Freedom of self-defining — explained to Italian trans-exclusive feminists
Feminists are not all the same, that’s for sure. For some reasons, in Italy the most influent feminist associations on the major media are the most trans-exlcusive ones (aka TERFs). So I’m going to make it clear right now: this article is based on a transfeminist background, it stands against discriminations and binary/heterocentric values of both conservative culture and part of the LGBT community.
A little bit of context:
In these days in Italy a political discussion over the Zan law is taking place: it would be the first law against misogyny and homo-bi-transphobia in the history of the country. LGBTQ+ associations are giving more and more importance to recent cases of violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans* people due to the impact of the media over the public opinion and the Parliament discussion.
A few days ago, near Naples, a 25 y.o. guy attacked and killed his own sister, Maria Paola Gaglione, because of her relationship with a transgender guy named Ciro Migliore. I’m not going to talk about this event; what I am going to talk about is the reaction of one of the most influent (lesbian) feminist associations: ArciLesbica.
Yesterday, ArciLesbica came out with a post on Facebook in which they explained that the homicide was led by homophobia, not transphobia. In fact, they said, Ciro is not trans, because he has not started a medical nor legal transition yet. They wrote:
Transexuality cannot be self-certified, […] and [Ciro] has female documents and a female body.
What I hide between [brackets], the biggest issue of this post in my opinion, is the superficiality that the association uses (even knowing the situation) in deliberately referring to Ciro in female names and pronouns. In fact, they also explain why feminine names and pronouns should be use for indicate him.
So, let’s make an experiment. Now imagine of being in Ciro’s shoes for a moment. Forget you’ve just lost your girlfriend for a violence which was not even directed against her, but against you. Forget you’ve been beaten by her brother and humiliated by the media which misgendered you. You wake up in the morning and you discover a trans-exclusive feminist association is claming that you are a lesbian girl, and that you don’t know who you are but — luckily for you — they do, and they’re talking about why your identity is not valid and you suffering is not important compared to che Great Female Pronoun Assigned At Birth.
Can you imagine all this? I do. And the first thought coming to my mind is (trigger-alert): thank God I’m still alive, ’cause otherwise I’ve no idea of what they would have written on my stone.
So, we’re not talking about people invalidating someone’s sexual preference — which is also serious stuff. We’re talking about people denying someone’s ability of self-defining, their possibility to use a certain word about themselves.
Feminists without feminism
In my opinion, this is not about homophobia or transphobia anymore. This is a matter of feminism, of self-affirmation through freedom of choice (this is what feminism is about, isn’t it?). This is also freedom of choosing whether to go or not through a medical path (this is the debate around the abortion, isn’t it?).
What the so-called feminist association is saying is that it is necessary to undergo medical procedures for being trans*, like it’s an obligation. Which is, by the way, a demonstration of great ignorance of trans* issues, because (even wanting it) in Italy these days it’s not so easy to undergo a medical transition (some regions doesn’t have public gender clinics and so on). And wanting it is not an obligation. We can recall cases of activists and feminists who decided to transition illegally ‘cause they need to get around a system that stigmatizes people and claims to decide who they really are (as these associations does).
We all know that law and medical procedures are often rigid, and we cannot totally avoid that. But we’re talking about people. To deny someone’s possibility to define themselves is part of a theoretical conservative idea, and we cannot completely trust this idea when we deal with actual human beings such as Ciro. We can discuss theories if we want. But in reality, to invalidate an identity is a violent act, and we should really think about it before we write public statements, especially if we are a self-defined (somehow) feminist association.