Reimagining Women's Rights panel

International Women's Day 2018, 09:00-11:30am
York University, Senate Chambers Room N940, Ross Building
8-10mins total per speaker

Note: in solidarity with CUPE 3903 workers striking since Monday, I will not be crossing picket lines to participate in this event. The following are remarks I prepared in advance to respond to organizers' questions.

Since I am not a humanities or social science scholar, I will limit my remarks to areas of lived experience: intersections between misogyny, ableism, and transphobia. I would prefer that a trans woman/femme was speaking to gender justice on this panel today rather than a nonbinary trans person, but I imagine it is possible that none who were approached felt safe enough to speak out.

Trans justice

For 45 years, I was thought to be a girl and then a woman. Like other folks socialized as girls and women, I chafed against misogyny, all the way through primary school, high school, undergrad, grad school, postdocs, and being a professor. Almost five years ago, I figured out that I am transgender and nonbinary. I decided to physically transition, to restore a balance in The Force. Crossing over from being perceived as a woman to generally being perceived as a man -- even though I am actually neither -- has been a very eye-opening experience. Here are some key lessons I learned that I would like to share.

Disabled justice

For almost 20 years, I have been significantly disabled by chronic pain, mostly from a bad skiing accident. I have also experienced PTSD from six violent crimes against me, four of them committed on university campuses, as well as anxiety and depression secondary to pain. During my disability odyssey, I have experienced many humiliations, both grand and small, at the hands of university administrators, coworkers, and students. I have come to understand that university campuses are currently far from friendly to disabled folks managing physical and mental health conditions. Ableism and toxic masculinity are interconnected.

Too often in social justice work, including among feminists, disabled folks are left behind. (I hope today's event organizers have sign language interpreters and other accessibility measures in place, like nearby disabled-accessible trans-friendly toilets, and chairs comfy enough for women in chronic pain to sit on for two hours.) It is not good enough when the main stories we hear about disabled people are tokenistic and journalists treat us like inspiration porn -- as if all that is needed to clear ableism hurdles in universities, corporations, or nonprofits is a perky attitude.

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What things do I encourage you to advocate for?

Thank you very much for reading this essay.

Resources for further reading