An Open Letter to Cis Women

By Hayley Van Allen ’21
Queer Columnist

For a student body that considers itself to be radical and accepting, Scripps college students continue to ignore and perpetuate transphobia on campus. Straight, cis women on campus laugh about “loving dick too much” to be gay as much as they’d love to date women. Gay, cis women on campus joke about “hating dick” being the root of their gay identity. Nearly every time I correct this kind of trans-exclusive language, I’m met with eyerolls, nervous laughs, or an insistence from the person I’ve corrected that they’re not transphobic.

These reactions are always dripping with guilt and discomfort because no one at Scripps wants to be called out on their ignorance. As a result, I, and many others, have to force a laugh and smile to make you feel better, despite the fact that you just implied that my genitals define who I am, that the reason I don’t date men is because they have penises, that you yourself would never date a trans person.

The language that you use matters. When you continue to use language that excludes trans and non-binary people, your transphobia, whether it was intentional or not, exposes itself. We have all been raised in a transphobic society and as a result have all internalized transphobic ideas and beliefs. Like with any internalized xenophobia/bigotry, we all have an obligation to unlearn this rhetoric and actively work to dismantle the transphobia present in the systems around us.

If you make a mistake sometimes it’s ok, but if you react with guilt or defensiveness, you’re trivializing the actual pain and discrimination that trans people go through. All your reaction has done is exposed your own transphobia. As Audre Lorde said in The Uses of Anger, “Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of actions.” Your discomfort from being called out on your transphobia is not worse than experiencing actual transphobia, the same way that being called out on your racism is not worse than experiencing actual racism. When called out on your transphobic language, try to instead learn from the experience and work harder to validate and include trans people when you speak.

In order to truly be an ally to your trans siblings, it’s not enough to just say that you support them. You should be actively fighting against the transphobia you see in your life and working to support members of the trans community. This can be done in many different ways: whether on an individual level you support and respect the pronouns, names, and identities of your trans and non-binary friends, or on a larger level fight against the structures at Scripps that continue to create a culture where trans people feel unwelcome.

On an individual level, truly respecting and supporting your trans friends means more than just using their preferred name and pronouns. It means correcting others when they use the wrong language to refer to someone you know. It means not outing your trans friends.

I don’t need you to tell me that your friend is trans. The only person who should tell me (if they even want it known!) is your friend. I don’t need to know your trans friend’s deadname. I don’t need to know that “he used to be a she”. I don’t need to know anything other than their current name and pronouns because it’s none of my business. Unless someone wants to be open about their identity and experience as a trans person, stop outing them to other people.

On a more structural level, work to expose the transphobia and trans exclusive rhetoric that you see at Scripps and in other systems. Pay attention to the language Scripps uses and how it works to erase trans-masculine and non binary people on campus, as well as trans women. Join organizing work on campus that uplifts trans students and fights to change structures at the 5C’s that perpetuate transphobia.

As students at a historically women’s college, we should all be working to better support and uplift trans folk at Scripps and the broader Claremont Colleges. White cis women especially cannot remain silent when given the privilege and ability to fight against transphobia with few repercussions. Trans people, especially trans POC, are far too often not listened to or given a voice, which is why it’s so important for those with privilege to amplify the voices of trans folks.

Cis women have to start organizing and showing up for protests that center trans folks, especially trans women of color, and use their cis privilege on behalf of their trans siblings. They need to start viewing their trans sisters and brothers as allies and empathize with and memorialize their loses the same way cis women do for their cis sisters.

If feminism and activism at a historically (white) women’s college is to mean anything, it must be explicitly inclusive of the full range of trans folks that exist and are hurt by cissexism here at the Claremont Colleges.