The issue of transphobia within feminism is well known amongst the trans community; and yet, this is in spite of many feminists being trans friendly, and many trans people being feminists themselves. The question here then, is why we place such great focus on those who discriminate against us within feminism, as opposed to working with feminists who support trans liberation, and as opposed to developing our own understanding of feminism as a whole?
There are many amongst us who do the latter, with there being a significant transfeminist community online; and yet when speaking of transphobia within feminism, many of us fall down by using sweeping generalisations. Let’s be clear here: when we speak of transphobes in feminism, let us not tar feminism as a whole with this brush, and let us not conflate transphobic feminists with second wave thought, for there are multiple ideological positions even within the second wave. Finally, when speaking of transphobia within feminism; it would be wrong to assume that it is unique to radical feminism, but also it would be wrong to assume that all radical feminists are transphobes. Through making such generalisations, all we do is demonstrate our ignorance as to what the word “feminism” means, and of the great variety of positions within feminism itself. Secondly, through focusing our efforts purely into fighting these transphobes, we fail to address other issues which impact on our lives as trans people, just as feminists who focus their efforts into arguing against our existence waste valuable time which could be put into fighting for women’s liberation. So, let’s stop providing transphobic feminists with a platform, and let’s put our efforts into fighting for liberation. This is not to say that we should ignore the existence of such people, just as we should not ignore any other group which specifically targets trans people in this manner. This is not to say that we should do nothing on this issue, we should of course be weary of those who do pose a danger i.e. individuals who actively seek to out trans people, or those who are in positions of influence who will seek to strip away access to healthcare, or other services essential to our wellbeing. But for the most part, a lot of our time and energy would be better spent proactively working towards liberation as opposed to mud-slinging and resorting to false generalisations.
As a feminist, and as a trans person, I see no contradiction between the core tenets of feminism and my gender identity. It is my belief that trans people are an example of the beauty of gender diversity, for our existence demonstrates the fact that you cannot define someone purely on the basis of their embodiment. The existence of genderqueer, and other non-binary identified trans people demonstrates that we should not be limited to viewing the world simply in terms of male and female, and that it is possible to live outside of societal gender roles. Equally, anti-trans discrimination, and institutionalised transphobia tell us of the gendered organisation of society. The message we receive is clear: through failing to fit the gender model set out before us, we are placed at the fringes of society.
The fact of the matter is that the very conditions which perpetuate misogyny are those which perpetuate transphobia, and we cannot hope to achieve trans liberation without first being feminists. Transphobes within feminism may argue that we are incompatible with a world in which women’s liberation is achieved, and my answer to them is that we will not stop existing just because you try to argue us away; that feminists who seek to out trans people are simply inciting violence against another human being on the basis of their gender. Let’s face the facts here, singling out another human being in this manner is not very feminist at all, no matter how much you attempt to dress it up in the language of women’s liberation; transphobia liberates no one. Let this blog mark a line in the sand, as a community, we as trans people have the responsibility to distinguish between those who misuse the tenets of feminism to preach hatred against a group which experiences gendered violence, versus those feminists who dedicate their time to achieving women’s liberation, and to those who will stand by our sides as we fight for trans liberation. Together, these struggles represent the fight for gender liberation, to the benefit of us all.
Now let us use our time constructively.