[This post was saved as a draft. It was a copy of a response to a message on Tumblr and shows the discourse at the time around the concept now known as “women and nonbinary.” I still experience both fluidity and alienation around “women’s spaces,” and this post shows nascent thoughts about the continuing problems with defining nomenclature and intent around gender. —SQL 2023-04-11]
I tend to hash out thoughts about gender and other topics on Tumblr, and Lauren contacted me on Sunday to ask a question:
ok so i’m having gender feels and i was just wondering if i could ask you something – i know you mentioned wanting to go to a “girls night” sleepover thing or something despite not being a girl in a post once, and i was just wondering how you feel about being in women’s spaces as a non-woman (but like, femme & non-trans person)?? idk how to feel and idk what my gender even is so maybe i am a woman?? but if i’m not a woman then am i invading women’s spaces by being there?? idk.
idk, sometimes it’s a matter of passing for a women, like when I’m using gender-segregated public restrooms. other times, when it’s something women-oriented, like a feminist space or a girls’ night sleepover… I don’t consider it an invasion; I consider my presence as functioning under an expanded understanding of “woman”.
I think it also depends on the intent of the space. like, wellesley and other women’s schools have been struggling with how to identify themselves as a women-only campus while also accommodating non-women. I’m kind of ehhhhh about how the media and wellesley has focused on it, in that there’s so much being done to accommodate trans men, and part of me is like ??? so you’re identifying as a man, albeit a trans man; why’s it so important for you to be in this space that’s delineated as a women’s space? but yeah, those dialogues haven’t discussed how to accommodate people like us, or dmab people who are feminine of center while not IDing as trans women.
so my point with bringing up wellesley is: the intent of spaces like wellesley is to provide a safe haven that fosters growth and creativity away from the dominance of men, where women (read: non-men) can lead and innovate. so, sure, it’s a women’s space, but it’s a women’s space that, by design, has room for non-men. so, in my opinion, women’s spaces provide room for non-men who are feminine of center. and non-men who are exactly center, come to think of it.
my coworker who wants to host a ladies’ night sleepover did want to offer another name for it to accommodate me, and wellesley and other women’s colleges struggle with how to identify themselves, but tbh, although I don’t identify as a woman, or a lady, I don’t necessarily see the identification of a space as a women’s space as being overly restrictive or exclusive.
I think feminine of center people, regardless of gender assigned at birth, are absolutely NOT invading women’s spaces when we use them. we of course are free to decline to use those spaces, and we can form our own spaces as well. but like, although we may not ID as women, part of our experience is that we’re read as women/feminine, which does lend us common experiences that make a women’s space more familiar than, say, a men’s space, or even a nonbinary space, depending on how far from center you are.
does that help any? 🙂