“Real” Women

“Real” Women

Gender Critical Feminism and The Need for Trans Inclusivity
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In the words of feminist writer and activist bell hooks, “feminism is for everyone.” However, there is a sect of feminists that seem to believe feminism is only for “women born women.”

Within feminist discussion forums and the blogosphere, these feminists are mainly referred to as Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, or TERFs. Yet, some feminists who aren’t as welcoming to transgender individuals find the term “TERF” offensive and prefer to be called “gender critical.”

“In mainstream feminism, trans people are often excluded and erased because cis women are misled by respectability politics and think that by presenting their feminism in a more ‘palatable’ way, they will be granted rights and privileges more quickly,” says Kaleb Fischbach, a 19-year-old transman from Louisville, Kentucky. “They [gender critical feminists] fail to see the interconnectedness of the struggles for individual rights.”

“Much of the transgender agenda is harmful to women and works against the interests of women and feminism,” says Diane Walsh Fortune, a 41-year-old gender critical feminist from Southern California. “I seek to abolish gender as a concept, since it is an oppressive framework that exists for the whole purpose of oppressing women. Transadvocates embrace, support, and deify the gender concept. They exist to reinforce a way of thinking that is designed to oppress women,” she continues.

“When transgender individuals claim to ‘feel’ like the opposite sex, the description of their feelings match stereotypes of opposite sex behavior,” Fortune believes.

“I feel TERFs are very miseducated on the subject of gender identity,” says Jessica Robin Durling, a 19-year-old transwoman and human rights advocate from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. “The miseducation comes from the false, and very dangerous, belief that gender identity is the same thing as gender expression or gender norms.”

Durling explains that gender expression is how one chooses to present themselves in terms of gender stereotypes, such as men wearing pants or women wearing skirts. Durling believes that these stereotypes are negative and limiting. Gender identity, she says, is when someone describes themselves as male, female, or non-binary.

“Gender identity is best thought of as the ‘sex of the brain,’” Durling says. “Gender expression doesn't make someone transgender. Gender expression is a choice, gender identity is not.”

Additionally, there are many trans people who don’t fit the stereotypes of what a man or woman should be. For instance, there are butch trans women and femme trans men. “I’m a soft butch trans girl,” Durling says. “I don’t like skirts, I find them inconvenient and I find things like makeup far too much work to put on every day.”

According to a 2015 study by the Medical University of Vienna, it has been scientifically shown that there is a distinction between gender identity and biological sex. “While the biological gender is usually manifested in the physical appearance, the individual gender identity is not immediately discernible and primarily established in the psyche of a human being,” the report states.

Gender essentialism, which is the idea that men and women have unique characteristics that qualify them to be separate genders, isn’t necessarily reinforced by trans people. Many trans people are looking to become their “true selves” as opposed to striving to become the opposite sex. The former implies that these people are seeking ways to better express their realities, while the latter implies that they aren’t content until their bodies are changed. In fact, there are many trans people who are happy with their bodies and don’t undergo surgery.

“Every trans persons level of [gender] dysphoria is different. Just because they feel they don't need a specific level medical treatment doesn't make them any less trans,” Durling states.


While feminism’s purpose is to abolish to the patriarchal system, it could be argued that focusing so much on one’s privates when it comes to defining gender actually reinforces patriarchy by continuing to make the focal point of our discussions the female genitailia. “I feel that TERFs are so obsessed with genitals defining who can be a feminist or who can be welcome in women’s/feminist spaces or not that they are missing the whole point of feminism,” says Gabriel H., a 29-year-old transman from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “The idea that something can only be done by ‘people with vaginas’ or ‘people with penises’ is ridiculous and wrong. Feminism is about equality, at least to me it is. Therefore it shouldn’t matter what is in your pants as long as you are striving for the same goals together.”

Though some gender critical feminists deny inclusion of trans women into their women’s-only spaces, they will accept trans men, as those individuals were deemed female at birth. “Not only is it misgendering, it completely discounts the male privilege and male social position I now have,” Fischbach says. “TERFs who would welcome me into women's spaces are allowing a man into their space while excluding trans women, who are actually women, and face misogyny, specifically transmisogyny, in everyday life.”

Many gender-critical feminists have been accused of being transmisogynistic. One example is Catherine “Cathy” Brennan, a lawyer from Maryland and a well-known gender critical feminist. She has done some controversial things, such as outing high school-aged queer people to their schools and posting Tweets such as this one:

Durling has personally had a negative experience with Brennan. In fact, it was an article Brennan wrote that first introduced Durling to the gender critical feminist movement. The article was published on Christmas Day and attacked Durling’s work as an activist.

“This is a woman I have never met in my life, and I was shocked that they would spend Christmas Day to attack an 18 year old,” Durling recalls.

However, not every gender critical feminist agrees with Brennan’s tactics. Joyce Hackett, a gender critical feminist and novelist from Massachusetts, believes strategies such as outing stealth queer kids or similar privacy intrusions to be a “violation.” “There's a group that seems to feel all trans women at any stage are women, if they declare they are. Then there's Brennan, who says they never ever are. Both are extremist, unworkable positions. If we're going to work together, we're going to have to negotiate,” she says.

While some gender critical feminists, like Brennan, act hostile towards those who identify as transgender, others believe that there still may be room for trans people within feminism. “I do think that anyone can be a feminist, so I have no objection to transgender individuals participating in feminist discussions,” Fortune says. “I am hopeful that some transgender individuals will see that there is room for supportive gender nonconforming and transgender people to work with women to abolish patriarchy.”

“I think that there is always a chance that everyone can work together to abolish patriarchy,” Gabriel H. says. He recognizes that not every gender critical feminist is as militant as the ones he’s come across, and believes “that with some education and time they may open their minds and realize that we are all striving for the same goal.”

Fischbach concurs with Gabriel H., also believing the compromise has to come from the gender critical side of the movement. “Trans people are already part of intersectional feminism. Trans people need not make any compromises to appease those who demean and exclude them,” he says.

Cover Image Credit: NewStatesman

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To The Senior Graduating High School In A Month

"What feels like the end, is often the beginning."
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It wasn’t too long ago that I was in your shoes. Just a little over a year ago, I was the senior that had a month left. One month left in the hometown that I grew up in. One month left with the friends that I didn’t want to leave. One month left in the place that I had called “my school” for the past four years. You are probably thinking the same things I thought whenever it came down to only 30 days left. You’re probably scared, nervous, worried, or anxious. Maybe you’re like me and are dying to get out of high school, ready to start a new chapter. Or maybe you aren’t so ready yet. Maybe you’re wishing for a little more time.

As scary as it is, this month you have left will fly by. You’ll blink and you’ll be standing in your cap and gown, waiting for your name to be called to receive your diploma. You’ll look back on your last four years at your school and wonder why time went by so fast. It’ll be bittersweet. However, trust me when I say that you have so much to look forward to. You are about to begin taking the steps to build your future. You are going to grow and learn so much more than any high school class could teach you. You are going to meet amazing people and accomplish amazing things. So, as scared as you might be, I encourage you to take that first step out of your comfort zone and face this world head on. Chase your dreams and work towards your goals. You are smart. You are brave. You are capable of achieving amazing things. All your life, the lessons you have learned have prepared you for this point in your life. You are more than ready.

There are times when you will feel alone, scared, or confused. There are times when it won’t always be easy. But those are the times when you will shine the most because I know you will work through whatever problems you may face. Don’t think of the bad times as a terrible thing. Use them all as learning experiences. As author Joshua Marine once said, “Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”

You might think that this is the end. However, it’s not. This is only the beginning. Trust me when I say that the adventures and opportunities you are about to face are nothing compared to high school. Whether you are going to college, going to work, or something else, this is the beginning of your journey called life. It will be exciting, it will be terrifying, but it will all be worth it.

So, as you walk out of your high school for the very last time, I encourage you to take a deep breath. Relax. You’ll always have the memories to look back on from high school. But your time is now, it begins today. Embrace it.

Cover Image Credit: http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1152445/images/o-HIGH-SCHOOL-GRADUATION-facebook.jpg

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Everyone Should Care About Latinx Issues, Regardless Of Their Own Identities

It's important no matter who you are or where you come from.

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Disclaimer: As someone who is white, I am speaking on a culture that is not my own and which I am not an authority on. Please remember this and do your own research. Reach out to those who do identify as Latinx but as always, respect that it is not the job of any minority population to field all questions and educate.

People often say that no matter how old you get or how much you think you know, you never stop learning. I've always found this to be true but recently I was reminded of just how true it really is. On March 27, Bowling Green State University held their 24th annual Latino/A/X issues conference. I had heard about the conference in passing much earlier in the month and it piqued my interest but admittedly slipped my mind pretty quickly after hearing about it. It wasn't until a friend of mine had informed me that she and another one of our friends were receiving awards at the conference that I finally put it on my calendar.

As I looked through the program at all of the different events scheduled for the day, the first to catch my eye was a theatrical performance called Spanish Ohio: Reflections on loss, gain acceptance and belonging moderated by a Bowling Green professor and friend, Emily Aguliar. I can confidently say that I have not, in a long time felt so confused and lost in a theatrical setting in a long time. The performance was presented in about 90% Spanish and 10% English and having little more than a basic understanding of Spanish from my high school days, I was able to understand a few key words or phrases here and there but more I just found myself intrigued by what I didn't understand...which was a lot. At the end of the performance, there was a sort of Q&A; where we as the audience could ask questions to the performers. During which time an audience member made a comment that really opened my mind.

She had said that it was important for people outside of the Latinx community to be lost in that moment. That the not understanding was what so many people whose first language isn't English feel all the time.

This statement really hit me hard and stuck with me. Even though I was at a performance at my college where I knew that I was safe, secure and taken care of, not knowing what was going on around me was overwhelming and a little unsettling. Not because I fear the existence of languages other than English, but because I felt as if I was expected to understand and take away things that I simply couldn't. And the fact that people move about in the world feeling like this every day in a society where they are not looked after or cared for was a painful but oh so necessary realization.

People are being forced to exist in a place that doesn't make it easy for them to do so. All too often the one piece of 'advice' given to those who speak any language other than English is simply to 'Just speak English' as if it is more important for the majority to feel comfortable and unthreatened by the existence of a language outside of our own than it is to respect the culture, language, and diversity of the Latinx community.

This conference really opened my eyes to the struggles of the Latinx community but at the same time, it highlighted and celebrated the achievements as well. I was lucky enough to be able to see two women who are very important to me receive awards for the work that they've done in and around the community. Both of these women are beyond deserving of the accolades they received. They are passionate, strong, opinionated women with knowledge and heart and I was thankful to be there to witness both of them receiving the recognition that they so deserve. It is SO important to recognize the contributions of people who have been pushed to the sort of outskirts of the conversation so to speak and I can say that it was very moving for me to see my friends as well as the others at the conference reveling in their identities and their cultures.

This is how it should be at all times, not just at a conference.

People should feel comfortable in their identities and people who are in positions of privilege should be using their voices to amplify the marginalized. I am so very thankful to have been able to attend this event and learn and grow in my understanding of culture, identity, and people. So, thank you to BGSU and LSU for putting in the work to make this possible for everyone, and to Emily and Camila-I'm proud of you both! Amplify the marginalized and underrepresented and never stop learning everything you can.

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