In light of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s remarks on transwomen, we at ToFemCo wanted to offer our thoughts. Chimamanda has been a prominent feminist voice and we have long admired her work. However, her initial statements and her subsequent statements are transphobic and cissexist, and completely ignore the fact that transmisogyny is possible and exists. Just because someone has experienced male privilege at birth, does not mean they have not been oppressed by the patriarchy. In her statements, Adichie fails to recognize that the discrimination suffered by trans folks stems from their failure to live up to the social norms of their birth gender. And despite the fact Adichie has lived every day of her life as a ciswoman and has no idea what it is like to be trans, she felt the need to comment on the lived experiences of transwomen. Although it appears that she is attempting to apologize or reflect on her statements, I cannot help but notice that it lacks one particular sentiment: Transwomen are women. Transwomen are women. Once more for the people in the back: transwomen are women.
How do I know? The same way I know that I am a woman. I know it from the indescribable feeling in my heart. My womanhood has never been completely about my breasts, my vulva, my uterus, my period, my clothes, my hair, or my makeup. Although those can make me feel like a woman, I would still be a woman if I was stripped of all those things tomorrow. In Whipping Girl, Julia Serano explains that gender identity can be complicated because two ideas are at work: the gender we consciously choose to identify as and the gender we subconsciously feel ourselves to be. Julia Serano calls the latter our subconscious sex, which is something even ciswomen experience. Cis-folks’ privilege often blinds us to this concept, but there are ways to understand this feeling. At numerous talks Serano has given, she asks the audience members if they would live as the other sex for the rest of their lives for ten million dollars. The vast majority of people say no thank you to the ten million dollars. To be honest, I’m with them. I wouldn’t give up being a woman for anything.
Though it is difficult to figure out at times, we know deep inside who we are. What is often easier to figure out is whether that person will be accepted. Oppression is cruel in the ways that it isolates, dehumanizes, and destroys people. Ultimately, that is what is at stake in this conversation. We cannot stand by and contribute to the same toxicity that ends trans lives in horrific ways. Trans lives are not up for debate. Seven transwomen have been murdered this year already. Transwomen are women. Transmen are men. Gender is not binary.
Below I have listed the women who were murdered because of their trans identities. The list is not complete because of the various ways in which the justice system fails to track and investigate their deaths. Say her name!
Transwomen Killed in 2017 alone (Unites States)
- Mesha Caldwell – 41 – Canton, Mississippi
- Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow – 28 – Sioux Falls, South Dakota
- Jojo Striker – 23 – Toledo, Ohio
- Tiara Lashaytheboss Richmond – 24 – Chicago, Illinois
- Jaquarrius Holland – 18 – Monroe, Louisiana
- Chyna Doll Dupree – 31 – New Orleans, Lousiana
- Ciara McElveen – 21 – New Orleans, Lousiana
Transwomen Killed in Canada Since 2003
- Rose Rebut – Edmonton, Alberta
- Shelby Tracy Tom – North Vancouver, British Columbia
- January Marie Lapuz – New Westminster, Canada
- Cassandra Do – Toronto, Ontario
- Deanna Wilkinson and Shawn “Junior” Keegan – Toronto, Ontario