Featured image description: Rows of makeshift beds in a large, well-lit room. The duvets are in are various colours.
CN for transphobia, terf discussion – including direct quotes from a terf blogpost, domestic abuse, trauma, death mention, detransition rhetoric, ableism, gaslighting, toxic masculinity
Today is going to be quite a long post for many reasons. Mainly that I’m going to address the elephant in the room in the eyes of terfs – about trans women accessing “single-sex spaces” – including women’s refuges. This is from the perspective of somebody who got barred from one when feeling domestic abuse. I am now only just able to start coming to terms with this as I finally escaped my abusers. Furthermore, with the recent news that the UK government plan to roll back trans rights this year (starting with trans kids), I feel now is the time to publish this.
This is a lengthy blogpost as I’m going to detail things extensively – not just my personal experiences. There are also screenshots and quotes from transphobes – because yes, despite what people want to claim transphobia is still an issue in women’s refuges. While there are women’s refuges that are inclusive of trans people, there are a lot who aren’t.
My escape was a long time coming due to many systematic barriers I faced. Here is a link to that post, so I don’t have to go into detail again here.
So why am I writing a blog post on this specifically? Well, it’s for two reasons – firstly, so myself and others can source this article where appropriate because the voices of trans women are being silenced (ironically from those complaining they are being silenced, which is nonsense).
Secondly, because I wish to elaborate on the above a bit more as it was only through time that I was able to accept that I was rejected on the grounds of transphobia. I had previously thought it was just because they didn’t feel they could support me for any other reasons. This post also clarifies a lot of the dog whistles transphobes use – whether they are terfs or just random people spreading rhetoric they don’t understand.
That said, the refuge as well as the staff I engaged with there are kept anonymous in this piece.
The critical thing to remember is the trans women’s needs are often similar to cis women’s
There is much misunderstanding about the needs of trans women and what being trans is. Hence a lot of beliefs services users have are rooted in transphobia whether they realise it or not.
Trans feminine people generally wish to be treated like cis women. This is because the way wider society perceives us means that we are victims of systematic sexism and misogyny from those around us. This often includes years of mistreatment from cis men – often for prolonged periods of time in very similar aspects that cis women face – especially when other marginalisations are involved ie. Disability and race.
This is something that affects all feminine presenting people, especially those that “pass” as a cis woman. Here is what I mean:
“It may not be appropriate to see you at the centre” is vague and was probably said to try to hedge the bad news. This was the first red flag, hence I enquired.
Note that I am supplying sensitive information, including logs – one of the critical things domestic abuse survivors have to compile. How exactly is it “inappropriate” that a trans woman is trying to access support?
This person then replied with the following:
I would like to draw particular attention to this quote – “Our transgender policy states we can only engage face-to-face contact with a women who is past the surgical stage of her transition.”
This is why the refuge rejected me. It wasn’t a case of “may not” – it was “was not,” but I had to push for an answer. The problems with this policy – assuming it’s genuine – is that it’s completely unrealistic only to accept post-op trans people. Somebody’s genitals don’t come into this frankly unless people know about it – or suspect that somebody is trans even though said judgements are often very inaccurate. It is a de-facto benchmark for what many think qualifies someone as transgender – and frankly, this obsession with what genitals a trans person has by cis people is quite creepy.
In reality, it is not a realistic benchmark to maintain even on a purely practical level. For example, in the UK, trans people have to wait years before they can even have an initial appointment, let alone a surgery consultation. This is because of the long waiting times, horrendous gatekeeping that leads to wasted appointments and the overall administrative nightmare that system is. The only real way to get medical treatment in the UK promptly and safely is to go private. In the case of surgery, this usually means going abroad. For many trans people – especially those from poorer backgrounds – going private isn’t an option. I did call this out (though not in much detail).
I was a bit of a trauma mess with this response as I wasn’t fully processing what was going on. Primarily because – at the time – I was not used to travelling extensively across the UK, and I feared what would happen if I had to leave (see the fourth paragraph). But I was quite clear I was scared and reading this back it’s heartbreaking. Though for anybody trying to access services, oversharing fears, intimate details and triggers are essential to get taken seriously. Here is their final reply to me:
They offered the risk assessment – but I never emailed them again after this because I was devastated. Hence, I didn’t have the assessment, and subsequently, my escape is now even further away. It was not long after this that I felt I needed to look for a job to escape of which I did get one. But I was ultimately let go from the job which was inevitable.
There are also mentions in here about biology and safety, which are no doubt rooted in believing myths about trans people. For example:
“Sadly, refuges are biologically gender specific for safety reasons.”
“As a women’s centre we are only funded to work with biological women”
Here are some articles that debunk the gender binary and the idea that they “biological men/women” myths, because they are not accurate. Many people who believe in the gender binary are uninformed due to what they are taught in school but don’t care. However, there are people that use the myth as an argument to roll back trans rights and enforce strict gender rules. This is ultimately the goal of transphobes – whom are mainly conservative people.
It’s examples like this that support the reality that the majority of cis women support trans women but lack the understanding to provide proper support. Perhaps if service staff had improved training, then they would feel more able to deal with trans women as many do not need as much specialist support as people think. This is what I initially thought – as it is not incorrect – and used to justify to myself why the refuge excluded me as there was no more evidence either way.
I will further discuss this on page 2.