How to Be an Ally to Trans Women *Excerpt from Excluded*

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How to Be an Ally to Trans Women *Excerpt from Excluded*

Trans women are rarely given the benefit of doubt. Sometimes we are explicitly excluded. More often these days, we are formally allowed to participate, but are never made to feel welcome. Sometimes it feels like we’ve been placed on double-secret probation—we are tolerated until we say or do anything wrong or that can be misinterpreted in any way. And as soon as we do, others will not attribute it to our naiveté or the fact that we simply have a different perspective, but rather they will view it as some vestigial ever-present manifestation of our “male privilege” or socialization. In other words, they will use the incident to portray us as outsiders.

When trans women are openly accepted in queer women’s spaces, it is generally despite of our trans status rather than because of it. We are expected to play down or even hide our trans histories, perspectives and bodies in order to blend in with the cis majority. This is in stark contrast to the way in which our counterparts on the FTM-spectrum are often embraced, even celebrated, because they are trans, for the difference they bring to queer women’s spaces.


Sometimes I joke with friends that I am one bad experience away from becoming a trans woman separatist. People always laugh when I say that because of how absurdist it is. There are simply too few trans women in the world to create a viable separatist movement. And while I find trans women attractive, I have no desire to limit my dating pool to just trans women. And while I think trans women have crucial and underappreciated insights into gender and sexism, I do not believe that we (and we alone) have all of the answers. In fact, I don’t believe that any one group can have all the answers, because each of us inhabits different bodies. We have different histories, different predispositions, and we each lie at the intersection of different privileges and forms of marginalization.

So when people ask me what they can do to be allies to trans women, I tell them that the most important thing they can do is to help work toward creating new queer women’s communities: Communities that celebrate difference rather than sameness; communities where all of us are listened to and valued for our unique perspectives; communities where every person is seen as a legitimate object of desire; communities where our gender expressions are not policed; communities where gold star lesbians are not viewed as any better than devoutly bisexual women, and where trans women are not viewed as less legitimate than cis women; communities that acknowledge that women who love other women may take an infinite number of different life paths in order to get here. Let’s work together to build new queer women’s communities where all of us, despite superficial differences in our bodies and histories, are given the benefit of doubt.

Excerpted from Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive by Julia Serano. Available from Seal Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright 2013.