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Why Serve Trans or Intersex Survivors?

January 7, 2010

Via @silverparty

Across North America, from Ontario to Kansas to Key West, many programs are asking difficult questions about how to serve trans and intersex survivors within existing programs. As they speak, write, or sign about their experiences, others are still at the point of asking, “Why?” Why should our programs, especially those targeted towards women, serve trans or intersex survivors of domestic violence? …

Perhaps the most basic reason to serve trans and intersex [‘domestic’ violence & sexual abuse] survivors, though, is our movement’s sense of community responsibility. Kahlil Gibran once wrote that we are born owing nothing to anyone, but everything to everyone. We do not serve survivors in our programs because we owe them money or a favor. We serve them because as members of our communities, they deserve our communities’ help during the difficult and dangerous transition out of an abusive relationship. Our trans and intersex neighbors deserve no less.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. polly permalink
    January 8, 2010 09:17

    Can I point out that trans and intersex aren’t the same? Most intersex people appear, superficially to be one biological sex or another, and are usually classified as such at birth. Very, very few intersex people have external genitalia of both sexes.

    I can’t imagine that there is any rape crisis service in the UK that would deny a woman treatment on the grounds of having androgen insensitivity syndrome, for instance, because that person appears like any other female. You don’t have birth certificates that state intersex in the UK, so their birth certificate will state female. It is immensely hurtful to a lot of intersex people to be misdescribed as trans. See

    http://www.aissg.org/21_OVERVIEW.HTM

    Moreover trans women are males who identify as women, and not usually intersex at all. In the UK it’s possible to be fully biologically male – ie have no surgery whatsoever – and have your gender reassigned to woman, yet to most people who meet that person it will be completely apparent they are male.

    I have experience, personally, of being referred, unexpectedly to a trans woman counsellor when I’d asked to be referred to a lesbian (for issues including early menopause!). It was perfectly obvious from this person’s voice that they were trans, I didn’t even meet them, in fact because they left a message on my answering machine and i couldn’t hear their name properly I thought I’m mistakenly been referred to a male.

    Lots of males experience rape, and not all males are rapists. The idea of a single sex (not gender) service is for females (or those intersex people who identify as female) to feel safer. The same with single sex DV shelters – they don’t admit gay male survivors of domestic violence (of whom there are many). Plus there may be religious/cultural reasons why women cannot share space with males they are unrelated to. Again such services would be open, in the UK, to intersex people assigned female at birth. In addition the policy of women’s aid is to give support to post operative transwomen.

    Nobody, least of all me, is suggesting that anyone who has experienced rape or domestic violence shouldn’t receive appropriate support. I do believe however that single sex services should be just that. For those people who are of that sex, or intersex people assigned to that sex at birth.

    I don’t believe males should be in single sex services for females. Most people regard sex, not gender, to be the determining factor of who is a man or a woman, and those women have rights too.

  2. January 10, 2010 01:59

    Polly. With respect, and you do have my respect as a feminist with an excellent grasp on human rights world wide, I cannot agree with your assertion “Moreover trans women are males who identify as women”.

    I have seen a growing awareness of the incidence of male victims of ‘domestic’ violence and rape. That there should be more services for men and women is undeniable. Also, I don’t think men should be included in women only services. But as trans women are women, then I can’t see a justification to deny them services offered by women only services.

    I haven’t come to this understanding lightly. It does challenge many deep and long standing beliefs I have/had. To be clear I cannot see how I can divide women who are Female Assigned At Birth and women who are not Female Assigned At Birth into two camps deserving of different services.

    I’m sure that white women also feel/felt they have/had rights to operate in spaces that were banned to black women, but it was/ is wrong and inhumane.

  3. polly permalink
    January 10, 2010 09:31

    But black women are female. That’s the difference. Trans women may well be “women”, but they’re not female.

    If we are to open single sex spaces up to some males, why have single sex spaces at all?

  4. polly permalink
    January 10, 2010 10:00

    If any service is to be ‘women only’ then you need a way of defining who is a woman. This will inevitably exclude some people, or such a definition would be pointless. So it is then open to ANY male to challenge exclusion on the grounds that some males are admitted on the basis of their gender identity, so why exclude other males?

    And you are still making a decision as to who is a woman and who is not a woman.

    The only logical alternative is to admit self defined women. Which again admits anyone, because someone’s personal identity is unchallengeable. So there is no longer any point to having women only services.

    • January 10, 2010 13:28

      I don’t think that is the logical alternative.

    • January 10, 2010 17:53

      “And you are still making a decision as to who is a woman and who is not a woman”

      On the contrary – the Gender Recognition Panel makes the decision as to who is legally a woman and who isn’t.

  5. January 10, 2010 13:27

    “But black women are female. That’s the difference. Trans women may well be “women”, but they’re not female.”

    What’s female?

    “If we are to open single sex spaces up to some males, why have single sex spaces at all?”

    I don’t think men should be served by women only services or should be welcome into women only areas.

  6. January 17, 2010 14:49

    Polly: Intersex people may not be transsexual, but they most certainly are transgender. Your comments show that you have yet to even try to learn anything about transgender people. I suggest you make that effort.

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