There’s nothing radical about transphobia
Laura Woodhouse // 17 May 2012
Like many of you who have been discussing the issue on Twitter and Facebook today, I was angered to learn that a new UK conference for radical feminists, RadFem2012, is not only playing host to a well-known transphobe, but is actively excluding trans women from attending.
The conference is open only to “women born women living as women”. Now, I personally support and fully appreciate the value of women-only space, but that space has to be open to all self-defining women. Excluding trans women from an event that aims to build an “anti-oppressive movement for the liberation of all women from patriarchal oppression” is bitterly ironic.
Trans women suffer horrifying levels of violence, abuse and discrimination, fuelled not only by the fact that they are women, but by the refusal of the vast majority of the cis population to acknowledge and respect their identities. The organisers of RadFem2012 have actively chosen to align themselves with this majority, and in so doing are complicit in trans women’s oppression. Radical? Feminism? I think not.
Then there’s Sheila Jeffreys, who thinks that “transgenderism” is:
…a practice in which persons who do not adhere to the correctly gendered practices that have been placed upon the biological sex are considered to have something called Gender Identity Disorder and they’re expected to cross over into the other sex. Not criticize the gendered system as it exists, because that’s unthinkable but to make some kind of “journey” by mutilating their bodies and taking dangerous drugs for the rest of their lives in order to supposedly represent the opposite sex.
The same Sheila Jeffreys who has been invited to speak at a conference where discussion will be “rooted in the realities of women’s lives”. Are we sure this isn’t Irony2012? Because if Jeffreys and the conference organisers could bring themselves to listen to trans people’s stories, to try and understand or empathise with the realities of their lives, they would realise quite how ridiculously facile and patronising the above argument is.
See, when I was little, I didn’t like girlie things. I thought I would rather be a boy. But do you know what I did? I ignored or worked through the girlie things and got on with my life on my terms.
Which is far, far, far easier than going through what trans people go through and putting up with the shit they have to put up with to enable them to live their lives as the people they know they are. Clearly there’s something much more significant at play here than not wanting to adhere to “correctly gendered practices”, otherwise why choose the hard path?
Personally, I don’t care what that something is. The fact that some people know they are male or female regardless of the sex they were assigned at birth is enough for me, because I respect other people’s lived experiences. I don’t want to sit around “critiquing” trans people’s identity because – aside from the fact that this basically boils down to a disgusting debate on whether people have the right to exist – as a cis person I’m in absolutely no position to understand. And, quite frankly, it’s none of my business.
What is my business, as a feminist, is standing in solidarity with my trans sisters and fighting the system that oppresses all of us. A system of which the term “women born women” is very much a part.