There are many ways to talk about transmisogyny, but let’s start with the centering of pussies in Saturday’s chants, posters and apparel.

by Juniperangelica Xiomara

Let me start this off by saying: my pussy is unconventional. I’m not too sure what a conventional pussy would look, feel or be like, but I want to start this off with the understanding that I embody a body that cannot easily find community within the millions of pussy-hat-wearing marchers this past weekend.

As a person who is currently in the middle of a gender hiatus, the conversations around gender justice and feminism are complicated but needed. And the fact is, now more than ever, there is a need to complicate our discussions around social movements that claim intersectionality, but may sway when convenient.

So let’s talk about it. Pussy. Pink. Women. Feminism. Marches. Reproductive justice. January 21.

An undeniable pride filled my mind when I watched millions of people take to the streets the day after a cheeto man took office in Washington, D.C. Witnessing bodies worldwide, demanding the dismantlement of oppressive systems was great. Yes.

Related: Despite Pussy Hats, These Intersectional Posters Shined Through at the Women’s March

Yet there is an instinctual let-me-hold-my-breath-while-I-listen-to-your-chants experience when it comes to feminist marches, because the reality is simple: feminism can be hella transphobic. From silencing trans people to excluding us in messaging, the same marchers out here to end violence against bodies are running us over. Whether with a basket of good intentions or not, the fact remains that movements for gender justice have been selective in which genders get justice. Specifically, the exclusion and violence of transwomen, femmes and gender non-conforming people, or transmisogyny.

While there is a list of entry points into a conversation of addressing transmisogyny, a timely tackle in reflection of the post-inauguration marches is the centering of pussies in Saturday’s chants, posters and apparel.

But I am only reclaiming the word, girl. Calm down.

Yes. As a queer, butch, chingona, slut, I think reclaiming words that have been violently used against our people and existences is the epitome of badassery. And yes, from our fathers to our peers to our “leader” of the executive branch, our history of struggle has been filled with attacks directly toward vaginas, pussies and cunts. To acknowledge this and then to scream at the top of your lungs that THIS PUSSY GRABS BACK is everything resistance should be.

Then why are you crying, girl?

Remember when I said my pussy was unconventional? As a trans person, I’ve been socialized to understand that vaginas and penises are facts of life, acting as they should, being used for what they should be used for, remaining on the bodies they were meant to be on. Conventional realities that uphold a binary we so easily live under.

But my trans experience complicates this. My body does not reflect the other women marching beside me, yelling about their bodies. My gender is experienced differently than the other women, holding posters demanding justice for their gender.

And this is the exclusion that has turned so many trans people away from marching. This is why I wasn’t in the streets this year.

I am here for my sisters, brothers and my siblings with vaginas to also demand legislation to end policing of their bodies. I am here for my sisters, brothers and siblings with vaginas to also empower the next generation to not feel shame about their bodies. I am here for my sisters, brothers and siblings with vaginas to also fight against sexual violence within our communities.

But I don’t feel they are all here for me.

OK, so what is wrong and how can it be changed?

What the constant “pussy is power” and pink hats highlight through the worldwide marches is the continued centering of vaginas in feminism that has effectively reduced topics of reproductive justice and feminism to a body part. Vagina-centric conversations, on multiple levels, limits social justice to work solely with vagina issues alone, ignoring the multifaceted needs of communities; this includes the exclusion of transwomen.

Related: No, Calling Out Racism Isn’t Divisive

I am not arguing that we should silence people from saying “pussy” or speaking to issues faced by people with vaginas. What I am arguing is that the discussion of what we are fighting for needs be more than the conventional pussy. Do not let the conversation about vaginas and power fade, but do mention reproductive justice for people with different experiences. Do acknowledge healthcare for more experiences.

Why do we need to do this if, when I say “pussy,” I mean all women?

This is complicated. Kind of.

I want to say “yes.” As a trans person who feels totally comfortable referring to my genitalia as a pussy, even if others would disagree, I like the idea of expanding the reclaimed word to include all body parts individuals want to include. The act of expanding what “pussy” means marries the reclaiming that the word patriarchy forces on us with the idea of not limiting pussy-activism to people with vaginas.

But we aren’t there yet. While we may be on our way as a community to explore what renaming genitalia can look like, I don’t think the majority of transwomen assume a parade of pussy hats automatically includes our “pussies,” because historically, it hasn’t.

This conversation is complex and layered, but important. Feminism is needed, and so are the conversations that determine what issues shall be included. At the basis of our current social movements, we must start critical thought with acknowledging that claiming intersectionality is not substantial enough to assume it is true. We must complicate movements and organizing. We must ask questions, challenge perceptions and speak up.

We must center the existences of marginalized people, not just their select body parts.

Featured image: Flickr user jar [o] via Creative Commons

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