This is based on an earlier post I did for Gender Apostates.
Transgender issues are all over the media at the moment. It is good, and shows signs of social progress, that the wider population supports people being able to live their lives the way they want. There is, of course, some irony here in that the recent enthusiasm for equality and acceptance shown by Ireland and the USA through marriage equality does not appear to extend to women; in both countries, women have to go to extraordinary lengths to obtain access to abortions.
My support for reproductive rights for women is not why I’m here, though. Today, I am going to talk to you about transgender ideology.
I myself am not transgender; I am transsexual, and there is a difference between the two. Transgender encompasses a whole collection of ‘gender variant identities’. Essentially this is a product of ‘queer theory’; gender variance is the mixing and matching of behaviours and traits that society usually deems acceptable for only males, or only females, to exhibit, for example the use of make-up or clothing designed for the opposite sex.
‘Identity’ means that one becomes what one says they are *just by saying it*. This applies to transgender women, where how to become a woman is achieved only by saying so. This also results in some quite fantastic leaps as ‘otherkin’ is a queer identity, now ‘otherkin’ are those who identify as partially of wholly non-human, for example forest creatures, elves, pixies or unicorns. ‘Otherkin’ become ‘otherkin’ simply by saying that they are ‘otherkin’.
If you think it would be absurd should your best friend turn to you and say ‘I am an otherkin, I identity as a forest sprite’, how, in reality, is this different from your husband, father or even son saying ‘I am a woman’? I think this is a valid question, and I think it’s especially valid and important for women to be able to ask this question.
The key difference between being transgender and being transsexual is that being transsexual involves a meaningful transition from one sex role (or gender role) to the other, this is a social and medical transition. As I once read, the difference can be summed up as ‘the difference between being transgendered and being transsexual is that the transsexual tries to assimilate and get on with their lives, the transgendered just doesn’t give a fuck’.
Although I have drawn this distinction between those of us who are transsexual and those who identify and transgender, this talk applies to both groups.
Transgender ideology is in a right state. Its central ideas are inconsistent with each other, have little support in science or the ethics of power analysis and are so divorced from reality they require a complete suspension of disbelief in order to fit in your head. Furthermore, many of the ideas central to transgenderism just add to the oppression of, and further marginalise women; when you see someone saying ‘this is a great victory for transgender people’ think to yourself: ‘how does this affect women?’
Here are some of the things the things that transgender ideology needs to do so that it may support the lives of women:
Accept that feminism and other women’s movements do not and should not centre transgender people and to respect feminism, and this includes the ‘second wave’ without which today’s women’s rights, support structures and organisations would not exist. To accept that feminism is for and about women and girls, not transwomen. It is wrong to insist feminism centre transwomen, this forces the oppressed majority to centre the interests of part of the male oppressor class; women neither oppress nor have privilege by way of gender over trans people.
At the moment, trans issues are dominating the discussions, even causing huge ideological rifts, within feminism, yet here in the UK on 22 June there were reports of hospital statistics showing 632 new cases of Female Genital Mutilation in the West Midlands (apparently girls “are brought to Birmingham to be cut”) from September 2014 to March 2015. Women have more important things to do than debate the lives of trans people.
To drop claims to womanhood based on the discredited and scientifically unsupported idea of ‘brain sex’. This is called ‘neurosexism’ and it is this sexist idea that has been used to stereotype and oppress women for millennia. It is our bodies that make human beings sexually dimorphic and ‘brain sex’ has no place in any modern civil rights movement. Thus, innate gender identity is based on ideas with such a tenuous link to observed science it is barely a conjecture. The transgender claim to womanhood (or manhood) is completely dependent on this concept of an innate gender identity, and taking this away strips the movement of its cloak of being a civil rights movement, championing the fight of an oppressed minority, and instead reveals this to be the cross-dressing wolf of men’s rights activism, huffing and puffing at feminism and women.
To accept that sex and gender are not the same thing. Sex is a biological reality based on reproductive potential, and gender is a social system that harms women through stereotyping behaviour, by giving women the negative stereotypes and men those that are positive; gender itself is oppression, not a civil liberty. All transwomen by definition are biologically male, socialised as boys then usually ‘transition’ as adults, although in the present climate it appears to be coming acceptable for children to ‘transition’, which should be examined critically rather than accepted unconditionally. That our underlying biological reality remains fundamentally unchanged is not a value judgement, it is a morally neutral statement of fact, neither good nor bad it just is and being a woman is not a feeling or an opt-in.
Accept that men and women are socialised in fundamentally different ways, and that there is such a thing as ‘male socialisation’ and ‘female socialisation.’ To recognise that trans lives are different to the lives of women and that women are entitled to their own spaces, which should always be respected; it is not acceptable to attack women’s institutions that exist to support vulnerable women in the name of transactivism. To cease insisting that language specific to describing over 50% of the population be erased to indulge the fragile egos of the 0.3% of the population that is trans. This means respecting women’s right to be able to describe their own bodies and experiences and also getting rid of the inherently redundant and coercively imposed ‘cis’; we already have a word for ‘women’ and that is ‘women’.
To accept and explicitly recognise that lesbians are women who are attracted to women, not transwomen, and that the ‘cotton ceiling’ is sexual coercion through shaming lesbians. No lesbian is bigoted, transphobic or hateful for having boundaries that exclude transwoman. This should be respected and those who do not respect this boundary should be admonished by their peers, especially those who make their living from exploitative activities like pornography. They should also accept that the word ‘lesbian’ belongs to women.
It is unacceptable to abuse or make death threats to women or other transwomen on the internet. Single out the problem of male violence and stop blaming women for your difficulties, and this extends to using the acronym ‘TERF’ (‘trans exclusionary radical feminist’) which is used so much and so indiscriminately its essence and meaning is as a term of hate. It is fine to have disagreements with others, this is what discourse and debate are all about and we can do this without it becoming a matter of life or death. It is not acceptable to shut down any debate that you cannot control.
Accept that ‘trans women’ fails in making ‘trans women’ a subset of women because reality gets in the way. Saying ‘transwomen are women’ is an erasure of the actual lived lives of both women and transwomen and at best makes transwomen appear broken. Do transwomen really feel like that? What anyway is the ‘trans’ for if that statement is true? Similarly ideas of being ‘coercively assigned male/female at birth’ immediately makes us start from a point of inferiority or defectiveness. This is not self acceptance, this is a crass denial of reality.
To have honest discussions about autogynephilia. This is defined as the sexual arousal heterosexual males feel at the thought of having a female body, and is a real thing. Presently the existence of autogynephilia is denied even though many trans people admit this is a motivation for their transition and also pornography forms a central part of transgender culture. The denial of the existence of autogynephilia is ideological, and is part of the ideology because autogynephilia reduces the central identities of transgenderism into a sexual orientation. You cannot though fight honestly for transgender rights while denying that autogynephilia exists.
Most importantly, and to end on a positive note, those who are transgender should learn to accept themselves how and as they are without shame and understand that the people they owe the most to, and can learn the most from, are women.