I want to speak about the extra pressure on disabled women having trans identified males in our spaces. My main experience is of chronic illness and autism.
As a disabled woman with a chronic illness it can be difficult to get out the house to womens space’s already. Some of us can only manage to access women’s spaces once or twice a year if we are lucky. This is after months of isolation and being stuck in the house.
To access these spaces it can be very expensive. We have to get taxis that can amount to even hundreds of pounds if we become ill whilst out of the house. We have to make huge sacrifices of large amounts of money and being ill for days or even weeks just to get out the house to a women’s space for a couple of hours or spend hours and hours doing administrative tasks to get disability assistance on public transport and ensuring we have enough food and water – possibly hire of a mobility scooter, arranging carers which also cost money that can amount to hundreds of pounds. This preparation can take weeks when you have little energy. All this for what is often just a couple of hours before we become too tired to stay and have to leave. That or we push ourselves and make ourselves ill for weeks. Having an invisible disability also brings the added pressure of experiencing hostility from women in women’s spaces because they think we are being lazy, rude or selfish when we are unable to contribute to manual labour. Things that we need carers for at home and if we were to attempt to do would make us unable to access the event at all.
We have no choice but to make to make these sacrifices because this tiny amount of access to women’s space gives us the strength and courage to keep going. It gives us a bit of hope and respite. Imagine how it feels to do all of this and then be encountered with a trans identifying male and having to leave after 5 minutes or then becoming traumatised and having nightmares and panic attacks. This in the tiny amount of time and space that you have been looking forward to and preparing for for weeks – sometimes months or even years. It is this kind of thing that causes womens to become suicidal and have severe mental health issues. This is not ok.
I personally have not been able to access a women only space for well over a year. It had already taken me years to arrange access to a women only festival I used to go to. I had managed to stay in a bungalow whilst the other women camped and there was an access team to assist. It cost me a lot of money but it gave me sustenance for the year and now it has closed down after a trans identified male came and sabotaged it and made women like me feel unsafe. Today as a lesbian I am feeling triggered by feeling left out of Pride, that lesbians are no longer welcome there. As a survivor of abuse being triggered by how Pride has been infiltrated by things like porn, S and M and paedophilia. Yet I cannot access the one small lesbian space I am aware of either. Spaces that took the women’s movement years to build up and get on top of things like disability access have all been dismantled and women are having to start again from the beginning. Disabled access was the first thing to go and is now more or less non existent in the very few truly women only spaces. Not only am I excluded from Pride and from radical feminist spaces but I have also been excluded from the only disabled feminist group – Sisters of Frida for being a ‘terf’. The only place I could have gone to for support as a disabled women. I was blocked from their group for objecting to a very offensive post about ‘queering’ autism that promoted the transing of autistic children and young people. I want recognition of not only the extra pressures we face having TIMs in women’s spaces but the extra sacrifices disabled women have to make to speak out about this issue.
I have a friend who is visually impaired who has given me permission to anonymously share her story. She may add more herself at a later date. Can you imagine being in a women’s bathroom alone at night and you can sense another person there but you firstly cannot see if they are a woman or a trans identified male and secondly cannot move fast enough to get out of there if it turns out they are a male?
“For me it breaks down all the little bit of help I rely on. For example, if I come out of the cubicle, women often assist me by taking my arm and directing me to the sinks, hand drier etc. At the moment I am fine with that because it’s another woman but if we start seeing more males than it will make it very hard for me because I would be worried about being bundled into a cubicle. It just adds another layer of difficulty to me going out alone, which is already very difficult and requires a lot of concentration”
These are the hidden issues that disabled women have to worry about when just leaving the house which as I mentioned earlier is already difficult. As someone who doesn’t have this disability I had never even thought about this and it alerts me to just how many other hidden issues women with varying disabilities may have. I would love to hear from disabled women about your issues. Please comment.
Some of us become disabled because of rape and sexual violence and those of us who were disabled before are at higher risk of rape and sexual assault. As an autistic woman I was sexually exploited because of my vulnerability. Disabled women need women only spaces even more than able-bodied women and our already very limited access to them is being further removed.
The co-option of intersectionality by the trans. movement has all but completely drowned out the voices and struggles of genuinely further oppressed groups of women.
Can I ask radical feminists sharing this to please not just use disabled women’s voices to strengthen your own campaign but also to think about what you are doing to allow disabled women to access events you are organising? We desperately need access to radical feminist spaces which are the few spaces we feel safe in.