I recently spoke on a masculinities panel at Hampshire College as a part of the From Abortion Rights to Social Justice conference. While the discussion of the work we do at Men Can Stop Rape went well, I spoke mostly about men and not about masculinities. And as I was informed after the panel, this left out a whole array of issues affecting transgender people (individuals not identifying with the gender assigned to them at birth or with either of the two genders we are given to choose from). I don’t know a lot about the transgender community, or transgender issues but I absolutely do know they are important to our work.
If we walk into our high schools to speak with a group of young men on day one about “transgender issues” we may put them at risk by association, or they may completely shut-down. Like myself, many of them may be ignorant of or uncomfortable with the issues. I also know that if we don’t eventually start dialogue we are ignoring the part of our mission that’s about encouraging young men to be individuals instead of trying to live up to what society says is a “real man.” The same way we encourage men to embrace feminism as relevant to them, and vice versa, we should encourage ourselves to listen to and learn from the voices of transgender people in feminist movement. If we don’t we are missing out on the opportunity to learn about all of the gender expressions available to us, and we are missing out on all of the ways to be an individual. And in regards to our work ending men’s violence – violence that is about enforcing rigid gender boxes in many ways – learning and teaching about transgender issues is absolutely essential. As I alluded to before – I have a lot of learning to do myself. Here are a few resources that I’ve used and suggest: