You may call me a TERF but I am not transphobic

Disclaimer: I accept that, like every other group on the planet, transwomen have a plurality of theoretical standpoints. I appreciate many are wholly supportive of the movement to liberate women, and I count many amongst my friends who I listen to and learn from daily. This article refers to the dominant viewpoints voiced on Twitter.

How many times a day do I get called a TERF? Too many to count. How many times have I seen ‘You’re a TERF your opinion is irrelevant?’ Too many to count. Let’s not pretend that TERF is an objective description of a theoretical standpoint. It’s an insult. A term of abuse meant to undermine, dismiss and erase radical feminist women’s voices.

TERF is an acronym for ‘Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists’. But what does this mean? The emphasis is meant to be on exclusion – an intentional act – and the implication is that this is based on prejudice or willfull discrimination. A bad thing. But a closer look exposes the flaws in this definition. Excluded from what? Feminism? Womanhood? Radical feminist analysis maintains that feminism is the movement of women to liberate women from oppression, and that female biological reality is a defining aspect of women’s experience of oppression. This does not exclude transwomen on the basis of prejudice or discrimination any more than it does men. TERF also obfusticates the fact that the vast majority of radical feminists believe that ALL people should work together to end the oppression of women and that many believe once transwomen transition they experience much of the same prejudice and discrimination that women born women do.  In reality, TERF is a meaningless term based on the desire to silence radical feminist voices. Ultimately it’s misogynistic.

So, why can’t we all just get along?

1 ) Insults, lies, silencing & demonisation

So, we’ve covered that every time TERF is used it’s meant to insult. We know you know this. Not a good start to productive dialogue, eh? You’d think that trans people who identify as women would be understanding and open to women analysing the oppression they face even if they disagree. Instead we are shut down. A woman only has to be designated ‘RadFem’ for anything she says to be valued as worthless or for her to be told she is unwelcome in conversations. How can this not be interpreted as mirroring the behaviour of patriarchal men who seek to silence us?

Jokingly, many RadFems have started using the term ‘radfemphobia’. In actuality it’s not a joke. RadFems are consistently exposed to true prejudice and bigotry – that is being ignored, excluded or written off just because they are known to be RadFem. Cliques form just to stand against them. Lies are told constantly that are swallowed up by the readily waiting baying crowds. I’m yet to see another group face such hostility from either men or other women.

The demonisation goes so far that the accepted narrative is radical feminist’s purpose/motivation is to attack transwomen. But the clue’s in the title. Radical feminists want to end women’s oppression, this is the ONLY purpose or motivation. We see women’s oppression and work backwards in figuring out the actions needed to take to counteract it or the beliefs that underpin it that need challenging. Again, you might not agree with the analysis but misrepresenting the motivation is both disingenuous and manipulative. Maintaining that the analysis exists to oppress ‘you’ says more about your self-obsession than radical feminism.

 2) Gender

Radical feminists started using ‘gender’ in the 1960’s (before this it was rarely used). The purpose of distinguishing sex and gender was to illustrate ‘that the social condition of being a woman or being a man is not the same thing as, and does not follow ‘naturally’ from, the biological condition of being female or male’ (http://www.trouble.myzen.co.uk/?page_id=37). Note that doesn’t mean that males can become women or vice versa. It means that the social role ‘woman’ is imposed as a result of a person being female, as Simone de Beauvior encapsulated in her ‘one is not born but becomes a woman’ quote. So woman/female and man/male are inseparable, although enlightened and/or empowered individuals may be able to throw off some of the social impositions. But what this really means is that ‘gender’ is a hierarchy telling us how we ‘should’ behave based on our sex and with all things ‘feminine’ devalued it serves as the patriarchy’s greatest tool to keep women subordinate.

Claims of a female brain, essence, feeling or gender identity are essentialist. They appeal to the idea that there is a ‘woman’ beyond her experience of oppression based on her sex and back up age-old patriarchal beliefs of woman as ‘other’. The latter, gender identity, is oft proposed as a subjective experience. In reality, it is the most dangerous proposition because denying it is an affront to the dominant belief in liberal individualism. But an appeal to gender identity strongly relies on a preconception of what it means to feel like/be a woman. What else can this be based on other than cultural influences? This is the result of stereotypes and misogyny.

3) Essentialism

By promoting transition whether operative or not (excluding those experiencing BDD) trans reifys the connections between gender and sex rather than subverting them. Revolutionary would be throwing off the gender shackles and being whoever the fuck you wanted to be regardless of the body you find yourself in.

When transwomen change the way they wear their head hair, remove their body hair, have cosmetic surgery, breast implants or a cavity they name a ‘vagina’ created they are reducing women to their bodies and the social norms imposed on those bodies.

By insisting they are or need to become women, transwomen validate archaic ideas about the female sex. It is true that many women also do this to function within the world but that does not negate the impact. Wanting to end women’s oppression demands an acknowledgement of this, as RadFems do. Many transwomen also seek to find ways to express their experiences that do not negatively impact on women. It can be done.

4) Erasing women

Women have been oppressed for as long as we have recorded history, and at 54% of the population it’s the most widespread oppression of them all.  Our foremothers fought over the last century for all the rights and advances that we have made. So when we’re told that reproductive rights etc. are not women’s issues it hurts. Not just on an individual level but the movement itself. It puts huge (inaccurate) obstacles in a path that still has a long way to go.

In recent days the name of the ‘Vagenda’ blog and talking about periods has been labelled exclusionary and transphobic. Women have fought for centuries to not only have a voice but to be able to talk about issues that affect females openly, without being perceived as unimportant  or taboo.  As someone far more sensible than me said “If 99.9% of the people affected are women it’s pretty safe to call it a woman’s issue.” These are women’s issues. They are issues that the feminist movement *needs* to focus on. Because if feminists don’t then no-one else will. That’s kinda the point of feminism. Silencing women on these issues, which includes excluding them from feminist discourse, is misogyny.

Women are being silenced. The new ‘rallying cry’ of transphobia serves only to push us back, erasing all the progression that has been made. The oppressed, those who are socialised to believe ‘everyone else first, me last’, are being told that again. And many of them are buying it. Worst still women talking about their female experience and analysis of their oppression are targeted for attack whilst the true transphobes are ignored. “All the transphobia I have experienced has been from TERFs”. So are you suggesting radical feminists are the ones who beat, rape and kill transwomen? No, I thought not. Why are a small group of women with little or no influence the target of such a campaign?

So. To be honest I don’t care how you live your life. I don’t care what you want to call yourself or how you dress. I don’t care if some women’s groups or spaces welcome you with open arms. I’m happy to stand next to you to fight for your legal rights, appropriate healthcare and safety, which I believe all human beings are entitled to.

Where I start to have issues is where you shut down discussion when the needs and interests of women and transwomen become complicated. Where you insult me and say that your needs matter above all else. Where your words and beliefs silence women’s voices, erase women’s reality and contribute to women’s oppression. Which in all honesty, whether transwoman or liberal feminist, I would have thought you’d understand.

63 thoughts on “You may call me a TERF but I am not transphobic

  1. Pingback: Standing up for Intersex people | Kallmann's syndrome life

  2. Liz

    I’m just encountering the terms “TERF” and “Cis” on Twitter and blogs…I had never heard them before. Thanks for presenting your take on this unfortunate collision of interests. I am baffled that transwomen want to attack feminists instead of systems of oppression that hurt them as well. I guess feminists are just more convenient targets, there are fewer consequences that seeing the old boy’s networks as your victimizers. It’s sad.

    Reply
    1. J.

      You have it backwards, TERF’s attack transwomen and transmen. As for why? Your guess is as good as mine.

      I’m pushing 100% on the privilege scale White Male Neurotypical Heterosexual only missing Christianity (which can be totally hidden at will as I was raised christian)

      The first time I saw a TERF on Trans bashing I was just like “dafuq just happened” but Apparently trans bashing is enough of a ‘thing’ among certain feminist groups that it’s a real problem on tumblr and the like.

      Reply
  3. M

    How is this:

    “So. To be honest I don’t care how you live your life. I don’t care what you want to call yourself or how you dress. I don’t care if some women’s groups or spaces welcome you with open arms. I’m happy to stand next to you to fight for your legal rights, appropriate healthcare and safety, which I believe all human beings are entitled to.”

    Consistent with this:

    “When transwomen change the way they wear their head hair, remove their body hair, have cosmetic surgery, breast implants or a cavity they name a ‘vagina’ created they are reducing women to their bodies and the social norms imposed on those bodies.”

    Do you not care that transwomen are “reducing women to their bodies and the social norms imposed on those bodies”? Because it seems to me there is a ‘TERF’ position (‘transwomen’ are not women and should not be included in feminist events/analysis) and a ‘trans-critical’ one (transsexuality is evil because it reinforces patriarchy) and what really upsets the twitter crowd is the second one. A lot of radical feminists will parrot trans-critical lines like the second quote but then retreat into a TERF platitude like the first. The assumption of the twitter feminist crowd is that the first is done in bad faith, because you can’t believe the second quote and yet believe it’s acceptable for people to be transsexual. Surely?

    (Which is why they overreact to TERF positions, because they assume they are a stalking horse for the anti-trans ones – and it doesn’t seem an unfair assumption, when there are feminists such as your self who will say out of one side of their mouths ‘I don’t care what treatment you have’ and out of the other ‘if you take these hormones you are a misogynist and promoting themis a human rights violation’).

    Reply
    1. feministroar Post author

      I think they’re totally compatible. It’s about living in reality. Some men use trans as a coping strategy for living in the patriarchy, which is something women know all about. You can have an analysis that shows why an action is unhelpful to achieving women’s liberation and still have empathy and understanding for the people who take those actions. So of course I care that the actions of some transwomen reduces women to their bodies and I’ll raise awareness of this as much as I can. But why would that mean I think trans people should not have rights or be safe?

      Your logic would suggest that all radical feminists shun or denigrate women who wear make up or high heels, which is ridiculous.

      Also you are making a false distinction between TERF & trans-critical. One is a term of abuse levelled at radical feminists to silence them (TERF) and the other is a term used by radical feminists to explain how their analysis interacts with trans theory. Value judgements like ‘evil’ or the decision to withold rights/healtchare from some individuals have no place in a radical feminist analysis.

      Reply
      1. M

        The first quote doesn’t claim that transsexuality is merely “unhelpful” to women’s liberation, it posits it as oppressive and offensive. I guess what I’m asking is: do you think that the existence of transsexuals is harmful to non-transsexual women? Because what you’ve written above reads like a catalogue of ways in which you do believe this.

        If you do believe this can you see why the anti-radfem crowd would find your claim to be cool with transsexuals to be difficult to swallow. Many of these people have heard that “hate the sin but love the sinner” line before after all.

        And I was using the two to distinguish between what I see as two logically separate positions: that feminist analysis should not regard transsexuals as belonging to their self-identified gender, and that feminist analysis should regard transsexuals as agents or reinforcers of the patriarchy. I’m sorry if the terms I used offended you, but do you think the distinction, however you chose to describe it, is valid?

      2. feministroar Post author

        I’m not offended :o)

        I think that we need to be careful to be clear about how we’re using terms e.g. ‘existing’. I believe that trans is a social construct, generally used by men as a coping strategy for living under patriarchy. Therefore I can, especially as a women within patriarchy, understand how difficult and discombobulating it can be. Do I think that this social construct and how it is conceptualised and the beliefs/attitudes that support it and it perpetuates are harmful to women? Unequivocally, yes.

        I appreciate what your saying about “hate the sin but love the sinner” but I think it’s incorrect. As a radical feminist I am opposed to the patriarchy, created by men to subordinate women. My best friend is a bloke. My Dad is an absolute inspiration to me. I have so many men in my life I love and care for. This is not about individuals, it’s about a class analysis. I would imagine the vast majority of trans women do not engage with feminist discourse and just try to get on with their lives, so I would expect they might find the differentiation ‘difficult to swallow’. Those that do engage I would expect to have a higher level of awareness. Ultimately, I would also expect the latter group to seek to find narratives for their experiences that do not harm women (Many do) but there is a small but vocal clique of transactivists who seek to erase and silence dissident voices (trans and women born women) by demonising and monstering them.

        I would imagine that the vast majority of feminists would acknowledge that we all reinforce the patriarchy. But there is a distinction between feminists who believe ‘playing’ with gender is enough to dismantle patriarchal stereotypes and feminists who believe that gender has to be abolished as it is a hierarchy the patriarchy uses to oppress women. This is a great article explaining the two theoretical positions: http://www.troubleandstrife.org/new-articles/talking-about-gender/

      3. Corinne Powers

        “I believe that trans is a social construct, generally used by men as a coping strategy for living under patriarchy.”

        Wow. This is an amazing thing you have convinced yourself of. You are wholly incorrect. One, just one, example: what about transMEN? It goes both ways. And what about people who feel they are no particular gender at all, irregardless of their biological sex? And people who have alternative biological sexes, who determines if they are a “man” or “woman”? No. You and your viewpoints are obviously skewed towards exclusionary if you are so easy to dismiss the reality of so many people. THAT is the nature of discrimination. Looking at others and deciding what few paths they may walk. Looking at someone who is male and saying “You can never be anything but a man” is literally the same as looking at any female and saying “You can never be anything but a woman.” Is literally the same as saying “You can never be anything but what /I/ think you can be.”

        ALL people, male/female/other (sex), man/woman/other (gender) (and there is obviously a HUGE history with loads of evidence of those being different things otherwise we would not have different words for them with different definitions, you know?), white//brown/other (race), atheist, theist, other (belief), liberal, conservative, other (ideals), ETC./ETC./ETC. (ALL THE PEOPLE), should be included in “we should all be equal” which is what feminism is about. Your exclusionary logic is self-exlcusionary, as it were. By excluding others you have attracted the term to yourself. Like a “ally” to feminism that claims to be in line with feminist ideals, but doesn’t care to alter any of their misogynistic ways.

      4. SB

        May I simply ask, whether your stance as a TERF is that transwomen should not be welcome in womens spaces, ie whether their personal identity is valid and you can accept and respect that.

      5. Jonathan Faulds

        I am bemused by the patriarchal attitude of the author vis-a-vis transsexuals — i.e. I know what is best for you better than you do — and the self-serving playing of the “I’m a radical feminist so I’m the real victim here.” card to justify her discriminatory and patronizing attitude towards transsexuals. The author has become lost in the maze of her own ideology and become blind to the inhuman attitude towards transsexuals inherent in it.

      6. cal

        Ok, so you want to be able to continue spouting your bigoted opinions without being called out as transphobic because you understand trans people more than they do. They must be openly looking to uphold gender roles because they want to feel comfortable with themselves and how they present to others. There has to be a special reason that trans people feel this way because it’s messed up and terrible; they weren’t just born that way because I say so and I know the basics about the patriarchy and because I’m not transphobic I swear. I can’t even intellectually break down your analysis when you think that trans issues is “playing with gender”. You’d think that as any person of a human rights movement, you’d understand one of the most basic concepts, that the marginalized or oppressed should understand their dilemma more than the oppressors and that the oppressors should listen to their voices instead of acting like they know what’s best for them.

  4. Andi Grant

    Do you think that people are born trans? If so, how is being trans a ‘reaction to the patriarchy’? If not, why do many trans people experience gender dysphoria at an early age, and why is it that we’re seeing evidence of children transitioning at younger and younger ages, in line with childhood transition being more and more acceptable and less restricted/prohibited by families and social structures? How do children from all cultures, spanning back decades right until the present day, all adopt the same ‘social construct’ devoid of any prompting from families and peers, when such a ‘social construct’ has until fairly recently been met with disapproval, punishment and dismissal? If trans is a social construct, then why do trans people experience gender dysphoria, and why do cis people not experience gender dysphoria?

    How do trans butch dykes reify gender norms? If trans is a social construct for men to cope with patriarchy, how does it benefit them when patriarchy punishes trans people for transitioning? If trans is for men, why are there trans men? Are genderqueer people also reifying gender norms?

    If you’d like to ask me any questions, feel free, and I’ll give them a shot to the best of my ability! Thanks!

    Reply
      1. Andi Grant

        If not, why do children vocalize experiences of gender dysphoria, roughly corresponding to the development of language skills necessary to convey those feelings to parents and/or medical professionals? If trans is a social construct used by men to cope with patriarchy, why do both male and female-assigned children experience gender dysphoria? How does a social construct for men, used to cope with patriarchy, develop at a young age? Who teaches children about trans, or if no one specifically introduces the construct to them, how do they adopt it apropos of nothing? Given that children expressing feelings of gender dysphoria have been regularly dismissed, ignored or punished for at least several generations, and that we’re only now beginning to see recognition and support of the validity of children expressing their gender identity as they feel comfortable doing, how did the social construct of trans develop when any expression of it was met with negative repercussions for children who vocalized or acted on such feelings?

      2. feministroar Post author

        Because gender (the patriarchal social hierarchy i.e. gender roles & stereotypes i.e. forcing people into boxes) is shitty and it doesn’t work for people, who should just be allowed to be themselves.

      3. No

        Yeah, that clinches it. The fact you reduced so much potentially complicated, poorly understood neurology, endocrinology, and genetics to “no, they’re male or female”, without even entertaining the possibility there’s something more complex at work, is all the proof I needed. You’re a transphobe, and I feel confident in this because you’re willing to go far enough to reduce an entire body of complicated, unsettled scientific speculation to seven words. You’re not taking transpeople seriously, you don’t give a damn about their problems, and while you raise a lot of points I might have sympathized with from a more sympathetic commentator… extend no benefit of the doubt, and you’ll receive none. You’re a transphobe guiltily wringing your hands and hoping you can redefine yourself as something more… genteel, without having to actually listen to the pleas and concerns of those icky transpeople. Fuck you.

      4. autumn

        Science disagrees with you. Trans people are most certainly “born trans” and several medical studies confirm this. Google “transsexual gene” and “Transsexual brain research” if you don’t believe me.

      5. Allison Pelle (@allpelle)

        This is transphobia and you literally do not even grasp this. How can you say you are not transphobic. This is transphobia. Just like men can’t say that their sexism isn’t sexist, you can’t decide whether or not you’re transphobic.

      6. Bailey Summers

        Actually the hard science isn’t or to prove or disprove either. There is a very strong line of evidence though coming from the fact that so many of those requiring transition begin having their GID in ages were there really isn’t enough socialization to be effected by the patriarchy. The modern medical community supports transitional treatments and laws are following suit.
        And resoundingly No…there is not medical conspiracy to promote trans via industry. In an industry that bill’s $10 for asprin it’s not a conspiracy that money gets made, they make it off everyone.

    1. Liam

      Those are really good questions. It is unfortunate the author of this post doesn’t have the intelligence or compassion to actually respond to them

      Reply
    2. Artemis

      Andi,

      I remember very distinctly as a young girl wishing I was a boy. I never said anything about it because of the times and the type of family I lived in.

      But now, at 29, and a heterosexual woman, I see that my wish to be a boy came SOLEY from my acute, accurate observations of the world around me and the fact that boys got to be exactly who they were and do whatever they wanted. (I understand this changes as boys grow and become emotionally stunted thanks to patriarchy and standards of “masculinity.”) They were not deemed weak, you couldn’t insult someone by calling them a boy, they got to be rough and get dirty, speak their minds, etc. Meanwhile, we were being silenced and put into our “ladylike” chains. I was probably younger than 5 when I realized this. I always wore my hair short, hated pink, and wished to be a boy and wear boy’s clothes. Was I born trans? No. Around 10 or 11 I remember coming to realize that I hated being a girl. HATED it. Wanted it to change. But I knew I couldn’t change it so I started to learn to live with it and resist gender restrictions, oftentimes to an extreme. Even now, I prefer men’s clothing sometimes simply because it is more comfortable and practical. Anyway, all of those things could have easily been interpreted by me as me having been born in the wrong type of body, but really, children are incredibly smart and perceptive and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize which sex got the short end of the stick.

      And with our extremely rigid gender roles, being continually forced into an uncomfortable box (be it the “boy” or “girl” box), and ridiculed, shamed, threatened if you move outside of your box, can make people want to just go ahead and change their bodies so they can do the things in the box they identify with. Of course my experience is my own and I can’t speak for anyone else, but I could easily see myself as a child becoming interested in having an operation to become a boy or at least speaking up about wanting to be one since society nowadays is more open to that.

      Reply
  5. Anna

    I LOVE you for writing this. I am a (liberal) feminist trying to educate myself on trans issues, and the things you are writing about is exactly what I have struggled to put into words. THANK YOU! You have a devoted new reader in me!

    Reply
    1. feministroar Post author

      Thanks Anna! I probably won’t write enough to keeo you interested but I do believe that the issues raised by trans theory are huge, and probably the most pressing & immediate feminism faces at the moment.

      I look forward to discussing with you!

      Reply
  6. Sindr

    This. All this. I have been baffled at the whole argument – I thought I’d had enough of this “if you’re not for us, you’re entirely against us” thing as a multi-racial woman, but no. But no. *sigh*

    Reply
  7. Mistelle

    Just a few things that I didn’t understand and would like clarification on:

    “By promoting transition whether operative or not…” Not sure what you mean by transition here, do you mean dressing in traditionally feminine/masculine clothing? Because that’s promoted by the psychiatrists aka “gatekeepers” who prescribe hormones, not trans people themselves. They have the power to declare someone not “womanly” or “manly” enough and decide that they’re not really trans, so trans people, women especially, end up having to act/dress overly feminine/masculine to get approval.
    And if you mean the hormone treatments themselves then I have no idea what you’re talking about at all since without that we’re not talking about trans people anymore. . .

    “…trans reifys the connections between gender and sex rather than subverting them” –
    Since the first half of the sentence was vague that leaves this half unwarranted and needing further explanation as well.
    Obvious guess: You mean that the existence of trans people somehow (unwarranted bit) enforces a connection between “sex” and “gender roles” (which is what you seem to be referring to when you say the term “gender”).

    “Revolutionary would be throwing off the gender shackles and being whoever the fuck you wanted to be regardless of the body you find yourself in.”

    It’s this statement that causes me the most confusion. Possibly above anyone else, trans people are being exactly who they want regardless of the body they find themselves in. They suffer in the wrong sex for years before coming out as who they are, often to the ire and distain of both family and friends. Despite this, and all of society generally saying they’re wrong, they “throw off the shackles of gender” to be themselves. So by your own argument they’re already incredibly revolutionary and I really don’t see your issue with them at all beyond the traditional feminine/masculine clothing which isn’t really an issue because there are many masculine dressing trans women and feminine dressing trans men as well. In fact, many of them find that style more comfortable as it was what they tend to grow up with. On the other hand though, many trans people also associate such traditional clothing as a sore reminder of their past so if I had to guess there’s probably an even mix of masculine and feminine among trans people regardless of sex.

    That last bit got away from me sorry.
    That’s all my issues~

    Reply
  8. Pauline

    I want to thank you for writing this post.

    I have been trying to understand the interaction between radical feminist theory and trans* theory from the radical feminist POV after becoming aware of the ‘TERF’ label via a Trans* person on twitter.

    And witnessing what largely comprises of abusive/dismissive back-and-forth insults between some radical feminists and some trans* people on that particular social media. It is ugly, achieves nothing of real value and it demeans both “sides”.

    This post is, in contrast, calm and clear. I now have a better understanding of why it is radical feminists consider trans* to be a reinforcement of patriarchy, even if I don’t necessarily agree.

    Much appreciated.

    Reply
  9. Lucrezia Contarini

    As a transitionning transwoman and as a feminist, I would like to answer section 3.

    Obvisouly, “being whoever the fuck you wanted to be regardless of the body you find yourself in” is all well and good, but at this point, the “shackles” of gender have not been thrown away. For someone who has the chance of having no problem with their own gender, this is all very theoretical, but for actual trans people, this is real. Accutely real.

    Identity doesn’t exist in a vacuum, An important part of it is being recognized by others as being what you are. Thus, looking like a woman is part of being a woman, and looking like a woman does imply changing your body and adopting some female habits — you can’t expect to be a “she” if you sport a full beard, short hair, no breast and men’s clothes.

    You can’t ask trans people basically not to transition because it would “reify the connections between gender and sex”. There is genuine suffering involved: this is why trans people go through dangerous hormone therapy and expansive surgery in the first place. Not everyone is ready to martyr themselves silently just to further the very remote goal of smashing the patriarchy, the gender binary or anything else. Trans people just want to be happy, like everyone else.

    I’m shocked when people dismiss feminism as transphobic (in own my experience, most of those who do are not actually trans), but I’m no less sad when feminists give them reasons to do so. Obviously, the “woman in a male body” topos, for instance, is ridiculous and essentialist, appart from the fact that is means exactly nothing. Yet, such a critique coming from cis women is awkwardly close to their rejecting trans women as “not really women”, considering that many of them identify strongly with this cliché, for better or worse. In a way, it’s like the n-word: if you ain’t black, don’t say it, for the sake of politeness.

    As far as essentialism goes, I think the common metonymy that equates womanhood to having a vagina/breast and malehood to having a penis (e.g. “There are not a lot of vaginas in the room” for “There are not a lot of women in the room”) is much, much more dangerous and frequent than anything said by trans people. Trans women are so few that I can’t understand the disproportionate of energy spent formulating “trans-critical” arguments.

    We’re all — *all* — in the same fight. Let’s stop bickering, all right?

    Reply
  10. Linda

    Thank you so much for writing this post. It’s hard to articulate my feelings at times because I really don’t care how other people live as long as they aren’t hurting anyone but I feel marginalized by the current feminist movement. It’s as if my experiences as a woman are less important and it’s making it hard for my voice to be heard.

    Reply
  11. Pingback: You may call me a TERF but I am not transphobic | TheRealThunderChild

  12. Jade Stewart

    “When transwomen change the way they wear their head hair, remove their body hair, have cosmetic surgery, breast implants or a cavity they name a ‘vagina’ created they are reducing women to their bodies and the social norms imposed on those bodies.”

    could the same not be said for women who have cosmetic surgery to alter there bodies?

    I’m starting to grow tired of this whole thing as a member on the trans community I think its a marginalised group of people against a marginalised group of people the whole thing makes me want to shout the old cliche of “cant we all just get along”.

    Reply
  13. No

    Read this and still think you’re transphobic. Sorry. It’s because after all this, you don’t offer transpeople anything approximating a solution to their problems that you will accept… nor a reason why they should ultimately put their own biologically driven self-image aside because of somebody else’s politics, when all they’ll get for their accommodation is more abuse from the TERFs… nor the faintest bit of apparent compassion about the classic transactional double-bind this puts them in. Have a nice life, see you on the battle lines, sorry it has to be this way, looks like the Evil Trannies are gonna win this one anyway, go straight to hell.

    Reply
  14. Coldwind

    “Because gender (the patriarchal social hierarchy i.e. gender roles & stereotypes i.e. forcing people into boxes) is shitty and it doesn’t work for people, who should just be allowed to be themselves.”

    That’s a perfectly true statement in itself but it sidesteps the questions Andi Grant asked. I’d be interested to see your answers. Why do people exhibit and experience gender dysphoria from early ages? Can someone at three or four years old really be said to understand and wish to exploit the patriarchal gender construct in the way you suggest?

    Also, if gender dysphoria isn’t really a thing, why can indications of its recognition and acceptance (to varying degrees) be found in cultures at least as far back as the classical era? In some respects, for all our progress in recognising and understanding this condition, we’re still lagging behind some of these.

    Ultimately, the transgender condition is a reality that isn’t going away, whether any given commentator understands it or believes in it. Sure, it’d be nice for T people not to have to label themselves as ‘T’ before ‘people’, but for the moment the established order demands it.

    Where I think radical feminism has a problem is in its tendency to attract people who see it as a means of encouraging exclusion, and the rejection of potential allies – males, transwomen, born women who hold some varying viewpoint – from the body of people who wish to see discrimination overcome and true equality realised.

    Reply
  15. House Mouse Queen

    Thank you for a wonderfully written piece. I have stated something similar on my blog Mancheeze.wordpress.com .

    There’s a distinct line between hating a person for being a person and being critical of a social construct that harms women. It’s just simply where our theory doesn’t agree with another theory. It is about class: women. Not about hating transfolks.

    I remember I left ONE comment on a blog that had nothing to do with any of these issues and was immediately called a TERF. I had no idea what that term even meant so I looked it up. It was just one person coming onto the thread making this ‘suggestion’ that that’s what I was. And that was it, the entire blog regulars had a fit ganging up on me. It was incredibly hurtful since this was a blog about combatting the Men’s Rights misogyny and there it was, played out on the comment section.

    I know there’s arguing on Twitter but I stay out of it. I’m critical with theory, not with the person. I don’t know why that’s so hard for people to understand.

    Reply
  16. Autumn

    I like how the author argues that trans people are harmful to feminism because they reduce women to their bodies:

    “When transwomen change the way they wear their head hair, remove their body hair, have cosmetic surgery, breast implants or a cavity they name a ‘vagina’ created they are reducing women to their bodies and the social norms imposed on those bodies.”

    And then reduces transwomen to their bodies at birth. Classic logical fallicy to the TERF position: biological determinism is only a fallacy when it used against them, not when they use it against others.

    Reply
  17. Allison Pelle (@allpelle)

    This entire thing is bullshit. You are hurting people. Feminism fights oppression against women, but you yourself are oppressing trans identities. It’s hypocritical bullshit. Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist”. Radical feminist is a descriptor you yourself could use to describe yourself. Trans exclusionary is a *calling out*. It is calling out you for excluding trans identities. That’s not an insult, that’s trying to discourse and stop you from excluding trans people. It is not difficult to grasp. Because people do understand trying to fight oppression, they don’t fucking want it in their feminism- they get enough from the patriarchy.

    So no, you won’t be welcome if you keep up with this bullshit. No one welcomes their oppressors into their safe spaces, no matter what the oppressor’s intent.

    Actually, I’m so mad, it is hard for me to battle through these points, but I will try.

    2) It is the greatest mistake to think that gender identity isn’t important. Yes, the gender binary is complete bullshit anyway and really only used to oppress people, but excluding people from womanhood (or manhood) because how their bodies were born is beyond inexcusable. TERF is much too kind a word for this level of transphobia. Quit calling “calling out transphobia” sexist. It is helping nothing. (btw, words and language change and your understanding of man/male woman/female and gender isn’t cutting it)

    3) If you really think it is so easy to renounce gender identity, then how about you stop being the gender you are. If you are a woman, then stop identifying as woman. Right now. Just be who you are, your gender doesn’t matter anymore. Oh wait, that’s not how this works. Quit ragging on women for trying to rectify the horrific body dismorphia that the patriarchy instills. Yeah, women shouldn’t have to feel like they need breasts or wear skirts to be a woman. But that isn’t their fault, many of them try to combat that within themselves because they don’t want to be slaves to the patriarchy anymore than you do, stop blaming transpeople for the patriarchy, and you are even more and more transphobic as this post continues, please change. I don’t care, please change. Stop this and be kinder to people. You are hurting people. I don’t care what your intent is. Stop hurting people. Otherwise I hope people are calling you much worse than they are now.

    4) Quit acting like oppression is for women only. Transpeople have been oppressed just as long as women and they’re oppressed by women too. You can’t just be transphobic because women are oppressed, just like you can’t be racist. And you’re being transphobic in your post still! Women’s issues! There are reproductive/period issues, which are for people with vaginas, not women specifically. Silencing transphobia isn’t misogyny, it’s decency. Also, just because someone is oppressed “worse” doesn’t mean you can ignore your own part of the problem. Saying transpeople get beat, raped, and murdered doesn’t make you look a saint in comparison. It makes you look like even more of a monster for excluding them from supposedly safe spaces.

    So you can just shut up until you’re apologizing for you shitty behavior. Otherwise it is literally unimportant. You can’t help women until you stop hurting them. Stop hurting transwomen and maybe then you can help all women.

    Reply
  18. Bailey Summers

    I think RF needs to take a very hard look at it’s soul. They tout critical analysis but the hard science hasn’t disproven the fact that GID is real even if it’s not completely understood. You can’t be critical against something without hard evidence. Doing so is just as bad as the TG and Libfems that tout braingender another thing that has no science backing it. Pseudo-science or pseudo-sociology take your pick they’re both BS and so if the RF’s assumption on TG being a manifestation of social pressures of a person not being able to hack living in patriarchy.
    It’s just wrong and most people know it.
    It’s why RF is losing ground.
    It’s why angry RF post things that villify transpeople that might be horrible but being a horrible person isn’t a telling trans marker.
    Or…
    They post this stuff a list of I have no problems with transpeople but…here’s why I dislike them.

    Reply
  19. Bet T

    “Revolutionary would be throwing off the gender shackles and being whoever the fuck you wanted to be regardless of the body you find yourself in.”

    The cognitive dissonance is palpable. The notion that you should accept your gender role in life is a common trope of patriarchs, and here you are saying that in practice it is impossible to change your gender role if you undergo physical changes. You can be female on the inside, but don’t try to look pretty or you’re reinforcing negative stereotypes and therefore you’re a male patriarch.

    So you don’t believe someone could feel uncomfortable with the gender social role imposed upon them? Anyone who transitioned purely to exemplify female archetypes clearly doesn’t have GID. Real trans people transition to be perceived as they perceive themselves.

    It seems to me you fail to realize that these people are going against the grain of the paternal/maternal totem dichotomy, that they exemplify the very spirit of feminism. Be what you want to be, whether it be pretty or tough, not because you have to be, but because as a human being it’s your right to define your identity.

    To quote Gloria Steinem

    “So now I want to be unequivocal in my words: I believe that transgender people, including those who have transitioned, are living out real, authentic lives. Those lives should be celebrated, not questioned. Their health care decisions should be theirs and theirs alone to make. And what I wrote decades ago does not reflect what we know today as we move away from only the binary boxes of “masculine” or “feminine” and begin to live along the full human continuum of identity and expression.”

    Reply
  20. Bet T

    “Enlightened and/or empowered individuals may be able to throw off some of the social impositions. But what this really means is that ‘gender’ is a hierarchy telling us how we ‘should’ behave based on our sex and with all things ‘feminine’ devalued it serves as the patriarchy’s greatest tool to keep women subordinate.”

    So take gender from the patriarchs! I understand that you don’t feel that a transwomen has experienced the difficulties of being a women, and therefore are not real women, but they feel the need to accept womanhood with all the oppression that comes with it, and with time they will know the social part of being a woman. Do you not see the catch-22? You can’t be a women unless you’ve experienced womanhood, and you can’t experience womanhood because you’re not a woman.

    You seem to believe females shouldn’t exemplify the assigned gender stereotypes of being a woman, but that ALL males DO exemplify the assigned gender stereotypes of being a man. That is not feminism.

    Reply
  21. Jurlesia

    Andi Grant posed a lot of great questions and I would be interested in hearing your thoughts. Please answer them.

    Reply
  22. Nod Ghosh

    By being born male or female are you saying male assigned at birth/female assigned at birth? It sounds as though biological determinism lies at the base of your theories,which are interesting and very well articulated.But I do wonder if the majority of transwomen or transmen even think about feminist theory.For that matter do the majority people in general think about it.Sure it affects us every day but very few have the passion and motivation to get involved even though it affects us all.We’re working,looking after our children and generally too busy dealing with our daily lives to give it more than the most perfunctory glance.That is a shame as we have the privilege of being educated and a chance to have our voices heard.So good on you even if I dont agree with or dont understand some of what your saying,keep sowing your sead for it may yet fall on fertile ground.

    Reply
  23. eftiem

    As a heterosexual man, I can’t claim to understand a woman’s point of view. I have a relation who in her 50’s, as the husband in a mature parenting relationship, made the decision to make a surgical re-alignment to be the person she always knew she was. That is one of the bravest things I have ever heard of. I don’t know her, but I admire her. One day hopefully, this will not even be something that requires comment.

    Reply
  24. Emily

    Enough good replies already explaining this. Get off of my internet.

    “In reality, TERF is a meaningless term based on the desire to silence radical feminist voices.”

    You utter IDIOT. Do you know how pathetic such an attack is? Is it a crime to be trans and a feminist?

    You create an exclusive female platform and look down upon anyone who doesn’t conform to its ways, sweeping aside minorities in a lost cause for ‘justice,’ blindly accusing them of ‘misogyny.’ For the love of the equality you claim to seek, please re-consider your views. Your problem is an ignorance of trans issues, if you actually understood more of what it meant to be trans then you’d realise you’re insulting women because you’re a woman who want’s women to have more rights.

    Logical? Thought-out? I think not.

    Reply
  25. Pingback: FEMINISMO radical, conheça | Amazonas e Icamiabas

  26. Sage

    “everyone else first, me last” this is exactly how I’ve been perceiving things with all the gender studies, queer theory, and LGBT rights. Women’s issues are pushed back in place for other issues that overwhelmingly include men, even if I identify with LGBT issues being that I am a bisexual female.

    Abortion rights, pay redress, rape, domestic abuse, and rampant sexual objectification are no longer central issues in the “liberal” discourse. You only have to watch or read the news to see that women murdered through domestic abuse, rape, and other forms of female violence are subtly accepted as the norm. This is internalized misogyny. There is no outcry when a woman is killed by her violent husband. There is no outcry when women in Libya were being killed, having been tortured before through rape and mutilation. There is no outcry when a girl endures incest abuse by her male relatives. Now, when a teenager who identifies as trans is kicked out of a bathroom, that suddenly is big news!

    This is the reason I will no longer fight the fight for others, except for women. Too many times I’ve lent my support to my gay friends (overwhelmingly males) to not have the deed reciprocated with women’s issues! So, enough! Patriarchy continues its joke around women, and they are using non-women’s issues to that end.

    Reply
  27. Morbert

    I’m late to the party, but oh well.

    Gender dysphoria doesn’t refer to a person of one sex identifying with the gender corresponding to the opposite sex. Sexual dimorphism is not simply a matter of what genitals you have. It is a deep and complex biological landscape with a variety of contingencies that must be considered. Wigs and implants might be a societal artefact, but hormone treatment and a desire to be accepted for what they are is not. Also, that transsexual women might remove body hair or colour their hair is no more or less problematic than any “normal” woman doing so.

    The reason Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists are notoriously uncompelling as a movement is they consistently confuse the real and justified struggle against the subjugation of women through imposed gender roles with the misguided and illusory understanding of biological sex. The exclusion of transsexual women is as incoherent as the exclusion of blind women, or women in wheelchairs. Their struggles deserves to be embraced by the feminist movement, not stifled by incubated and unorthodox gender theory.

    Reply
  28. Anon

    What about the biological factor of brain chemistry?
    Are you saying this doesn’t exist? We already know for a fact that Brain chemistry is always different in each individual
    Hence why we can have women whom have slightly more testosterone than others of similar age, genealogical background etc
    (http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/153/3/256.full)
    And why some men have more oestrogen than others
    (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9393999)
    And that there are several significant differences between the the brain chemistry of those with female reproductive organs and male reproductive organs (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2711771/)
    And we know it’s entirely possible to be born with a physical intersex issue, why isn’t it possible for this to be mental?

    So it is clearly possible to be born with penis but have to much oestrogen, thus aligning your brain chemistry with a someone born with a womb and vice verse. Biological indication trumps social convention.
    Not that there aren’t those trans people who argue the gender-normative behaviours are indicators of being of the opposite sex, personally I don’t subscribe to this view as I don’t subscribe to social views as a rule and form my own opinions on what things are and aren’t, but the evidence speaks for itself in this regard. Okay the research isn’t perfect but it has long been known that there are genetic and biological evidence for transgenderism.

    Now you’re allowed to have your own point of view, but your point of view is a choice (while not one anyone should be accosted for) I do believe in being fully educated to the facts

    Reply
  29. Bastet

    Hi. One of the things that bothers me with trans theory is when trans women try to erase the ‘trans’ part and deny the difference between sex and gender. I am sex female, gender female. This is a very different experience to sex male gender female. Why must we become one homogeneous ‘female’ group? There are many experiences we have that trans women don’t and can’t have; menstruation, birth control, pregnancy, labour, abortion, cervical cancer, ovarian cancer, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, pap smears etc. After having experienced uterine fibroids (which were never tested to discover if they were benign or malignant because only 2% of all uterine tumours are malignant), I discovered a medical misogyny that treats womens multi-purpose organs in terms of fertility only. I literally spent thousands of dollars going from one specialist gynecologist to the next until I eventually found one who would talk to me about sex, orgasm, pleasure and fertility. This is a huge feminist issue and the very last thing womens gynecological issues need is to be railroaded by transition surgery issues. I friend (who was facing stage 2 cervical cancer) and I tried to start a support group for women facing medical prejudice in genealogical issues. We were bullied by trans until we shut it down. I’m not saying transition issues don’t matter. They do. I am saying; our issues matter too. Since that experience, I have to admit, I’ve become extremely wary of trans-activists because they literally targetted a woman with cancer and myself, a woman at her most fertile with serious uterine issues when all we were trying to do was get and give support.

    Reply
    1. Liz

      “I am sex female, gender female. This is a very different experience to sex male gender female. Why must we become one homogeneous ‘female’ group?”

      Good point, we women, trans or FAAB, are in this together, but that doesn’t mean we should make others live by our standards for ourselves.

      Reply
  30. Liz

    @Bailey Summers

    It doesn’t matter if the cause is nature or nurture, what we know is that GID is REAL. Whether or not they were born trans doesn’t make their experiences any less authentic.

    Reply
  31. Clara

    Are you a far-right religious nut? You sure sound like one.
    Your transphobia would be quaint if transwomen weren’t one of the most vulnerable groups in the world at the moment. Instead, it’s just irresponsible and disgusting.
    Thankfully, it seems the march of progress will leave you behind, as it is currently doing with other discriminatory dinosaurs: the racists, the sexists and the homophobes.

    Reply
    1. feministroar Post author

      Are you a far-right religious nut? You sure sound like one. No. That’s a tired old trope and its complete lack of substance means that it does not have any of the hurtful impact you were hoping for. It just makes you sound ignorant.

      Your transphobia would be quaint if transwomen weren’t one of the most vulnerable groups in the world at the moment. Instead, it’s just irresponsible and disgusting. Your willingness to elevate the needs of ‘vulnerable’ men over those of women (who y’know are oppressed by men) could never be quaint. It is grotesque. Also I am not transphobic.

      Thankfully, it seems the march of progress will leave you behind, as it is currently doing with other discriminatory dinosaurs: the racists, the sexists and the homophobes. One day (probably pretty soon as queer theory has already fallen well out of favour in academia) when we discard trans ideology to the trash heap, we will look back at people who bought into it laugh and shake our heads with disbelief.

      Reply
      1. Tia Nadiezja

        “Your willingness to elevate the needs of ‘vulnerable’ men over those of women (who y’know are oppressed by men) could never be quaint. It is grotesque. Also I am not transphobic.”

        Do you really want to play Oppression Olympics with trans people? Oppression Olympics is a terrible game that ends up hurting everyone involved, but you appear to need a little education in what it is to be trans, so I’ll indulge you.

        Trans individuals – trans women, in particular – are murdered at a rate that exceeds that of the general population by a factor of well over a hundred. Though we are less than one percent of the population of America, we are the victims of a full half of the hate crimes – acts of violence committed in order to frighten and subdue a whole group of people – committed in this country.

        The majority of the nation offers no protections against employment, housing, or service discrimination against trans individuals; as such, our unemployment and homeless rates also exceed those of the general population by rather large amounts.

        The only effective treatment for gender dysphoria is transition. Anything else that is attempted has negative outcomes – depression, withdrawal, suicide. Yet most insurance companies don’t cover transition-related care, and many don’t even cover therapy to provide minimal help with the most unpleasant parts of gender dysphoria. No state requires insurance coverage of transition, and very few offer even slender protections against health care discrimination for trans individuals.

        And yes, by the way, you are transphobic. You deny the lived experiences of trans individuals, you attack our gender identities and perpetuate anti-trans stereotypes. If I were to do the same regarding cis women (which I would never do, because I believe that doing those things to ANYONE is wrong), you would quite rightly call me misogynist.

        You can stop being called transphobic by ceasing to be transphobic.

  32. Clara

    “I’m not transphobic”… just after a whole article disparaging trans people and just a sentence earlier refering to transwomen as “men” and implying that, by rectifying nature’s error, they are oppressing women. Right.

    You are very transphobic, and a feminist in name alone. What kind of feminist excludes a whole group of women? The bigoted kind, the selfish kind that doesn’t seek gender equality but simply to better its own position at the expense of everyone else, particularly the most vulnerable.

    Reply
  33. ryan

    You have a right to your opinion. This piece is, however, riddled with contradictions as outlined by other comments. Speaking from my experience as a white middle class male, I am the first to acknowledge how opinions change as time goes on. I would like to consider myself a strong ally of feminist ideology, recognizing the systemic oppression that still exists in our society, and advocating for issues that equalize the current disparities.

    I believe you will one day look back and realize you were deflecting that same patriarchal exclusion and oppression you preach against on trans people in the position you explain (justify) in this piece. Hate and exclusion are hate and exclusion, no matter how you explain your reasoning behind your position.

    Again, opinions change, as they have on this issue for several outspoken radical feminists before you. I look forward to the day when we stop trying to decipher the psychology of this issue, shed the paranoia of misogynistic intentions behind trans peoples’ life choices, and all of our trans brothers and sisters feel welcomed in to the community of their choice and our society in general!

    Reply
  34. mary

    Thanks for the article. You’ve presented some interesting thoughts. What do you make of trans* women’s brains match bio women’s brains in many different way and at the same time matching some aspects of bio men’s brains. Trans women’s brains match bio women’s brains in the same areas with statistical significance.

    Reply
    1. Bastet

      Hi. Read Cordelia Fine, ‘Delusions of Gender’. Brilliant book that looks at literally hundreds of studies, where they came from, who conducted them, methodology used, what they were originally studying and how the media skewed the results. There are no male brains and female brains anymore than there is a uterus that moves through the body or head lumps that define character or brain size deciding IQ. It’s just the latest fallacy to be extolled.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s