Get a Grip, Pronouns are not Transphobia (and other musings): Feminist Current Interview #3

This is my third post derived from my Feminist Current podcast. I hope you find it thoughtful. I did this some months ago and I have been very busy with work since so have not had much opportunity to write. This post is a bit of a mish-mash but I wanted to make a point about what is, and is not, transphobia, the  continued use of ‘TERF’ and ‘cis’ (the former used to derail women) and finally something that touches on bullying in the trans community. What is here hardly does the latter point justice, but fear is a powerful weapon and is used by a lot of the mainstream transactivists to maintain the status quo. Onward…

FC: What kinds of discrimination do you face, specifically as a trans woman? Why do you think that discrimination happens? How is it either the same or different than the discrimination experienced by females?

I am going to try to answer this honestly, I feel I’m going to now be saying some very controversial things, but there’s a reasoning behind it which I hope makes sense. I’m not trying to dilute or soften any abuse or difficulties other trans people may have faced.

Firstly, I am a white, educated transwoman who enjoyed male privilege some 40 years before transition. Discrimination has, more or less, been confined to what I would describe as homophobia, and is certainly no worse or to no greater degree than a young gay man or biological woman would experience, for example street harassment, public intimidation and even assault.

None of these are acceptable, but they happen not just to transwomen but women and men, gay or not. We live in an intolerant and violent society, a society where casual misogyny and sexism is still a norm. This is one of the common battles women and transwomen share.

To be clear, I do not accept ‘misgendering’ as being violence and neither do I accept the term ‘transmisogyny’. Transphobia is either discrimination or homophobia, and these should be fought. Transwomen make men insecure, and men’s reaction is often abusive or even violent.

I’d like to make it clear that being ‘misgendered’ by someone in, for example, a shop is not ‘transphobia’: significantly most transwomen look like what we are, let’s be honest, and making complaints about store assistants on a minimum wage for ‘misgendering’ is punching downwards.

FC: I wonder if you can talk about some of the criticisms you have of some versions (it would seem the more visible, mainstream versions…) of transactivism?

I think I have covered the problems I have with magical thinking. I have problems with other aspects of lazy thinking and the way much arguing appears to devolve into abuse, threats and hate.

Something I have said on many occasions is that ‘if you want to see real misogyny, look at the trans community.’ There are numerous examples of an almost institutionalised misogyny, even reducing ‘woman’ to an identity erases women’s biological reality, never mind the oppressive effect of socialisation. I suspect it is a lack of awareness, not just of feminist ideas but also themselves which causes this.

Fundamentally, feminism is centered on women, and the transactivist approach appears to attempt to change this. Let’s be honest: it’s not feminism if it centers transwomen and it is not feminism if ‘trans inclusive feminism’ seeks to concede women’s hard-fought ground (for example spaces, support institutions, even the ability to use language that differentiates women from men). That is not feminism, it is men’s rights activism.

I have grave objections to the use of the words ‘TERF’ and ‘cis’. I have always been consistent on this: TERF is used as a dehumanising hate object, ‘cis’ is unnecessary: we have a word for biological adult females who are not trans, and that is ‘women’.

How have other trans women, particularly trans activists, reacted to you perspective on transgenderism and your criticisms of certain positions taken by some transactivists?

I would describe this using words like ‘denial’ and ‘hostility’. I think it is important for us to be honest and call out hate and misogyny in our own community.

I have always been open to honest and good faith dialogue, there are a number of transwomen who have ‘crossed the divide’ and it has been great to have dialogue with them. There are also a number of transwomen who exist across the ideological gap who have contacted me in private to discuss ideas, many have suggested that we should all be working together but have also expressed they are unable to speak openly with me or other gender critical transwomen on Twitter as they fear ostracisation from their peer groups.

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