by Jezebel Delilah X
Recently, most of my queer facebook friends – a good amount of whom are other cisgender, lesbian-identified women of color – have been mourning, status update after status update, the twenty trans women who have been murdered in the U.S. this year. And part of that mourning process is holding each other accountable for the ways our silence, passivity, and unchecked privilege makes us complicit in the systems and attitudes that cause those murders.
This accountability looks like:
1. Challenging each other to be more intentional friends, lovers, and allies to trans women in our QTPOC communities,
2. Being cognizant of our cis privilege and honoring trans leadership in our movements and organizations,
3. Unpacking and addressing our own cissexism on a deeply personal and interpersonal level,
4. Joining and supporting trans people in the fight against anti-trans violence and systemic exclusion, and
5. Reading the writings of trans women of color to learn how to be better allies and keep trans people alive!
Witnessing this solidarity makes me proud to be a part of the QTPOC community and especially in awe of all the WOC lesbian activists who helped paved the trails for us to have the organizing platform and intersectional queer movement we have today.
However, on the same newsfeed where I encounter WOC lesbians of all ages nurturing wounds, spreading love, and lamenting against the murderous marginalization of trans women of color, I also read too many frustrated and hurt facebook statuses stating that they feel left behind by the queer community, unacknowledged by younger activists, and like their legacy is being forgotten.
They claim that the LGBTQ movement has stopped addressing the oppression that lesbians face, choosing to focus on queer and transgender advocacy instead; that younger queers have internalized so much misogyny they’d rather call themselves men than butches; that same gender loving trans women are actually men infiltrating lesbian and women’s spaces; and that lesbianism has been so culturally maligned that today’s youth would rather make up new words (like genderqueer, genderfluid, agender, dual-gender, genderfuck etc) than call themselves lesbians.
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Somewhere in all the turmoil and oppression, many of us – as cis Lesbians of color – have conflated the disregard we feel within society and the queer community with the very critical advocacy and space that members of the trans and gender non-binary communities are requesting. We’ve blamed the invisibility and disregard of lesbian POC identity on the emergence of transgender activism – which is a dangerous and deeply inaccurate thing.
Not only are those events completely uncorrelated, but in fact the rhetoric and philosophy that fuels trans exclusive feminism emerged from the same racist white lesbian feminists of the 2nd wave who produced the patriarchy-informed white feminism that some of our most celebrated sheroes, like Audre Lorde and Gloria E. Anzaldua, dedicated their careers to fighting against.
I get that my lesbian sisters and elders are deeply hurt, and it burdens me to see their pain for two reasons: 1) I want them to feel honored, welcomed, recognized, and included in the queer community that they helped to create, and 2) hurt people hurt people – and usually the people they hurt are just as oppressed, if not more, than they are.
But, when we direct our frustration over feeling invisible, rejected, and unappreciated at trans people, scapegoat trans men for our supposedly dwindling numbers, exclude trans women from women-only spaces, and mock the existence of gender nonbinary people, we are perpetuating that hurt in such an implicitly violent and murderous way. On a systemic level, there is a genocide that is targeting people or color in this country, and when we, as WOC lesbian freedom fighters and warriors for justice, misgender and villainize POC trans people in order to validate pushing them out of their very needed and very new spotlight, we are pushing them further into the fatal grasp of our shared oppressors.
We become tools of the patriarchy.
And as a cisgender Black lesbian who deeply loves other lesbians of color and knows our strength, brilliance, and power, I cannot silently witness this go down. I can’t read oppressive facebook statuses, listen to angry, cissexist rants, and allow us to be bullies and weapons of white patriarchy out of hurt and fear.
Not when that hurt could be a powerful and unrelenting force for change.
Not when that fear should be of the system we’re fighting to be included in, rather than the people being consistently assaulted by it.
And not when the people that this violent system is conditioning us to perceive as other are really an intimate, dynamic, and beautiful part of how we, as people of color, manage to exist in this world.
So to my cis, WOC lesbian sisters and elders, I have a few points that I need for you to consider, remember, and reflect on as we move forward together:
- We must stop using what a person’s body looks like to determine whether they are a lesbian or woman. As the brilliant Luna Merbruja says, “As feminist women, we should strive to see the common ground and listen to each other to be in solidarity. I’m asking that you see my womb-less body as valid, just as I see you as valid whether or not you choose to bear children.”
- We wouldn’t have the space to explore the nuance, intricacy, and construction of gender in the ways we do today if it wasn’t for the intersectional radicalism of WOC feminists fighting against white supremacist informed understandings of womanhood – the same white supremacist ideals that we borrow when we insist on misgendering trans people. Trans and gender non-binary people aren’t exploring their liberation at the expense of you, rather part of why we all have platforms to explore our liberation today is because of the work you’ve already done. If you open your heart up, you’ll see that this is a part of your legacy – our shared legacy.
- Lesbianism isn’t disappearing as you age – trust me and the dynamic lesbians with whom I kick it. We exist! When you claim that our population is disappearing, you erase and disregard us and the work we do.
- Trans people are not at odds with WOC lesbianism. White supremacy is. Patriarchy is. Misogynoir is. Xenophobia and ageism and fatphobia and ableism are. But trans folk – no, they’re our people. Don’t let systemic negligence keep us from using our collective power to address the folks actually harming us.
If we exclude trans people, and especially other women, on the basis of fear, ignorance, or scarcity, we perpetuate the same misogyny, patriarchy, and sexism that has been killing us for years, that women have been fighting since before even the oldest of our elders have been alive.
So, to my cisgender, lesbian of color sisters, please stop practicing transmisogyny, transphobia, and cissexism in the name of survival. Lets practice a love that is inclusive and protecting of all QTPOC people. Lets keep fighting for each other.
Jezebel Delilah X is a queer, lush-bodied, Black, femme performance artist, writer, educator, speaker and Faerie Queen Mermaid Gangsta for The Revolution. She is in solidarity with all women.
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