Ain't I a Woman?

A modern update for transsexual women

by Rev. Cathryn Platine

Over the years I have been struck many times with the vast parallels between the struggle for black civil rights and the civil rights struggle of transsexuals.  I was active in the civil rights struggle of the sixties myself.

We are denied civil rights on the same basis......that we are somehow less than human.  I have personally been told, to my face, three times by civil rights commission members in Ohio that I have NO civil rights as a transsexual.  The lack of civil rights of transsexuals has been used as a defence in court more than once in cases involving continued rape and torture in prisons.

When those who murder us are caught, not all that often, the message of the value of our lives is clear in the minimal sentences often handed down..

In a recent federal case in western New York, the defence excused out and out blatant harassment and job discrimination using the EXACT same language of the Dred Scott case.

The bulk of legal rulings and the reason given for exclusion of transsexuals from EEOC coverage is the "transsexuals have no sex and therefore cannot be victims of sexual discrimination".

Our use of public facilities such as bathrooms often becomes a legal battleground and the subject of debate.

The early women's movement became linked to civil rights by the speeches of Maria Miller Stewart, who's motto "am I not a woman and a sister?" was reproduced as posters and medallions.  A few years later, Sojourner Truth gave her "ain't I a woman?" speech.  Both mottos seem particularly relevant to transsexual women faced with open discrimination today.

Virtually every post-transsexual woman I know has suffered overt employment discrimination.....the figure being used today is 97% of us!  We suffer the bulk of orientation-bias hate crimes because we are the mostly easily identified as "queer".  When we are raped, we are at least ten times more likely to be brutally killed than a non-trans woman.  We are arguably the most discriminated against group in the world today.

While watching a documentary yesterday about the decades of legal battles leading up to the Brown vs the Board of Education decision, I was once again overwhelmed by the similarities to our own legal battles
to simply get the same civil rights all people are supposed to be endowed with, to quote a well known document.

I give you a modern version of Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a woman?" for transsexual women.

Ain't I a woman?
Did I not bleed for weeks following surgery?
Do I not hit the same glass ceiling when I CAN get employment?
Do I not make 76 cents on the dollar to the pay of a man doing the same work?
Do I not have to work twice as hard and be twice as good to be considered a man's equal?
Is not control of my own body made a medical/political issue?
Is not my voice silenced and ignored, my rights denied by the same misogyny?
Am I not denied decent health care and a voice in that?
Am I not sometimes forced to sell my own body just to survive?
Am I not just a sex object, a commodity, to the pornography industry?
Am I not a woman and a sister?
Ain't I a woman?.................

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copyright 2004, Cathryn Platine.  All rights reserved.  This page may not be reproduced in whole or in part in any electronic or print media without the express written permission of the copyright holder.