Monday, February 01, 2010

Extended Remix On Women-Only Parties

Oh, I was bad, I did not post this follow-up material to my column on Friday as I said I would. Here’s the rest of what gender activist and completely fabulous person Kate Bornstein had to say about woman-only spaces…

Kate: The notion of women-only events is horribly knotted-up. I think there should be events for women only if that's what makes the women who attend feel safe enough to play. But the wording is critical. The folks holding the party can no longer expect to say "women only" and expect trans women to accept the party-holders' notion that trans women are not women. That might have worked 20 years ago, but it doesn't fly today. And the wording can no longer be "No transgender women allowed." Because there are many trans women who don't consider themselves trans women and who would be within their rights to attend; not to mention the trans men who could attend based on that warning.

Matisse: What is your opinion of women-only sexually-oriented events?
Kate: There's nothing morally or ethically wrong with being gender-exclusionary for the purpose of self-perceived safety.

Matisse: How do you think they should handle the issue of who is permitted to attend them?
Kate: The guideline on handling exclusion boils down to DON'T BE MEAN. It's inexcusable to be cruel in the wording of any exclusion. You can't say "women only" or even "trans women excluded" because then you'd be defining another person's gender for them and expecting them to accept your definition. These days, that doesn't fly. The only wording that might work would be "Cisgender Women Only." That's clear, and not mean at all. Personally, I wouldn't want to attend any sort of party who wouldn't want to include me because of my identity. I don't think I'd like the people there any more than they'd like me.

Matisse: How would one throw a sex party and include transwomen while excluding opportunistic/unethical cismen?
Kate: Back in PowerSurge days*, there was the dick-in-the-drawer rule. The event was for women only. If a woman had a dick, she could attend if she could take her dick out of her pants, put it in a bureau drawer, and then slam the drawer. That's practical, but it's still cruel to pre-op and non-op trans women, so even the dick-in-a-drawer rule won't work any more. How to handle opportunistic cismen? I haven't got a clue.

*A women-only BDSM conference held in Seattle in the 90's.