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Feminist views on transgender people have historically been mixed, however there is a clear trend of evolution over the years from fairly critical to more accepting. Some feminists such as Janice Raymond and Sheila Jeffreys believe that transgender and transsexual people uphold and reinforce sexist gender roles and the gender binary, while other feminists, such as Judith Butler and Jack Halberstam, believe that transgender and transsexual people challenge repressive gender norms and that transgender politics are fully compatible with feminism.

Trans individuals' views of feminism have also been mixed, ranging from indifference, to frustration with trans-exclusionary feminism, to embracement despite frustration, these attitudes often resulting from subjective experiences with various feminist attitudes.[1] In recent years, more trans women have become feminists. Famous trans feminists include Julia Serano and Jacob Anderson-Minshall.

Examples of Feminists' Attitudes Which May Be Seen As Anti-Trans Edit

In 1977 Gloria Steinem expressed disapproval that the heavily publicized transition of tennis player Renée Richards (a trans woman) had been characterized as "a frightening instance of what feminism could lead to" or as "living proof that feminism isn't necessary". Steinem wrote, "At a minimum, it was a diversion from the widespread problems of sexual inequality." She writes that, while she supports the right of individuals to identify as they choose, in many cases, transgender people "surgically mutilate their own bodies" in order to conform to a gender role that is inexorably tied to physical body parts. She concludes that "feminists are right to feel uncomfortable about the need for and uses of transsexualism." [2] In a 2013 interview with The Advocate, Steinem repudiated and apologized for her previously stated views. She stated that "I believe that transgender people, including those who have transitioned, are living out real, authentic lives. Those lives should be celebrated, not questioned. Their health care decisions should be theirs and theirs alone to make. And what I wrote decades ago does not reflect what we know today as we move away from only the binary boxes of "masculine" or "feminine" and begin to live along the full human continuum of identity and expression."[3]

In 1979, Janice Raymond wrote a book on trans women called The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male, which looked at the role of transsexuality–particularly psychological and surgical approaches to it—in reinforcing traditional gender stereotypes, the ways in which the "medical-psychiatric complex" is medicalizing "gender identity", and the social and political context that has helped spawn transsexual treatment and surgery as normal and therapeutic medicine.[4] Raymond maintains that transsexualism is based on the "patriarchal myths" of "male mothering", and "making of woman according to man's image". She claims this is done in order "to colonize feminist identification, culture, politics and sexuality," adding: "All transsexuals rape women's bodies by reducing the real female form to an artifact, appropriating this body for themselves.... Transsexuals merely cut off the most obvious means of invading women, so that they seem non-invasive."[5] Several writers have characterized these views as extremely transphobic, and indeed constituting hate speech.[6][7][8][9]

In 1997 Sheila Jeffreys published a paper that stated that "“transgenderism” is... deeply problematic from a feminist perspective and that transsexualism should be seen as a violation of human rights"[10]

In 1999, in the book The Whole Woman, Germaine Greer published a sequel to The Female Eunuch. One chapter was titled "Pantomime Dames", wherein she states her opposition to accepting trans women who were assigned male at birth as women:

Governments that consist of very few women have hurried to recognise as women men who believe that they are women and have had themselves castrated to prove it, because they see women not as another sex but as a non-sex.[11]

In 2011 Camille Paglia criticized transsexualism as a current fashion and claimed that transgender celebrities such as Chaz Bono are "mutilating"[12] their bodies and "popping their pills and shooting themselves up with male hormone every day."[13]

Perhaps the most visible site of conflict between feminists and trans women was the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. The festival ejected a transgender woman, Nancy Burkholder, in the early 1990s.[14] Since then, the festival has maintained that it is intended for "womyn-born womyn" only.[15][16] The festival ended in 2015.

Many of those opposed to the exclusion of trans women from the feminist movement or the definition of "woman" refer to those who do as trans-exclusionary radical feminists, or "TERFs". The Transadvocate has criteria pertaining to what is considered "TERF" ideology.[17] Another set of criteria are offered by the website, stating that "TERFs" "[exclude] trans people from housing, employment, education, and accommodation equality as well as local, state, national and United Nations protections."[18] The term is considered a slur by those at whom it is directed, as it is often accompanied with abusive language and imposed on the target group against their will, among other reasons.[19][20][21][22]

Examples of More Supportive Attitudes Edit

We are, clearly, a multi-sexed species which has its sexuality spread along a vast fluid continuum where the elements called male and female are not discrete.

Andrea Dworkin

In Woman Hating: A Radical Look at Sexuality, published in 1974, radical feminist writer and activist Andrea Dworkin called for the support of transsexuals, whom she viewed as "in a state of primary emergency" due to "the culture of male–female discreteness". Dworkin asserted that "every transsexual has the right to survival on his/her own terms. That means every transsexual is entitled to a sex-change operation, and it should be provided by the community as one of its functions." She further opined that the phenomenon of transsexuality might disappear in a free society, giving way to entirely new identities.[23]

In a 2014 interview, Judith Butler argued for civil rights for trans people: "[N]othing is more important for transgender people than to have access to excellent health care in trans-affirmative environments, to have the legal and institutional freedom to pursue their own lives as they wish, and to have their freedom and desire affirmed by the rest of the world." Moreover, she responded to some of Sheila Jeffreys and Janice Raymond's criticisms of trans people, calling their criticisms "prescriptivism" and "tyranny." According to Butler, trans people are not created by medical discourse but rather develop new discourses through self-determination.[24]

Trans Views of Feminism Edit

Trans individuals' views of feminism have also been historically mixed, ranging from indifference, to frustration with trans-exclusionary feminism, to embracement despite frustration. The following quote illustrates some of these feelings:

The relationship between transwomen and feminism is, complicated.

Feminists are currently divided on how they perceive us. There are those who think that only 'women born women' (as if we aren't) should be included, and there are those who believe that transwomen should be included too. Those who want to exclude us have traditionally been the majority view in feminism, but some younger generation feminists are now arguing for change in their movement. Still, it appears that those who want to exclude us continue to have the upper hand.

On the other hand, many transwomen actually want to be feminists. It is as if they see being a feminist, and acceptance by other feminists, as the ultimate validation of their identity as a woman. Transwomen who are feminists often call themselves transfeminists. In fact, there are websites dedicated to the idea of transfeminism. Transfeminists regularly join with other trans-friendly feminists to argue for trans inclusion, against old-school feminists, using the internet as their battleground.

I see it this way: I have no interest in joining a club that doesn't want me there anyway. I do appreciate that quite a few younger feminists want to welcome us into their movement, but it is clear that many feminists, maybe the majority, are still hostile to us. I feel that, in the feminist club, I would have to battle even harder to have my identity recognised than in the outside world. So, no thanks.

3 Movements, 2 Diaries, 1 Trans Woman's Message

In recent years, more trans women have actively identified as feminists, encouraged by the more accepting consensus building in the feminist movement. The following quote illustrates how a more accepting feminist movement may help trans people embrace feminism:

All those years ago I decided to reject feminism because it rejected me. I remember writing a diary entry about this in 2007. Essentially, feminism was a club where a large number of its members rejected transwomen back then.

But things may have changed. At least among feminists of our generation, acceptance of transwomen has become nearly universial. Moreover, many young feminists actually fight side-by-side with us on LGBT rights. And young trans-friendly feminists have become increasingly confident about taking on transphobic feminists, even if they are otherwise long-respected figures in the movement. Partly as a result of these changes, more and more women's colleges in the US are opening their doors to transwomen for the first time.

Transwomen who want to identify as feminists today don't have to fight for their right to do so like a decade ago. They are welcomed into the feminist fold readily by the increasing majority of trans-friendly feminists.

3 Movements, 2 Diaries, 1 Trans Woman's Message

Some (but not all) trans feminists have actively adopted the label "transfeminist". Robert Hill defines "Transfeminism" as "a category of feminism, most often known for the application of transgender discourses to feminist discourses, and of feminist beliefs to transgender discourse".[25] Hill says that transfeminism also concerns its integration within mainstream feminism. He defines transfeminism in this context as a type of feminism "having specific content that applies to transgender and transsexual people, but the thinking and theory of which is also applicable to all women".

Despite its relatively late introduction as a term, transfeminist work has been around since the early second wave in various forms, most prominently embodied by thinkers such as Sandy Stone, considered the founder of academic transgender studies, and Sylvia Rivera, a Stonewall rioter and founder of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. Other influential transfeminists are Julia Serano, Diana Courvant, and Emi Koyama. In 2006, the first book on transfeminism, Trans/Forming Feminisms: Transfeminist Voices Speak Out edited by Krista Scott-Dixon, was published.

References Edit

  1. TaraElla, (2017), 3 Movements (Feminism, LGBT Rights, Marriage Equality), 2 Diaries, 1 Trans Woman's Message
  2. Steinem, Gloria (1984). Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (1 ed.). New York: Henry Holt & Co.:206–210
  3. Steinem, Gloria (October 2, 2013). "On Working Together Over Time." The Advocate.
  4. Raymond, Janice G. (1994). The transsexual empire : the making of the she-male (Reissued with a new introduction on transgender ed.). New York: Teachers College Press. ISBN 0807762725.
  5. Raymond, Janice. (1994). The Transsexual Empire, p. 104
  6. Rose, Katrina C. (2004) "The Man Who Would be Janice Raymond", Transgender Tapestry 104, Winter 2004
  7. Julia Serano (2007) Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, pp. 233–234
  8. Namaste, Viviane K. (2000) Invisible Lives: The Erasure of Transsexual and Transgendered People, pp. 33–34.
  9. Hayes, Cressida J., 2003, "Feminist Solidarity after Queer Theory: The Case of Transgender," in Signs 28(4):1093–1120.
  10. Jeffreys, Sheila (1997). Transgender Activism: A Lesbian Feminist Perspective. "Journal of Lesbian Studies", Vol. 1(3/4) 1997
  11. Greer, Germaine, (1999), the whole woman, Transworld Publishers Ltd, 1999, ISBN 0-385-60016-X, p 64
  12. "Camille Paglia disses Chaz Bono: Says trans man is 'mutilating her body'". Xtra!. Archived from the original on 2012-11-28. Retrieved 2012-10-07. {{cite web}}: Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help); Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)May 3, 2011
  13. "Voluble radical gives old and new Puritans a tongue-lashing". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 2012-10-07. {{cite web}}: Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  14. Van Gelder, Lindsy; and Pamela Robin Brandt. "The Girls Next Door: Into the Heart of Lesbian America", p. 73. Simon and Schuster, ISBN 978-0-684-83957-8
  16. Hand, Michael and Sreedhar, Susanne (2006). "The Ethics of Exclusion: Gender and Politics at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival". In Scott-Dixon, Krista (ed.). Trans/Forming Feminisms: Trans/Feminist Voices Speak Out. Toronto: Sumach Press. pp. 164–65. ISBN 1-894-54961-9. OCLC 70839321.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  17. "You might be a TERF if…". 24 September 2013.
  18. "The TERFs".
  19. Goldberg, Michelle (August 4, 2014). "What Is a Woman?". The New Yorker. Retrieved November 20, 2015.
  20. Vasquez, Tina (February 17, 2014). "It's Time to End the Long History of Feminism Failing Transgender Women". Bitch Media. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 
  21. "The word 'TERF'". November 1, 2016.
  22. "How 'TERF' works". July 29, 2014.
  23. Dworkin, Andrea (1974). Woman Hating. New York City: E. P. Dutton. p. 186. ISBN 0-525-47423-4.
  24. Butler, Judith; Williams, Cristan. "Gender Performance: The TransAdvocate interviews Judith Butler". The TransAdvocate. The TransAdvocate. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  25. Hill et al. 2002

Further Reading Edit

  • Whipping Girl by Julia Serano
  • Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein
  • 3 Movements, 2 Diaries, 1 Trans Woman's Message by TaraElla
  • Excluded by Julia Serano
  • Outspoken by Julia Serano
  • Trans/Forming Feminisms: Transfeminist Voices Speak Out by Krista Scott-Dixon