Abuse Survivors And Trans-Exclusive Spaces

Abuse Survivors And Trans-Exclusive Spaces November 19, 2015


Trans-exclusivity? Not in my name!
Trans-exclusivity? Not in my name!

I was going to just listen and learn as the Pagan community faces yet another round of transphobia. I was challenged to share a part of my personal journey overcoming my own transphobia and I did so here. But then I saw some of the tired old arguments for trans-exclusive spaces pop up again. There are different forms of the argument, but it is based on the idea that cisgender women are oppressed and often victims of abuse and need safe spaces, and spaces aren’t really safe if they welcome transgender women.

I feel the need to speak to this because I am a survivor of domestic and sexual abuse. Shortly after my divorce I was a traumatized mess. I was terrified of men. I was terrified of anyone with a penis. There was a time when I needed help healing from my trauma as a cisgender woman. I wasn’t yet in a place where I could face the existence of non-binary gender. At first, I needed to look my identity as a woman through a simplistic dualistic framework. It helped to generalize that men and their penises were violent while I and other women with vaginas were the raped and violated. 

But here’s the thing: this was a short part of my recovery journey. Yes, there was a time when my binary thinking helped me take a step toward accepting my body, my sexuality, my gender. But this was something I needed, personally, at that particular season in my journey. I know that what I did not need was a bunch of trans-exclusive events and communities for my benefit as an abuse survivors. It infuriates me that the violence committed against my body and the bodies of other cisgender women continues to be used as an excuse for transphobia.


My amazing friend Sheena Renee Adams, who was one of greatest allies working through sexual and domestic abuse. I miss her constantly. What is remembered, lives!
My amazing friend Sheena Renee Adams, who was one of greatest allies working through sexual and domestic abuse. I miss her constantly. What is remembered, lives!

It was, in fact, my late transgender friend Sheena Renee Adams who helped me most on my path to recovery. She came out shortly before my divorce, and we started corresponding frequently during that time. While Sheena was stepping into her true identify as a woman, I was learning to separate my own womanhood from the indoctrination of my abuser. We shared our respective stories of growing into our femininity, as well as the abuse we were enduring. We supported each other as we lost friends, she because of her transition, I because of my divorce and my expanding understanding of gender. We shared our tears and our joys and Sheena became my dearest ally on my own journey into womanhood.

Today I have transgender loves, and a trans woman who is particularly dear to my heart. Sharing our lives has brought additional healing to my own relationship to my gender and I am endlessly grateful for the wisdom and challenges she has brought into my life. The lesson I have learned from my own life, is that excluding trans women from our circles is not only an act of aggression against a marginalized minority, it is also a way to deprive ourselves of powerful allies and dear friends. Opening up and working through my own transphobia was not only the right thing to do, it was also one of the best things I could have done for my own healing.

One of the things I love about the Pagan community is our diversity in genders. I have learned so much from trans*, genderqueer, and non-binary friends. To see transgender friends further marginalized in our community grieves me to no end. A space in which my transgender friends are not welcome, is not a space in which I can feel welcome. I give thanks to Sheena Renee Adams, whose friendship has meant the world to me. What is remembered, lives! I give thanks to those who held space for me as I worked through my own transphobia. I give thanks to those who continue to correct me and teach me, even when I don’t react nicely at first. You are worth every moment of the struggle. I want to be in community with you and will do what I can to make our communities better by welcoming and embracing you and the richness you bring to all of us.

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