Trans Feminism: There’s No Conundrum About It

Aviva Dove-Viebahn’s recent Ms. blog post, “Transfeminism and Its Conundrums,” framed trans feminism* as a controversial and debatable submovement within feminism. I strongly disagree, as did a number of commenters, and here’s why:

Trans feminism—that is, transgender perspectives on feminism, or feminist perspectives on transgender issues—is one of many so-called “third-wave” feminisms. Its origins are closely linked with other feminist submovements—specifically, sex-positive feminism, postmodern/poststructuralist feminism, queer theory and intersectionality. These strands of feminism  represent a move away from viewing sexism as an overly simplistic, unilateral form of oppression, where men are the oppressors and women are the oppressed, end of story.

Instead, these feminisms recognize that there are numerous forms of sexism—that is, numerous double standards based on a person’s sex, gender, or sexuality. In addition to traditional sexism (where men are viewed as more legitimate than women), there is heterosexism (where heterosexuals are viewed as more legitimate than homosexuals), monosexism (where people who are exclusively attracted to members of a single sex are viewed as more legitimate than bisexuals/pansexuals), masculine-centrism (where masculine gender expression is viewed as more legitimate than feminine gender expression) and so on.

There are also other forms of marginalization prevalent in our society, such as racism, classism and ableism.As feminists of color have articulated, these do not act independently of one another but intersect with and exacerbate one another. A woman of color doesn’t face racism and sexism separately; the sexism she faces is often racialized, and the racism she faces is often sexualized. This concept of intersectionality is now very well accepted among many contemporary feminists (albeit not by those who continue to adhere to a unilateral men-oppress-women-end-of-story approach to feminism).

Trans feminism is rooted in this idea that there are multiple forms of sexism that often intersect with each other and other forms of oppression.

Although some feminists have historically framed sexism in terms of patriarchy, early trans feminists forwarded the gender binary—being nonconsensually assigned a female or male sex at birth—as a way to describe the myriad forms of sexism in our society. Those assigned a male sex are expected to grow up to identify as a man, to be masculine in gender expression and be exclusively attracted to women; those assigned a female sex are expected to grow up to identify as a woman, be feminine in gender expression and be exclusively attracted to men.

Anyone who fails to conform to the gender binary—whether an intersex child, a tomboyish girl, a gay man, a transgender person, etc.—is marginalized by society, albeit in different ways. The gender binary concept was an attempt to create a synthesis between feminism, queer and transgender activism, and it has become quite popular among many feminists and LGBTQ activists since its inception.

Trans feminists have also focused on how trans people are impacted by institutionalized cissexism—forms of sexism that construe trans people’s gender identities and expressions as less legitimate than those of cis people (those who are not trans). Cissexism—or as some describe it, transphobia—can be seen in how individuals, organizations and governments often refuse to respect trans people’s lived experiences in our identified genders/sexes; in the discrimination we may face in employment or medical settings; and in how trans people are often targeted for harassment and violence.

While some examples of cissexism are quite trans-specific, others have strong parallels with what women face in a male-centric society. For instance, trans people and women are routinely objectified and deemed incompetent to make informed decisions about our own bodies, and our perspectives and lived experiences are often not taken seriously by cis people and men, respectively.

Of course, cissexism does not occur in a bubble. It occurs in a world where other forms of sexism and oppression exist. For instance, trans feminists such as myself have articulated the concept of trans-misogyny—that is, the way cissexism and misogyny intersect in the lives of trans women and others on the trans female/feminine spectrum. Trans-misogyny explains why the lion’s share of societal consternation, demonization and sexualization of transgender people is concentrated on trans female/feminine individuals. Cissexism also intersects with other forms of marginalization—for instance, victims of transphobic violence are overwhelmingly trans people who are poor, who are of color and/or on the trans female/feminine spectrum.

So basically, that’s it: Trans feminism is not a conundrum. Rather, it is simply one of numerous third-wave feminisms that take an intersectional approach to challenging sexism and oppression. The only thing different about trans feminism is that it extends this feminist analysis to transgender issues, which have been largely overlooked or misinterpreted by feminists in the past.

Dove-Viebahn’s post gives credence to those feminists who refuse to acknowledge cissexism or intersectionality, and instead frame trans issues solely in terms of male privilege. In the past, such feminists have dismissed trans feminism, depicting trans men as being “female” traitors who transition to attain male privilege and trans women as being entitled “men” who transition in order to infiltrate women’s spaces. While this rhetoric has mellowed somewhat over the years, some feminists still argue that trans women have no right to participate in feminism because we were not socialized female, or because we may have benefited from male privilege in the past.

Of course, male privilege is a real phenomenon. In my book Whipping Girl, I discuss my own experience with male privilege—and losing it post-transition—at great length. However, trans people’s experiences of male privilege vary greatly depending upon the direction of one’s gender transgression or transition, the age one transitions (during early childhood, as a teenager or at various points in adulthood), one’s sexual orientation, whether one “passes” as cisgender, one’s race and so on. It’s impossible to talk accurately about male privilege—or any aspect of sexism—without framing it in terms of intersectionality.

The myth that there is some kind of universal women experience was debunked by women of color, among others, long ago. All of us have different life histories, sexism impacts each of our lives somewhat differently and each of us is privileged in some ways but not others. Some feminists may obstinately insist that cis women have it far worse than trans women, or that traditional sexism is far worse than cissexism, or heterosexism, but the point of feminism is not to engage in this kind of Oppression Olympics. Rather, the point is to challenge societal sexism and other forms of marginalization. This is what trans feminists are focused on doing.

When trans feminism is reduced to a debate about whether trans women “count” as women or as feminists, it’s a disservice not only to us but to feminism as a whole.

*Many trans feminists prefer spelling “trans feminism” as two separate words, where trans is an adjective that modifies feminism. The single-word version—“transfeminism”—looks somewhat alien, and seems to suggest that this is not actually a strand of feminism but something else entirely (just as the single word “transwomen” suggests that trans women are something other than women). Along similar lines, we do not describe people as Catholicwomen or lesbianwomen.

Photo of transgender symbol from Wikimedia Commons

 

Comments

  1. THANK YOU SO MUCH!

    Thank you so much for a fantastic piece on intersectionality…. You are perfect, this is perfect, thank you so much!

  2. Love this post! I’m adding Julia Serano’s book “Whipping Girl” to my to-read list.

  3. RubyFruit says:

    It really would help if those opposing radfem arguments actually addressed what is being said rather than what you’d rather was being said so that it’s easier to ridicule the argument. Who has said that “intersectionality” “weakens” feminism?

    I don’t see any radfems saying that other oppressions don’t exist. We’re very specifically saying that feminism is about women’s liberation and you really can make that statement without choosing to cloud it with incomprehensible jargon.

  4. I really don’t understand what radical feminists think that trans women should do… I’m starting to think they’re right. But what should we do? Obviously stay out of feminism, since we’re men and oppress women. But should we stay away from other women entirely, since we pollute them with our energy? Should we end our own lives? Or use the fact that we’re socialised male and in violence to keep other trans women from causing harm?

    I’m really confused and upset right now and I don’t know what to do for the best.

    • Sunflower says:

      no, stay in feminism! We need your voice and there are so many feminists, myself included, who love you and want to hear what you have to say! This was an incredibly upsetting comments section for me to read too, and I am just a cis girl who happens to love a trans girl. I just wanted to leave you a comment to tell you that these transphobic feminists do not have a monopoly on feminism, and that /my/ feminism loves you, in hopes that somehow it will counteract the awfulness of this thread for you :(

    • liberationislife says:

      Hi Rebecca,

      I’m not a radical feminist, but have observed that some radfems are strictly separatist in thinking that *all feminist organising* should be FAB-only, some think a variety of forms of organising are fine and don’t have an issue with trans women’s general participation in feminist activism even if they themselves prefer FAB-only groups, and some like to organise directly with trans women.

      But frankly, given that most feminist organising is trans-inclusive (i.e. has feminists who want the direct participation of trans women), I encourage you to get active rather than deciding that you are being excluded by radical feminists.

      Same with this dramatic concern that ‘should we stay away from other women entirely, since we pollute them with our energy? Should we end our own lives? Or use the fact that we’re socialised male and in violence to keep other trans women from causing harm?’

      Radical feminists certainly have varying opinions about how women should best live their lives, but I have never known any to advocate that trans women kill themselves. Frankly, this kind of mischaracterisation is misogynistic.

      How about we settle down and engage with the content of the article.

      • Unfortunately there is this famous posting:

        Bev Jo

        ……….

        I knew those fuckers were disgusting, but really, they’re worse than I thought in how they don’t even pretend to care about females. To blame us for them being killed by other men? Their arrogance and oppressiveness is amazing. It is funny though that they are so used to Feminists immediately bowing before them that they don’t know how to deal with that we don’t care what happens to them. They expect we’ll be shocked to see statistics about them being killed, and don’t realize, some of us wish they would ALL be dead.

        ……..

        And Janet Raymond: “I contend that the problem with transsexualism would best be served by morally mandating it out of existence.”

        Not quite go kill yourself but pretty close. I can find more if you like :-(

        I wish it was mischaracterisiation, I really do. I think many trans people do think the feminist movement in general wants them dead, I certainly get that general idea and steer clear of feminist and woman only spaces as a result. Which is a shame really because I could share some very interesting thoughts on the true nature of patriachy….but I wont.
        The tenor of the some of the postings here and the long history from the feminist movement of outright hatred towards transfolk sort of confirms that this is still the case.

        It’s why I was so grateful that this article was written and why I am also grateful for the women here that have posted positivly, including your own post. I would like to engage with feminism (I am feminist) but to be honest, to me it’s like entering a lions den naked, and I simply lack the courage.

        • liberationislife says:

          All the radfems I know would disagree adamantly with that one (first) expression. (The other isn’t meaningful out of context.)

          However, it’s not ok to damn all radical feminists because of one person while ignoring the many, active and vicious wishes for a painful death, and sometimes threats, made lately by trans activists towards those they assume to be radical feminists.

          For more info, try googling: “go fuck yourself down a well and die”, the Monica Roberts/ Anthony Casebeer threats about Cathy Brennan, “They can die in a fire, and make it a fire made of living knives that are also made of fire”, “You won’t be able to talk shit with that jaw wired shut”, “Death to radscum. Die cis scum”.

          Gwen writes: “I think many trans people do think the feminist movement in general wants them dead”. I agree with you that that is a perception, but that doesn’t mean that perpetuating the perception is ok. (Nor is calling all radical feminists ‘trans exterminationist’, as some trans activists do, without even bothering to enquire what radical feminists’ activism consists of).

          Disagreeing with trans ideology isn’t at all the same thing as wishing trans people dead. And reacting to any woman who dares to disagree with any tenet of trans ideology with “you hate me and oppress me” is really very anti-woman. It has been very damaging to feminism as feminist females these days can get told they’re transphobic for simply acknowledging basic aspects of women’s oppression (such as how women’s biology is exploited as part of our oppression).

          As I said, the majority of feminist organising isn’t trans-exclusionary, yet the dominant explanation by trans activists about their participation within feminism is “we are excluded”. I find this contradiction troubling. I believe there is a significant phenomenon of trans activists relating to feminism primarily by trying to demonstrate that they are ‘oppressed’ by it, rather than getting active within it. And the determination to stamp out the few FAB-only spaces is disturbing.

          This seems to be enabled by a low political level which sees people responding to reasoned comments about politics not with counter-arguments, but with “Oh, the hate, the hate – ow my heart”.

          I really would encourage you simply to contact any feminist group you’re interested in privately to enquire as to their political stance on trans-inclusion. I don’t favour characterising entering a feminist group without this prior investigation (which is always an option) as “like entering a lions den naked”, because it seems to me to buy into characterisations about feminists being essentially aggro, with their politics stemming from that rather than from women’s oppression.

          • liberationislife says:

            I know trans women who are vehemently opposed to the actions I detailed above – they are real feminists. And to a certain extent I do understand why it is that many trans people have such a hard time speaking out against the more extreme forms of trans activism – they really need the support of their communities, since they have a hard enough time already. So this explains why it is that the most extreme trans activist views can seem to dominate even if they’re held by (I hope and I’m pretty sure) a small minority of trans activists.

            I certainly didn’t raise the above in order to suggest that this is a problem with trans activism as a whole, but merely in response to Gwen’s comment, which I thought was quite skewed in perspective.

            But you know, if it helps us step back and recognise what really is hate, and what is political disagreement, perhaps that will help us approach these discussions more carefully.

          • Kate LBT says:

            Expressions of frustration and anger by the powerless toward the empowered are more harmful than the actions which triggered those expressions? Interesting.

          • tiredofthisshit says:

            Please note that attacks on “radscum” are attacks on the ideology of the person being addressed and not who they are as a person, like attacks on transness are. Also note that while the “die cis scum” tattoo thing is a lot more morally ambiguous, it’s the equivalent of a wronged woman saying “death to all men” or the SCUM manifesto. Not really a declaration that has any power. I consider myself a radical feminist with a lot of second-wave sympathies, but I’m also trans(masculine). And having weighed up the rage and insults coming from both sides, my instinct is that transphobic radfems are mostly being worse. I remember coming across the Radfem Scorpion meme (which concentrates on fails in logic rather than ad hominem) and being mildly annoyed by some of the meme images (mostly because I thought some of the ones about sex positivism misrepresented the radical POV), but then I found “Privilege Denying Tr***” (which is full of body-shaming and mocking trans people for merely being trans) and holy shit it is so, so much worse. And was established earlier.

            Obviously not all feminists who identify as radicals are transphobes but I feel like trans people who have been attacked by those who are have a right to be angry and mistrust us (just like women who have experienced sexism have a right to mistrust men without the men coming in going “waaahh we’re not all like that”). And that we should have the presence of mind to let things like “radscum” go considering what the people saying that have been subjected to.

            By the way, if cis radical feminists want to make it clear that they are about abolishing gender as a whole rather than abolishing trans people (Janice Raymond’s quote above suggests she thinks being trans is somehow worse than being cis and reifying gender roles), then they should try putting a tenth of the effort into criticizing gender-normative cis people as they do into bashing gender-normative trans people. It’s a fact that the majority are sympathetic for cis women’s participation in femininity but would never sympathize with a trans woman for doing the same. And please don’t say “YOU HAVEN’T BOTHERED TO READ WHAT OUR ACTUAL POSITION IS” because I spend most of my time on radical rather than liberal feminist blogs and consider myself a radfem. Even if you think you treat both equally, the amount of time dedicated to various issues betrays what you really think.

            “I believe there is a significant phenomenon of trans activists relating to feminism primarily by trying to demonstrate that they are ‘oppressed’ by it, rather than getting active within it.”

            Here you are acting like radical feminism is the only kind of feminism. Trans people have no problem participating in third wave liberal feminism and they never have. We as radfems really need to make radical feminism a more inclusive space if we want trans people to start getting into radical as opposed to liberal forms of feminism. Your comment demonstrates to me that it isn’t going to happen- you seem unwilling to admit to the very really transgressions radfems have made against trans people.

            Time and again I wonder why I bother trying to reconcile my radicalism with my trans status because it doesn’t earn me any respect from either side, and the division of beliefs into the two camps means that people shut down if you try to get them to listen to something that bridges that dichotomy. I feel like a trans uncle tom when I defend radfems and radical ideology in front of trans people, but since (as Julia said) like 99% of trans feminists are sex-pos, and I’m not (in theoretical terms, I suppose for practical purposes I am), it offers something I’m not ready to give up. Meanwhile cis rad fems continue to demonstrate that they don’t give a shit about me, and certainly not my trans women sisters.

          • liberationislife says:

            in reply to Kate LBT and tiredofthisshit (both comments below, since I could not click ‘reply’ on the comments themselves:

            Kate LBT wrote: Expressions of frustration and anger by the powerless toward the empowered are more harmful than the actions which triggered those expressions? Interesting.

            Me: My point was that they were very worrying. And individuals don’t always need institutional power in order to follow through on threats. And I don’t agree at all with justifying such threats on the grounds that females “triggered” them. Females get that too often.

            tiredofthisshit wrote: A long screed about their beefs with radical feminism, beginning with a false claim that “attacks on “radscum” are attacks on the ideology of the person being addressed and not who they are as a person”. Well, if you look at the detail of the threats I mentioned, they are very much personalised (and I didn’t even mention the phrase “radscum” so diverting attention to suggest that that was what I was criticising is just dishonest). There was no suggestion of the threat-maker wanting the *ideology* to “die in a fire, and make it a fire made of living knives that are also made of fire”. That’s just silly. And some of those threats have already led to legal changes in one US state.

            tiredofthisshit also wrote: ‘Here you are acting like radical feminism is the only kind of feminism. Trans people have no problem participating in third wave liberal feminism and they never have. We as radfems really need to make radical feminism a more inclusive space if we want trans people to start getting into radical as opposed to liberal forms of feminism. Your comment demonstrates to me that it isn’t going to happen- you seem unwilling to admit to the very really transgressions radfems have made against trans people.’

            Look, this is why some trans-critical feminists despair of discussions with trans activists, because of the inability to respond to what we actually write. I’ve nowhere said I’m a radical feminist (and explicitly said above that I’m not), and hence I haven’t acted as though it were the only kind of feminist activism! I’m a marxist. I commented because basic feminist collaboration requires caring about the accuracy of people’s claims. Moreover, the radfems I know say they stayed away from critiquing trans ideology for a long time (many of them collaborating with trans women), frankly not wanting to get into the debates, but eventually couldn’t ignore the issue that was continually and increasingly foisted on them (I see no evidence that they were taking a fight *to* anyone). That notwithstanding, it seems very inappropriate to make assumptions about radfem activity based on a few handfuls of recent blogs.

            Anyway, I think something we all need is a scientific definition of ‘transphobia’ as its usage seems to be expanding to incorporate almost any perceived transgression.

            For instance, I’ve been called transphobic in a situation where I was just outlining how the exploitation of female biology has historically been a central aspect of our oppression (despite it being clear I wasn’t calling for trans exclusion from feminist organising or telling people how to identify).

            We basically need a scientific approach towards this and to our discussions, rather than assuming what people’s positions and activism are, since that latter approach leads us into meaningless (and highly frustrating) role-play which isn’t based on reality.

          • People do not need to be formally excluded to be excluded from a movement or an institution. Witness the history of women attending university, women on the Left, and so forth. The occasional threat and microaggression usually does the job, often without the awareness of the oblivious majority.

          • liberationislife says:

            I realise I did mention the phrase ‘radscum’, but in the context of the specific uttering “Death to radscum. Die cis scum”. Unsurprising that my focus was on the ‘death’ part, and I think reducing it to the idea “that we should have the presence of mind to let things like “radscum” go considering what the people saying that have been subjected to” is mischaracterising the issue, and very wrong.

            Given that violence towards women already has considerable social endorsement and that no institutional power is necessary to carry through violence (as Solanos showed), making these specific threats towards members of an oppressed group whose oppression is partly maintained by violence, and in a public forum where others could well pick up on the idea and like it, is a serious thing to do.

          • From a radfem named ‘Jilla’ on a prominent anti-trans radfem site:

            “I really don’t care if they all die of estrogen fuck hole rot. (ref: the Reuters story). In fact I will be very happy when they do, if that’s the only retribution we get. I take it back the moderating comments I made to NoAn the other day. Kill the fucking bastards. They are men, and they are after our children? No quarter.”

          • “But they did it too” is not a very good argument. It’s possible to be against that kind of speech all the time AND be against transphobia. However, “fuck you and die because you exist and want to be included” is not exactly the same thing as “fuck you and die because you’re telling us that our very existence is wrong.”

            And even if it’s said nicely, “you don’t count and you shouldn’t exist” also is hate speech.

            As for reproductive exploitation, it’s insulting to feminists’ intelligence to assume it has to be one way or the other. We are capable of nuance! When we talk about domestic violence and sexual assault, we seem to get that while there’s a definite gendered dynamic and while sexism definitely creates the cultural stuff that enables it to happen so much, not all assaulters are men and not all victims are women. We’re capable of discussing reproductive rights in the same way, and I think if we did, there wouldn’t be this problem. Because as it is now, the whole “this affects ALL women, this affects NO men” is pretty exclusionary.

          • liberationislife says:

            Yes, if anyone is doing the “But they did it too” argument, I wish they would stop. This kind of speech is not ok against trans women or non-trans women.

            However, I vehemently oppose the rationalisation that
            ‘“fuck you and die because you exist and want to be included” is not exactly the same thing as “fuck you and die because you’re telling us that our very existence is wrong”’,
            which is basically saying that the public vitriol voiced by trans activists towards women is more justified somehow. As I said, this public vitriol I quoted above all just occurred very recently. There is an absolute explosion of hate-speech towards feminist females online who are critical of aspects of trans ideology. In comparison to which, we have two comments against trans women, made over a period of time, which were so ill-received on the feminist blogs where they were made that the commenters were either removed or the comment was moderated.

            Furthermore, when you mischaracterise the women against whom these threatening comments are made by alleging that they told trans women not to exist, you encourage these anti-woman sentiments.

            [You also wrote: 'And even if it’s said nicely, “you don’t count and you shouldn’t exist” also is hate speech.' As far as I can see, this mischaracterisaiton is inexcusable since I'm unaware of any feminist saying this about trans people. Certainly many feminists will say that the needs and views of those who've experienced female oppression since birth should be centred in feminism, and that is the only reasonable attitude. (I am for everyone thinking through and contributing to feminism.) That does not equate to saying that trans people in general do not count. They do count, and I believe all feminists will respect this by not requesting that female oppression be centred in trans groups. Recognising different types of oppression does not mean invalidating the differing needs of those experiences those types of oppression.]

            We have to acknowledge here that these threats and abuse are being levied against women who have *not* said similar things to trans women. The attitude here seems to be one of ‘I hate all radfems because some said things I didn’t like, or I have been told they have said them anyway, and they’re all the same to me and won’t accept my womanhood, or they call my female penis male, so die cis scum die’.

            C wrote: ‘As for reproductive exploitation, it’s insulting to feminists’ intelligence to assume it has to be one way or the other. We are capable of nuance! When we talk about domestic violence and sexual assault, we seem to get that while there’s a definite gendered dynamic and while sexism definitely creates the cultural stuff that enables it to happen so much, not all assaulters are men and not all victims are women. We’re capable of discussing reproductive rights in the same way, and I think if we did, there wouldn’t be this problem. Because as it is now, the whole “this affects ALL women, this affects NO men” is pretty exclusionary.’

            It’s really not very clear what this means. However, elsewhere on this thread I’ve observed that the common pro-choice demand of ‘free safe legal abortion on demand’ in no way prevents trans men from accessing this (in fact it increases everyone’s ability to access abortions). So if that’s what was meant, I can only see this as another ignorant mischaracterisation of feminists which *is harmful to women*.

            Re Rachel’s comment: ‘People do not need to be formally excluded to be excluded from a movement or an institution. Witness the history of women attending university, women on the Left, and so forth. The occasional threat and microaggression usually does the job, often without the awareness of the oblivious majority.’

            yes. That goes for everyone. And this is particularly important to feminist organising in that females are so socialised to be non-aggressive and make no threats, but accept aggression from everyone, that they are usually unsupported by other women when it happens.

          • There’s a quote about racism, by Ta-Nehisi Coates that I think covers this issue precisely: “Racism is not merely a simplistic hatred,” Coates said. “It is, more often, broad sympathy toward some and broader skepticism toward others”

            That’s really what this is about, and why many transgender and genderqueer people feel “excluded”. It’s not necessarily as simplistic as an official exclusionary policy, or overt stated discrimination. It can simply manifest as a “broad skepticism” towards transgender and genderqueer women. The kindof thing a transgender woman gets if she walks into a lesbian bar, and the bartender will serve her the tea she orders, but still kindof have a stand-offish and judgemental way of looking at her, as if “why are you in here?” Prejudice doesn’t have to be proactive, it can be passive, and simply be unspoken judgementalism or skepticism hiding behind a thin wall of surface veneer of politeness. “Tollerance” and true acceptance are not the same thing. Neither are judgement and hard heartedness; and real compassion, open heartedness and empathy.

        • I am in a FB feminist group with Bev Jo, and she has an EXTREMELY narrow definition of what it means to be a feminist – you can’t be a sex worker, or transgender, or enjoy porn of any kind. And all of her rhetoric starts from this place of absolute fear. Then blame – they started it sort of stuff. I would say ignore her, if she wasn’t so vocal and obviously getting through in so many places. There are others as well who are pretty well known. I wanted to believe the words “they are on the back burner of rad fem” but I don’t see that either. Their voices are very loud. There are quite a few in the FB group that absolutely agree with her.

          There are “bad apples” in both camps that make threats, and wish the other dead – to characterize either group as those people is flat out wrong, though it is a little challenging not to think so of radical feminism when you have the likes of Mary Daly and Shiela Jeffries and (in spite of the claim below that it is taken out of context – I disagree – it is entirely within context) Janice Raymond being such prevalent voices in that line of thinking. If there are trans accepting leaders in the radical feminism movement I would love to hear about them! For some reason, they have not yet come to my attention.

          I also wanted to post this link about the phrase “Die Cis Scum” that I found very important for understanding it:

          http://youarenotyou.tumblr.com/post/20976786734/how-trans-people-use-die-cis-scum

          • liberationislife says:

            First, the context of the Raymond quote was *not* given. I know which text it’s from, but there’s no information given on what she meant by that particular phrase.

            Secondly, that (linked) rationalisation of hate speech being used towards feminists with whom trans activists disagree is outrageous.

            It’s clear that you have not bothered to investigate ways the expression ‘die cis scum’ is used, and don’t particularly care, but are just intent on finding a justification for it.

            The phrase ‘die cis scum’ is not primarily used against those who overwhelmingly perpetrate violence against trans people (males). It is, in fact, used against feminist females who disagree with aspects of transgender ideology. Whose focus, in fact, is on creating a world where people no longer feel that their bio sex is wrong. (I am not a radical feminist, but the fact remains that most radfems are highly concerned about the fact that our world makes all sensible people highly uncomfortable with the prescribed sex roles, and their aim is to abolish said roles.)

            This is, incidentally, a significant problem with the ‘cis’ concept, in that it formally groups together all non-trans males and females, despite the fact that females are actually the primary target of the social punishment of prescribed sex role transgression.

          • The phrase is from her Magnum Opus “The Transsexual Empire: The making of the She-Male”.

            The context is whether transsexuality – by which she means transsexual women – should continue to be allowed to legally exist. She comes to the conclusion that laws against it are not needed, provided there is a sufficiently hostile environment to them, and advocates that approach instead.

            Her reasoning is that – and again I quote from the same book:

            “All transsexuals rape women’s bodies by reducing the real female form to an artefact, and appropriating this body for themselves. “

            She’s especially critical of trans lesbians, describing them as some kind of psychic vampire.

            “The transsexually constructed lesbian-feminist feeds off woman’s true energy source, i.e. her woman-identified self. It is he who recognises that if female spirit, mind, creativity and sexuality exist anywhere in a powerful way it is here, among lesbian-feminists.”

            Janice Raymond’s PhD supervisor, who oversaw her work on this book, wrote:

            “Today the Frankenstein phenomenon is omnipresent not only in religious myth, but in its offspring, phallocratic technology. The insane desire for power, the madness of boundary violation, is the mark of necrophiliacs who sense the lack of soul/spirit/life-loving principle with themselves and therefore try to invade and kill off all spirit, substituting conglomerates of corpses. This necrophilic invasion/elimination takes a variety of forms. Transsexualism is an example… “

            I think the context is unmistakeable.

      • Katelyn J says:

        Liberationislife, I firstly would like to thank you for speaking rationally in regards to trans women in feminism, and also I do have to say that I while heartedly agree with you on the premise that any act of violence(whether verbal or physical) is wrong no matter what side it comes from. I implore to the trans community to not throw insults and more importantly not use anyones demise as a wish or insult to them, you make the entire community look like crap saying things like that, you are embassaddors for the entire community and if you want anyone to look on you with respect you have to show it in your every encounter. And I know theres the idea that “well they are saying these venemous things against us” well think about it, if that particular group is saying those things and not getting equal responses in return, who looks bad at the end of the day? Lastly, I suggest that those commenting in regards to Radfem being a bad group, as Liberationislife has clearly pointed out NOT ALL WITHIN THAT GROUP FELL THAT WAY, in fact I think (though I can’t solidly back it up) that the group that trans people have the disdain for specifically is T.E.R.F(not exactly sure of the meaning of the term) since those that appear to be on the attack claim that grouping as well as Radfem. But I could be wrong… wouldn’t be the first time I was

  5. Stupid Girl says:

    Wow. I’m glad trans issues are getting discussed more in mainstream contexts, but the hateful anti-trans comments here are just depressing and disgusting. It’s disheartening to see people propping up and knocking down ignorant caricatures of a marginalized group when members or allies of that marginalized group are standing right in front of them.

    Let go of ignorance and hate and learn to listen. Oppression becomes a self fulfilling prophecy when you won’t.

    • By all means, let go of ignorance and hate and learn to listen to women who are telling you their truths. We don’t bring oppression on ourselves, but that hasn’t stopped people from routinely blaming women for their own lot in life.

      • telegantmess says:

        when prominent radical feminists work with conservative, anti-woman politicians to pass anti-trans legislation, I think that we can safely say that its not playing the blame game anymore.

  6. This is a great article! I’m making getting and reading Whipping Girl a priority.

    Hey, anti trans, anti intersectionality feminists, when are you gonna finally admit that you only really care about some (i.e., women like you) women? You’d save everybody a lot of time in just admitting this.

    • Trans activists aren’t being allies of any women when they say things like this:
      “The reason that trans activists no longer want feminists to refer to reproductive rights as a ‘women’s issue’ is because it isn’t, plain and simple.”

      Serano is on record as saying that reproductive rights are not important to her. That’s not being an ally to the millions of girls and women all over the world for whom reproductive rights and health are matters of life and death.

      You can’t have it both ways: claiming that nontrans women don’t care about anyone but themselves, while simultaneously telling us that transwomen don’t have to care about anyone who has experiences that are not theirs.

      • All that I can conclude from this “argument” of yours is that you are taking a single statement from a single person and using it to generalize an entire community. There are many trans men and women that I know that care deeply about reproductive rights, and to claim that trans women “don’t care about anyone but themselves” is just ignorant and silly. THAT is sexism right there, assuming things about people based on their gender or sex. Just as there are cis women who will actively fight against reproductive rights, there are going to be trans women who won’t care about it as an issue, because it doesn’t apply to them in the way it does to cis women. Those few women who don’t stand up for reproductive rights do not discredit those who do, whether they are cis or trans.

      • telegantmess says:

        Actually, she is on record as saying that a sole focus on reproductive justice is alienating to infertile women, including herself. Unless you are going to suggest that any infertile or child-free cis woman who has said similarly is considering reproductive justice unimportant to them.

        Or maybe include the fact that she stated the importance of reproductive justice prior to making the statement you are referring to. Its on twitter, which is, as you implied, public record. I would politely suggest that if you are going to sling accusations, be sure that the statements you are referencing can’t be fact checked.

      • You misunderstand Serano. shes saying that reproductive rights is MORE than just a women’s issue. There are men for whom it is an issue to, especially transgender men. You just erased their existence.

        • THANK YOU for understanding what that person meant.

          I am not a woman, nor a man, but the fight against reproductive sovereignty affects me because I happen to have a uterus.

  7. I’m really dismayed that so many people here feel the need to remark on the “hate and vitriol” “spewed” by radical feminists, and then go on about how “vile and disgusting” they all are. Disagreeing with postmodern theories about identity and intersectionality IS NOT THE SAME AS HATE! Come on, we all know too well what hate actually looks like. It’s not that. If there is any vitriol happening in these comments, it’s all being directed AT radfems, not coming from them.

    • telegantmess says:

      Its not theories that are being disagreed with. Its lives, and lived existences.

      The violence that trans women, particularly black and Latina trans women face, due to trans misogyny and cissexism is not a theory. Their lives are not an academic debate.

      If you don’t think that dismissing and “disagreeing with” the institutionalized oppression of a specific group of people is not hate, then what is?

      • liberationislife says:

        Telegantmess, disagreeing with trans theory is not ‘dismissing and “disagreeing with” the institutionalized oppression of a specific group of people’. You need to be a lot more careful in your characterisations.

        • “trans” isn’t a theory for you to conceptualize and play with and refute, these are people’s LIVES you are messing with. You need to be a lot more careful in your destructive reductionism.

          • liberationislife says:

            Cait, it’s disingenuous to say that trans theory doesn’t exist. [Especially since the current (post-structuralist) form of it didn't exist prior to the 90s, yet transsexualism still managed to.] You also need to avoid telling feminists they’re “messing” with trans people’s lives if you can’t articulate in what way they’re doing that.

            Moreover, many feminists who disagree with trans theory do analyse many trans-identifying people as being oppressed on the basis of others’ perceptions that they are transgressing the prescribed sex roles and hence require punishment for that.

            I can’t imagine how you could be unaware of this, so this poses a question as to why you think it’s ok to accuse anyone critical of Serano’s type of politics as dismissing trans oppression, including the violence they can face.

          • Kate LBT says:

            liberationislife: In the UK’s ill-named “Equality Law 2010,” radical feminists succeeded in including clauses that explicitly allowed them to discriminate against trans women. Likewise, in Maryland they attempted and in Massachussetts succeeded at sabotaging trans nondiscrimination laws by removing protection against discrimination in public accomodations, literally leaving trans women without a pot to piss in. The ongoing attempts to “morally mandate [us] out of existence” (Raymond’s words) continue.

          • liberationislife says:

            Kate LBT:

            1. which Equality Law 2010 clauses are you referring to?
            2. re Maryland, please see this http://bugbrennan.tumblr.com/post/22116343493/katie-berger-tremaine
            3. re Massachusetts,what exactly are you talking about, since presumably you don’t mean all trans women are unable to access any toilets.

            In general, it appears to me that any time a law is passed that pisses you off, you won’t refer to any of the complex reasoning surrounding that (nor even tell us exactly what happened nor what you’re complaining about), but just blame “radical feminists”. Would that be a fair comment?

          • 1.
            Equality Act 2010 (c. 15)
            Schedule 3 — Services and public functions: exceptions
            Part 7 — Separate and single services

            Gender reassignment
            28
            (1) A person does not contravene section 29, so far as relating to gender reassignment discrimination, only because of anything done in relation to a matter within sub-paragraph (2) if the conduct in question is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

            (2) The matters are—
            (a) the provision of separate services for persons of each sex;
            (b) the provision of separate services differently for persons of each sex;
            (c) the provision of a service only to persons of one sex.

            Equality Act 2010 (c. 15)
            Schedule 9 — Work: exceptions
            Part 1 — Occupational requirements
            (3) The references in sub-paragraph (1) to a requirement to have a protected
            characteristic are to be read—
            (a) in the case of gender reassignment, as references to a requirement not to be a transsexual person (and section 7(3) is accordingly to be ignored);

            So what does that mean? It means that there is one “protected” class where protection is explicitly removed, not granted. It means that a gender recognition certificate is not worth the paper it’s printed on. Rather than being a recognition that they are of the target gender, it’s a nullity, as the law states that they’re not, not really. This is made clear in the explanatory notes.:

            Gender reassignment: paragraph 28

            749. This paragraph replaces a similar provision in the Sex Discrimination Act
            1975.
            Example
            A group counselling session is provided for female victims of sexual assault. The organisers do not allow transsexual people to attend as they judge that the clients who attend the group session are unlikely to do so if a male-to-female transsexual person was also there. This would be lawful.

            Schedule 9: Work: exceptions
            Part 1: Occupational requirements

            A counsellor working with victims of rape might have to be a woman and not a transsexual person, even if she has a gender recognition certificate, in order to avoid causing them further distress.

            The provisions of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 that over-rode that 1975 act have now been repealed. There is a distinction between “women” and “transsexual persons with (or without) gender recognition certificates” now.

            2. See http://bugbrennan.com/2012/09/17/announcing-a-new-blog-gender-identity-watch/

            “Gender Identity Watch is a new blog devoted to tracking legislation and case law that attempts to codify “gender identity” into law and to override protections based on sex. Gender Identity Watch monitors organizations that push gender identity and thus engage in the erasure of female reality”

            Cathy Brennan now has made it clear that her position has hardened. She now considers Trans women to be men, and is categorically against any legislation whatsoever that might protect them in any way.

            Gender Identity Watch opposes gender identity as a regressive, woman-hating ideology and those organizations that push this regressive, woman-hating ideology.

            Such as National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, PFLAG, NCLR, GLAD…

            3. In Mass, it is quite legal to discriminate against Trans and Intersex people in the provision of public accommodations. They can indeed be (and have been) prevented from using restrooms or drinking fountains, they can be and have been ejected from buses, they can be refused service at lunch counters…

            A vote to pass a law protecting them was prevented by a legislator who had received substantial donations from out of state – to wit, from Cathy Brennan. She puts her money (and as a partner in a payday-lender’s law firm, that’s a LOT) where her mouth is.

        • Is that sort of like disagreeing with gay theory? That gay people don’t exist?

          I don’t know if you realize this, but the same arguments that you are making are used by conservative politicians against the gays, lesbians, and to attack women’s rights.
          These ideas that “we don’t hate gay people, we just think you don’t deserve equal rights, and are going to actively legislate against you, and do nothing to stop the bullying, and move against you from trying to do so, and “legitimate rape” and all that.”

          There’s an interesting thing though, there was that study done on straight identified men, that found that the one’s who identified as being the most anti-gay were also the one’s who were the most turned on and aroused by gay and homoerotic images.

          I wonder if that applies here, perhaps some of the radical feminist’s issue’s with transgender women is the fact that individually, some of those radical feminists may have some gender queer or transgender aspect to their own identity that they are in the closet or in denial about. And so just like the homophobic men who lash out at gay men, they in turn lash out at transgender women, when really it’s their own selves they are uncomfortable with.

  8. Thanks so much for the article! “Feminists” who refuse to acknowledge and include the voices and experiences of trans women are no allies of mine.

  9. Again, transwomen are women. To deny their womanhood because of being male assigned at birth denies their humanity based on patriarchal sexualization. Becoming less than a man makes one less a woman? This is the most disgusting set of mental gymnastics I’ve seen in a comments section I’ve seen since the clamoring to disguise bigotry as “radical feminist” thought in the onslaught of hate-filled blogs floating around for the last month or so. And so a “real feminist” now denies transwomen the agency of examining any amount of privilege that may have been depleted because of their transition?

    Additionally: if you really think that postmodern theory is diametrically opposed to materialism, you need to a lot more thinking and reading. #haveaseat

    • I was so angry that I included many typos. The idea of denying intersectionality as some sort of tran* agenda is just so out of touch with the reality of what transwomen actually face, and it plays right in to patriarchal thinking. Anyway, I meant to say that the hate-filled blogs I saw were in regard to the Toronto PP workshop. I don’t want to go there, but all of this has left me feeling really doubtful of the nuance in cisfeminist circles. So much hate, it hurts me to my core.

      • Thank you. I’d just say you would do well to write trans women as two words, just like you wouldn’t write blackwomen or gaywomen as one word. Trans and cis are simply adjectives and modify the noun instead of becoming a portmanteau. Forgive my half-trans-feminist, half-grammarian intervention. ^^

  10. thnk you for writing this! trans woman should always be at the front of our minds when discussing feminism.

  11. “Many trans feminists prefer spelling “trans feminism” as two separate words, where trans is an adjective that modifies feminism.”

    This is such a clear cut framing of how trans ideology works on feminism. Trans is absolutely an adjective and an ideology which MODIFIES feminism. It is good that Julia Serano is open and honest about this. This is the goal of trans ideology: to modify feminism and to modify the idea of what it means to be female. Because feminism in it’s pure sense, that is feminism which is unmodified by any male supremacist ideology, is dangerous to men and their privilege. Trans pushers need to modify feminism to make it less threatening, more palatable, more open, more inclusive, more watered down, less alienating etc, etc. To the point that feminism is modified, meaningless gibberish. It is the ultimate in doublespeak, reversals. War is peace, male is female, up is down. Thank goddess for radical feminism, for feminism that is unmodified, for feminism that does not engage in doublespeak, for feminism that respects women’s collective truths and Background reality. Radical feminism is where the revolution is at and only females can join the party. Trans modified feminism provides us with clear evidence of why the women’s liberation movement can only ever be an autonomous movement.

    • Wow,I guess in the name of purity you’d better eliminate all other possible modifiers to feminist; like lesbian feminist, black feminist, christian feminist…wouldn’t want any other alternative views polluting your truth, there.
      Myself, I’m not defined by my genitals, and I (mostly) don’t experience the world through them. A large part of the point of feminism in my book is the right to *not* be defined by my junk or my child-bearing ability.

  12. As a long time follower of Ms magazine and as transman, I am glad to finally see a post where I am recognized as not being a “traitor” for transitioning. My maleness does not make me any less a feminist. I think it gives me a unique position as I was given a first hand look at what being a women is like and now I have the male social role and status to say something about it. This article gives me hope that one day I will actually feel welcome at feminist events.

  13. Kate O'Brien says:

    fantastic piece by Serrano, of course. As a cis woman, I stand with trans women for a feminism that is intersectional and centers the concerns of *all* women but especially the most vulnerable, like trans women of color, disabled women and poor women.

  14. Red Cedar Cat says:

    Hooray for Feminism! The radical notion that women are people. I support trans people in their newfound vigor for supporting women’s rights against the patriarchy. If only more male-identified men would pitch in, especially the LGBT community, then we’d really have some power going.

    For myself, a woman, I do not understand the trans people that I have known personally. I do not walk in their shoes, so I honor their experience and recognize we are all part of one another.

    I object to being renamed, however, by the trans community. I am a woman. Not a ciswoman. So, please feel free to rename yourself as transwomen, as that is the distinguishing, and very recent phenomenon. Understand the power of that and ponder whether it is male “power-over” energy, or female “power-with” energy at work.

    I also feel it is important for women that are born women, with wombs, who bleed but do not die, who nurture and nourish children at their breasts, the definition of womban – that women are not judged for wanting their own space either.

    The trans phenomenon is a mystery, and in my own experience with transgendered friends, it must be a difficult limbo place to be. It’s always been strange for me as to what exactly trans people expect in terms of community. If you are FTM, especially lesbians, then who are your new friends? Lesbians won’t want to hang out with you, because, hmmm, now you are a straight man. And straight men may not want to hang out with you either, especially if they know the truth about the transgendering. Gay men are possibly your most friendly space. And vice versa for the MTFs. Lesbians and women-identified-women are likely going to be quite uncomfortable being themselves in your presence. Straight women maybe? I cannot imagine choosing to live in this world.

    My heart goes out to all the transgender people. I wish you success in whatever it is that you hope to achieve with your life.

    And I wish that women have full and equal rights in every way, as well as the right to name themselves as women.

    • Kate LBT says:

      “I object to being renamed, however, by the trans community. I am a woman. Not a ciswoman. So, please feel free to rename yourself as transwomen, as that is the distinguishing, and very recent phenomenon.”

      So in other words, you want to be normal, not like us freaks.

    • This whole paragraph is amazing. What an opportunity! To hear the thoughts of someone for whom transsexuals are so alien and baffling that she treats them like mystical visitors from another realm.
      It’s like taking someone from the year 1910 and putting them in modern day, and hearing their observations. Truly a rare gem.

      “The trans phenomenon is a mystery, and in my own experience with transgendered friends, it must be a difficult limbo place to be. It’s always been strange for me as to what exactly trans people expect in terms of community. If you are FTM, especially lesbians, then who are your new friends? Lesbians won’t want to hang out with you, because, hmmm, now you are a straight man. And straight men may not want to hang out with you either, especially if they know the truth about the transgendering. Gay men are possibly your most friendly space. And vice versa for the MTFs. Lesbians and women-identified-women are likely going to be quite uncomfortable being themselves in your presence. Straight women maybe? I cannot imagine choosing to live in this world. “

    • You know, I can’t claim complete understanding of trans people, or of any other person not myself for that matter, but I can *listen* and empathize, and what I’ve discovered is that people are just folks, and some trans people are my family and dearest friends. And have friends that are lesbian, women-identified women, straight, queer, whatever, because there’s a hell of a lot more to a person than what shape their junk is or what sex was written on their birth certificate. Which for me is a big part of the point of feminism. I don’t want to be defined by what I have in my pants, or my child bearing ability, either.

      As far as ‘cis’ as a paired adjective to ‘trans’, I’m thinking that we’re all defined in different circumstances by words we didn’t invent of choose, describing sex, gender, race, class. But ‘cis’ stands out. Why? Because most people haven’t ever had to think of their identity in those terms, if they’re lucky enough to have it match the identity assigned at birth, and being confronted with the idea that it might not have, and that there is this distinction to be made between the identities of people who’s gender matches their birth sex and those for whom it doesn’t is not entirely comfortable. But it is an important thing to be able to talk about; how our experiences differ, and we need words for that; we need modifiers to *both* experiences. Cis and trans, IMO, are great words; they partake of a nicely applicable chemistry metaphor (so maybe that’s just me being a nerd), and they escape the baggage of ‘bio’ (because the converse to that is, what; robotic?).

    • “I object to being renamed, however, by the trans community.”

      That’s okay, I object to being renamed by the cis community. I’m a woman. There is no ‘trans’ except at the insistence of cis society, telling me that I have to accept that prefix on my womanhood.

    • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diethylstilbestrol Mystery solved. We’re a sexually dimorphic sapient species with a sexually dimorphic midbrain that develops hormonally during gestation. Trans women are born women. That we have recently organized against gendered genocide does not make us recent, just recently more liberated than we have been. You are as cis as Mitt Romney is hetero. It’s a non-normative term and I object to your attempt to make yourself the default.

      • liberationislife says:

        What mystery are you claiming to have been solved, Valerie? Are you claiming that this is relevant to all trans women? Or that there is any one physical cause of transgenderism in males? Why, given that researchers studying certain physiological patterns in trans women are ready to make no such claim?

        And what would ‘brain sex’ have to do with women’s oppression, given that the only aspect of female biology that is central to our oppression is our assumed reproductive capability/ impregnability? Are you saying there is some female brain sex that oppresses us, and we’re not actually oppressed by external forces?

        Also, those experiencing female oppression from birth are the default, vast majority. Denying this is anti-woman because it denies the reality of female oppression. It’s not ok for you to pressure oppressed females to deny this just because it makes you feel bad.

        • Janelle H says:

          “those experiencing female oppression from birth are the default, vast majority. Denying this is anti-woman because it denies the reality of female oppression”

          Let me make sure I understand what you are saying here. Because the majority of women are born with female genitalia, said majority have the right to exclude women born with female brains but male genitalia? Please also explain how majority=default. I read the term default to mean normative. Saying that trans women are not normal, to me sounds anti-trans (or transphobic, cissexist, take your pick). Trans women ARE women, but you imply that we are somehow less legitimate because of the circumstances of our births.

          Oh, and one more thing: what makes you think that we did not experience oppression from birth? In fact, the oppression is much more blatent for trans women prior to transition, since we often displayed non-typical gender bahaviors and were bullied for it. And please, don’t tell me that I could have acted “like a real man” and avoided such abuse. Not only does it blame the victim, it also implies that I had a choice in being trans. My gender identity was no more my choice than was sexual identity for gays and lesbians.

          • liberationislife says:

            Just read this.

            And, oh dear. ‘Women born with female brains but male genitalia’ is horribly essentialist. I encourage you to read “Delusions of Gender”, by Cordelia Fine. It debunks the male/female brain crap. There is also a wordpress site called biologicaltheoriestrans: ‘Exposing the reality of “research” demonstrating evidence of a biological cause for Transexualism’. These are both very useful resources, not only for discussing trans matters, but also for combatting the general ideology used to support female subordination by perpetuating the myth that we have an inherent difference that’s responsible for our oppression.

            Re your comment: ‘Let me make sure I understand what you are saying here. Because the majority of women are born with female genitalia, said majority have the right to exclude women born with female brains but male genitalia? Please also explain how majority=default. I read the term default to mean normative. Saying that trans women are not normal, to me sounds anti-trans (or transphobic, cissexist, take your pick). Trans women ARE women, but you imply that we are somehow less legitimate because of the circumstances of our births.’

            The fact of the matter is that we weren’t discussing “excluding” anyone – we weren’t discussing organisational tactics or strategies. So your attempt to sidestep my criticism of the female-erasing nature of genderist politics is quite manipulative.

            The fact of the matter is that “woman” is an oppressed category – what it means, in general, is those assigned female at birth, being placed into a specific relationship to female-oppressing forces because of that. And having their physicality, thinking, expectations and lives shaped accordingly.

            I would never attempt to say that anyone else should live *up to*, or be as ‘legitimate’, as an oppressed category. It’s simply a manipulative framing, that serves to deny the reality of that oppression.

            By moving on to ‘Oh, and one more thing: what makes you think that we did not experience oppression from birth? In fact, the oppression is much more blatent for trans women prior to transition, since we often displayed non-typical gender bahaviors and were bullied for it.’, you continue this manipulation.

            I have never asserted that you have been non-oppressed since birth. To achieve that, you’d need to have been born male, into a capitalist white family. I assume that has not been your experience, as it hasn’t been for many of us.

            This is a common misrepresentation of genderists (trans and otherwise): deny the structuralist feminist analysis that female oppression has a common pattern by acting as though we were saying instead that we are female because we are *most oppressed*. But feminism is not about a competition of oppression. Female oppression isn’t this extremely vague, non-specific thing that just involves being treated worse and maybe being more vulnerable to rape. Frankly, that idea is quite anti-female because it lumps girls and women in with anyone else who’s mistreated and asserts that we have no specific needs – we are all the same. I have no doubt that many trans-identifying individuals are the targets of malicious and brutal bullies who are influenced by their homophobia into mistreating, sometimes attacking and killing, people whom they perceive as gender-noncompliant. Murdered trans women, of course, are mainly POCs in sex work, so to address that issue, we really need to look at the structural reasons why gender-noncompliant POCs are particularly vulnerable to needing to go into prostitution. The point is, gender-critical feminists are quite savvy on these issues, they’re by no means in denial that gender-noncompliant people get an easy run so long as they’re not FAAB. But conflating all other kinds of oppression with female oppression is still not useful.

            And attempting to compete with feminist women by claiming that trans-identifying folk are the most gender-noncompliant is equally unconstructive. Feminist women are gender-noncompliant. What we do is promote the abolition of gender. We’re rebels on a personal and a political level. By asserting that we are *not*, genderist activists disguise the true nature of gender – ideas and practices designed to subordinate females, by making our subordination seem natural/inherent.

            In summary, like most structuralist feminists, I would like everyone to be able to break free of gender. Gender is the sex hierarchy (not binary) into which we are placed, from birth, based on which sex the medical professionals decide to rear us as (usually by looking at whether or not there is a vulva).

            We don’t help ourselves achieve this by promoting essentialism and ideas of “male and female brains”, however. Genderist activists seem oblivious to the point that they are busy arguing against the central feminist principle, that our subordination is not natural to us. It is they who are placing themselves at odds with feminism; it is not something done to them.

  15. Thank you JULIA!

  16. This is an excellent article. Shame on all those transphobic feminists who are being awful and refusing to check and recognize their privilege.

    Thanks for writing this piece.

  17. Thank you Ms Serano! My husband and I are actually reading Whipping Girl together right now, a chapter at a time so we can discuss the ideas. He’s finally starting to explore the trans side of himself, and your book and articles like these are really helping him to clarify a lot of the things he’s thinking about. Your work is also helping me to understand a lot of pieces of our culture and feminism that have bothered me without me being able to explain why.

    • I would just like to personally thank you for being so supportive of your husband as he’s going through this time. Questioning is never easy, and there are a lot of transwomen who feel they have to choose between their own gender, and the families they’ve worked so hard to help build. Being their for your husband can make all the difference.

  18. Thank you for this, Julia. I want to express so much gratitude that you are continuing the exhausting, painful, thankless but deeply necessary work that you have been engaged in for so long, in the face of vitriolic tripe apparently exemplified by some of the comments here (which I did not deign to read). I mean, it’s not like us trans folks have much choice about doing this kind of work, given that if we don’t try to make the world liveable for us, nobody will.

  19. Rural Juror says:

    Serano is making the precisely same arguement made by Walmart in their recent sex discrimination case, that there is no such class of people “women” who are treated in a similar discriminatory way. This was affirmed by the right wing US Supreme Court. Trans politics and third wave feminism are right wing movements, grounded in libertarianism and a neoliberal consumerist model. Trans politics are anti-rational and anti-science; utterances such as “women have penises” are of a piece with creationism and anti-vaccine hysteria. All of this will have, and is already having, tragic consequences for women’s rights in the US and around the world. Disgusting to see Ms Magazine buy into this ridiculous culture of groupthink with its preposterous jargon and destructive misogynist ideology, where women are expected to grovel and apologize for being women.

    • Damn I love this. Word.

    • Kate LBT says:

      I suppose I can’t argue with you. Inasmuch as it’s pretty much impossible to argue with someone who is reading things that were never said from a very different document than the one I’m reading.

    • telegantmess says:

      Uh huh…and where was any of this said?

      Also, mainly because I’ve seen this claim before but have yet to get an answer to this: What tragic consequences? And I don’t mean potentials, I mean actual events.

    • Wow…
      Or you could read some of the actual science. Biology is for more interesting and varied than you appear to be aware of. Though I’m unclear how that even fits in with your expressed paranoia; how on Earth does allowing trans folk to self identify and treating them like human beings hurt women’s rights (or anyone else for that matter)? Seems to me, what it would largely mean is that we’d have even less reason to use gender and sex as a way of assigning human worth.

    • Spot on Rural Juror. Speak it sister!

    • Third-wave feminism never wrote position papers for the Reagan Administration… Julia Serano never testified for the Conservative government and their continued criminalization of sex workers and roommates of sex workers and friends of sex workers…

      If you want to talk about the useful idiots of the right wing that is.

      And Julia Serano says women exist, just that the part of the body you’re fixated on is not the appropriate metric of womanhood. You’re conflating woman with mullerian, and explicit gendering with implicit gendering.

      I’m not about to apologize for being a woman.

    • nichole says:

      “science” & “rationality” have LONG been tools of patriarchal, racist, homophobic, & ableist discourse & oppression. the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.

  20. Dan Everton says:

    Wow, will Ms. please ban radscum from commenting?
    Keep it going, Miss Julia Serano. Your works are important.

    • Kate LBT says:

      It really bothers me to see men using trans women as proxy warriors in some kind of weird fight against feminism. No. We’re not your stalking horses – we’re women, and we have more in common with the women who are fighting against us than they want to admit.

  21. Thank you for your article, Miss Serano! I’ve been a fan of your work forever.

    I find that radical feminists ideas that trans* women aren’t women are just as damaging as the erasure of women of color in the “mainstream” feminist movement. What do we have to do to prove our womanhood? What is this “womanhood” that everyone’s so insistant about? Feminism is to provide power to those oppressed by a patriarchal misogynist society. Which happens to INCLUDE trans* women, threatened daily with violence and more than likely to be victims of violence. This number goes up when you add in that many Black and Latina trans* women get the worst of that. I’m sick of it! And I’m sick of radical feminists with their bullcrap ideas of what being a woman is.

  22. posifemme says:

    Saying that a woman is a being who exists as a person who was desginated female at birth (DFAB) is a way of naturalizing and justifying gendered oppression against cis and trans women (and trans people in general). It simultaneously provideds a root for oppression against people who were DFAB, cis and trans, as well as contributing to the idea that trans women aren’t women, and that they’re “co opting feminism.” this language is cissexist and dangerous and contributes to the idea that trans male people are “safe,” and that trans female people are “dangerous, perveted males.” Trans women, especially trans women of color (especially black and latina trans women) are likely to be beaten, ridiculed, harrassed, economically disenfranchised, sexually harrased and assualted, raped, and murdered MORE than cis women.
    Framing trans feminism and other “third waves” feminist movements as “reinforcing stereotypes, or right wing, or anti scientific” is just an example of how many white cis feminist’s racism, classism, ableism, and cissexism still pervade through there discourse.”

    Feminism that isn’t radically inclusive and intersecitonal will utterly destroy itself and get no where. Not accepting trans women as women is anti feminist. Using gendered stereotypes to justify your prejudice against trans people is anti feminist.

    You can not be pro trans or really “feminist” without being anti racist, anti colonialism, anti classism, anti cissexism, anti ableism, etc. etc.
    Women come from a pltehora of different backgrounds:

    STOP erasing our expereinces. (you know who you are).

    Wonderful articale, Julia!

  23. telegantmess says:

    Good article, and a good primer on the topic.

    Frankly, as someone who is not easily “biologically” categorized, I actually had to break with feminist spaces, particularly online. Because of articles like the one that this responds to, and the relative lack of support within these spaces for trans* people, binary or not.

    I also find it particularly telling that the backlash against articles like this and spaces that support trans* people from folk who openly ID as feminist engages in language that dehumanizes and essentializes people down to their reproductive organs. I could have sworn that calling people “females” and insisting that biology equals destiny was something we could expect of MRAs and anti-feminists.

  24. smirkingbenevolence says:

    Kudos to Julia for the post. Great read. As for the radscum comments I keep seeing on this and other similar threads, if radscum put half the energy they put into active discrimination against trans* women into actually moving feminist causes forward there would be a lot less for all of us to fight for. Radscum are doing no women any favors, but they seem content to cut off their noses to spite their faces.
    We trans* women are women too, end stop. We are fighting for the same thing that every woman is fighting for. There is strength in diversity and in recognizing our intersectionalities. We must all work in unison for what we all need both together and individually.

  25. support for gsm folk makes me feel warm and tingly on the inside.

  26. Question: Are people allowed to critique trans genderism at all? Just because something is one’s identity has never made it off limits for critique. In my opinion, we have to ask if the practice is helpful to a more egalitarian world. In a sex equal society, would we have people undergoing SRS?

    If you do agree that some critique of trans genderism is okay, then what are the limits of that critique? Because from the comments here and elsewhere, it would seem NO critique is acceptable.

    • I think part of the issue is that by ‘critiquing’ someone’s identity and experience, you are likely to cross the line into erasure. Gender dysphoria is real, and not just a reaction to feeling like you don’t fit the gender norms of your birth sex. I don’t fit the gender norms of my birth sex very well, but I’m comfortable in my body. Some folk fit them even less well than I do, to the point where they experience significant discrimination for being non-gender-conforming, but still are comfortable with their sex. Some may have any gender expression (there are butch trans women, and femmy trans guys out there), but are deeply uncomfortable with the sex of their body. For those folk, changing their body is life-saving. And they shouldn’t have to explain that over and over to every person who’s curious enough to ask, but not invested enough to go read up on the topic.

    • ZenPoseur says:

      If it feels like you aren’t allowed to critique transgenderism at all, I think it’s probably because your critiques seem silly to anyone with a lived transgender experience.

      No offense intended, but you can’t expect to spend a few minutes thinking about the subject, pop off a couple of shaky talking points, and expect to be taken seriously by people who’ve been living it their entire lives.

    • Kate LBT says:

      Are people allowed to critique your womanhood (not the social constructions around it, your inner sense of self)?

      Your answer to that is the same as the answer to the question of whether you are allowed to critique transness.

      • Yes, actually, and people engage in such critque all the time – this is called “living in patriarchy.” The difference, though, when female womanhood is questioned: we don’t threaten to kill people.

        This is one observable difference between discussing womanhood with a female vs. discussing it with a trans woman.

        • Kate LBT says:

          No, you only grossly violate the ethical and legal obligations of your profession by using legal resources to execute a vendetta against trans women, and grossly violate the law by cyberstalking anyone who disagrees with you, while highly ironically, portraying said cyberstalking as “mere disagreement.”

        • Katelyn J says:

          Well Cathy if that is the premise of your disagreement with the many trans women you have engaged is that there is a disagreement and that is al there is before the fighting and insulting starts than perhaps I can call upon you to have this discussion with me minus the insulting and fighting as I am not one to really get into the insulting pixels thing, I see that on both sides there tends to be alot of yelling and alot of insulting and not a whole lot of listening from either side, and yes I am interested in what you have to say as through all the insults and attacks I have actually seen that to some degrees in your posts you do have a point, you need only messegge me on facebook sometime when you have time and we can start a dialog from there. Katelyn Jecmen is the name to look up

    • Are straight people allowed to critique gays, and suggest maybe they are just broken? Are white people allowed to critique people of colour and suggest that maybe there’s no racial privilege, it’s just something genetic? Are non-depressed people able to critique depressed people because hey, maybe they should just snap out of it and get happy?

      “hey waaaait, how come this oppressed group isn’t listening to MY IMPORTANT THEORY about them?”

      Yes, that’s what it sounds like.

    • Valarissa says:

      I would say critique of transgenderism is perfectly acceptable, if such critique could be applied to something like the lived experiences of intersex individuals. The problem here is that this runs deeper, in many cases, than a pure self-identification. It is becoming clear through numerous studies that a medical expectation can be established for people who consider themselves to be transsexual (in other words, the brain structures are seen to be divergent from the expectation based on phenotype in non-normatively identified individuals).

      To answer your one question about SRS, I would say that SRS would begin to fade away, but that hormone replacement therapy would still be very much in demand. I’m hypothesizing, but, it is my belief that because of the different brain structures being more representative of a particular gender, the hormonal balances needed by those structures would still remain in place, regardless of the cultural and societal expectations. Therefore, on a purely bio-chemical level, these levels would need to be adjusted to negate things like depression. My belief that the need for SRS would fade comes from a thought process that believes that SRS is the product of two things: a need to remove the gonads to make hormonal adjustments easier, and an equivocation with genitals and the sex being transitioned to. I’m speaking strictly from a trans feminine perspective, and about those surgeries alone, I cannot speak to the experiences of trans men.

      Hope that helps.

    • I’m going to respond in good faith:

      In a world where people stopped refusing to treat women as women because they had not had vaginoplasty, stopped arguing that they shouldn’t be allowed in women’s space, then yes, I think there would be a lower prevalence of vaginoplasty per transitioner, (and probably more vaginoplasty and phalloplasty among the cis population, depending on feasibility. I know cis women who don’t want to socially transition, are strongly female identified, but are dysphoric about their genitalia. It’s a brain map thing.) because women (and men) wouldn’t be shamed and degendered as they are in a cisessentialist society for having atypical genitalia. Nobody would dare call a man with a vagina female bodied or the inverse for a woman with a penis. None of that claptrap would carry water, so yes, there would be fewer people who would see their genitalia as marking them as their coercively assigned sex at birth instead of their actual sex.

      Further though, given sexist gatekeeping standards, and cissexist misogynists cheering those gatekeepers on, in that same non-sexist world, we would have a much higher prevalence of transition, for as this makeup-eschewing, beer-drinking, pants-and-sneaker-clad braless lesbian can tell you, transsexuality’s definitely not about gender roles.

  27. Akntiendz Chik says:

    Julia Serano’s ideas about trans feminism are already making a difference for transexual activism in Spain and Latin America. Mil gracias Julia Serano!

  28. What about misandry? I’m constantly told I can’t possibly be feminist because I am a transman. I’m ‘giving up’ my femininity, and therefore my right to be feminist. It’s crap, but it happens. Just something to think about.

  29. Nonfeminist says:

    All of these comments, and the back and forth arguing and mud slinging, are precisely the reason why I’m not a feminist and will never be a feminist of any kind. Am I critical of patriarchy? Yes. Am I critical of sex/gender roles and norms? Yes. Am I critical of institutions that perpetuate inequality and injustice? Yes. Do I fully support gender equality? Yes. Am I a feminist? Absolutely not. I don’t need feminism to support gender equality any more than I need religion to be a good and moral person. Claiming an identity doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to behave in a certain way. The actions you take are what matters, not what identity you do or do not claim. Besides, sociology provides me with all the tools I need to look critically at the world, its power structures and inequalities, and to devise strategies for addressing those. In fact, those tools can be modified to address different perspectives or issues, or new tools can be created, with no bickering, no arguing, no blaming, no hatred, and no bullshit.

  30. Lesbianfeminist says:

    I honestly have a hard time wrapping my head around how feminism and the trans identity can be reconciled. Doesn’t transitioning imply the same sort of gender essentialism that feminism has repeatedly tried to combat? In establishing gender as a social construction, the idea is to erase the limitations imposed upon women through the policing of gender roles. That is, I am no less of a woman for engaging in stereotypically masculine activities, behaviors, etc. because every activity/behavior/whathaveyou that I engage in, I do as a woman. I understand that I can only speak from my experience as a lesbian feminist, but I cannot conceptualize transitioning without understanding that to necessarily imply that women and men are ultimately limited in how they can potentially express themselves. I guess, especially as someone who is fairly androgynous, I have a problem with the concept of gender in the first place. Specifically, I find the argument that possessing certain traits or characteristics can make you more or less of a woman to be problematic. I don’t believe in playing the oppression olympics, but I do believe that it’s a dangerous game of social identity erasure when you lump two marginalized groups together and hope that they play nice.

    • Kate LBT says:

      “Doesn’t transitioning imply the same sort of gender essentialism that feminism has repeatedly tried to combat?”

      No, it really doesn’t. There are butch lesbian trans women. There are butch heterosexual trans women for that matter. There are trans women who – like every other woman I can think of – lament that people don’t take our skills seriously. There are trans women, butch or femme, who engage in stereotypically masculine pursuits (I play D&D).

      What transitioning implies is that male or female goes deeper than the skin level; that we’re who we are regardless of what we do or have done. One would think that a feminist would approve of this.

    • As people have explained up thread, there are feminine trans men and butch trans women, there are also androgynous trans folk, bi-genders, and self described neuters. The emphasis on SRS is falling to the wayside in favor of hormone therapy, manipulation of secondary sexual characteristics, and the general consensus that no one and no thing can define your gender but you. A trans man is a man even in a dress, a trans woman is a woman even with a penis. These things do not define us.

    • Does changing gender role support the system, or undercut it?

      It’s only partially about expression: oppression is written on women’s bodies, shapes our lives. Trans people exist in the world today, not from some land of the future where we have abolished gender roles. And clearly the issue is complex: there is brain structure evidence, there are many people who do not feel they fit with either gender role.

      Do we have to pick a side? Because attacking trans people reifies – strengthens – the concept of “woman” too, and all the baggage it has under patriarchy. It’s a catch-22.

      This is why I believe in building a trans-positive radical feminism.

  31. “Doesn’t transitioning imply the same sort of gender essentialism that feminism has repeatedly tried to combat?”

    No, because transitioning doesn’t necessarily imply any particular gender. A woman of trans history, for example, might be feminine, androgynous , masculine, femme, butch, genderqueer, whatever, the same as any other woman. Transitioning doesn’t limit how she expresses herself at all, only what body she feels correct inhabiting.

  32. So apparently the only thing that makes a person a ‘woman’ is her reproductive capabilities.
    So now that uterus transplants are available to people born without uteri, are the radfems going to shift the goalposts of what ‘woman’ means yet again?

  33. SailorCharon says:

    One thing I will declare off the bat is if you read one or two sentences of this post and fire off an angry, preconceived rant, you lose de-facto because you have demonstrated yourself incapable of reasoned debate, and should therefore stop pretending that reason and rationality are something you value. That said I want to address a lot of things I see going on in the comment section that are completely unacceptable.

    First off I want to blow the the cover off of a lot of this intellectualization I see happening here. I’ve talked to some radfems and lesbian separatists about the whole trans thing, and the honest-to-goodness gut response is that many radfems and lesbians find trans women and their genitals icky, and then subsequently construct a bunch of feminist theory behind why trans women aren’t really women or are men and therefor the enemy or whatever the fuck it is. All of it. ALL IF IT! Yes, even the argument you made, aspiring radfem, ultimately violates one of the central tenants of biology being destiny that feminism is based on. Trans women love shooting a lot of holes this pseudo feminism has a lot of holes to be shot in it because it’s inherently anti-feminist, in addition to the fact that it invalidates our identities.

    Inadvertantly allecto stumbles upon a glaringly obvious point about trans being a modifier to feminism and misses entirely that radical *also* has a space between it and feminism, implying it is *also* a modifier to feminism, and not the end-all-be-all of feminism any more than trans feminism is. This is a great example of the bone-headed logic that passes in these circles that trans feminists should *stop putting up with*. There is literally no logical basis for it–it is *all* dogma. Personally, I know quite a few feminists in person who take a totally enlightened view of trans women and would love us to be a part of their movement while people like allecto continue to alienate lots of trans women–people I have a growing suspicion gather a lot of their views from online discussions like this one (ps–if you are a trans feminist, reply with your e-mail and I will put you in touch with real feminists, we need ground support!)

    Radfems haven’t made one iota of sense, and the reason is that all their convictions, everything they believe comes from a visceral, irrational part of who they are. It’s all about men vs women, and if they’re convinced there can only be one superior sex and dammit, it will be theirs, regardless of who they have to trample to make that dream come true. Anything else is “anti-woman”, “anti-lesbian” or whatever thought-terminating slogan they declare it to be.

    Speaking to radfems, personally, as a trans woman, I don’t care about you, your beliefs, your precious festival, or your definition of womanhood. I don’t think any trans woman should care about you these beliefs, nor should any self-respecting feminist. I think you should go to the MWMF and stay there forever. If that’s what it took for me and the rest of society to never have to interact with you again, so be it. Nothing I’ve ever heard a rad-fem say has been worth taking seriously–as feminism or even as rational discourse. Radfems insist on ridiculing us, but as I’ve seen it, trans woman after trans woman has thrown themselves on the sacrificial altar of convincing rad fems of their worth, only to have rad fems spit in their face. As a justice system, this is about as ridiculous as the salem witch trials. Trans women are worth more than that and deserve better than that, and it’s about damn time that we as a people defined ourselves and gained our own autonomy.

    To trans woman: if you comment below, I will e-mail you with a list of questions to distinguish you from Cathy-Brennanites and will subsequently put you in and subsequently I will put you in touch with the most progressive feminists I know, so you, too can make a difference in the greater feminist community. My goal is not to depend on these women, but to facilitate a larger dialog in which trans women are taken seriously–to work with these women to prove that sisterhood is a much larger, more powerful concept than anyone has thought before.

    • Lesbianfeminist says:

      I think the most biological argument made in radical feminism, though, is that we are total beings in which our minds and bodies constitute our inextricable entirety. That being said, I conceive of myself as strong and capable…I am also a woman, and I don’t think that should take anything away from my declaration. For a trans person (and yes, please correct me if I’m wrong because I know how obnoxious it is to be mischaracterized), I am -guessing- that (re)gendering the body is done because one does not feel that they were gendered correctly in the first place. I don’t believe -I- am gendered correctly on the basis of social presuppositions made about my womanness, but I do not believe that my womanness is at fault, I believe that those who presuppose what my womanness entails are at fault. SailorCharon, I don’t think that the genitalia of trans women are “icky”, either. Rather, I think that the idea/reinforcement of the idea that my gender expression and self-concept deviate from my physicality is what’s really icky. My body is just as much me as my mind and if I were not able to conceive of my body/me as strong and able just as it is, then I would be denying myself not just my identity, but my agency as well. Forgive me if my previous post sounded as if it were an attack. I am by no means trying to delegitimize your identity (and as is partially the point of this post, I also don’t want to deligitimize my own), I am trying to delegitimize gender essentialism because it takes away one’s ability to self-determine in a way that is non-complicit with gender strictures. A lot of posts on here have referred to neuroscience in discussing mind-body dissonance (I believe referring to post-mortem brain examinations which highlight localized variations), but I think neuroplasticity also merits mention seeing as it’s a direct example of how environment constantly affects and changes the brain. Brain mapping is contingent upon how one lives, so in a sense, if I live my life in a way that is less gendered, then my brain will also reflect this. Neuroplasticity essentially depathologizes “gender deviation”, and that’s the science that informs my identity.

      • SailorCharon says:

        “. For a trans person (and yes, please correct me if I’m wrong because I know how obnoxious it is to be mischaracterized), I am -guessing- that (re)gendering the body is done because one does not feel that they were gendered correctly in the first place.”

        Actually this is really what’s at the core of all the huplah that gets trans women so upset about things like the MWMF. Most trans women feel they are mischaracterized, not in a debateable way like you say here (“I think the most biological argument made in radical feminism, though, is that we are total beings in which our minds and bodies constitute our inextricable entirety.”) But in a crude, crass way that doesn’t make any sense, the gist of it being that we are straight men that just throw on wigs so we can go rape the last barrier of unraped womanhood, like we’re some kind of cartoon villians. Personally, I think even allowing for that, I think you underestimate how womanly trans women can be–I’ve written about this in the past but it’s only recently I’ve developed a pseudonym to keep the cathy brennans of the world from reading it, hunting me down, and non-consensually outing me and effectively destroying in an instant the normal, womanly life I’ve worked so hard to have.

        I get what you’re saying about the idea that transitioning reinforces the idea that there’s one “correct” way to be a woman, and that trans women seem to try to be that, or that our need to transition reflects that. Personally, I always thought the one correct womanhood thing was a sham anyway, and that women can be so much than the kyriarchy allows them to be, and every chance I get I fight for it. It affects me, and all the women I call my sisters. One of the recurring themes I see here is that trans women don’t care about “real” (fertile cis) women’s issues. I have never known a single trans woman that’s been true of, and it’s painful to see that kind of horrible misconception exist in this echo chamber that is radical feminism and MWMF. That would be one very strong and logical reason why a lot of trans women advocate attending: radfems *get it wrong*. Our experiences and our nature. And not like, tomato is a vegetable wrong, but more like tomato is a suspension bridge wrong.

        Personally, I’ve found it to be a source of great pain I can’t give birth. I’ve also found it a source of great pain I didn’t experience girlhood the way the cis women I knew did. What makes it worse is having that very pain held against me as a reason to exclude me even further. I’m fairly sure *any* trans woman here, whether they are conscious of it or not, feels that same visceral gut wrenching pain. That’s why some of us lash out. That’s why despite the fruitlessness we keep fighting for acceptance from people who would rather spit on us, and gladly see us get killed en mass which as many people here have pointed out is a real thing, and not some imagined construct like trans women transitioning to rape cis women.

        I want to address the rape thing, because that’s another absurdity of this model I see presented by radfems. Honestly, even consensual PIV sex is something that breaks my brain. *I literally cannot do it*. Believe me I’ve had women try to convince me to, but when push comes to shove that act fills me with cognitive dissonance my mind simply can’t resolve. I end up focusing entirely on the other woman’s pleasure, neglecting my own pretty much entirely. This isn’t a rapist mindset by a longshot. And I’ve been assaulted by guys that would rape me, so it’s yet another set of triggering damage radfems do to me and probably to many other trans women by comparing me to my attackers.

        In conclusion, not only is pretty much everything radfems say about trans women patently false, but every single talking point is basically taking all the worst parts of being trans and exacerbating them as much as humanly possible. I’ve honestly known sociopaths that were less harmful, because at least they weren’t actively vindictive. So yes. I encourage all trans women to refuse debate because I believe there is nothing to be gained from this conversation.

        To answer your other question, two thoughts come to mind. First is that it strikes me as just as gender essentialist to police trans women’s gender identities based on genitalia as it is to restrict cis women to certain roles for the same reason, so if you’re really upset about gender essentialism, it might be worthwhile to ask yourself why you find it so upsetting to have trans women call themselves women. Second is kind of addressing your other point about mind/body/social interaction. Has it ever occurred to you that with their strong affinity towards the identity of womanhood that trans women are sitting in a unique position to have good information on how to dismantel these halls of power? Is it possible that instead of being spies sent here by the patriarchy to keep tabs on/rape the women in women’s space, we’re actually spying on men in the duration of time we’re forced to live that social role, again against our will because of the gender essentialism imposed by patriarchal society? It seems to me that radfems are actually being even counter productive in alienating a potentially valuable resource of information and techniques on the holy altar of wbw. It sometimes really makes me wonder if there’s really a radical movement there, or it’s just another stupid fort with “no boys allowed” painted on the side of it.

        I sincerely hope, since it sounds like there was some glimmer of hope, that these ideas show you a different side of trans women.

        • bluestar says:

          SailorCharon, Wow. I can literally feel my consciousness expanding while I read what you wrote. I have always considered myself a radical feminist who is more trans-affirming than what I am reading in this forum as the definition of “radical feminist.” It had never occurred to me that “radical feminist” and “trans feminist” were mutually exclusive. I have really struggled to reconcile the various viewpoints and feelings of everyone involved in such discussions about trans rights and feminism, and I am embarrassed to admit my own ignorance and difficulty articulating how I feel– or even knowing enough about trans feminism to word a response. As a poor, disabled, white femme lesbian with a butch partner, I have experienced alienation within feminism, even though I have privilege as a white cis woman. I support trans feminism and the debates among all feminists that can bring us all to greater awareness and a renewed commitment to fight oppression in all its forms.

    • Wow, you’re awesome… and I like to console myself with this… according to NGLTF, trans women are about 8 times more likely to be bi/pan/queer/lesbian than cis women and 10 times more likely to be lesbians than cis women. The current prevalence of social transition is between 1 in 200 and 1 in 300. That means trans lesbians are about between 3-5% of the lesbian community, up from about 0.05% in 1970. And what’s more, the prevalence is increasing as barriers to transition fall. The prevalence of currently avowed transsexuality is about 1 in 100, so that means 9% of the lesbian community, minimum, are trans women. But there’s more: In the last thirty years, the prevalence of avowed cis non-heterosexuality tripled. That’s thirty years in which cisGLB folk went from universally discriminated against to widely tolerated and frequently accepted. When trans people undergo that same explosion of acceptance, which will bring down many more barriers to transition, like no longer treating endocrine intervention in trans women any differently from endocrine intervention in cis women, we could well see another explosion of the prevalence of social transition. At a prevalence of social transition 1 in 50, trans women are 17% of the lesbian community, and at one in thirteen, the current prevalence of avowed non-heterosexuality (which, you know, since the same gestational hormone mechanisms of midbrain development are hypothesized to be responsible for gender diversity as well as orientation diversity, just at different points during development, is not outside the realm of possibility), we’re 43% of the lesbian community. That’s an awful lot of sisters to shun.

    • Thanks for one of the best responses I’ve seen SailorCharon!

      I read this back and forth which at best is internecine warfare and at worst blatant bigotry and have to ask a simple question: What is the “end game” of feminism supposed to be? In my mind it is total equality. Total. Each according to their abilities stuff. Does this foolish, albeit highly intellectual bickering do anything to reach this goal? Or is the real goal an “ubergender?” If that’s the case then I’d like to hear how that brand of “feminism” is different than the KKK, Nazis, or any other hate group theory.

      Look, I am not well versed in all of the theories and nuances of feminism. I just strive to participate in the creation of a world where EVERY individual can reach their fullest potential and has the same rights as everyone else regardless of gender, gender identity, race, religion, etc. etc. The way to get there is working together not by the marginalized groups fighting amongst themselves! Believe me, there are plenty of real enemies to equality out there.

  34. karen glover says:

    Julia, you and a few like minded Americans keep me from becoming anti-American.
    As an Australian I have in the last few years seen a relapse into bigotry and rancor of a people we generally regard, at worst, as a cousin with different tastes.

    Until there is definitive meaning for the word “woman”, (scientists can’t even agree), arguing over who is suffering the worst discrimination simply aids those who would see white women back in the kitchen, transsexual women in mental hospitals, and black women back in the fields.

    Disunity is death, we have to stand together or we will hang separately.

  35. Kate LBT says:

    For the record: At least one of the women that Catherine M. Brennan, senior partner at a Washington, D.C. law firm, is attacking is an undergraduate college student.

    • liberationislife says:

      Kate, I have disagreed with your claims upthread (including by giving an actual link debunking your claims) – please desist from making these spurious accusations. [Anyone else reading this, please do find that comment because it indicates the credibility of 'Kate LBT'.]

      Cathy Brennan is a feminist who does a lot of activism for GLBT rights (she is on record as working with trans activists on various recent trans rights causes) and is not the transphobe you are attempting to paint her as.

      That it is cool to repeat these claims about a feminist activist, with each new person accepting them because they’re been repeated by another, is a sign of the sick culture of a certain layer of (mainly internet) activists.

  36. There is no universal woman experience?? Only a trans* would say this! When I started menstruating my world changed. I could suddenly HAVE a child. My parents changed towards me. The world changes for a female past puberty.

    Female experience is being erased here. That’s what’s happening. It’s just being erased out of existence.

    • Not every cis woman can menstruate, and not every woman who menstruates is fertile. And plenty of people do not consider their own onset of menses to be a world changing event. You erase “female experience” when you insist that your experience of puberty is universal.

  37. I’ve not read all the comments (there we’re a lot), but speaking as a transwoman myself, it really doesn’t matter if radfems want trans women dead or out of their perceived spaces. In my short experience of trying to communicate with them, I have had so much *&^% thrown in my direction based on nothing but stereotypes, and that tars the image of other radfems with the same brush. Sensible voices tend to be drowned out by the mob attitude of some people.

    Transsexualism isn’t about hating anyone, let’s get that clear for a start. Our bodies and brains don’t match, so something has to change, and a physical change is currently the only realistic option.

    Most of us who transition, simply want to dissapear into the background and just get on with things, but that’s not always possible for a multitude of reasons.

    At the end of the day, we’re all human, we all have different life experiences, and most of us just want to be seen as “normal” what “normal” actually means.

  38. Goddess, every time I come to these discussions I see the same damn thing over and over again. Trans women are constantly being put into the “other” box as if somehow being trans overwrites the fact that they are women. I am a trans woman, I have been female since birth. True I’ve never menstruated, but I do have a monthly hormonal cycle and experience extreme PMS. I don’t have ovaries and cant get pregnant, but I wish more than anything that wasn’t the case. I wish that every day, even though I have two children, I cannot experience the joy of holding a life inside you. And my point is not EVERY woman does (and for that matter SOME MEN GIVE BIRTH. Trans men exist and they are MALE!!!!!) I know plenty women who have physical issues with their ovaries and such and have had to have hysterectomies to stop the pain. My mom did after giving birth to me. Was she no longer a woman, or does her opinion not count as much as someone who does experience menstruation regularly??? That’s bullshit in my mind. I keep reading that trans women’s opinions aren’t being excluded here and then I see an extremely convoluted set of rationalizations about why our opinion isn’t as important as a cis woman who experienced menstruation all her life. Socially speaking although I wasn’t socialized directly as a female by others, I was internally, and it confused me greatly not understanding why my body didn’t match what my mind was, and not intellectually developed enough yet to realize that I was female made every day of my childhood a living hell. I am a woman, I am a feminist, and my opinion matters as much as other feminists.

  39. Can we please all just stop yelling at each other? Please? And stop the games about who’s more oppressed, who has a more legitimate grievance, who’s opinion/experience should count the most? No two people have experienced the same level or the same type of oppression, the same hatred, the same love. We’re all different – differently miserable, differently happy, completely unique beings equally deserving of love. Can we please just accept that and move on?

    Speaking as a polysexual, polyamorous, genderfluid, bipolar person-with-two-X-chromosomes, I’ve experienced plenty of discrimination, but also plenty of love, including love from random people in the unlikeliest of places. I have privilege, I have people who will never accept me and who wish violence on me just for who I am. The category of “people who aren’t at all oppressed” is insanely narrow (wealthy, white, male-at-birth, cis, masculine, Christian, heterosexual, no mental issues, attractive, intelligent, “successful,” a lot of stuff I’m probably missing), and everyone else bickering over who has it worse just detracts from the main issue: creating a loving society where no one has to fear violence for any reason, where you advance solely based on merit, where you can date someone without the mental gymnastics of “when should I tell them about such-and-such ‘issue’?” My oppression and experiences are no more valid nor any less valid than yours. We all – including allies within that narrow category – have something legitimate to bring to the table.

    I have friends and self-described enemies alike in all groups. Whenever you get a sufficiently large number of people together (no matter how they identify), there will be jerks and trolls and people throwing flames at each other. There will also be wonderful, kind individuals who seem like angels compared to everyone around them. Can we also stop generalizing groups just because of one or two extremely loud individuals?

  40. by the way, I would rather hang out with trans women who have read Marx than biological females who have not. thanks for your time!

    • RDesroc says:

      On that premise, leaves us confused, would you hang out with biological females who have ..read Marx? I also never knew one could have so many modes of subjective being before a classification of one’s identity.

  41. Juli Richmond says:

    I thought feminism was about equality…
    Woman being equal to men.

    So as a moveent we need to get back to square one and stop discrimination weather its gender,socialclass, race, disabled folks, gender variance etc
    Equality needs to be for all people.
    Not just for folks who think theyhave some sort of privilege over another.

  42. thank you for such a fantastic post I have been searching the web for stuff on cissexism and all things surround feminism and trans women I’m going to be creating a youtube series based on my understanding of what I’m learning following through what I would like to think of as a not complete ignorance of the subject to a more enlightened position.

    I transitioned at a fairly young age and have had a lot of different experiences though out my life experienced both sexism and cis sexism but I’ve never felt like I’ve had a right to talk about it. As trans woman I didn’t have a right to do this, that ” we should all be happy to have what is given to us pat pat on the head now theres a good little tranny go into your corner and don’t speak out or will take more of your rights away” sort of thing.

    when i first when’t to the charing cross GID clinic in London in the 90s I remember that you still had to turn up dressed completely fem or you weren’t taken seriously by the DR’s does this not yet again filter down into the whole thing of women being told how we should look dress and behave because I believe it does.

    When I was nearly sexually assaulted by a man when I was a young trans teen does this not show that trans women and girls are viewed as sexual objects by some people because I’m sorry but I believe it does. I feel that trans women who may well have experienced male privilege in the past certainly lose that male privilege as soon as they transition and in a lot of cases if not viewed as women are viewed as less than human for just being theme selves so end up being at the bottom of the whole pile not accepted in one place and threatened if not beaten for going into the other.

    to be honest i feel very confused of what position my self as a trans women now holds in society and I don’t think this should be a out and out privilege war of terf’s telling trans women to check there privilege personally i wish we could stop discrimination like Jull has said and just all be equal.

  43. I have obviously kept my eyes and ears closed on this horrific debate for a while now. The problems of feminism are patriarchy and capitalism..which produce mysogyny, sexism, racism, ableism, anti-queer and anti-trans people + many others. Why fight each other for ‘top dog’ status in the form of discrimination?
    I’ve been a feminist for a long time, and it teachs me respect for everyone, and respect for the choices people make in their lives to be alive and to get by and enjoy what they can. ‘Women’, black people, all those who are ‘different’ have suffered fierce oppression for centuries, now is not the time to fight each other… For a long time, remember, the feminist movement felt alone and embattled with virtually no support from men or other ‘different’ folk . It was HARD! Some people cling to the issues that made sense to them then, but times have changed and loads of men are feminist now. . Of course trans people should be proud and out too if that’s right at the time.. but, people, look at the main big problems, not at the inter-fighting, declare solidarity with everyone going your way..

  44. This is probably a really stupid question to y’all, but to me trans issues are kinda complicated and I don’t really understand, I’m trying to learn not trying to offend, I apologize if I do.
    But could you explain, in simple non academic language if possible,
    If say a transwoman considers herself feminist right, that would mean she agrees we get the short end of the stick in the gender department right, lower pay, rape and violence from men, all that shit.
    Why would someone who sees the raw deal women get, choose to transition to a place, that lets be honest, sucks to inhabit.
    I think if I were born in a male body, even if I felt feminine, I would just stay in that body for the perks of being a man, and I guess act “normatively” in work and etc and then be my possibly obviously feminine self in my own time with people who aren’t douches and probably not want to go through all that surgery, hormones, not “passing” harassment and whatever else y’all have to go through just to get to the place where I will be treated like a second class citizen for not being male. I realise you must see a reason in it or you wouldn’t do it, so it must give you something, but I see nothing to be gained by being imprisoned in a female body and subjugated to men by society in general. What’s the deal?

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