A Feeling Like Sisterhood

“Sisterhood is powerful. It kills. Mostly sisters.” -Ti-Grace Atkinson

Sisterhood is an uncomfortable word for me. I don’t have any female siblings, so the first time I found myself calling anyone “sister” was when I became involved in online radical feminist spaces. Unfortunately, it was not long before those “sisters” turned on me for befriending the wrong sort of people: transwomen.

After over a year of being stalked, mocked and misrepresented for the crime of feeling affection and respect for and partnering with the formerly be-penised, I am now wary of using the term “sister” for political allies, and anyway I wouldn’t call the transwomen I write with sisters, because it is a sexed term, and clarity of language is too important, what with the words “woman” and “female” being forcibly emptied of all meaning these days.

That said, what I feel with my transsexual male colleagues is very much akin to what I imagine real sisterhood is like. We provide each other comfort, praise and encouragement, but we also disagree, productively – pushing each other to be better. We make fun of each other’s differences, quirks and faults even as we simultaneous accept those differences, quirks and faults. I trust each of our hearts are in the right place. I trust we will protect each other’s privacy. I trust we will have each other’s backs.

Furthermore, this bond is never used against women. None of the transwomen in our group would ever force themselves into women’s spaces or language. In fact, they spend their time tirelessly defending women’s spaces and language, often more fiercely than many female people would dare – leveraging their male privilege for good, even at great personal cost (exile from their communities, loss of employment, threats of doxxing.)

Surely this kind of close, warm, secure and happy feeling between males and females is something to be celebrated? Surely it speaks to the fact that human souls are not sexed? That males and females are not doomed to be pitted against each other in sexualized power plays? That real friendship and partnership between males and females is possible? That selfless kindness and genuine nurturance can exist inside male bodies?

I have always accepted and defended the right of women to exclude males from their lives, including their politics. This blogpost is not aimed at feminist separatists.

This blogpost is aimed at the men of the Left who think supporting transwomen means forcing women to tell lies, accept abuse and subjugate ourselves. There is simply nothing “transgender” about males demanding coercive, abusive relationships with females. That is gender in a nutshell.

Instead, look at these males who so sincerely and extremely reject masculinity that they not only voluntarily shed the phallus (unlike the ~80% of self-labeled transwomen who love their penises) but who also build real, equal relationships with women based on truth and openness. Males who do not use their sex dysmorphia as an excuse to hide away from injustice, or even more egregiously, leverage that injustice for their own personal benefit – but who instead analyze and fight it, shoulder to shoulder with women. If only more Leftist men could accept these wonderful people as their fellow males. If only more Leftist men had hearts like the hearts of my transwomen comrades.

7 Comments on “A Feeling Like Sisterhood

  1. I do have a reticence about using that word, although I also have a great affection for it. The word “brother” has picked up negative connotations for me, probably exaggerated by my own dysphoria and prejudice (and quite plausibly by my lack of male siblings), and I tend to associate it outside of its purely family definition with an almost military ethos, the stronger “alpha” men motivating their weaker “brethren” to follow their example. Sisterhood (in a figurative sense) for some reason means something quite different to me: recognising the strength and virtue that already lies within the other person, and simply endeavouring to provide support, advice etc. to help them recognise it themselves, and celebrating when they do so. That is certainly the sense in which I use it with other transwomen. Having said that, though, you are of course correct that it obfuscates clear definitions to do so, so in strictly ethical terms I probably shouldn’t (I used to use the term “pseudo-sister” in the hope that sounded better, but I think the consensus was it just sounded silly). I don’t think I could bear to call Aoife and Jacqueline my “brothers”, though… Siblings? Bit cold, but such is the current problem with genderless language, yet if gender is to be abolished then such language ought to be invested with the positive connotations of sisterhood and brotherhood both (As to the latter, I daresay there must be some…). Thank you for writing this thoughtful, sensitive, and very thought-provoking piece.

  2. I admit to feeling some discomfort when I see transwomen use the word “sister” – but I also intuit that it’s a self-soothing mechanism, and I I have my share of those as well. (Also, as I said above, I feel discomfort when *female* people who are not related use it.) My point is not that transwomen shouldn’t use “sister” or should be required to use “brother” – I don’t police language, because – well, because I’m not an asshole – but also because that makes communication even more difficult, when talking about this stuff already feels so fraught. I wanted to get past that part – who should use what word – to what the word *means* and why males and females aren’t supposed to be able to feel it *for each other.* You bring up a related point – why can’t males feel it between and amongst themselves? Why and how are males denied that kind of intragroup support? What can be done to promote more empathy in males, rather than less? Surely recognizing that there *are* male people who are open to and desirous of highly empathetic and supportive two-way relationships is a good thing…

  3. I’ve never called anybody “sister” but my actual sisters and half-sisters. My granddaughter, 3, calls her mother “sister”, and seems to invest this word with a kind of awe and magic she undoubtedly drew from Disney’s Frozen. I would not use “sister” in a feminist context because I would feel like I was imitating feminists of the 60s and though I was there, alive, at the time, I was a child and these were grownups using this “sister” word and I found it and them rather contrived.

    “Sister” addressed to people who aren’t actually your female siblings, reminds me, first of all of church and secondly of St. Francis’ beloved Canticle of the Sun. I think it is appropriate to use in a song, poem or other literary work. I am also comfortable with hearing Bernie Sanders address crowds with “Brothers and Sisters”.

    To the question of what I think specifically about women addressing transgender people as “sister”, it is fraught with the questions the author writes of.

    Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
    in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and beautiful.

    Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
    and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
    through which You give Your creatures sustenance.

    Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water;
    she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

    Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
    through whom You brighten the night.
    He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

  4. you can’t blame them for wanting to stay away from any trans”woman” influences, though. YOU were the one to choose men over women. so they did not betray you. you betrayed them.

    1. Thanks for supplying a great example of cult think from “the other side,” Radish! Guess what, I’ve *never* told any woman they need to include males, including transwomen, in their lives or their politics. The other side of that is YOU don’t get to tell ME I can’t work with males, including transwomen, to fight against this newest backlash. (Hey, remember when *my* approach gave you somewhere to go when you left the LibFem Pro-Trans Brigade – remember when *everybody here* supported you, when both the AFTA and RF cultists were deriding you? And then you decided to join the RF cultists and spend all your time deriding us? And now you want to talk to me about betrayal. Good times. Maybe look into why you need cult belonging so badly.) If you comment on one of my pieces here again, it will not be approved.

  5. Comrade is “gender” neutral, sisterhood was taken over by the idiot liberals anyway. Thank you for your work, it’s always enlightening.

  6. As a dysphoric trans man who has wished for a penis and has loathed my reproductive organs from my earliest memories, the fact that the vast majority of other trans people are not only okay with their reproductive organs, but wave their ridiculous “female penises” and “male pregnancies” about whenever trans people are mentioned is enraging. I also believe the refusal of science to give trans men the equivalent quality of genital surgery that trans women receive is due to loathing of those of us unfortunate enough to be born female in a rape-happy patriarchy.

    If I had my way, there would be one term/community/activism for those of us who: 1. acknowledge birth sex, as painful as it is, and that ALL females including trans men, are at an innate disadvantage biologically and in society, and 2. are trans because we have SEX dysphoria, not because we think gender is fun, 3. actually think gender is a harmful construct, and 4. do not want to use the reproductive organs we had at birth in ANY WAY, and 5. if a trans woman, wants GRS, and if a trans man, desperately wants better surgical techniques and outcomes, and 6. believes violently masculine natal males, NOT radical feminists, are the enemy, while 7. realizing that having a certain sexual orientation is not a prerequisite for believing in 1-6. This group would be opposed to the “lady penis”, “my duderus is with child!” , “i like to wear dresses on Tuesday so let me into the women’s changing room”, “if you wont let me PiV you, you’re transmisogynistic”, “im a man who lurrves his va-GUY-na!” wackaloons who dominate trans discourse. They have, of late, gotten to the point where they believe having dysphoria itself is not only not necessary to be trans, but is in itself transphobic. ( ???!!!!!!)

    Let’s make a prerequisite for transness to be such disgust for one’s born reproductive organs to the extent that one refuses to use them. Actual trans women and trans men shudder at the very thought of their biological capabilities rather than (in the case of males)seek to get their jollies or (in the case of females) enter into the masochistic circus of penetration and/or pregnasty.

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