This is a petition intended to declare and affirm the importance of woman-only space to the liberation of the people of women. It is a woman-only petition intended to be signed only by women (born women or transwomen). If you are male, a transman, or male identified, please honor our intentions that the Declaration be signed by women only. Thanks.
Keeping the Best Interests of the Greater Community of Women in Mind: A Declaration and Affirmation of the Importance and Necessity of Woman-Only Spaces
We are a coalition of women (born women) and transwomen. As feminists committed to the liberation of women and an end to gender, we have found analysis and critique of the goals, strategy and methodology of the transgender movement imperative. At the same time, we remain committed to one another and to all women, women (born women) and transwomen, as a class of human beings subordinated under male heterosupremacy.
We are dismayed by the polarization which currently exists in the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival community, specifically, and in the feminist and progressive communities, in general, over the issue of woman (born woman) only spaces. For this reason, we have come together to write this declaration.
We agree and affirm together:
That transwomen belong to our global community of women, and that as members of that global community, women (born women) and transwomen experience many of the same challenges, difficulties, oppressions and lived experiences.
That although the life experiences of transwomen may differ in some respects from that of women (born women), there is a range of experience amongst all women, such that in any group of women in the global women's community who come together for social, leisure, educational, work or other reasons, there will be some experiences common to all and others unique to each member.
That transwomen, whatever their history, to the degree that they live as women, are vulnerable to harassment and intimidation from men and society at large and face discrimination and many of the same problems and issues as women (born women) face, and that they greatly benefit from the support of other women.
That those born female who have lived as girls and women all of their lives, share a lived experience of oppression and subordination which varies woman to woman, but which is in some ways distinct from that of transwomen.
That women (born women) and transwomen benefit from woman (born woman)- and transwoman-only spaces created for mutual support, consciousness-raising, strategizing women's liberation, and for comfort and healing.
That the global community of women, including both transwomen and women (born women), benefit from uniting as a global women's community for all of the reasons listed above and many more. We support one another in seeking, creating, and enjoying women's spaces, whether in our affinity groups or all together, as a global community.
We understand, recognize, support and affirm lesbian and radical feminist separatism as a herstoric strategy and practice of the women's liberation movement, intended for escape from male domination, for learning and practicing skills needed to build a new world untouched by gender binaries or subordination, and for the preservation and celebration of women's culture. In the past and until the present, women (born women) have found emotional, spiritual and economic independence in establishing woman (born woman) only alternative communities and spaces, whether in the short term, as with the Michigan Women's Music Festival and similar woman-only festivals, or over the long term, as with women's land communities and other women's communities which exist throughout the world.
We recognize, support and affirm those women whose separatism is part of a practice of woman (born woman) only spirituality and their right to practice woman (born woman) only spirituality in spaces set aside for that purpose.
We understand privilege within the global community of women to be a function of diverse and complex factors which must always be considered in any analysis of relative privilege. Women (born women) who are lesbians, gender-nonconforming, sexual outlaws, poor, old, disabled, members of racial or ethnic minorities, survivors of battering, incest and sexual abuse, may or may not be privileged vis a vis transwomen, depending on the lived experiences of the transwomen in question. We believe many considerations must be factored into any discussion of relative privilege in the global community of women.
We do not believe our community is well-served by entering into tortured theoretical discussions or dissertations about who is a woman, who may "self define" as a woman, what a woman "is", the presence of certain chromosomes or not, the presence of certain genitalia or not, or the fact of surgery or not. Nor are we inclined to attempt to justify creating the spaces we need on the basis of something like "female energy" or "women's unique spirit". We find these debates to be antithetical to feminism and/or women's interests, and an unnecessary diversion of our feminist work and activism.
We reject the theory that underpins the idea and practice of trans, both transsexuality and transgender. We understand notions of trans or genderqueer to be mostly about gender enforcement, about purveying of gender stereotypes, and as such, we find them to be confining and disrespectful of women as women, rather than liberating.
At the same time, we do not fault any human being for doing what she feels she must do to survive in a world in which gender is rigorously and punitively policed, enforced and regulated. As women (born women) we accept transwomen just as they are, without judgment, censure or condemnation for how they live and present in the world; as transwomen, we accept women (born women) just as they are, without judgment, censure, or condemnation for how they live and present in the world. We reject all coerciveness around gender.
We agree and affirm that woman (born woman) only spaces, transwoman-only spaces, and spaces set aside for the global women's community cannot and should not be viewed as sites of societal and/or cultural power to which the disenfranchised must seek access, neither should they be understood as elitist or exclusive, but should instead be viewed as retreats and sanctuaries for the dispossessed and disenfranchised. We believe it is legitimate and necessary that we, as women, define our spaces in ways which meet our needs. We do not believe that doing so constitutes anything like bigotry or prejudice.
That our best hopes for strength and solidarity as a global community of women which includes women (born women) and transwomen lie not in confrontation, coercion or force, but in building bridges of caring, warmth, and mutual support, and in seeking creative, win/win resolution of differences and conflicts;
That as a global community of women, we can only benefit by educating ourselves and one another about our unique lives and challenges;
That sisterhood is powerful.
Therefore, we resolve:
To support one another in creating our own spaces, to be allies to one another politically, to cultivate and value our friendships with one another, and to work together for the liberation of all women, and ultimately, for the building of a new and better world for all people.
In solidarity and sisterhood,
THE WOMEN'S SPACE COALITION
Nexy Jo Andrews
Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff
Authors and Original Signatories
Nexy Jo Andrews is a 50-year old married trans woman, living in the Southeastern United States desert where she works in the customer service field and writes about transgender, feminism, and progressive issues.
Charlotte Croson is a feminist theorist and attorney, writes and speaks on feminist issues, and co-administers the Women's Space community forum.
Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff created and maintains the Women's Space website and blog. She is a freelance writer and speaker who focuses on women's issues and is currently working with the Off Our Backs collective as a guest editor.
Australian resident Kate Walker is list owner of the gender and transgender e-mail discussion group, Trans Theory, past co-president of the GLBT organisation Rainbow Visions Hunter Inc. and is Secretary of The Bicycle Federation of Australia. Kate has a long professional background in mental health services and is an activist in the areas of domestic violence, sexual assault prevention, feminism and health promotion. Walker is currently a member of the NSW (Australia) Domestic Violence Coalition and has been variously a co-organiser of Reclaim The Night and the International Women's Day events.