Forth Valley Rape Crisis is a new centre which offers support to people of all genders who have been affected by sexual violence at any point in their life. In addition to the support we offer, we also work with other agencies to improve the response to those who are affected by and who perpetrate sexual violence. We view sexual violence as gender-based violence, that is, an act which results in physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering which a person experiences as a result of their gender. We acknowledge that, although many of the effects of sexual violence are similar, these will be experienced differently by everyone with regards to the many identities that inhabit, such as sex and gender, race, social class, sexuality etc.
We would like to take this opportunity to state our commitment to and solidarity with all trans women. We are aware of the recent dialogue surrounding trans women and the denial of their identity and existence. Forth Valley Rape Crisis understand that trans women are women. Research identifies high levels of abuse including sexualised violence, fear and lack of support and understanding for people who identify as transgender or trans*. At a time when transphobic hate crimes reported to the police have soared, we believe that it is dangerous and discriminatory for feminists to debate the inclusion of trans* women within the feminist movement. Forth Valley Rape Crisis will ensure that the needs of all trans* people are respected and fully integrated into service delivery and that we can support potential/appointed trans women who volunteer and are employed to fully participate in the feminist movement. We are committed to offering awareness raising and training to staff and volunteers on best practice in providing inclusive services for transgendered people and all survivors.
Much of the dialogue around the trans* community in recent years has been around the importance of language and the ways in which a variety of groups will adopt/dismiss this. At Forth Valley Rape Crisis, we believe that groups in our society, whether this be along the lines of gender, race, class, dis/ability etc., experience privilege or discrimination depending on their position within these. We live in a patriarchal society where gender is organised into a binary system and, within which, all women are oppressed. People within the transgender community are often viewed as not 'fitting in' to this binary and are subjected to a great deal of violence and abuse as a result. With this in mind, it is our view that individuals who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth experience privilege which is often referred to as cisgender privilege. This does not detract from the sexism that trans and cis women within our society face, but we believe that these two ideas can coexist and that they intersect in a way that means trans women are disproportionately affected by sexual violence.
While we acknowledge that it is important to consider the inner workings of the feminist movement, we challenge this dominating the work that we do instead of focusing on those who perpetrate sexual violence and violence against women. And when we do critically reflect on our work, it’s important to do so in a way that doesn’t perpetuate transphobia or hate speech. Forth Valley Rape Crisis believe that we should make an alliance on the prevention of violence and injustice, and create a movement which allows this to be a safe place for all women and allies to do so. Anything that detracts from this is part of the problem and sees activists become tools of the patriarchal system.
This International Women’s Day, we are reminding ourselves that feminism is a challenge to male-dominated power structures and that we confront this with all of our sisters.