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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