by Be Scofield, founder of Decolonizing Yoga
New York Time’s best selling author and progressive activist Anne Lamott entered the Caitlyn Jenner conversation by publicly tweeting to 100,000 of her followers that she would only call Caitlyn Jenner a woman when she gets a vagina. She referred to Caitlyn as “he” and said she was a mannequin, not a woman.
What Lamott is doing is bolstering cissexism. It’s the idea that gender is determined strictly by genitals. Not only does this alienate gender queer and gender non-conforming folks but it also ignores the numerous trans folks who don’t undergo surgeries. Also, refusing to call Caitlyn Jenner a woman until she has had surgery sets a dangerous precedent. It denies the right of all transgender or gender non-conforming people to self identify and be self-determined. We live in a world where some men have vaginas and some women have penises. We need to embrace this, not stigmatize it.
Furthermore, Lamott’s comparison of Jenner to a “mannequin” for being high femme feeds into the culture of femmephobia and transphobia. In my article Caitlyn Jenner is High Femme, Get Over It, I stated: “It’s widely believed both in queer and straight communities that masculinity is natural and acceptable while femininity is artificial, costume like, stereotypical and unnecessary.” I was addressing the backlash and name calling that Caitlyn Jenner was receiving from the trans and queer community for being “too feminine” and pointed out that trans men are never accused of being “too handsome.” Anne Lamott’s transphobic words merely fuel this unfair attack on transwomen.
Lamott is a well respected voice who has had a great influence in society. Her work has touched the lives of millions. At a time when up to 40% of transgender people attempt suicide and face huge health, employment, emotional and familial hurdles I wish she would have chosen to be part of the solution and not the problem. Her statements undoubtedly contribute to a culture of violence and oppression against trans people. Hopefully it’s not too late to convince her to be a positive force for change. I know she could have a big impact on trans lives if she did.
Just in case there is any confusion about who a “real” woman is, this helpful flowchart may be of assistance:
About Be Scofield
Be Scofield, founder of Decolonizing Yoga, is a queer/trans writer, activist, Dr. King scholar and web/interaction/graphic designer who specializes in helping progressive and alternative health platforms shine. Her work on spirituality, social justice and atheism has appeared in Tikkun Magazine, Huffington Post and Alternet and she has a chapter in the book “21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics & Practice.”