The Red Tent

The Greenbelt women’s space is for all who identify as women. I asked permission to enter, and was welcomed, at least officially. For the opening session, they ask us what we want from women’s space. I say I want to explore the tension between the femininity I choose to express, and the womanhood of most people here.

The name “Red Tent” is not particularly welcoming for trans women. Of course it refers to menstruation; a woman asked if it were linked to the Red Hat, but that is separate, named from Jenny Joseph’s poem. The Red Tent creates a space for us to honor our blood cycles and womanhood journeys. Yet there is no objection to me here. That could be a legal thing, I cannot think it would be a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim” to exclude me. Others wanted to discuss The Handmaid’s Tale, and time is set aside. And given that reproductive physiology is such a huge part of most people’s experience, it is reasonable to make it a defining matter for women’s space.

We hear that some men object to there being a space solely for women. Ribald catcalling ensues. We can tell them there is a Men’s Journey group at 11am on Saturday, and 11pm on Sunday. Later, I saw notices up about this in the Red Tent: a feminine taking care of others’ feelings, while asserting their rights.

I went off to eat, and as I ate a woman sidled up to me. “It was brave of you to speak like that,” she said. I don’t think it brave, myself. I was participating. There is no point in being there otherwise. She said she knew someone who transitioned, and “he” said (I am fairly clear she means AMAB) “he had transitioned with a small T not a capital T”. I get what she means. There is no good way of asking that question, but this sidling round it is horrible. I don’t answer, but don’t ask if that should make a difference to the Red Tent. It’s not as if we were getting undressed. We ate together, then went for a drink, and talked more. I insisted on buying my own. I would not accept a drink from her.

After that, I had to go back to the Red Tent. I would not be chased away. We are in small groups discussing, and a younger woman talks of children learning of sex through porn, and sex education being solely biological, mechanical, rather than about relationships, or even about pleasure given and received. An older woman talks of being a minister, and having her leadership subtly disrespected. Where a male minister would be “charming” she is read as “flirtatious”. She wondered about mentoring younger women in similar roles. Two black women talked of more content here to attract black people. Then all my group but me left, and I was left sitting in the middle of the floor, with everyone else round the sides. I felt a bit exposed, but fed back to the larger group what they had talked about. A minister in another group gave her take on the matter, as clearly I had not understood.

-Oh, and we talked about sex. (laughter).
-Did any group not talk about sex?

It’s evening, and getting colder, so I put on my tights, then walk out.

4 thoughts on “The Red Tent

  1. I know I will be hated on for saying it, but I do not feel it is right to allow trans womyn to participate in red tent. On a biological level, down to the DNA, they will always be men. They cannot change their chromosomes. As well, they can never truly experience what a biological woman experiences. Maybe trans womyn can make a red tent for trans womyn, to share in experiences of their transition. Those experiences that biological women would never truly comprehend the way trans womyn do. In a way I think in some part of me I just feel like this is another way for men to strip women of another thing in life. Men have been taking from women, oppressing them and just making us as if we are less than nothing. And I am so tired of it. Red Tent is the one sacred thing, the one place, that women can be free to celebrate, enjoy and be at peace with their womanhood. And I feel allowing trans womyn in that space just makes it tainted. It is taking away from the sanctity of a woman’s space and experience. I am not against trans womyn at all. Trans people are people and deserve love and respect like everyone else, but at this, in my opinion, I draw the line. It is just how I feel. I am not sorry for my feelings but I am sorry if my feelings hurt someone. It is not my intention.

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    • Welcome, and thank you for commenting. I see no point in me, here, now, disagreeing with you. Possibly you will go to many Red Tents and never see a trans woman. Possibly I will go again and never hear of any objections (though someone might object silently). There, they took the view either that I should be admitted or the law required them to admit me, at least until I acted offensively. Disagreements IRL are horrid enough without online argument. Thank you for your courage in commenting here.

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      • I don’t think of my comment as argumentative, more as stating facts as well as personal feelings. Reading your blog about your experience just made me feel like you went with the intention of feeling rejected and you picked at the tiniest things that were in no way meant to be offensive of rejecting, and made something out of nothing. But regardless of how you come across in the article, regardless of how I feel, the facts still do not change. Red Tents are for women, biological women with two X chromosomes. So technically there is zero argument to be had anywhere. If you don’t fit the basic criteria for the group, you don’t attend. That simple. Would you apply to a job that ask for professionals with x years experience and a degree in that field if you don’t fit the qualifications? No. And if you do, you should expect to be rejected because you don’t fit what they are looking for. Why is this any different. The mere fact that you feel as though my comment is argumentative just goes to show your own personal flaws and hang ups. Also the fact that you jump to argument mode instead of open and intelligent discussion, shows that you rather play a victim role. You are only a victim of your own downfalls. We can agree to disagree. I am all for open and equality, but that means for ALL, not just when it suits you.

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