Gina de Vries

"our bodies are not the sum of our parts as women"

Filed By Gina de Vries | August 17, 2007 5:37 PM | comments

Filed in: Media, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Chasing Amy, trans

I just wrote this letter to Amy from the Chasing Amy Social Club in San Francisco. Read about their policy that discriminates against transwomen who have not had gender confirmation surgeries here:

Consider writing to Amy yourself, too.

Hi Amy--

This is Gina de Vries. I've been to Chasing Amy events in the past. I was at an event of yours awhile back, where a transwoman was in attendance, and the three of us got into a discussion about the politics of transwomen being in the space. Before this conversation, I'd had no idea there *was* any policy about transwomen attending CASC events, as I'd never seen anything posted anywhere.

The transwoman in question had *not* had any kind of gender confirmation surgeries, but you seemed very welcoming to her. In this conversation, you said you based your policy on Osento rules (transwomen in attendance at events must have had vaginoplasty), but also seemed open to suggestion and change. I remember voicing my distaste over Chasing Amy's rules possibly being modelled on Osento's
policy, and I remember you listening and telling the woman who was with us that she was welcome at your events.

This is part of why it pains me to write to this letter to you. I was under the impression that you'd changed your policy; considering the emails and letters I've gotten about this issue, I'm obviously mistaken.

To restate: A policy that demands that transwomen have had gender confirmation surgery is discriminatory in a number of ways:

  • It is essentialist. It bases a woman's identity as a woman on her body parts. And while I am a non-trans woman, I *have* had the experience of people basing my worth and identity as a woman and a queer person on what my body looks like. Amy, I think that you and I both know--especially as queer women, as femmes, as fat women, and as women who have dealt with disabilities in our lifetimes--that our bodies and what we choose to do with them are not the sum of our parts as women. What makes us women--trans or not--is not about what is between our legs.
  • This policy also assumes that there is One Surgery (vaginoplasty) that transgender and transsexual women have, and One Surgery that makes transwomen "legitimate women." I repeat: Basing a woman's woman-ness on her body is extremely problematic and unfair. I also want to say that transwomen have a variety of medical options for transition available to them that are *not* vaginoplasty, but that are still surgery. What surgeries "count"? What surgeries "don't count"? Where are you drawing the line? (I hope you realize that I'm asking these questions rhetorically--the lines are arbitrary.)
  • Lastly, a policy that requires that transwomen have vaginoplasty also assumes a kind of economic privilege that very few transwomen have. Very few transwomen I know have had any gender confirmation surgeries. Some of them have not had surgeries because they don't want them; and some of them desperately want them and cannot afford procedures that range from tens-to-hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Amy, I'm writing to you because I've enjoyed and felt welcomed at your events in the past, and I want the transwomen I love and build community with to feel welcome at your events, too.

Until this policy changes, I will not be attending any more Chasing Amy events.


Gina de Vries, Former CASC Member

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I've never understood stupid rules like this. Why do we find ourselves perpetuating the same traps that the straight community puts us in? *sigh*


As a relative newbie here and having not known of you before now, let me just say "You rock, sister!". I think it's kind of semi-ironic (or maybe intentional on your part?) that you posted this just as this year's Michigan Women's Transphobia Festival has ended.

The San Francisco/Bay Area has always been held up as a mecca of Queer freedom and transgender inclusion to those of us outside of it (I'm in Jersey), but it seems clear that transphobia still lives and perhaps even flourishes in the area with the largest transgender population in the country.

I just posted my take on Michfest's "womyn born womyn" policy to my own blog a few days ago ( and I've been thinking about taking this on as a topic on my show.

In the past, I've tried to get some in the community who have promoted this kind of anti-trans bigotry to come on my show as guests and discuss it but, not surprisingly I suppose, none have taken me up on the offer. I did question Alix Olson, who performs at Michfest regularly, about their policy when I had her on the show a while back. I'm going to dig that show up and grab a few cuts from it because I'd like to do a feature on the topic when the show returns.

Would you be interested in guesting on the show, telling your story, and adding your perspective? Let me know, I think you'd be great. Anyone else you think could add something to the discussion and would be worthwhile to have on, please also let me know as well!

Great post and I hope you're interested! :)