Today I had a brief but slightly worrying conversation with a co-worker, a seventeen year old girl who has just started to study feminism in school and found the subject awful. Initially shocked that she instantly hated feminism I asked her why, and she told me that it’s because feminists are horrible people and began to describe the actions and views held by Radical Feminists.
It was sad to hear that someone so young, who was still basically forming their views on the world found the very idea of feminism an awful concept, purely because of Radical Feminists. Feminism is something that should effect everyone, male or female.
Feminism should be about equality for all genders, all people treated equally. If you want women to get the same pay as men then you’re a feminist. If you think that boys should be able to wear pink without being told it’s ‘only for girls’ then you’re a feminist. If you think girls should be allowed to want to be what they want to be without being told girls ‘aren’t smart enough for that job’ or that they ‘would be better as a secretary’ then you’re a feminist. If you think men should be allowed more paternity leave to be with their children rather than just the tiny amount they are given then you are a feminist.
Feminism isn’t just ‘crazy man haters’, it’s men and women and those in-between who believe everyone should be treated equally. It’s allowing women to be treated with dignity and respect rather than as sex object. It’s about men being allowed to show their feelings and cry rather than being told they have to hide it all. Feminism should be open to all and something that the whole world aspires towards.
I consider myself a feminist. I think the world should be made a better place. I try to challenge sexism and gender stereotypes when I come across them. But sometimes I’m afraid to say that I’m a feminist. I’ve seen a lot of men claim to be feminists, even a friend of mine once proudly stated the fact, and from what I’ve seen a lot of the feminist community welcomes their support and passion for the cause. However, as a transgender woman I feel like I can’t say I’m a feminist without meeting hostility.
I know that not every feminist is against trans people, but there seems to be a lot of hatred for the trans community in feminism that it makes me scared of sharing that side of myself. Yes, transphobia comes from a small part of the feminist community, but unfortunately its a very noisy group.
My first real glimpse at some of the hatred and bile within the feminist community towards trans women was the Suzzane Moore/Julie Burchill incident that happened a couple of years ago.
Suzanne Moore wrote an essay on the subject of ‘the power of female anger’. The the piece she made a comment that drew complaints and criticism from the trans community and it’s allies.
‘We are angry with ourselves for not being happier, not being loved properly and not having the ideal body shape—that of a Brazilian transsexual.’
For a lot of non-trans people this comment was sure to have passed straight over their heads, but for those who are trans, who know a little of the struggle that trans women go through would easily find it insensitive and insulting. Transgender women in Brazil face massive amount of hatred and danger, with many of them facing serious physical harm and the risk of murder. To use a marginalized group as a flippant metaphor or joke is massively insensitive.
Moore was called out on this behavior, and could have very easily have gotten away with just issuing an apology. Instead she refused to acknowledge that she had done any wrong, even going so far as to say that if you find the words she uses offensive than it’s your fault for having taken offense. She even issued the following tweet before leaving Twitter in order to escape the backlash she had caused herself.
Things got worse when Moore’s friend Julie Burchill decided to get involved. Writing an article for The Guardian titled ‘Transsexuals Should Cut It Out’ she proceeded to condemn the trans community for victimizing her poor monstered friend for no reason. Here are some examples that show the level of hatred she felt towards transgender people.
‘I was incredulous to read that my friend was being monstered on Twitter, to the extent that she had quit it, for supposedly picking on a minority – transsexuals. Though I imagine it to be something akin to being savaged by a dead sheep, as Denis Healey had it of Geoffrey Howe, I nevertheless felt indignant that a woman of such style and substance should be driven from her chosen mode of time-wasting by a bunch of dicks in chicks’ clothing.’
‘To my mind – I have given cool-headed consideration to the matter – a gaggle of transsexuals telling Suzanne Moore how to write looks a lot like how I’d imagine the Black and White Minstrels telling Usain Bolt how to run would look. That rude and ridic.’
‘She, the other JB and I are part of the minority of women of working-class origin to make it in what used to be called Fleet Street and I think this partly contributes to the stand-off with the trannies. (I know that’s a wrong word, but having recently discovered that their lot describe born women as ‘Cis’ – sounds like syph, cyst, cistern; all nasty stuff – they’re lucky I’m not calling them shemales. Or shims.) We know that everything we have we got for ourselves. We have no family money, no safety net. And we are damned if we are going to be accused of being privileged by a bunch of bed-wetters in bad wigs.’
‘To have your cock cut off and then plead special privileges as women – above natural-born women, who don’t know the meaning of suffering, apparently – is a bit like the old definition of chutzpah: the boy who killed his parents and then asked the jury for clemency on the grounds he was an orphan.’
‘Shims, shemales, whatever you’re calling yourselves these days – don’t threaten or bully us lowly natural-born women, I warn you. We may not have as many lovely big swinging Phds as you, but we’ve experienced a lifetime of PMT and sexual harassment and many of us are now staring HRT and the menopause straight in the face – and still not flinching. Trust me, you ain’t seen nothing yet. You really won’t like us when we’re angry.’
A very small selection of some of the hatred thrown towards an already marginalised and victimised community by someone that claims to be fighting for women. As someone who had only at that point recently come to fully understand that I was transgender and was battling to try and live my life as the person I really am I read this article and it filled me with both anger and sadness in equal measure.
I was angry that someone would attack a whole group of people in such a way, to knowingly use hateful words without any apology, to justify the use of the word ‘Tranny’ by making some weird complaint about the existence of the word cisgender and the fact that you don’t like how it sounds. It made me furious that someone cold be allowed to write a hate piece in such a public and respected place as The Guardian.
Worse than the anger though was the fact that this was someone who fights for women’s rights. Someone who wants women to be treated with the same dignity and respect as men. To see how someone like that treated the trans community, how much hatred and lack of respect they held made me want to cry.
I never chose to be transgender, I didn’t want to go through that struggle, to face that level of hatred and oppression, so as a trans woman who had just began to come to terms with what that meant reading this was crushing. It gave a very clear message, ‘feminists and women will hate you, they will never respect you or see you as a woman and no one has a problem with bombarding you with hate speech.’
I came to realise that this wasn’t the case, that many people were outraged by what Burchill wrote and demanded its removal, but it has already done its damage. It made me weary and afraid of the feminist community and just reinforced the notion that all feminists are crazy, horrible people who hate anyone not born in a female body.
I began to learn about Radical Feminists, and in particular Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists, or TERFS, who regard transgender women as men, who should not be allowed to use women’s facilities such as public bathrooms or be allowed to participate in events organised exclusively for women.
Trans women are women because we know we are, we feel it in our hearts and our souls. We know it more than anything else in the world. The knowledge is so strong that even before we’re consciously aware of it we suffer. We feel pain and loneliness and depression without any explanation. We’re not the people on the inside that we’re born as on the outside. To use something of a well known explanation we have womens brains in mens bodies.
Radical feminists reject this whole idea completely out of hand though. They don’t believe in the idea of a ‘female brain’, they believe that the only differences between men and women are those made by a patriarchal society, and therefore trans people couldn’t possibly exist. If the differences between men and women, other than the physical of course, is only fabricated by society then how could we be real? Surely we’re just deluded men right?
Radical Feminists believe that if you are born male then you are always and forever male, no matter if you live as a woman, undergo surgeries or change your body chemistry. To them we’re always men, with male privilege, and being demanded to be treated as women is just us using that privilege to get what we want.
To Radical Feminists transgender women can never know or experience womanhood. We can never know what being a woman is really like. Even if we become the victims of violence and harassment based on our gender expressions, even if it’s exactly the same as a cis woman goes through we will never know the pain that women know.
Some Radical Feminists view trans women as ‘infiltrators’, posing as women to try and take down feminism from the inside. They help to perpetuate the horrific ideas that trans women will use their ability to enter womens spaces in order to attack and rape ‘real’ women. To them we’re worse than men, we’re men who mock women by becoming ‘caricatures’ of them.
So many of the ‘great’ feminists, pioneers of the movement that are so well known to be almost household names, share these views. Germaine Greer, Kathy Brennan and Mary Daly are just a few of the high profile feminists who actively spread hate about trans women.
I picked up a copy of Greers ‘The Female Eunuch’ in a charity shop, and despite knowing that she is a TERF and that there would more than likely be anti-trans sentiment in the book I chose to get it and read it. As a feminist, and someone against TERF policies I felt that it was important to not shy away from the works of people like Greer. What I didn’t expect, however, would be just how quickly the transphobia would become apparent. Not even at the end of the first page, in the damn foreword she attacks trans people referring to us as ‘men who mutilate themselves and are given passports as statutory females’. One page. One damn page into the book.
A lot of the time it seems like there’s just no place for transgender people in society.
We get treated as a sexual kink and the objects of lewd sexual desire. People think that because we’re their kink that we will always be willing and glad for unwanted sexual advances, of the random dick pics or the sexualised messages. All the while leaving us questioning if the people who show genuine romantic interest in us are just trying to fulfill some kink or if we could genuinely be loved for who we are.
We have to watch as rapists and murderers are allowed to walk free after claiming ‘trans panic’ as the reason for the violence that we receive.
We’re included in the LGBT community, even though being trans isn’t about sex or sexuality but gender. We have to watch as the other members of that community gain acceptance and rights and we’re left behind.
We stand alone as women flock together to fight for equal rights, equal pay and acceptance, all the while we’re being told we don’t belong to with them, while the men don’t want anything to do with us either. Left alone in limbo between genders, not accepted as either.
Feminists fight for equality for all, for all. There are over 3 billion women on the planet. We’re the biggest oppressed group in the world. Imagine what we could do if the infighting stopped, if the hatred and prejudice ended.
Transgender women are women too. We’re real women. We might not experience every aspect of womanhood that you cisgender women do, but we’ve had to fight through oppression and injustice just as much as you have. Maybe even more. Stop pushing us away, stop adding to the pain that we have to deal with. Just accept us for who we are. Sisters, struggling in this world just like you.