So, today an article came to my attention that is almost like a bingo card for microaggressive transphobia. Entitled Transgender: the challenge to feminist politics, it is the sort of bollocks I’d usually let my trans sisters take down, but talking to some of them on Twitter about this, there was an air of fatigue, that it was nothing new. And it’s true. It’s tedious and reads like a checklist of tropes of people being wrong about trans women. I’d honestly recommend people bothered educating themselves by reading blogs by trans women, or actually talking to fucking trans women.
I have the luxury of not being directly harmed by this article, or anything else to this effect. This is how I find the energy to fight it. However, I’ve likely missed a few things, and I’d love if my trans sisters have any resources, links or additions to make, to let me know, and I’ll signal-boost you. Also, this is a very short, point-by-point rapid response, intended to make sure that some of the worst of this is quickly dealt with. Each point is worthy of its own post, as each of these tropes come up so often.
Now on to the demolition.
There are so many battles yet to be won by feminists that we must not be distracted by internal schisms. If we can identify a shared political goal with trans women, says Rahila Gupta, we should be able to end this polarisation.
Trans women are women. There are therefore a lot of shared political goals. Any polarisation comes from some cis women being bigoted.
After decades of debating what it means to be a feminist, who would have thought that even the category ‘woman’ would be up for discussion, and would need to be qualified with the prefix ‘born’ (i.e. born- woman)?
The correct prefix is not “born”, but “cis”. “Born” implies some sort of biologically essential characteristic.
until new technology came along to allow those who suffer from gender dysphoria to choose the body in which they feel most comfortable.
Trans people aren’t just a new invention with new technology. Trans people have always existed.
The suicide of Lucy Meadows, a teacher in the process of transitioning, in response to her persecution by the press exemplifies the wide-spread prejudice against trans people.
Sadly, transphobia is not just limited to this very salient example.
Against this history, it becomes very difficult to have a reasoned debate about what transgender means for sex binaries, gender politics and feminism without touching a raw nerve in members of the trans community.
The use of “reasoned” and “touched a raw nerve” places trans people as “unreasonable”. This is a classic example of dogwhistle prejudice, and “the crazy trans lady” is a common trope used against trans women. Immediately after this, the author lists two examples of things that she thinks are not transphobia. Both of them are instances of transphobia. Great silencing work!
The fact that those who claim that theirs is a liberatory new movement are adopting body shapes that have historically oppressed women is worth debating and no different to the debates we may have with the fashion industry or even amongst women.
Just as cis women have lots of different body shapes, so, too, do trans women. Ignoring this fact is either ignorant or disingenous. I genuinely can’t work out which.
Central to feminist thinking is that gender is a social construct rather than a biological construct and that spurious arguments about the biological inferiority of women have been used to justify the existence of patriarchy. The imperative felt by transsexuals to undergo surgery and hormone therapy in order to identify as the sex to which they aspire thus undercuts a major plank of feminist politics.
Well, maybe your feminist politics need to move on from the 1970s, then. My feminist politics accommodate trans people perfectly well.
ETA: Furthermore, surgery is not a crucial aspect of a transition: some women choose not to have hormones or surgery for their own reasons. It’s their choice, and it doesn’t make them any less women. (thanks @JessWardman for suggesting I clarify this point!)
Men who transition to women
WHAT? No. Trans women are women. Stop calling them men.
ETA: This is as good a times as any to draw attention to another false narrative around trans people, as observed by an anonymous friend of mine: there is a narrative that trans women “want to become” women rather than are women.
Men who transition to women often adopt a hyper feminine style of dress and appearance, thus yoking femininity and women very much as patriarchy does, a link that feminists have been trying hard to break.
Not all feminists. Again, move on from the 1970s. Also, there is absolutely no critique of the role of the medical establishment in this. Doctors often force trans women to behave in a certain way in order to get treatment.
ETA: From an anonymous friend: “not all trans women are feminine by a long shot, even with the medical pressure.”
Additionally, genderqueer politics holds that the rigid imposition of gender identities is the main problem and that the binary system affects men and women equally whereas feminists like myself would see the oppression of one sex (women) by another (men) as the central issue
No. Binaries are unhelpful.
It is also interesting that the most noise in public debates is made by men transitioning to women, another example of male privilege
JESUS CHRIST STOP WITH CALLING TRANS WOMEN MEN. Trans women do not have male privilege. They are women, with the intersecting oppression of being trans and thus facing this sort of shit.
According to a study carried out in 2009, of a community of 10,000 people in the UK, 6000 have transitioned, 80 per cent of whom are now trans women (MTF).
I don’t know what she means by “transitioned” here, but I think I can guess that she means surgery (more on this later)
Whilst it may be understandable that women might wish to live as men in order to escape their ‘inferior’ sex, it is harder to understand why such large numbers of men should opt to transition to women and thereby, give up their male privilege, plus face the additional discrimination of adopting transgender identities. Nevertheless, the fact that more men than women have transitioned is itself an indication that patriarchy gives men a disproportionate power and freedom to choose how they live.
Perhaps because they’re not doing it to swap privileges around? And if she had ever even bothered to speak to a trans woman, maybe, just maybe, she would know that trans women are not men, and that it’s hardly a “disproportionate power and freedom”, being trans.
ETA: From my anonymous friend: “one reason for trans women being more visible than trans men despite evidence suggesting numbers are roughly equally is that trans men are not questioned as much by the media (because of male privilege – being a man ‘makes sense’)
Jenny Roberts, a transsexual, explains why their response to rejection by born-women is so noisy: the transsexual ‘often responds in the only way she knows – with male aggression and anger… the inescapable fact is that we’ve grown up with gender privilege. We’ve been taught to compete, take power and demand what should be ours.’
Wow, a cherry-picked quote. One. The only indication that the author has bothered seeking out anything, and it’s something which backs up her beliefs entirely.
It is this history of lived experience as a different sex and gender that makes many women, particularly radical feminists and lesbians, wary of transsexuals.
Well, they should stop being wrong, then. I know I grew out of it.
How do we balance our equalities duties with the need for a women-only space especially when employing transsexuals who have not finished the transition? The Sex Discrimination Act takes this into account partly when it stipulates that discrimination may be lawful when a particular job requires a worker of a particular sex and the transgender applicant is still in the process of transitioning… But the paradox is that the possession of male genitalia would make their presence in women only environments much more problematic
They’re still women. Having a penis doesn’t make someone not a woman. Having a vagina doesn’t make someone a woman.
ETA: My anonymous friend pointed out I didn’t say more on surgery, and I was going to say it here: it’s patently obvious that what the author means by transition is surgery. As @JessWardman pointed out, some trans people opt not to have surgery, and that’s OK.
This brings us back to the knotty issue of biology versus gender – if conditioning is what makes men violent, then surely unhappiness with ‘maleness’ indicates that that the conditioning is unravelling and therefore makes a trans woman no more or less likely than born- women to be prone to violence.
Note the distinct lack of any citatations or statistics, because there are none, because this belief is rooted in, once again, the very unpleasant notion that trans women are somehow male.
When many of the younger feminists are actively bringing supportive men into the movement and into the conference halls and debating the roles they should adopt
How is the presence of men pertinent to trans women? Spoiler alert: it isn’t.
At the end of the day, it is about a shared politics, rather than identities per se, of working with trans people who share and support feminist goals.
Which a lot of trans women do because they’re women.
The respect shown by a trans woman like Jenny Roberts who says, ‘We should accept that there are groups where our presence is not appropriate and groups where it is. And we should stop acting like we still have the privileges that we grew up with’ would go a long way to end this polarisation.
Yes. That is literally the conclusion of the article. Shut up, trans women, and step in line. A classic cis silencing tactic, which I’m all too aware of because I once used it myself.
Anyway. Fuck that shit. I’m off for a fag. What an awful article.