Clarification of Double Union post

Last week, several people interpreted my blog post explaining why I left Double Union as supporting some specific transphobic ideas. I strongly oppose those transphobic ideas, and I am particularly sorry for the pain that people who are trans and/or non-binary experienced as a result. In this blog post, I will restate my relevant beliefs in a more concise form. My goal is to make it harder for people to use my Double Union blog post to harm trans and/or non-binary people.

I believe that some non-binary people experience more oppression than some women. In my original post I wrote, “Some but not all non-binary people experience more oppression than women, all other things being equal.” Someone summarized my post as arguing the opposite: that non-binary people face less discrimination than women. I don’t believe that.

I believe that membership in a gender-based group should be based on self-identification, not on how well someone passes as a particular gender. The main purpose of my original post was to argue in favor of the previous Double Union membership criteria of “identifies as a woman in a way that is significant to you,” which is based on self-identification rather than passing privilege. I believe that a person’s gender is the gender they identify as, not the gender other people assign to them. This belief is so fundamental to both my personal beliefs and my public body of work that it did not occur to me to state it explicitly in the original post, for which I am sorry.

I believe that trans women do not have significant male privilege. I wrote in my original post, “When someone publicly identifies as a woman—even partially—they pretty quickly lose most of any male privilege they previously had.” This includes out trans women. (As of this writing, there is an active debate on what privileges closeted trans women have and I am listening quietly.) I believe trans women are women and have insisted that any group I create or participate in reflects that belief.

I believe that groups exclusively for the members of a specific marginalized group are an important part of fighting oppression. I believe that the benefits of these groups are worth the hurt and pain this causes to people who are excluded because they aren’t part of the marginalized group. I feel sorry for the pain that causes to the people who want to join and can’t. I wish there was a way to get the benefits of these exclusive groups without excluding anyone. I’ve been part of or watched several attempts to create gender-inclusive groups that center people who identify as women in a way that is significant to them. The result was a group that instead centered people with significant male privilege (including some non-binary people) and aided some of them in harassing and abusing people with little male privilege (including some non-binary people). I don’t know how to prevent this other than by excluding people who don’t identify as women in a way that is significant to them.

I believe that people who are members of marginalized groups should lead the discussion of issues that primarily impact them. As a member of the marginalized group “people who identify as a woman in a way that is significant to them,” and a then-member of Double Union, I believe it was appropriate for me to express my concerns about how expanding the Double Union membership criteria to include people who are not part of that marginalized group would affect people who are part of that group.

I appreciate the people who gave their time and energy to discuss the original post and its impact on them. I believe it is reasonable to disagree on what the Double Union membership criteria should be and I respect many people who advocate for different membership criteria than the one I helped create. I tried my hardest to write a post that would not cause unnecessary pain or reinforce oppression, especially for people who are trans and/or non-binary. I am truly sorry that its impact on many people was the opposite. I am continuing to think about how I can better prevent that in the future.

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