For most folks, I think a general definition of feminism would refer to the liberation of women and girls. Building upon that, I think most feminists would agree that the liberation of individuals within other oppressed groups is equally important. When considering the practical application of my feminist principles I must make an effort to remember that it is not only women and girls that experience gender-based oppression.
Intersex and trans* individuals also experience discrimination based on their gender identities and expressions. Intersex is a term that refers to individuals who have sex characteristics (hormones, genitalia, chromosomes, reproductive organs) that do not completely “align” with what society considers to be either male or female. The archaic (and derogatory) term “hermaphrodite” was originally used to describe what we now consider intersexuality. Intersexuality is more common than most people think, and sadly it is still common for doctors to try and “correct” a baby’s genitalia if they deem it too “ambiguous.” Trans* (note the asterisk!) is an umbrella term used to refer to a number of gender identities, it generally describes a person whose gender identity does not match the gender they were assigned at birth. Some examples of identities that may fall under the trans* umbrella include transgender, two spirit, transman, transwoman, and genderqueer.
It’s important to note that gender variant folks have experienced discrimination from both heterosexual communities as well as gay, lesbian, and bisexual communities. Although the acronym we usually here is LGBTQ, it has been a long (and continuing) struggle to make sure our social justice movement is inclusive of trans* and intersex individuals. Similar discrimination has been present in the feminist movement as well. Although this is changing in both feminist and LGB circles, we still have a long way to go.
“Gender justice” is a term I have heard of folks adopting in an attempt to move towards a more inclusive social justice movement. Although I still identify as a feminist, I definitely affirm the motives behind “gender justice.” The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs states that “45% of reported hate murders were transgender women.” That staggering statistic makes it clear to me that no matter what you call it, trans* and gender variant individuals need to be actively and intentionally included in the movement.
I’m definitely not an expert on any of these issues, I will be working to educate myself further and I encourage our readers to do the same. I would also be happy to engage with our readers in a dialogue in the comments. There are a number of events coming up in November that will be discussing these topics. Consider adding them to your calendar.
Bringing Intersexy Back: Sex, Gender, and Intersexuality with Dr. Georgiann Davis, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
- Queer Hollywood Film screening, “Orchids: My Intersex Adventure” and Discussion with Dr. Davis: Wednesday, November 6th from 6-8pm in the LGBT Center (Baker 354).
- Dine & Discuss with Dr. Davis: Thursday, November 7th from 12-1 in the LGBT Center (Baker 354). Lunch provided.
- Workshop on Intersex Identity led by Dr. Davis: Thursday, November 7th from 2-4pm in the Multicultural Center Multipurpose Room (Baker 205).
Rebecca Kling, Trans* Educator and Artist:
- Dine & Discuss with Rebecca Kling, Monday, Nov. 18th, 12-1pm in the Women’s Center (Baker 403).
- Trans 201: Exploring Gender and Identity Workshop with Rebecca Kling, Nov. 18th from 2-4pm in Baker 230. Do you already understand the basic definitions and ideas surrounding gender identity? Looking for a more nuanced discussion of issues of concern to the transgender and genderqueer communities? This interactive discussion-based workshop gives participants an opportunity to discuss their thoughts surrounding gender and identity, as well as to ask questions that probe gender, identity, presentation, and societal expectations of men and women.
- Rebecca Kling’s “Storms Beneath Her Skin”, Tuesday Nov. 19th from 1-3pm in the Women’s Center (Baker 403). The person standing next to you, are they a boy or a girl? What about you? Are you a boy or a girl? You can only pick one, obviously, and you had better get it right. I’m transgender, which complicates things. This show is about that – my identity and experience as a transgender woman – but it’s about other things, too: apologies, surgery, the equations of sex, the weather (metaphorically speaking), boobs, and more.
Trans* Day of Remembrance Vigil: Wednesday, November 20th, 8-9pm at Howard Green. A vigil to honor the lives of trans* people who have been killed or victimized.
Queer Hollywood~Two Spirits:
Edit: Queer Hollywood has been cancelled to make time for the screenings of the film “The New Black” at Athena Cinema on Wed. Nov. 20 and Thurs. Nov. 21. A panel discussion with LGBT Center staff will follow the Thursday screening. More information about the film can be found here: http://www.newblackfilm.com/
Sarah Tucker Jenkins
Program Coordinator for the Women’s Center and LGBT Center