered this wonderful piece by author Trav Mamone about why they are a dmab (designated male at birth) genderqueer feminist…

Why This DMAB Genderqueer Needs Feminism | Queereka

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I wasn’t always a feminist. Sure, I always believed in equal rights for people of all genders, but in my twenties I bought all the stereotypes about feminists: they hated men, they all wore Birkenstocks, they were all lesbians, they didn’t shave their armpits, and they all listened to Lilith Fair folk music. Now at nearly 32 years old, after years of deconstructing gender norms–eventually coming out as genderqueer–I realize that feminism is so much more than the stereotypes. In fact, I need feminism not just for my own liberation as a DMAB genderqueer person, but also to unlearn years of internalized misogyny.

There’s a lot of debate–and some blatant transphobia–in the debate over the inclusion of trans politics in feminism. In their bookBi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution, however, bisexual genderqueer activist Shiri Eisner writes not only are trans politics compatible with feminism, but that ending transphobia and cissexism should be goals for feminists. Eisner writes:

If the goal of feminism is to end patriarchy and gender-based oppression, then transgender politics supplies us one of the most important perspectives from which to view–and challenge–binary gender and gender-based oppression . . . If no clear distinction exists between “male” and “female,” it becomes impossible to oppress people according to their gender. If we have no sole criterion for determining who is “man” and who is “woman,” we can’t know whose role it is to be oppressor, and whose to be oppressed. (p. 235)

Under the patriarchy, masculinity is seen as superior to femininity. Just look at phrases like “Grow a pair” and “Man up” vs. “Don’t be a pussy” and “You throw like a girl.” Phrases like these put genitals on things that have absolutely nothing to do with being a man or a woman. Not only that, but they equate having a penis with being strong and having a vagina with being weak.

And if you’re a person with a penis who expresses femininity in any way, shape, or form (even if you are cisgender), you’re seen as a traitor to the patriarchy. Eisner writes:

While women have fought–and still are fighting–for their right to wear pants, to not be required to wear makeup or shave their entire bodies, men are still strictly forbidden to wear skirts, jewelry, or makeup, to shave their body hair, or to otherwise “feminize” their appearance. Hell, even men ho wear masculine clothes with colors that are too bright, or with the appearance of putting too much effort into it, are policed for their deviation. The complete ban on anything perceived as feminine is meant to secure masculinity’s status as superior and femininity’s status as inferior. (p. 200)

Although I’m not a man, people still see me as one, so when I paint my nails or shop for women’s tops at Goodwill, I get a lot of strange looks. I pretend that I don’t give a fuck, but secretly I worry that one day someone will either harass me, kick me out of the store, or worse, physically hurt me in some way. And I shouldn’t have to live that way

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Trav Mamone

Trav Mamone

Trav Mamone is a bisexual genderqueer Humanist writer. They blog at Bi Any Means, and host the Bi Any Means Podcast. They live in Easton, MD.

Continue reading this piece here at Queerka:
http://queereka.com/2015/02/28/why-this-dmab-genderqueer-needs-feminism/

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About Fairy JerBear

A disabled, trans/agender fairy bear living in the American Southwest and passionate about social justice, the environment, Trans/ LGBTQIA+ equality and combating bullying.
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5 Responses to Why I Am An Agender Feminist and Why Nonbinary Gender Identified Persons, Designated Male At Birth (DMAB), Need Feminism

  1. Pingback: Why Our Feminism Must Be Intersectional (And 3 Ways to Practice It) — Everyday Feminism | Fairy JerBear's Queer/Trans Musings From The City Different – Santa Fe, NM

  2. The experiences of those two trans friends of yours are absolutely heartbreaking. Makes me realise how lucky I am to have a supportive family. I think you are right, and that effeminaphobia is a huge and barely acknowledged problem in all of this. Until feminine itself is no longer seen as a pejorative trait (even by some feminists), I doubt these issues will be resolved.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lynn Ann Rose Miles says:

    HI Jerry, The TERF’s are really scarey to me. The cis gay men are really scarey. There is a cis gay man at work and he never ever smiles at me. He is curt and dismissive in his body language and tone of voice. Out of so many he is the worst.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Unfortunately transmisogyny/transphobia exists among some cis gay men who like to see themselves as masculine or hypermasculine. Often they are also dismissive and prejudiced against effeminate, usually gay, men, a phobia know as effeminaphobia. I dearly love many of my gay friends who aren’t phobic and have accepted me in my gender evolution. That being said I have also read the most awful commentary written by gay men and I have observed how some see effeminate guys as a threat to the masculine image they desire. This hatred of the feminine includes, cis women, lesbians and extends to those of us in the trans spectrum as well. The truth is that we would be so much stronger if everyone in LGBTQIA communities took time to learn and understand the diversity within the community. Perhaps we need a campaign or a movement of some sort. It would be great if more cis gay men would step up and defend the diversity of gender expression within their communities, become allies of the trans community and support the women’s movement.

      Like

  4. Reblogged this on Fairy JerBear's Queer/Trans News, Views & More From The City Different – Santa Fe, NM and commented:

    I wrote this a bit over a month ago but it didn’t get much of a reaction. I think it’s important so I am reblogging this and encourage you to read it and respond. Thanks!

    Like

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