The organizers of the Milwaukee Pride Parade have fired this year’s lesbian Grand Marshall because she is critical of so-called “trans-women,” that is, men who wear female clothes and think they are women.
Miriam Ben-Shalom is famous for being one of the first challengers to the U.S. Army’s exclusion of open homosexuals in the military, a case which she ultimately lost, yet made her a celebrity in the homosexual world.
She went on to co-found the Gay, Lesbian, and Bi-Sexual Veterans of America. Note the absence of the T in the name of the group.
She had been named Grand Marshall of the Milwaukee Pride Parade but was unceremoniously stripped of this position when it came to light that she opposes the notion that men can be women. Ben-Shalom calls herself “woman born of woman.”
An unsigned letter to Ben-Shalom from the “Milwaukee Pride Parade Board of Directors” said “shortly after we offered you the position, it was brought to our attention that your Facebook page contains a number of posts asserting that transwomen are a danger to young girls in public bathrooms and locker rooms. After considering these posts, it is the Board’s opinion that these posts are transphobic and as such represent an attack on an important segment of the LBGT community.”
Calling herself a “PEFR — penis exclusionary radical feminist,” Ben-Shalom wrote back to the parade:
To you bunch of Moral reprobates–so cowardly you can’t even post a name: Really rather a cowardly manner to deal with this. You are not correct about my FB page, although my FB page does have posts from others on it about the so-called trans issue. This issue is very sensitive for women born of women, but I would not expect men to understand. Further, no one asked me about my stance — which is very discriminatory indeed. For your information, I am indeed a PERF–penis exclusionary radical feminist who believes that women born of women have the right to safe spaces of their own and cultural events they put on for themselves and those sisters who might like to attend. After all, men have had a long history of male only spaces in the GBT community and not much ado was made of it.
Ben-Shalom invoked women’s safety in her opposition to men in dresses pretending to be women.
When I consider what the trans community did to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and the threats that were made there that I personally saw and heard and when I consider the threats directed at women who stand up to speak out about women’s safety, I become firmer in my estimation of who these people are and what trans means to –it appears–a great many people. No woman I know would threaten to kill another woman because of opinion. No woman I know would call others who differing opinions the nastiest words in the English language. Therefore, Pride Parade Committee: You are no better then those who threatened to hurt women born of women simply because they wished to be in a nurturing environ with others who were like minded. One may hope you take the so-called Trans community to task for all the threats and nastiness heaped on women as you took me.
Ben-Shalom is what’s known as a “second-wave feminist,” that is, a feminist of the 1960s vintage, who are often hostile to the notion of “trans-women.” Second-wave feminists believe women with penises are just another way for men to impose themselves unwanted into women’s lives. Second-wave feminists are offended that women with penises, like Bruce Jenner, can get awards for being women.
Two years ago, Michelle Goldberg published a lengthy article in the New Yorker — “What is a Women?” — analyzing the conflict between second-wave feminists and men in dresses. Goldberg looked specifically at the long-time reluctance of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival to include biological men pretending to be women either as participants or performers, a protest referenced by Ben-Shalom in her letter to parade organizers.
Ben-Shalom’s Facebook page fights further on the issue. She links to an article — “On Lesbians as Villains” — she says parade organizers “need to read.”
As lesbians, we need time away from dicks and maleness and mansplaining and transplaining. We need time away from po-mo hypothesizing about “what makes a woman.” We need time away from fear. We need time away from lesbophobia. We are fucking sick to the back teeth of it. We are exhausted and we need a fucking break. Trans/queer concerns are NOT lesbians’ concerns. Trans/queer politics are NOT helpful, or even good, for lesbians. (Far be it for me to stop anyone from waxing poetic on whether or not penis is female, but for the love of the fucking gods, let women have a minute away from this incessant noise that in no way serves our – women’s/lesbians’ –best interest.)
The article goes on to list a number of instances where “trans women” have attacked women in women’s bathrooms, including “in one case a child.”
This is not the first time transgender men have stalked Ben-Shalom. Last year, a trans-woman, “Autumn Sandeen,” wrote an op-ed in the San Diego LGBTWeekly complaining about Ben-Shalom using the term “woman born woman” on her Facebook page. He said the phrase was “transphobic.”