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Black Cis Women VS Black Trans Women

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

I think the apparent elephant in the room is the question of the identity of “women” and who are women, which immediately sparks the issue between Black cis women and Black trans women. This “identity crisis” of “woman” is often like a battle waging between the two groups, and it is solely this obvious disconnect that places each group on opposite sides. Though this battle is complex and has underlying triggers, the obvious disconnect is what sets the tone, which makes attempted discussions about this issue rarely done in good faith. It becomes a battle to prove rightness versus providing understanding. With the few attempts that I’ve witnessed, I’ve never seen this topic, and the disdain held between these two groups, discussed in a way that ended in understanding after using reasoning, empathy, and self-awareness. From both sides, I’ve witnessed unnecessary aggression and gaslighting. Each group only explains how they negatively experience the other while justifying their opinions as if their views aren’t biased and lack situational awareness. In every discussion or conversation held on this topic, each group feels more enlightened about the subject and even more enlightened about their supposed “opponent.” Feeling more enlightened, neither group values the opinions and experiences of the other. No value or understanding is gained by the end of these discussions, which troubles me. It shows cracks that will keep at bay genuine Black unity, which is the ultimate goal I wish for the “Black community” at large. If we can capture this allusive unity, it would stave off attempts by non-Black people, such as Nikita whoever, who attempt to use the divide as free marketing to gain relevancy in our minds.

To bring in a small anecdote, I’ll give an example of a conversation made more complicated than necessary. I wanted an honest discussion, and I wanted to come with guns holstered. I also wanted to show my understanding, so at a point, I admitted that I was speaking from a place of privilege because the pains of the “trans experience” didn’t afflict me. However, in confessing this, the conversation quickly shifted to the person deeming me to have no authority on the conversation and having no concept of the struggle of self-identifying in womanhood. Admittedly, I will say I made comments considered transphobic, but I stand by my opinion because my intention was not to demean. I recognize this as an extremely sensitive topic, and I hope readers will stay with me to make my case. With that, I think it best to come to a basic understanding of terms and definitions before emotions dictate “truth.”

First to define…

Transphobiaintense dislike of or prejudice against transsexual or transgender people.

EX: For some people, this word perfectly describes those who blatantly misgender people because of the structure of American “norms,” as well as those who reason that trans women are not women by virtue of definition. My opinions are considered transphobic because I “reason” by using the meaning of the word woman, despite my willingness to NOT misgender because I will use preferred pronouns. For me, transphobia lies in the intent with actual dislike and disdain for an entire group of people. Disagreeing on definition does not equate to dislike or disdain because one does not have to agree on social conformities to avoid intense dislike. If that were the case, everyone would have to agree on everything to prevent disliking each other. Still, trans women and feminine-presenting men have explained that transphobia is not in the intent; it’s in the result. I'm transphobic if I make a trans individual feel disliked or prejudged because of their identity. And simply pandering with preferred pronouns while rejecting the concept that trans women are women is prejudice against trans women.

· Prejudice - preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.

Regardless of my experience as a biological woman, I assume that has no bearing here because, in this context, it means experience as a trans woman, and here lies my issue. The only experience that matters is that of the trans woman when dealing with understandings of “woman” because biological components are meaningless in the debate. It’s almost as if some trans women think they understand more or at the very least gain authority to speak about being a woman because they must express the gender of “woman” perfectly to have society respond to their expressed gender. Another way to describe it is trans women feeling more enlightened on womanhood because they understand what it takes to get society to perceive them as women beyond merely being born with the default biological components. Therefore, their ability to navigate societal norms foreign to their “at birth identity” or their willingness to study “womanness” and identify as such qualifies them to determine what is “woman.”

Gendera term used to categorize the behaviors and expressions related to femininity and masculinity, expressions and behaviors that have been determined by a particular culture or society. Gender is a social construct.

EX: Girls like pink things, shiny jewelry, dolls, and princesses. Women wear dresses, heels, makeup, and a smile. Society conditions us to believe this is the expected behavior and expression of “American” girls and women.

Social Construct an idea that has been created and accepted by the people in a society.

EX: This is how culture and civilization work. People often dismiss gender because it is a social construct, but critical thinking shows that creating norms and customs is fundamental to building society and culture. However, the conflict that gender causes pushes people to invalidate the boundaries of gender because “someone made it up.” The fact that someone did “invent” gender seems to force a select group to ignore that everything is “made up.” Everything is classified in some way or another to understand civilization and have a functioning society. Paying for housing and food is a social construct, but that doesn’t make it less relevant or without definition and expectations. The truth of our social construct’s inception coming from racist elites is not unnoted; however, this is irrespective of that point. The racist elites who decided on American gender norms have set the playbook for everything in this country’s social construct. I’m not saying we now just have to accept it with no pushback. However, we can’t say gender is irrelevant because a racist made it up while following the other guidelines that we feel less affected by. If we’re going to set our own rules, let’s do that completely or not get offended when others pick and choose a different set of guidelines to accept.

Femininity and masculinity are also social constructs, but those concepts receive far less contest than gender. It doesn’t matter that femininity defines as qualities or attributes regarded as characteristic of women, which would make feminine any commonly done action of a collective of women. For example, bleaching clothes, busting windows, or adapting to fighting and protecting oneself in a society where the community’s men have become the damsels in distress should always classify as femininity/feminine behavior if and when those traits become typical actions of any group of women. Another example is it was feminine behavior for the Dahomey “Amazons” Warriors to protect their people. It was characteristic of the Dahomey warrior women to whoop ass; therefore, that defined their femininity per definition.

In society, however, these particular traits are stereotypical and masculine-identified regardless that these are examples of feminine aggression. This concept of feminine aggression goes right along with the idiom, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Yet and still, society constantly refers to aggression as solely masculine due to the comfort and acceptance of the vague social construct of femininity and masculinity. Femininity and masculinity are not some grand standards of gender performance. Femininity and masculinity are “made up” words to describe all behaviors attributed to either man or woman, regardless if the behaviors are socially perceived as acceptable or destructive.

For clarity, femininity does not define a woman. Women define femininity.

Transgenderdenoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex.

Gender Dysphoriathe condition of feeling one’s emotional and psychological identity to be at variance with one’s birth sex.

EX: Self-explanatory. Though some people only regard trans women and men as trans people, the definition covers the whole spectrum of those who don’t identify with their birth sex.

Now to return to the personal for a moment to set up the discussion entirely. This experience is what led me to write this piece. Recently, I’ve been attempting to understand the LGBTQIA+ community more, reading books such as Black on Both Sides, Trans Bodies, Trans Selves, Making Gay History, A Queer History of the United States, The Stonewall Reader, Redefining Realness, and other autobiographies of trans women’s journeys of self-discovery. I watched more LGBTQIA+ documentaries and panels having discussions using their voice versus having “outsiders” explain their perception of the LGBTQIA+ community. I lurked in LGBTQIA+ online communities and YouTube channels. And as I said, I’ve witnessed total fuckery. Namely, one video of Tonya TKO having a very irritating and idiotic gaslighting conversation with Kat Blaque. TKO’s concern was men suddenly running around in wigs to have better opportunities to rape women because of trans women having access to women’s facilities. The unfortunate part about this pathetic attempt to care about women’s safety is ignoring the stat that the overwhelming majority of women and girls who are raped are harmed by men they know. Only 7% of sexual predators are strangers to their victims, 34% are family members, and 59% are acquaintances.[1] This stat is not to say TKO’s what-if can’t happen. Still, it is to say that women’s safety is not the point of the “bathroom rapist” concern because her message insinuates it's acceptable to reject trans women because their acceptance makes it easier for rapists to rape.

But I also want to mention TKO’s video on the topic of the trans woman debate that I agreed with where she spoke about the “Keepers of the Lantern.” So I must say, she’s not always disingenuous. In this video, she voiced a longing for trans women to claim their unique identity and not force themselves to fit in the binary of man/woman. Now this conversation, The Great Transwoman Debate!, has more points which I align with, and here she spoke with much more acceptance and a willingness to understand all lived experiences. Still, she believes that “wombmen” are in a space that can’t be simply walked into based on feeling.

To start the conversation, I must agree with an inflammatory statement in order to start the dialog about an issue that causes friction between Black cis and trans women. Trans women are not women. I draw this opinion and understanding not from malice but from my identity, and I say this based on words and definition. The concept of beating people over the head with definitions may be exhausting to trans women, not because I think trans women are delusional or lack comprehension skills. I perceive trans women take issue with the definition of the word “woman” because the definition pushes further away societal acceptability and validation. However, the rejection of the definition can also be society’s natural necessity to expand and change its language. Case in point, the word woman comes from the Old English word wifmann, which meant adult female. Later wifmann became the words wife and woman. I feel this is a perfect example of what is happening with the word “woman” today. Trans women understand words, but trans women want the word woman to mean the opposite of man versus the given definition of an adult female human being.

In this era of existence, the word female is often seen as a slur because of disrespectful use in some slang references. In the framework of this piece, however, I will use the word for its intended purpose.

Definitions allow us to be precise in our understanding, and as we move further with this conversation, I feel it essential to drop in definitions as needed. That being said, female defines as of or denoting the sex that can bear offspring or produce eggs, distinguished biologically by the production of gametes (ova) which can be fertilized by male gametes.

I wish these definitions could clear up any confusion over who are women and who are not. However, things become cloudy once we get into gender due to different social groups pushing certain social concepts.

According to the English language, your gender classifies your behaviors between either feminine or masculine qualities. It has nothing to do with the birth sex of an individual. Your gender expression presents your behaviors to the social construct that is society. For example, a masculine-presenting woman could wear a tapered haircut and loose-fitting clothes but still understand she’s a woman. Her gender is masculine, but she identifies with her birth sex.

As we take this understanding to the debate between cis women and trans women, my argument is gender does not determine the status, title, or identity of a “woman.” A feminine-presenting man is no more a woman than a feminine, woman-presenting individual, i.e., a trans woman. There is no disrespect intended with my statement, which I know intentions mean very little against results. Howbeit, the term “woman” denotes the functionality of adult sex organs. Socially it appears some want the word “woman” to refer to an essence of some sort or perhaps to mean expression of gender or simply the polar opposite of a man, but that just isn’t the case.

Suppose we want to collectively say a woman is any person who presents with feminine aesthetics. In that case, a long conversation needs to be had and an opportunity for biological women to find another term to represent ourselves. That’s not a conversation and a decision to hand to those who do not have the same Earthly experience as cis women, particularly Black cis women who this topic seems to affect more than others. It is also not a decision and discussion to be left to cis women who deem themselves so mature that they are “unbothered” or “secure enough in their femininity.” Hence, they judge some Black cis women’s traumas and defense mechanisms as too problematic to consider valid. If that were the case, the “problems” the trans conversation brings up should cease discussions as not to offend the sentiments of others. Also, however, this conversation should not be centered around the notion that anatomy has nothing to do with being or identifying as a woman. Again, “woman” is not an essence. Women possess an essence, sure, but “woman” is not an essence. A woman is a defined actuality, and it is the American language that fails trans women and the American society as a whole.

Trans women are forced into the binary of either man or woman, and because they do not identify as men, the only other verbiage is a woman. The definition of “woman” serves no purpose in their narration of identity because of their complete rejection of the remaining binary identity. Trans women understand themselves, and they know they are not men. Due to the American social construct, the identity that trans women relate to more is “woman.” Though a few Black trans women attempt to throw away the concept of the binary because of supposedly being a “racist construct,” as if gender roles don’t date back into ancient history, they still feel the need to fit in the binary. The result of this conflict is regarding me transphobic for attempting to keep them out of the “woman identity” yet an upholder of white supremacy for following the construct they’re trying to fit. It makes for the argument that they’re mad at me for not allowing them to be an upholder of white supremacy. However, I believe it has more to do with them feeling like I’m not respecting their personhood.

Nevertheless, once we consider other countries and societies, we can find a spectrum of biological identities. In Mexico, you have Muxe. The acceptance of Muxes is commonplace, and it’s also common for some mothers to push their sons to identify as Muxe. Some believe it’s often for selfish purposes because Muxes are encouraged to have no expectations of romantic relationships. Instead, they are socialized to remain at home to help their parents throughout life. If and when Muxes find romantic relationships, the community takes the “acceptance” away.

In India, there is Hijra who neither identify as man or woman. And though their presence comes highly requested at weddings, Hijra faces heavy discrimination. The belief in India is Hijra holds a goddess within themselves; even still, the daily living is horrendous for Hijra when they are not at weddings or celebrating rituals that date back four thousand years.

In the Native American community, the identity of Two-Spirit, I assume, is well known because it is often used in conversations focused on trans women. The Two-Spirit identity is revered and sought after for counsel, and they take their role to serve their community very seriously. As their culture explains, the Creator blessed them to see the world through the perspective of both genders.

The point of me bringing up these socially constructed gender identities is to put into perspective that depending on your particular society dictates how femininity, masculinity, and gender expression is either accepted or rejected. The country determines who is considered important enough to have the nation’s language include them as more than a variation of the “norm,” i.e., trans-women and mujer/(woman in Spanish)/muxe versus Hijra, and Two-Spirit. The binary identities of man and woman are the two socially respected identities in America, so to be accepted here, one must fit into the given identities. This understanding leads me to believe that once there is the vocabulary to identify the uniqueness of trans women, the progress can lead to acceptance and the validation of a third and wholly unique “respected identity.”

Granted, having a “third gender” ascribed to groups such as Hijra does not guarantee acceptance, as to why I didn’t paint third gender identity as a utopian ideal. Most likely, ushering in a third gender term into American society isn’t going to release a sudden wave of acceptance for trans women. This concept proved evident with reaction to the current list of "new gender" terms as well as such terms as transsexual, hermaphrodite, and transvestite as they all were once used as derogatory terms by some because culturally, we didn’t care to get beyond the “only two respected identities” concept. However, the fight I see in Black American trans women could lead the charge to influence the acknowledgment of the whole identity of Black trans women. After all, they’ve always historically led the movement, for instance, Stonewall and the creation of Ballroom Culture.

It took great effort to get the community and country to see the importance of hearing the LGBTQIA’s voice. I can only assume trans women felt the need to be seen as the “respected identity of woman” because the identity of transexual and transvestite brought disrespect. However, fighting for acceptance for only half of your journey by stuffing transness into womanness won’t produce respect and acceptance for the entire process. From what I've learned there are still conversations to be had about some trans women not accepting trans women who haven't yet had or don't feel the need for bottom surgery, so the identity of trans women still deserves its own consideration. Unfortunately, Black trans women fighting to push their way into the battleground of the Black woman’s image is narrow-sighted. The fight to be included in the respected identity of a “woman” forces an erasure and silencing of Black cis women. This fight attempts to change the “Black woman’s” identity based on biased feelings, societal constraints, and incomplete vocabulary, which will always lead to a backlash from Black cis women.

To be clear about the backlash, it is not because Black cis women innately hate trans women or are threatened or too ignorant and single-minded to care about others’ experiences and need for inclusion and acceptance. I surmise the response is from this country’s history and perpetual treatment of Black cis women.

The consideration of Black cis women’s emotions, esteem, and existence is a nonfactor in this country, especially when the “consideration of Black cis women” inconveniences and/or harms other people’s comforts. The disregard of Black cis women is easy because the Black woman’s image in America has never come with an understanding of humanity. With that, the socialization of Black cis women to be on guard to face the image distortion tactics of this country has no choice but to leave behind a sense of bitterness. And before we again take trigger words and use them as insults due to constant lack of understanding, bitterness is defined as anger and disappointment at being treated unfairly; resentment. To be bitter is a reaction to injury. To insult Black women for having an adverse reaction to injury is so customary that the actual English word to describe the reaction becomes weaponized against Black cis women. To spitefully charge Black cis women as being bitter insinuates the masses expect Black cis women to take injury on the chin, smile, and press on without inconveniencing others with the “angry Black woman” attitude. This expectation of Black cis women is dehumanizing. And the “angry Black woman” trope is yet another image distortion tactic Black cis women must fight.

These two stereotypes, bitter and angry, make it easier to push one of the central insults thrown at Black cis women in today’s era; Black cis women are too masculine. However, this concept goes back to our foremothers carrying the trope of overbearing when the pseudoscience of Julien Joseph Virey in the 1800s claimed the Black woman’s sexual appetite challenged the Black man’s “masculinity” because he couldn’t please her. Throughout slavery and on into Jim Crow, the Black woman had to contend with the claims and projection of being “Jezebel, Sapphire, or the Mammy.” It evolved to the trope of emasculating when Black women began “taking” jobs from Black men in the 1960s, so says Daniel Patrick Moynihan in his report, “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.” Now in the 21st century, Black women have graduated to masculine, so says the societal masses.

There has never been an era in this country where the Black woman’s image or personhood was protected or simply left alone. That constant character assassination has conditioned this country and its inhabitants on how to treat Black cis women. It is engrained in this country to paint Black cis women as the villain without a cause. With such a hostile environment, one can imagine the jagged box Black women must live in and the pain and scorn of the American Black cis women’s conditioning. Only recently have there been studies to analyze what this history has done to the psychological state of American Black cis women, but even that study only matters to a few Black cis women.

This breakdown is not an attempt to gain sympathy for the plight of Black cis women. It’s merely my analysis. Some or even most might not be willing to follow my line of thinking; nonetheless, I shall continue. It may be controversial, but I argue that a source for the disdain many Black cis women feel toward Black trans women is the subconscious belief that Black trans women are the walking ridicule of Black cis women. This internal conflict, not caused by Black trans women, can cause Black cis women to react in the most heinous ways. Seeing the embodiment of the reason society deems us as unworthy of care, protection, love, and the idea of being a preference will cause Black cis women to lash out and declare this “thing” is not us. Regardless of the damage it causes to Black trans women, in this state of trauma and defense, Black cis women will harm Black trans women emotionally and mentally and wrongly feel justified. The feeling of justification often comes from believing the rejection of Black trans women is a defense of the “real Black woman’s” image that this country consistently challenges. Internalized shame can influence the need to make the perceived source of the shame feel just as low. The rejection of Black trans women by Black cis women is often the rejection of the notion that Black cis women are masculine and men in dresses and wigs.

Before I continue, I must clarify that I do not mean to say Black trans women are masculine or are men in dresses and wigs, and I most certainly do not believe Black trans women are “things.” I mean to expose the sentiment that Black cis women receive from society: Black cis women have a laundry list of requirements to check off to rebuke the attack of being called masculine and eliminate that perception of being “men in dresses and wigs.” Then here comes Black trans women making statements such as a period, nor a womb, nor biology makes you a woman. The only things that "prove" by default that Black cis women are, in fact, women are constantly being stripped in this debate. Social constructs claim feminity as some grand standard which Black cis women find difficulty “resting in,” and then tell us that trans women merely have to say they are women for it to be so. If you disagree, you’re transphobic. This observation is not to attack or disregard any internal or societal struggles trans women experience on their journey. This observation’s aim isn’t to focus on the experience of a trans woman; instead, it’s to explore the experience of a cis woman. Confronting this trauma is an attempt to maturely look at this issue and analyze all possibilities and faults on my side of the aisle that lead to dysfunction and harm in the Black community.

And before I continue that, I must clarify that Black trans women should do the same.

Often Black trans women come to this discussion as the sole victims because of their marginalization. I won’t ignore that society has afforded me privileges due to my being a cis woman, which includes an inherent thought I must grapple with of seeing trans women as “wanting to be me” or the “idea of me.”

On a personal note, I feel to collectively combat that notion is to respectfully identify trans people as people that are more than a variation of the “norm.” Trans women aren’t trying to be women because they are “Juels,” and cis women could never because we don’t have the biological capability to be “Juels.” “Juels” are rare and valuable, and we should all treat them as such.

Irrespective of that personal—and probably a minority—opinion, trans women in this conversation often feel like they have the moral high ground because they are the most marginalized. They often feel as if they are the only party misunderstood and unheard because of the trauma experienced at the hands of the Black community—as if they are the only ones experiencing trauma from the Black community. This reflection is not to say trans women should hold sympathy for their abusers because everyone gets abused. This consideration is to highlight the sentiment brought into the conversation by many trans women. The view is Black cis women are their abusers, so Black cis women’s opinions aren’t valid unless they acquiesce to the points of trans women. In doing this, the goal is not to heal Black cis women and prevent the defensive mechanisms of lashing out. The want is for Black cis women to pack away our trauma of having society deny and question our “femininity” while accusing us of being problematic during a social justice fight for the validity of trans women’s “femininity.” Again, not looking for sympathy or attempting justification; instead, I’m endeavoring to expose a recipe for disaster. Entering into this discussion with the need to lecture who you’ve declared the problem versus offering some personal insight and self-reflection isn’t going to result in progress.

Black trans women will also do service to ease the disdain held between the cis and trans community by not negating everything foundational to cis women's biology as being insignificant to being a woman unless they can experience it on some level. A major part of being a woman revolves around “the period.” Cis women routinely have a fear of standing or sitting a certain way because of a period. There is irritation due to the waste of underwear and bedsheets. The pain obviously deserves mention, and so does the not being taken seriously at times because “it must be her time of the month.”

Trans women often say they relate to the pain because of the medication they’re on and share the moodiness because sometimes “they feel bitchy or cry for no reason.” Still, they don’t comprehend the magnitude of the period. They feel left out of womanhood when unable to meet this benchmark, so they minimize the period or equate it to bitchiness and cryfests.

Back to my list, though.

Then there’s my personal concern of “where is the dealing with the period in this apocalyptic movie.” There’s also the fact that trans women use our ridicule of “the fish smell” as a compliment of looking “Fishy” and passing. They readily other themselves here, acknowledging a difference in emotions, understanding, and sentiment to defend a part of their culture and disregard women's life experiences. Then we can’t leave out the constant consideration of planning events around or during the period, the issue of sex around the period, or the issue of fearing a missed period and becoming a stereotype and the blame of the Black community’s problem, etc. That whole monthly experience is minimized only by those who don’t experience it. And not only is it an experience all on its own, but it is an extension of the process that brings life into this world.

However, that too is considered insignificant in socially defining a woman in this debate because every cis woman can’t have children. Rarely is it brought into the back-and-forth about the percentage of cis women who feel emotionally bruised because of the thought of a mastectomy or hysterectomy and other such medical anomalies affecting the female reproductive system that make them believe they’ve been lessened as a woman. Instead, their trauma is used to make them the political outliers for the inclusion of another group that shows the solidarity of “claiming woman regardless” versus showing empathy. For clarity, I’m not arguing cis women are no longer women because of mastectomies or hysterectomies, as I’m sure someone may attempt to be obtuse about my point. My point is trans women often use this trauma to bolster their point without considering the emotional and mental tie cis women have to ovaries and breasts. Then comes the argument that the “social construct” forces that tie, so it should be dismantled. However, the only reason for wanting to dismantle it is so trans women can feel included in the “title” of woman.

Black trans women also need to look deeper than assuming Black cis women are jealous and consider the harm they inflict on themselves and Black cis women by feeling the need to “one-up” Black cis women in search of validation. It is not unheard of for Black trans women to play on the insecurities of Black cis women. Black trans women will readily “other” themselves to distance themselves from the negative and stereotypical reputation of “the Black woman.” It’s also not uncommon for Black men to use manipulation tactics to inflate the ego of Black trans women to pit them against Black cis women. And I only make this observation from experiences spoken about by Black trans women who have admitted to a time of being in this state of “needing validation” or knowing trans women who are or were also in this state. They spoke about Black cis men expressing things that should’ve raised a red flag, but looking for acceptance in this society is a challenging game to master. Black men use the same tactic with non-Black women, documented with Black cis men routinely throwing their “options” in Black cis women’s faces.

One could assume that the validation Black trans women receive from Black cis men is critical, and because of that, it does a fantastic job pushing down the reality that Black trans women are being abused and harmed by these very same Black cis men. Instead, the disdain Black trans women feel for Black cis women allows them to say Black cis women send Black men to hurt them and condition Black men to kill them. In a sense, some Black trans women believe Black cis women can’t handle the competition, so we shame Black cis men for their interest in trans women causing them to harm Black trans women. However, unless Black cis men admit, “I’m only hurting you because Black cis women told me to,” I don’t understand blaming Black cis women for this.

Obviously, I’m not privy to intimate conversations between Black trans women and Black cis men, and those men could be saying it’s Black cis women’s fault as to why more Black cis men don’t come out and admit they want trans women. But I’d have to remind the collective that Black men have never been shy about throwing a preference in the face of Black women. It's a major reason why Black cis women are now choosing who to rally for during #BlackLivesMatter situations, deciding to hang up the cape, totally divesting, and pushing for a movement of aborting black male fetuses. And then, when we speak about the murders, can we question who is conditioning Black cis men to kill and rob each other, the elders, and other vulnerable people? Are Black cis women conditioning Black cis men to be our abusers, rapists, and murderers also? Or is it that Black cis women take advantage of Black cis men’s violence and direct it to Black trans women whenever possible because we are absolutely jealous of the one preference Black men are scared to throw in our faces? Answer the question, why are we to blame for all the violence in the community? Is it because that would go perfectly with the continued vilification of the Black cis woman? Or is it because the entire Black community is Black-male-identified due to Black men constantly being the face of the only ones who need protection and unconditional love in our community?

The Black community worries about the young boys who “get caught up in the street,” although it’s young boys and men—not young girls and women—who make the streets so dangerous for everyone. It’s also young girls and women who fall victim to the street, but there is no cry to save our girls. Police brutality doesn’t only happen to Black cis men. Still, it is only them who the community has the apparent inclination to rally for because supposedly, it doesn’t happen to Black women enough. It doesn’t matter that despite the murder of men being more common across racial lines, every other group still champions women as who should be rallied for and protected. However, while Black cis women are villainized, ridiculed, and blamed in the face of these American norms, we are still expected to be protectors and allies. Being Black-male-identified makes it easier for people to understand and sympathize with Black men.

It appears to be quite challenging for Black trans women to hold Black cis men accountable for much. And though I believe the Black community is Black-male-identified, I still think Black trans women excuse Black cis men because cis men’s approval holds heavy sway for validating their femininity and womanness. I wouldn’t even argue that it’s about the man because it is the internal validation of femininity they receive when heterosexual cis men “choose” them that I believe trans women are in search of at the expense of respect and empathy for Black cis women. Black trans women weren’t socialized to have their worth tied to a man. On the other hand, we live in a culture that shames Black cis women for not being able to get a man, keep a man, and being the "least desired" demographic of women.

If you asked me, having a man would be a tool for trans women, a means to an end for validation of identity, not societal worth as with cis women and marriage. Couple that with a society that only deems the woman identity or man identity as respectable, it’s no wonder that specifically cis men desiring Black trans women is crucial for identity acceptance more so than sexual desirability. With that, any harm that comes with being with Black cis men is acceptable because validation of femininity comes with it. I could only imagine the subconsciousness of Black trans women saying, “Society might reject me, but I am operating in this society like a Black cis woman. I’m receiving the same male attention from cis men who operate in the same social construct of only two respected identities, and if he’s a man who likes women, I’m a woman.” If this is not the case, I’m at a complete loss as to why blame Black cis women for the harm and continue to love and excuse the people causing them physical injury and death.

At this point, it brings me to a panel from the Grapevine’s Violence Against Black Trans Women conversation where a panelist, marked at 18:32, attempted to argue where the problem with Black trans women came from in the Black community. She explained that Black trans women “took womanhood to a max.” I can’t continue without dropping a definition. Womanhood is defined as the state or condition of being a woman. The panelist further explains that “we,” speaking as a Black trans woman, “introduced these long hair and these beat faces.” She furthers her point by saying the conversations she’s had with Black cis women summarize as Black cis women questioning how Black trans women “take a shortcut to womanhood and have a better experience.” She concludes that it’s a jealous misunderstanding of Black trans women taking womanhood to the max as they stepped into their truth that causes Black cis women to take issue with Black trans women.

On the other hand, Black men confronting their attraction to Black trans women is the issue with Black men because “we kind of break everything that they’ve been taught. All that they’ve been taught about gender, and sexuality, and what they should be attracted to, and what they shouldn’t be attracted to…The reality is, the cis man, when he’s with you, they feel so comfortable. Because they know the femininity that you hold, they know the womanhood that you navigate with, but their fear is, ‘Wait, will my homies know?’...and then it becomes a fear thing, and that fear turns into hatred.” She concludes that Black men's inability to accept their attraction to Black trans women is the issue with Black cis men.

However, in her conclusions, she minimized everything to a woman’s aesthetic and named that “womanhood.” The ability to present as a woman is not womanhood, nor is it the standard of femininity. The jealousy some Black cis women feel for “pretty passing” Black trans women is on the same spectrum of jealousy those same Black cis women have when they see another or more attractive Black cis woman. That is not a new phenomenon. Welcome to the club because some women won't even bring their men around their own mothers.

That being said, Black cis men who are attracted to Black trans women are not gay because they are attracted to the woman-presenting package or the “gender of femininity.” The panelist mentioned here is a beautiful Black trans woman. There’s no way I’d believe anyone who attempted to call her unattractive. She has “taken the woman aesthetic to the max.” However, Holiday Heart did not, and I find it hard to believe heterosexual cis men see no difference between her and Holiday Heart. The well-put-together woman-presenting package is the attraction, not the label of cis or trans, save for those aroused by or who fetishize a particular sex organ. Regardless, attraction rating and the ability to acquire male companionship is not womanhood. That idea is a preferred social construct the patriarchy uses to box in women, and some women, cis and trans, use it to determine their societal value.

Bringing this idea of “maximizing womanhood” to the battleground of Black womanhood, one can not minimize the issue between Black cis women and Black trans women to Black cis women being jealous of pretty passing Black trans women. Every trans woman is not pretty passing, and I’m not saying this to be disrespectful. The same is true for cis women. Both groups “gussy up” to give society a more appealing presentation. Some have more gussying up to do than others, be it “naturally ugly” cis women who need BBLs and the magic of makeup or male-at-birth individuals who need feminizing surgery, hormone blockers, and the magic of makeup.

And this is not a shot taken because I believe the reverse shouldn’t be assumed either about Black trans women being envious of Black cis women being “natural women.” I think the envy or desire is for societal acceptance, not a monthly bleeding appendage that heterosexual cis men like to play with. Male attention is just the most accessible form of validation and approval. The threat of being found less attractive than the next woman searching for male companionship is not the conflict between the cis and trans communities. If we could just validate each other, we’d be much better off.

This analysis brings me back to my concept of the subconscious thought of Black trans women as the walking ridicule of Black cis women. Internal pain can cause horrible expressions of that pain, and I do not aim to paint this as an excuse for Black cis women. I can’t say this enough because it’s frowned upon in this country to be seen as coming to the defense of Black cis women. If you defend Black cis women, it is read as attempting not to hold us accountable and excusing our behavior. Explaining the behavior of Black cis women humanizes us, and the anti-Black woman sentiment in this country resists the concept that we are humans and have human emotions and responses. To automatically want to shut down an explanation of Black cis women’s behavior is anti-Black cis woman sentiments. The idea is that there is no reason; Black cis women just behave this way because we are Black cis women. However, I choose to humanize Black cis women and our emotions and behaviors to identify where the vitriol comes from and correct the behavior that threatens unity. And this rests on the notion that this subconscious thinking is from where the animosity comes. However, this is not always the case.

The tension between Black cis women and Black trans women could quite possibly come from Black cis women seeing Black trans women as another group to whom Black cis men “treacherously” give themselves. Black men are for the streets; white women and men can have them, all non-Black women, in general, can have them, trans women can have them, and they also have each other on the regular (DL, trade, homies with benefits). It could be argued that Black trans women are catching the brunt of Black cis women's wrath due to Black cis men constantly being “disloyal.”

And if that statement causes thoughts of Black cis women being childish and petty and draws a vexed question of, “Why should Black women feel Black men are disloyal because of dating preferences?” then you might have an issue viewing situations outside of your own experience and conditioning, and your voice isn’t suitable for such an in-depth conversation. You can’t dismiss, shame, and minimize faults and triggers if you want to heal and eliminate them. Black cis women, whatever the cause of the issue, will not get over it in the face of constant disrespect, inconsiderate stereotyping, and judgment. And it should be mentioned that the tie to Black men that Black women have should not be broken. Instead, the unhealthy attachment groomed by patriarchy and oppression should be acknowledged to begin the process of detaching our worth from the idea of "having a man validates us." That would stop the defensiveness often shown when trying to protect the male attachment that is overvalued.

The relationship that Black cis women have with Black cis men seems too complicated for people to comprehend. Black cis women give birth to these individuals, and this country has conditioned Black cis women to coddle and protect Black cis men and simultaneously conditioned Black cis women to tie our value to “having a man.” This is the Oppression-Patriarchy Attachment. In my opinion, the proof has presented itself since the era of enslavement on this land, and some even condemn Black mothers for “softening” Black boys by training them to “just make it home.” The evidence continued to present itself through the Civil Rights Movement and continues now with the BLM movement. For good measure, I’ll acknowledge Karen Bass, who introduced the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to the Floor on February 24, 2021, which was killed on the Floor by a Black cis man. The relationship and expectation of “remaining loyal” go deeper than wanting to be seen as desirable. Sexual desirability is a coping mechanism based on individual satisfaction. However, the thought of Black cis men being disloyal is based on the collective participation in dehumanizing Black cis women, which includes deeming Black cis women less desirable than these other groups of women. Black cis women fight back against that by either trying to prove our worthiness and desirability or proving we don't need Black men to exist. The crooked room is a bitch.

Moving on to a new yet reoccurring point of disagreement is the Black LGBTQIA+ community continuously claiming they taught Black cis women femininity and provided “the culture” to the people. “Long hair and beat faces” were invented in ancient Egypt. That’s number one. To be more localized by continent, I’ll start with Annie Minerva Turnbo Malone, born in the 1860s. In 1902 Malone became the first Black person to sell her skincare products with Poro Skin and Hair. Malone became one of the first Black millionaires, and she also trained Madame C.J. Walker, who went on to become the most renowned Black skin and hair care millionaire. These two women are mentioned to combat the notion that “beautifying one’s self” or “feminizing one’s self” was introduced to Black cis women by the LGBTQIA+ community.

We must highlight why this thinking is problematic and where this conditioned mindset came from. Let’s refer back to Julien Joseph Virey of the 1800s. He used the “science” of that period to proclaim that African women were abnormal beasts compared to “feminine white women,” He did this by using Saartjie Baartman.

Saartjie Baartman was a Khoi Khoi woman taken from Africa and displayed as a circus act by Europeans because of her ample backside. She was then dissected like a lab rat and used for pseudoscience before Europeans decided to cage her remains in a museum.

Then, however, we can inch ahead to the early 1900s when cosmetic ads continued to beat down the image of the Black woman in favor of Eurocentric standards. Nadinola’s ad for its bleaching cream stated, “Has your phone quit ringing lately? Perhaps your complexion is to blame. Is it dark, dull and unattractive? Then for goodness sakes, do something about it!... The nicest things happen to girls with light, bright complexions!”

Those sentiments haven’t gone anywhere. Black women are still expected to straighten and lighten to present femininity and an acceptable appearance for a job. Now we move on in time to Black gay men and Black trans women proclaiming they too have taught hopeless Black cis women about femininity.

We can recognize that people like Willi Ninja taught the exaggerated sway to runway wannabes, making it easy to leave the impression that the LGBTQIA+ community taught the “maximization of womanhood.” Also, drag performers influenced the exaggeration of “womanhood” with their extended lashes and colorfully painted faces. Drag queens were originally caricatures of the 1950s Las Vegas Showgirls.

In the mid-1950s, white cis men—the movie directors and stylists and fashion designers all began to soften the look of the Las Vegas Showgirls for their movies, and this is where House legends say they got their inspiration, according to the documentary “Paris is Burning.”

However, when we shift the cultural focus to Black women of that time and who was the likely inspiration for Black cis women,

The Supremes were a great example of the “softer side” of the Showgirls. Foxy Brown of the Blacksportation era could be argued as the minimalist side of the Showgirls. I mention these women in contrast to the concept that “exaggerate femininity” was introduced to Black cis women by Black gay men and Black trans women.

I won’t argue that the Black LGBTQIA+ community contributes to The Culture more than just makeup and slang. Marsha P. Johnson, Crystal LaBeija, and Pepper LaBeija all contributed to the culture and represented The Culture correctly. Still, it would go a long way to ease the divide if Black trans and gay people would stop going the course of this racist country saying Black cis women are masculine, abnormal beasts who wouldn’t know femininity if it slapped us in the face. We know how to gussy up and set trends, i.e looks that were once deemed ghetto and outrageous are now the norm, but we don’t have the privilege to sit comfortably in our societal image and position because of societal pampering and adoration.

Our appearance does not define our femininity and existence. Our womanhood consists of so much more. However, because our appearance faces condemnation every generation, we can appreciate an excellent enhancement of our constantly demeaned aesthetic. Drag queens and trans women took the aesthetics to the max with lashes and dramatic “face,” and cis women co-signed the look to add to our catalog of glamour we’ve been stitching together since the early 1900s to validate our Black that is Beautiful. The argument stands that Black trans women inspired a bolder appearance of glam because both groups contribute to the aesthetic. However, Black trans women, drag queens, nor gay men’s exaggeration of “womanhood” taught or introduced anything to Black cis women.

It was an exaggeration of something already there, something that mothers, aunts, sisters, cousins, and best friends were doing since our grands were pretending to be the original Dream Girls and our great-grands were gussying up for the juke joint. Every Black cis woman didn’t have a member of the LGBTQIA+ community “boldly setting the trends” in their growing up.

Another point of contention for Black cis women may be the entitlement people feel to Black cis women’s loyalty and activism while leaving us to fend for ourselves against their judgment of us once they find no use for us. How are we continuously expected to advocate for, love up on, and respect those who at times show envious tendencies for our gift of being born with the ability to define femininity? If we are willing to use the definition of femininity and not some vague social context of a grand standard of gender performance. Black cis women attempt to hold ourselves up and encourage a love for ourselves through ideals such as Black Girls Rock and Black Girl Magic to combat the anti-Black woman sentiment embedded in this country. However, we still have to deal with Black men calling us the least desirable as we march for them and Black trans women calling us the masterminds behind their murders and responsible for passing on the homophobic and transphobic views in the Black community. We’re everybody’s ally and blame, but we’re no one’s damsel nor are we acknowledged as inspiration and strength. The only time recognition is given that we are the mothers of the communities is when it’s to point out the faults of mothers, which is exhausting. Everyone seems to want war with Black cis women, so war it will be because Black cis women aren’t going to back down.

However, one can’t ignore that respect is a two-way street. It is not hard to comprehend that Black trans women are not men in dresses and wigs, or at the very least, you wouldn’t feel forced to call them that if we were willing to make our own decisions over our culture and expand our language. America did it with “wifmann;” we once did it with Tutnese, and we’re currently doing it with our ever-changing slang terminology. If we respected Black trans women the way we’d love for people to respect us, it wouldn’t be hard to comprehend they feel disrespect when referred to as “a man in a dress and a wig.” And can we question the need to constantly go against what the LGBTQIA+ community asks? Some people will refuse to call a gay man a man because he's a "sissy." Then suddenly, with trans women, you refer to them as men simply to beat away the idea of them being women. However, if challenged, there's no way you'd say a woman-presenting person fits the ideal image of a "man." The lack of respect removes us from facing the issue of lack of vocabulary.

Another note to quell disrespect that may arise is to know that Black trans women aren’t the competition for cis women to have relationships any more than other cis women being in existence. If anything, numerically speaking, it’s not enough of them to “take cis men away from us,” plus most cis men will choose cis women. And this is not to say Black trans women are undesirable or not picked. They are as desired as Black cis women, each to those who want them, just like gay men are desirable to each other while not giving a sexual damn about cis or trans women. This point has nothing to do with the desirability from men, especially men who are for the streets. This point points out that the resentment or fear of thinking cis women will be looked over in favor of trans women is not a promised or probable reality. The insecurity this causes will cause Black cis women to attack who is seen as the threat, all without trans women doing anything. Black trans women are attempting to live their best life, just like everyone else. They're not attempting to live their life in a constant state of activism for their identity.

In many cases, acting on insecurities or reacting to someone playing on known insecurities needs to be recognized and addressed. It should be understood that if cis women get “overlooked,” it’s not because cis women are undesirable, as so many “preferences” and cis men like to use as a shaming tactic. Many trans women know how to “maximize womanhood.” Beauty is beauty, so unless a particular sex organ is preferred, the woman’s aesthetic will always be desired, which Black cis women are born with. There’s no need to internalize “not being picked” when the ones picked still aesthetically look like Black cis women and have surgically and medically enhanced themselves to produce the best image money could buy. And this should seriously not be internalized when Black cis women choose to remain race loyal to men who are for the streets. And that’s something Black cis men need to work out as to why they search for validation of worth and manhood through their penis. That is a deep conversation all on its own.

As for a fundamental concept that some Black cis women need to understand to respect Black trans women, Black trans women aren’t an abomination against God. There is no scripture to back that sentiment up, only socially constructed understandings. Black trans women aren’t the boogieman, causing problems in the Black community simply by existing. They’ve been around longer than white supremacy and have always been a minority. I say this to point out that regardless of any agenda, most Black cis men aren’t going to become gay or weak because of acknowledging or accepting Black trans women. If anything Black trans women fight harder for themselves than Black cis men in this country’s current climate, so they could learn something from Black trans women about standing up for themselves against more than Black cis women. Black trans women don’t threaten the “masculinity” of Black cis men against white supremacy. White supremacy pits Black identities against each other as it continues to fuck with all of us. Black trans women’s presence does not harm Black cis women, and they do not make life more challenging. All reaction to them is purely emotional, stemming from personal opinions and assumptions and often from insecurities that are not the fault of trans women. Once Black cis women “gather up our shit,” emotional and mental traumas, it becomes easier to see the presence of Black trans women holds no weight or sway on our being. It is not trans women’s responsibility to take the heat for insecurities they did not cause. The emotional reaction we provide to Black trans women, be it jealousy for pretty passing trans women or resentment for our walking ridicule, is ours to control and comprehend.

Now that would be made easier if Black trans women weren’t attempting to push their way into “womanhood.” I’ll use two of the most recent Kat Blaque videos I’ve viewed to make my following points. “So You “Disagree” With My Gender,” and “They Wanted To Protect Her Until They Found Out.” In the first video, Kat makes statements about society reading her as a cis woman and treating her as such. She makes the same statement in many videos before this to validate her being a woman. Yet, in the second video, she opines about the protection that vanishes once the audience realizes the “victim” is a trans woman. My purpose for mentioning these videos is to point out that validation based on society’s treatment is situational and only benefits those with the “aesthetic of taking womanhood to the max.” Society reading and reacting to you as a cis woman does not make you a woman, just as society withdrawing protection for you does not make you less worthy of protection.

I feel Kat is attempting to explain that her gender is not in question by society, so she believes that makes her “womanness” not in question. However, people must realize “woman” is not a gender. Gender is feminine or masculine or a combination. Gender is behavior. To be a trans woman is to have the behavior of a woman. The belief that Black trans women can define womanhood because some Black trans women’s “behavior as a woman” is not questioned due to “taking womanhood to the max” is asinine.

Black trans women, regardless of pretty passing or not, shouldn’t need some communal validation for the right to express their gender. Regardless of acceptance from anyone, their gender is feminine. However, per definition, they are not women. Per my experience as a woman, they are not of my journey, socialization, plight, joys, and unique abilities based on my womanness. As hard as that may be for some Black trans women to hear, it is the truth. I can not tell a Nigerian what “Nigerianhood” is, despite the aesthetic we share or similar oppression we may face.

“Womanhood” – the state and condition of being a Black woman in America is having the highest domestic abuse and domestic homicidal rate and the highest sexual and communal abuse rate.[3] Black women also face danger in giving birth to the community. Black women are also routinely blamed as the problem in the Black community, from single motherhood to causing hate between trans women and the Black community.

I don’t mean to play the Oppression Olympics because the trans community also faces quite a bit of harm, such as the highest homicidal rates in the LGBTQIA+ community with the Black community lacking in BLM support regardless that women of that community started that movement. Black trans women also suffer sexual violence at alarming rates and unimaginable violence to their civil rights.[4][5] From anecdotes, I’ve become aware of the stifling of personhood those of the community must endure and the danger of not conforming. I was also made aware of environments built by aunts, mothers, and even sisters and cousins, all cis women, making remarks encouraging low self-esteem for trans women. Still, I must concede that there is harm across all groups, be it men, the disabled, children, Asian Americans, etc. The commonality of experiencing trauma is not womanhood. The specific type of trauma brings people into a commonality of a “hood.”

Also, womanhood is not full of awful and harmful experiences either. My point is that the state and condition of being a woman is not “long hair and beat faces,” nor is it the ability to attract men because of gender preference maximization. Womanhood also encompasses the challenges mothers cause to women in the workforce. It isn’t women’s fault that life on Earth sustains itself because of mothers, and instead of being revered and protected, womanhood encompasses women needing to prove workforce valuableness because of the ability to bear the children. The womb tends to not hold any value even in the conversation of “Who can be called a woman?” Part of womanhood is having an outside group devaluing your womb constantly. That is “the state of being a woman” that trans women can never experience. I could go on a long tangent of everyday and social conditions of women, specifically cis women, but it would be redundant. The bottom line is womanhood can not be defined by those who do not experience womanhood but instead experience society’s reaction to women while living “transhood.”

The state of “transhood” is fighting against birth gender conformity, operating in a society that makes “everyday living” a struggle through housing and employment discrimination, being conscious of who is worthy of “your truth,” concern about being able to shop in your preferred clothing section in peace, and a whole list of other things that I’m admittedly oblivious to because I don’t live “transhood.” That is the state and the condition of being a “Juel.” Our experiences, our “hoods,” are different because we are different. Neither is better than the other. Neither is an imitation of the other. We are uniquely different, so forcing a damaged group to accommodate those we see as different can only lead to a deadlock.

It is not my intention to invalidate anyone’s identity. I give validation, concessions, and search for deeper traumas to hold Black cis women accountable for finding triggers to prevent lashing out defensively. However, I will not sacrifice my identity under a false banner of inclusion. Black cis women and Black trans women are all feminine. We share the same gender, by definition. However, we are not both women. The harder Black trans women attempt to push this notion on a group of socialized women who fight against the masculinization of the Black woman’s image, the wider the rift will grow. I am not oblivious to the damage done to Black trans women because a loud percentage does not accept their humanity. I one hundred percent support the notion that they should force their voices to be heard—best said by Tonya TKO at 02:33:44 in her phone conversation of her previously linked video. However, I wish their voiced opinions weren’t done in a way to further erase and ignore my existence and experience in this country. As long as Black cis women have to face this country’s dehumanizing, anti-Black cis woman sentiment, Black cis women will continue to fight back aggressively, regardless of the perceived opponent. That’s feminine behavior. Crystal LeBeija exhibited this feminine behavior perfectly.

At this point, I’m aware that I may have failed to voice the Black trans woman community correctly, and I could have left the impression of attacking them for some with my stance. However, I’m not a Black trans woman, so I could never hope to speak for them correctly. And I apologize for any point of my tone coming off disrespectfully. I’m aware that I haven’t talked about Black cis women’s direct harm to Black trans women beyond formative years of taunting and stifling, and it is not because I don’t believe other harms exist. I am just not personally aware of what it looks like outside of attacks on the validity of femininity and “womanness,” which I’ve routinely rejected the “woman” aspect. I am not qualified to paint a complete picture of the experience of Black trans women.

In conclusion, I believe both groups have a longing for identity acceptance and respect. Both groups have trauma inflicted by this country and each other, which has left both groups at a standstill. My takeaway from many of the conversations and my analysis is we need more vocabulary, a better understanding of our current vocabulary, respect and empathy for each other’s trauma and needs, and a willingness to respect each other’s boundaries. Black trans women are not men and should not be referred to as such. However, Black trans women and Black cis women are not the same either. Boundaries don’t lead to transphobia until only one set of boundaries is deemed respectable.

And I can’t end this without giving respect and honor to the sister Hope on that Grapevine panel, who I think can teach everyone a thing or two on this subject. Hope is the true representation of a Juel, rare and nuanced, not unlike the concept and value of the Two-Spirit. Though I suspect I’m more receptive to her views because she boldly showed a mindset of understanding Black cis women, and that is what this conversation needs. A perspective to boldly understand each other is the only way to bridge this divide.

[1] RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization. [2] Karen Bass, George Floyd Justice in Policing Act [3] Jameta Nicole Barlow PhD, MPH, Feb. 2020 Black women, the forgotten survivors of sexual assault, [4] Responding to Transgender Victims of Sexual Assualt, Office for Victims of Crimes | Annamarie Forestiere, Sep 23, 2020, War on Black Trans Women, Harvard Civil Rights – Civil Liberties Law Review

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