Here’s a transcription of another part of the podcast I did recently for Feminist Current. There’s a growing rift between what I would call the mainstream Transactivist position and the gender critical trans position. With some exception, there’s little engagement across the divide and those of us who are gendercrit find ourselves branded ‘TERF’s or ‘transphobic bigot’. I’m going to elaborate on the later point I make about bullying at some point, as this is a tactic that is used to keep people in line.
FC: Why do you think there is so much hostility towards gender-critical feminists from transactivists?
I think it is fear: if so much of your substance is invested your idea of gender, then an analysis that deconstructs gender could appear to be a very real threat.
Part of what’s at fault here are differing definitions of what gender actually is. A lot of transactivists argue that gender is innate. What I think they mean is that their personality is innate, which could of course to some degree be the case, but when there is talk of gender being a social construct, what is meant is that gender labels some personality traits as masculine or feminine, and then encourages or discourages these based on the genitals we are born with.
I think it is a good idea to take some time to think what it would actually mean should feminism prevail and we actually lived in a post-gender world, what this would look like? There seems to be a mis-characterisation that this would involve a world where everyone has buzz-cuts and wore khaki muumuus(!) but without gender, we would still have all the stuff of human life. The difference is, access to this would not be limited based on sex.
Differing understanding over what gender means aside, disregarding my own personal convictions I would find it very difficult to argue the transactivist’s side. I cannot argue it because it is not an honest argument: transwomen are male, this is true however you try to unpick it, whether semantically or biologically. We have not ‘always been women’. It is clear also that socialisation is actually ‘a thing’ which starts shortly after birth, and there you have it, women and transwomen have different life experiences. Transwomen are not women.
Removing that comfort blanket, we are forced to come to terms with what is, in reality, an inconvenient truth. Don’t underestimate the fear of doing that.
FC: Do you see a resolution? Like, is there a way for us all to work together or at least stop the attacks and no-platforming? What would have to happen in order for there to be some peace?
That’s a very good question. I feel there has to be honesty and willingness to debate on both sides. Although this is not about life and death, it does fundamentally question what is means to be trans and I think this inherently causes a problem in that to come to any debate, you have to be able to argue your corner.
There is the real fear individuals have in challenging these ideas within their own communities. I have seen what happens when transwomen embrace gender critical ideas: they lose friendships (what sort of friendship anyway is based significantly on ideology?) and are ostracised from their community. They are harassed online and subjected to abuse by those who see them as a ‘Quisling’. They are left with few people to turn to.
We therefore have intellectually void ideas that are held in place through fear, bullying and coercion. Right or wrong, how on earth is this acceptable under any circumstances?