When it comes to being a trans person, especially a Black trans person, having access to work is complicated. We are consistently pushed out of 9 to 5 work and rarely are in spaces to receive mentorship from peers who understand the land mines we are trying to navigate. Whether it is our gender presentation that is policed in terms of what is seen as professional attire, to folks in HR outing us, to being denied on site for not fitting "the culture" of an organization, it is no wonder that so many of us are at risk for houselessness, incarceration, depression, and PTSD, in addition to the physical violence we already encounter.
In a world where many organizations function from a place of sexism that centers on the leadership styles of cisgender men, places like the Wing, a women-focused co-working space, can be a godsend for many women that deserve the space to network, be mentored and be supported in their work. The idea that they would be investigated for gender discrimination in the juxtaposition of so many organizations that never directly say "boys club" on the door, but will deny women at every turn, is absurd. Women's spaces are necessary and vital. The question becomes, then, if women's spaces are made to address gender discrimination, who else also faces gender-based discrimination?
What many gendered spaces leave out is an expansive definition of who they are even speaking to. Women's spaces usually mean cisgender women, and often do not make intentional space for trans women, trans femmes and non-binary folks that identify with a shared experience of women's space. Additionally, trans men and transmasculine folks experience gender based discrimination for not being cis and need a space. For the majority of trans men, that would not be a women's space (as a trans man, that is not where I would want to take up or seek space).
Men's work spaces--and when I say "men's," I am not just speaking of places that articulate that, but spaces of deep patriarchy that center a framework of masculine leadership--should be compelled to open their expansiveness of gender, worthiness, and valid leadership styles. Trans men, non-binary folks, trans femmes, and trans women all deserve spaces within the workplace as individuals who have been creating work out of nothingness. We deserve mentorship; we deserve spaces to exist. That does not and should not be used to punish women's spaces and not deal with the deep-seated patriarchy that made the conditions these spaces need to exist.
A few months ago, I had an amazing and lovely conversation with two women, a writer and a founder from which a "Discuss" article was created. When I looked at the article, I realized that cisgender people rarely understand the fullness of context from which trans people are sharing their experiences. So in writing and editing, the nuance is lost and generally supports a cisgender framework. This made clearer to me the ways that trans people are absent from editorial rooms and from lucrative writing careers.
When I saw the places in which my conversation around the need for gender-affirming spaces for trans people to work free from discrimination was erased, I was horrified. In particular, the places in which I shared that the Wing would not be a space I'd feel comfortable, was used to paint them as discriminatory. The idea that my not being able to participate in something would make it discriminatory is a cisgender argument.
As a trans man, while I do not have the privilege of cis men, and experience lots of gender-based discrimination, that does not mean my experience is the same as the women and femmes in my life. I deserve a space to deal with that that is gender-affirming, and does not need to be punitive to women and femmes that feel a deep desire to gather and commune and build with each other. Folks who identify with women's spaces, trans and cis women, non-binary folks and some transmasculine folks, deserve a place to be free from patriarchy. Women's spaces do not take away from me. The right to acknowledge gender bias that leans towards cisgender men is a necessary and vital conversation.
Spaces that are focused on cisgender men by default must be honest about their role in hoarding resources from women, both cis and trans, and trans men and non-binary folks.