Content warning, in case the title didn’t tip you off: this post does discuss anti-trans bigotry and the arguments used in it. It focuses on bigotry and exclusion against trans women in particular, as that is who I’m seeing it directed against at the moment. If you don’t know what ‘trans’ refers to, there are couple of 101 links in this little collection. (In fact, you should probably just read the stuff in there and not this post, because most of the links in there were actually written by trans people.)
As a cis person (check that little link above if you don’t understand that term), there’s obviously a limit to how much I can usefully say about this. I’m writing it anyway, partly as a ‘cis people educating cis people so trans people don’t have to’ thing; partly because feminism is important to me and it’s ‘my’ lot who are causing all this fuckery, so it’s up to ‘us’ to stop it; and partly because I’ve also been seeing tweets calling for better outreach rather than gleeful call-outs. As hilarious as it is to tell a ‘I’m not transphobic, but…’ shithammer ‘that is literally transphobia, you shithammer’, it likely won’t change their mind, so maybe this post is a shot at redeeming myself too. I hope I haven’t said anything wrong in this post, but of course never feel afraid to call me out if I have.
Maybe it’s always been this prevalent and I’ve just not noticed it before, but it does seem as though there has been a recent surge in public anti-trans bigotry in feminism. (It has been suggested to me that it’s no more frequent but is becoming more noticeable as it ceases to be the status quo.) I’m seeing a lot of hand-wringing guff about respecting all women’s opinions, as if feminism means that we can’t disagree with anything a woman says. It’s not ‘just another opinion’ – anti-trans bigotry is antithetical to feminism and must be removed. This is not ‘splitting the movement’. “All feminist concerns are also transgender concerns, and vice versa. There are no feminist dialogues in which trans voices ‘don’t belong’, or to which trans voices have ‘nothing to add’. There are no social issues related to gender that don’t have consequences for trans people.” (Natalie Reed) Removing things antithetical to the movement cannot be splitting it. Feminism is not a monolith, but surely it should be obvious that it cannot be compatible with “declaring categories of women to be not women”. (@ksej)
Anti-trans often crops up under the name of ‘radical feminism’. (People who adhere to this are often referred to as TE(R)Fs: ‘trans-exclusionary (radical) feminists’. Conveniently, the ‘F’ could easily stand for ‘fucker’.) There is nothing radical about it. Trans-hostility is “actually the norm. That is antiquated. It’s traditional.” (@scATX)
What are anti-trans guffbeaks actually afraid of? Usually it’s some panic about ‘but changing rooms!’ or ‘but public toilets!’ I used to work in a clothes shop. We had unisex changing rooms and nothing weird happened. Apart from the people who used the place as a toilet, but I don’t think that would have been prevented by gendered changing rooms. Furthermore, it’s not as though existing toilets have a force field that prevents anyone not of the door pictogram’s gender from getting in. Do TEFs really think that trans women using women’s toilets will lead to cis men disguising themselves as women so they can use the toilets too? If so, what the sugary fuck? That’s quite a worrying insight into the machinations of their minds.
One TEF’s argument with me was that ‘children are taking drugs to make them infertile’. I don’t really know what to say to that, because it makes fuck-all sense. Were they referring to Sweden’s anachronistic requirement that says a trans person must be sterilised before they can receive gender reassignment surgery? That’s actually been lifted.
The usual argument from TEFs is that trans women are ‘really’ men, and therefore should not be made welcome in women-only spaces. (By their own logic, trans men are ‘really’ women, and therefore should be allowed in. However, TEFs usually bar trans men from their spaces too – implying that they accept trans men’s declaration of their gender but not trans women’s. This is literally misogyny.) The argument that they are really men is usually based, to a worryingly obsessive degree, on chromosomes or genitalia. This post on Tranarchism provides an excellent breakdown of how ‘biological sex’ is a false binary and why it is not immutable, and I can’t really top it (seriously, read it if you didn’t already). As the post points out, the physical characteristics we use to assign someone a sex, such as XX/XY chromosomes and primary and secondary sexual characteristics, can exist or not exist in isolation and may not even apply at various stages of our lives. “The fallacies of binding identity to bodies, which are fragile, changeable things, subject to injury, mutilation, maiming, decay and ultimate destruction, should by now be clear.”
Some interesting examples of this are Swyer syndrome, in which a person has XY chromosomes, a uterus, no gonads, and will probably be read as female. In androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS), the XY person’s body has undescended testes, a vulva with a short vagina, no uterus, and produces but does not respond to androgens (causing little to no pubic hair growth as a result), making them read as female. It has been hypothesised that Queen Elizabeth I had AIS (link found on here – content warning for some cisnormative language), making her a cis woman with an XY karyotype. What, then, does it even mean to be ‘biologically male’ or ‘biologically female’? This post by Natalie Reed explains why pinning someone’s ‘scientific’ sex on a chromosome is arbitrary and not very sensible. “[S]aying that my completely invisible, anatomically irrelevant Y chromosome trumps everything else and dictates what my body really is. Pardon me if I don’t find that to be a terribly objective way of looking at things.”
In short: who the greasy poop are you to say that someone’s gender is invalid, or less valid than yours? How can you possibly know that better than they do? (Also, do you even know your karyotype? Have you ever had it tested?)
TEFs’ objection to trans women is puzzling given that they (the TEFs) express their desire to smash gender itself. Why should this be incompatible with the existence of trans people? Changing, remixing and playing with gender (though of course this is not necessarily how any given trans person, or genderqueer, neutrois or genderfluid person, would describe how their gender works) sounds like a suitable transitional (tee hee) demand. For people who want to get rid of gender and keep saying ‘it’s just a social construct’, they are awfully insistent that you must keep the one you were assigned. Furthermore, is eliminating gender even a desirable thing to do? Gender itself is not inherently oppressive. It’s ours to play with and use as we see fit. Eliminate gender roles, sure. (But even those would be no big deal if society had no problem with people deviating from their typical gender norms.)
A popular (and good) anti-disablism argument is that disablism is especially ridiculous because anyone can become disabled at any time. Of course, we should respect disabled people simply because humans are inherently worthy of fair treatment. This just adds a layer to it in case you are devoid of compassion and need a selfish reason. Is this not also true of anti-trans?
I am extremely confident that I will forever be a cis woman. (I’m also confident that I won’t be disabled.) But it’s possible that I might not be! It’s 2013; a person’s gender or gender expression changing is one of the more unremarkable things they can do. Much stranger things have happened. Adam Rainer was a man who was born a dwarf, then later grew into a giant. If that can happen, then it’s possible that my gender might change. So might yours (if it hasn’t already)!
Did you know that sometimes people are born with no bumhole? And doctors have to make them one? And sometimes people are born with two bumholes and doctors have to sew one up! Jesus fuck! There are people with two bumholes walking among us! Suddenly the notion of trans people seems very ordinary, doesn’t it? (That’s because it is.)
This post was partly inspired by my friend PixelGuff’s post Misogyny in Gaming: A Fat Bloke Speaks Out.