Stop using the phrase 'womxn' to be trans-inclusive. It can be offensive to trans women and non-binary people.
- Streaming platform Twitch received backlash after using "womxn" in a tweet for Women's History Month.
- Critics say the term is transphobic because it suggests trans women are not real women.
- It's OK if someone wants to self-identify as "womxn", but using it as a catchall term for trans people is harmful.
On the first day of Women's History Month, online streaming platform Twitch got a wave of backlash for its use of the term "womxn" to kick off the month.
"Join us in celebrating and supporting all the Womxn creating their own worlds, building their communities, and leading the way on Twitch," the Twitch Twitter account said in a now-deleted tweet.
Womxn became a popular term in the 2010s as a term to break away from linguistic sexism. Feminist organizations started using womxn to cut out the word "men" from "women." It later evolved as a way to include trans women and non-binary people in discussions around women's equity.
The problem is that using "womxn" to refer specifically to trans women and non-binary people does more to exclude and single out trans people than it does to include them. Womxn implies trans women aren't real women and non-binary people are women, so it's best to avoid using it if you want to make a space safe for trans people.
—️GAME & RODO️ (@GAMEandRODO64) March 1, 2021
Why people started re-spelling 'women'
Re-spellings of "women" became popular in the 1970s.
The thought behind respelling the word was to take "man" out of it; to weed out patriarchy from language.
"Womyn" emerged as an alternative after the first Michigan Womyn's Music Festival in 1967, a festival intended for women.
Other, less popular spellings like "wimmin" and "womban" also appeared at the time.
These days, "womxn" is the favored alt-term, and for some people, it has been an empowering one. A number of Black feminist organizations - who have been historically left out of the women's rights movement - use the word. The idea is to signify the different experiences of Black women compared to white women.
However, it's become increasingly popular to use "womxn" specifically to be inclusive of trans people - people who have fought long and hard to be considered the gender they are: women.
Trans women are women. There is no need to use 'womxn' to emphasize they are included.
These re-spellings have also long been associated with trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs).
The Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, for example, intentionally used the alternative spelling to refer to "womyn born womyn" and exclude trans women from the festival.
When "womxn" was adopted in the 2010s, to emphasize the inclusion of trans women, there was the same fundamental flaw.
It implied there are spaces for women and "womxn," building on the same exclusionary logic that creates separate spaces for cisgender women - or women assigned female at birth because of their genitalia - and trans women.
If a space is intended for women, trans women are included. If an organization caters to the needs of women, trans women are inherently included. If a history month is meant to center women, it centers trans women by default.
—River the Jaegerist (@RiverOfIce_) March 1, 2021
Using "womxn" to refer to trans women implies they aren't actually women. Reducing them to an "other" to be tolerated isn't actually more inclusive.
Non-binary people are not women, and using 'womxn' to include them in conversations about gender is invalidating
Using "womxn" as a catch-all term to include non-binary people erases the fact that many non-binary people aren't impacted by women's issues, and are instead impacted by patriarchy and sexism in a unique way.
Many do not want to be included in the term "women" or "womxn" at all.
While some non-binary trans people do self-identify as womxn, saying "womxn" to refer to all non-binary people doesn't make sense.
—tals/gavi ✡︎ טליה/גבי (@goy__phobic) March 1, 2021
A non-binary transmasculine person who was assigned female at birth is not going to experience the same kind of sexism or patriarchy as a non-binary transfeminine person who was assigned male at birth.
Using womxn to refer to everyone makes it difficult to talk about people's unique experiences of our gender-focused world.
Say what you mean if you want to include trans people
If you want an event to include non-binary people, say it's welcome to women and non-binary people. If an event is meant to center trans women, say that. If an event is meant for all women, there is no need to say "womxn."
With the ongoing erosion of trans rights in the US, it is particularly important now to use language carefully and be intentional in our inclusion of trans people. If you're unsure about the best terminology to use, there are many trans professionals who specialize in making language for organizations as trans-inclusive as possible.
Even if you don't understand how the term "womxn" hurts trans people, if the goal is to be inclusive and trans-positive, just don't use it.
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