originally posted to OccupyWallSt.org and distributed around Liberty Square. Written in colloboration with other trans women from the Queering OWS Working Group, Women Occupying Wall Street, and the POC Caucus
As feminists, we enthusiastically support women’s groups and womendesignated safer spaces, but as trans women and allies, we oppose (and will categorically block) any group or space that excludes trans women1 , as well as any standard that functionally asserts authority over our self-determined gender identities2 . On multiple occasions, we have witnessed the exclusion of trans people from spaces and groups affiliated with Occupations, both here in New York and elsewhere. We have also encountered transphobic hate speech propagated by certain “radical lesbian separatist” individuals within the movement. This must not be allowed to continue.
By denying the existence of cisgender privilege and furthering the disempowerment of trans people, transphobic groups, spaces and individuals violate both the letter and spirit of our Principles of Solidarity3 . The elimination of systemic oppression against marginalized people is a core goal of the Occupy movement, but self-identified “womyn-born-womyn”4 and other types of cisgender people do not constitute a marginalized group relative to trans women. Throughout the world, trans people – especially trans women, trans people of color, trans youth, trans sex workers, trans people with disabilities, and gender non-binary/non-conforming people – are among the people most marginalized by systemic oppression. In the U.S., trans women face extreme violence (a 1-in- 12 chance of dying from a violent crime), poverty (fifty percent unemployment rate) and criminalization (trans women, especially trans women of color, are routinely subject to police profiling).5
To fight this systemic oppression – including transphobia, cis-centrism, cis-supremacy, and trans-misogyny – it is essential we support the self-determination of all people oppressed by coercive, non-consensual gender assignments. Allowing any group or space to define gender by essentialist, cis-centric standards is intrinsically at odds with gender liberation and trans people’s right to autonomous self-determination. It is a fundamental affront to solidarity.
For decades – from the Stonewall Rebellion to Occupy Wall Street – trans women have stood at the forefront of social justice movements, often at great personal risk. But even within these movements, trans women have been excluded, silenced, shamed, and abandoned as political liabilities. Since mid-July, trans women have played a critical role in OWS, including the creation and 1 operation of OccupyWallSt.org, the de facto voice of the global Occupy movement. Nonetheless, we are prepared to leave the New York General Assembly and its empowered Spokes Council en masse if trans-excluding groups, spaces, and individuals continue to be tolerated by this body. Over 50 OWS-affiliated groups have already signed on to a trans-inclusive safer spaces policy (and any group which has not is encouraged to join!), but for Occupy Wall Street to hold true to its Principles of Solidarity, we must take the additional step of ensuring that trans peoples’ identities are respected, and that trans women are safe and welcome in all women’s spaces.