Trigger Warning: Trans*phobia, transmisogyny, cissexism
This piece will not be about how Brownworth exploited a minor to show her his genitals for journalism. This piece will not be about how Brownworth has been attacking trans women about calling her out on her pedophilia for profit either. This piece will focus on going into the very root of her beliefs and exposing her for the trans*phobic, transmisogynist that Brownworth is by virtue of her own writing, interviews, and views. Just like I did with the Brennan interview, I plan on doing the same with Brownworth. If you want to know more about the previously mentioned, the TransAdvocate and Sophia Banks have done very well for documenting this and her harassment. I may touch upon those in this article, but that is not my focus as two very prominent women have already covered that (and continue to).
Brownworth says she is an ally of trans women and trans* people. However, for an ally, she spends her time around people like Brennan and other TERFs. When called out on twitter, she falls back into these people for support against these ‘vicious’ trans* people. Often, she resorts to the same TERF tactic of saying anyone calling her out is harassing, stalking, and obsessed with her. She uses the same fear mongering tactics employed by those who wish to keep trans* people, usually trans women, from peeing in peace (as an example). I feel nothing better suits this and proves this point than her piece on the Michigan Womyn’s Music Fest (Michfest/ MWMF), minus all of the stuff on Twitter of course.
For those of you who do not know, Michfest is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, lesbian music festival out there. It is a testament to celebrating women and things created by women, more specifically the queer women community. Sounds pretty awesome, right? Sadly, it’s not as nice as it sounds. This festival is stringently womyn-born-womyn only. Trans men are allowed, but trans women are excluded, even if they have had bottom surgery. They believe that the only true way to be a woman is to be born and socialized as one, even if you currently experience male privilege. For a festival that is about being away from men, their inherently oppressive penises, and their inherently oppressive gender class, they certainly welcome them with open arms! This is not uncommon for many women’s only spaces, to neglect letting fellow women in and allowing in men.
She starts her piece off describing how she is heavily involved in black neighborhoods, communities, schools, and other places. She talks of her white privilege and how she would never proclaim she is black. This is all supposed to be an analogy of how despite spending all her time around people of color, knowing of issues surrounding race, and so on, she could never proclaim a black identity or know what it is like to be a person of color. While true, she uses this analogy to say that trans women never actually know what it is like to be women. Even trans women who are read as cis women, according to Brownworth, never know what it is like to be ‘actual’ women. Some ally, huh?
She then proceeds to compare trans* specific spaces to be comparable to whites-only and white supremacist spaces. Let me remind you that this woman proclaims herself to be an ally and writes about trans* people for places like the Huffington Post and Philadelphia Gay News. This woman, who compares trans* only safe spaces, to white supremacist groups, writes about trans* issues. To Brownworth, trans* people are not marginalized enough to have their own safe spaces, nor are trans women ‘women enough’ to be in women’s spaces. At this point, she starts talking about rape.
This is always the issue with TERFs. They fear that trans women will rape cis women. To these people, penises rape by merely existing. The existence of trans women, to these people, are raping cis women’s bodies. Rape is a broad category for these people. “If I were running MWMF, this is what I would say: No penises. No male privilege. No oppression of women.” To Brownworth, she needs to cover all the bases to exclude trans women from these spaces. No penises, becomes no male privilege in order to exclude trans women who have had bottom surgery. TERFs believe that people who experience male privilege at some point in their lives, if they do, are forever tainted by it and become inherently oppressive to cis women. Of course, this fact is ignored when it comes to trans men who now benefit from male privilege. Apparently, you can only benefit from it if you were classified at birth as having a penis, whether you still have it or not.
While she addresses the issue of the patriarchy being an issue, she deems men, as a class, are oppressive to women via a Andrea Dworkin quote, “the gender class women is oppressed by the gender class men”. She refused to believe that men oppress trans women due to their gender class of being a woman. She contradicts her own exclusionary practices by saying trans women experience oppression and that cis women are not the problem, but patriarchy is. However, despite trans women experiencing oppression at the hands of patriarchy, they are not allowed in this women only space due to penis. She says no one should check genitals at the door, but believes trans women should know better and to keep their penises and male privilege at the door. However, if you are a trans man, feel free to bring your packers, strap-ons, and male privilege with you through the gates! Hypocrisy much?
She once again compared trans women to a white person who wishes to invade person of color only spaces. “Do I have the right to force my whiteness on them since while I haven’t oppressed them personally, I wear the skin of their oppressor?” She asks, once again ignoring that trans men wear the skin of the oppressor they so wish to banish. However, the more I read into it, the oppressor does not seem to be men, patriarchy, or anything of that matter, but penises. Penises are the oppressors in this world, even though penises are not inherently male or female. This belief in oppression seems simplified, down to a pinprick of an issue. Penises are the problem, not gender stereotypes, gender norms, gender roles, or even gender itself like many TERFs proclaim, the issue is penises.
However, despite trying to exclude trans women who have gotten bottom surgery, she now believes they should be included, “If you haven’t fully transitioned and still have your penis, can’t you keep it hidden away for that week or wait to come to Michigan until after you have fully transitioned and that remnant of the body that is the wrong body is gone?” She wants trans women to hide their histories, hide their bodies. She shames trans women who do not want, cannot have, or have yet to have an extremely costly surgery. This is pure ignorance. Brownworth does not acknowledge that not all trans women dislike their penis. She also ignores that transitioning is an extremely costly thing for some people and that most American healthcare systems do not cover bottom or any surgeries, for trans* people. She is wholly ignorant of the fact that it is not that simple. She also uses the age old trope of the wrong body. To her, the body is the target, and issue, not society who deems people be one way or another based on absurd and outdated categories like genitals. While this may be true for some people, it is not true for all. This is erasure of identities. Trans women who are poor, cannot have surgery for medical or personal reasons, or those who are still waiting should not be allowed because of, once again, penis. This is a woman who writes about trans* issues and trans* people for large media cooperation who has no idea and continues to perpetuate stereotypes about the very people she is supposedly an ally for.
“Why do transgender rights trump the rights of lesbians?” The real question should be, why do the rights of a minority trump those of the majority. Why should a minority, I.E. trans women, be allowed to do everything that lesbians can? This question, posed by a friend of Brownworth, seems to be in the same air that the religious right throws around about queer peoples’ rights trumping those of religious freedom. Why should we have to be forced to allow people to exist where we do not them to exist? In fact, why should we allow these people to even exist? The question should be, “why do women’s rights trump the rights of women?” because quite frankly, that is the problem. We don’t like these types of women, so why should they be allowed to exist in the same spaces as us?
Brownworth elaborates on the problems women face at the hands of men every day in the world. “Women at MWMF have been damaged and brutalized by male oppression and male privilege–street harassment, homophobia, incest, rape and just “simply” making two-thirds of what they make for the same job.” These are things that trans women apparently cannot comprehend. Despite trans* people experiencing higher levels of homelessness, joblessness, family disownment, brutalization, harassment, and so on than their cis counterparts, according to Brownworth, trans women cannot comprehend these. Trans women do not face homophobia, oppression from men, harassment, rape, lower pay rates, or any of these issues. Trans women exist in a state of privileged bliss and do not experience misogyny or sexism, in Brownworth’s world. Only ‘real’ women experience this, also trans men. Trans men experience all these things as well, even if they are perceived as cis men in their daily lives. Once again, it seems the issue is not wanting a women’s space, but wanting to exclude trans women based on ignorance, lies, and stereotypes.
Throughout the article Brownworth makes accusations that trans women constantly make a big issue of this every year. If they truly wanted to attend, they would simply just go and remained closeted. They would not participate and share their various histories and experiences. They would not be allowed to share their stories of transmisogyny and how their lives have been changed due to the shift from being perceived as male to being seen for the women they are. They should remain quiet. In fact, according to Brownworth, they should not even fight for their ability to be included. They should be happy that this women’s only space is for cis women and trans men only. They should understand, since they face oppression, that this place is needed. This is a queer women’s space, in fact, lesbian only. Trans women cannot be lesbians.
She concludes the piece by contradicting herself, saying that a trans* only space should be made and that it is ok for that to exist, despite comparing it to whites’ only and white supremacist spaces. This type of circular and contradictory logic seems to be common in TERFs and the ilk. In efforts to jump over hoops to explain their transmisogyny as protecting women and to validate their exclusion, they often end up shoving their own feet into their mouths. However, unlike the others, Brownworth disguises herself as an ally to trans* people, including trans women. Unlike Brennan who does not hide her trans*phobia, cissexism, and especially her transmisogyny, Brownworth does.
Brownworth does not believe that cis privilege exists. She believes that cissexism and cis privilege do not affect the fact that she is allowed to write on trans* issues and identities while spreading these mistruths, ‘biotruths’, ignorance, and hate. For this reason, I feel that Brownworth might be even more dangerous as a certain level than Brennan. While Brennan is outright with her hate and her goal, Brownworth passes herself off as an ally and an expert on trans* people, their lives, and their identities. She has convinced people that she is not trans*phobic while actively engaging in exploitation of trans* minors, harassing, attacking, and slandering trans* activists, while calling them pedophiles (and engaging in whorephobia). She is an award-winning journalist (for engaging in exploitation and pedophilia of trans* minors) who passes herself off as a friend, ally, and fellow. She holds company with people like Brennan and Hungerford. Brownworth is no ally. Brownworth may be deluded enough to believe she is an ally, but as I have shown, she is just as trans*phobic, cissexist, and transmisogynistic as the rest.