It’s a shit life being a woman. With all the other complexities of who I am and how I was raised, I understand at many levels how many people will trample on you to keep their own masculine ego, finances and dominance over you. I’m also a Pakistani woman, and I organise avidly against racism and fascism, while experiencing it. Again, I see the patterns of abuse racists and a racist state use to keep POC down. I take them as warnings and depressing battles to fight, but the TERFs, Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, they’ve taken them as guidance. These are ‘feminists’ who want to exclude trans women and people from feminism.
First things first — I’m a cis woman. This means I was assigned the gender at birth which matches who I am. Our trans family have a very specific and incredibly dangerous struggle, and there is absolutely no one better to discuss this than them. What I’m doing here is trying to do some labour to take the pressure off and debunk all the hate speech from TERFs about trans people as a cis woman — the apparent ‘victims’ in TERF eyes.
What I want to do here is break down TERF arguments, and hopefully educate people who aren’t that clued up on these issues.
Trans women aren’t women.
Trans women are women, all trans people are entirely valid. The undeniable science, history and international variation of gender is immense. TERFs want to revert back to a Western 1930s gender essentialism, girls with long hair and bows on one side and men with short on the other. While this was part of exactly what feminists fought against for years, now that TERFs face so much evidence and a growing narrative around trans people, TERFs would prefer to dismantle that work and rely on patriarchal gender definitions.
Othering trans people, misgendering them, calling them ‘crazy’ and other forms of oppression have fatal effects on the trans community, which is precisely why we need to stand up and be vocal on the issue.
Denying that trans women are women is usually done in a bit more of a subtle way than openly admitting it. When TERFs say things like “male stature person”, do they mean Ronda Rousey, or do they just mean “‘trans women are men”? When they say “attacks on women’s services”, do they actually mean “I don’t consider trans women to be women therefore they shouldn’t be able to use women’s services”? Scratch the surface and you’ll soon see.
Women’s services will be negatively affected.
Women’s services must be fought for and always include trans women, because they are women. We should be alarmed at the degradation of an already scarce system of support for women, and the non-existence of support for trans people. Considering the vulnerability of the community and how rare organisations like LGBT Switchboard are — and how they rely on donations — it’s a terrifying reality that the state does so little to help. Gender reforms might be able to change that, we can start making long overdue steps towards inclusive support, and fight tooth and nail for services for all women.
Including trans people in getting the services they are entitled to does not erode the rights for any other woman — similarly housing refugees doesn’t take away from support for the homeless in England. Your anger needs to be with the state, campaign against your local council and the government, or you know, dismantle the terrifying capitalist system.
Men will take advantage of reforms.
Logic: Then we better get back on it actively fighting violent men, particularly considering that trans people are particularly vulnerable to their abuse. This reform is still being drafted so let’s pitch in to make sure all women are kept safe.
TERFs: Either think trans women are men and are low key sneaking that bigotry back in there, or just feel men shouldn’t be held accountable because their hatred of trans people now succeeds their ‘feminism’.
Pretend feminism™ is utilised really well by groups like the EDL, which is where TERFs may have got their influence. They claim their main gripe with Muslims is grooming gangs and the abuse of women and children. They don’t work with Looked After Children, they don’t work at women’s refuge centres, they don’t organise like Sisters Uncut to address state misogyny and class war. But they do proclaim to be feminist enough to use the abuse to feed their agenda. Obviously, abuse cannot be racialised: white abusers and indeed organised white abusers (Operation Yew Tree and Catholic Church spring to mind) exist in abundance. Similarly TERFs want to scare you into thinking trans people are trying to hurt and abuse cis women, despite evidence showing the opposite: cis people are abusing and hurting trans people at an alarming rate to the social norm of trolling children’s charities.
One particular area that TERFs seem to focus on is that these reforms will mean ‘men will suddenly identify as women to enter women’s prisons’. When trans people are wrongly put into a prison not of their gender the abuse that they endure is nothing short of harrowing. This is a fatal issue, and one which has evidence. That’s the issue we need to be worried about.
Unsubstantiated rumours about Ian Huntley or ‘insert famous criminal here’ trying to reassign their gender to get into a women’s prison aren’t real and this is barely an issue. Women do murder and commit sexually violent crimes, including against women, and these women go to women’s prison — which FYI is no picnic (this is me trying to push down my total belief in demolishing the current prison system just for the sake of this argument).
All women, including trans women, should be afforded the same basic right in going to a prison of their gender. People should never be punished for being trans.
Cis spaces for cis, trans for trans.
The crux of racist thinking, regardless of whether they mask their racism behind religious hatred or full on ethno-state talk, is about a victim dynamic. White people being slowly wiped out or their culture eroded by the immigrant threat. They want to maintain a status quo at the very least. TERFs believe that “their” people (cis women) are under attack from trans women and people, the rights they fought hard for being attacked by the trans threat.
“It’s not like I hate Black people, but they should be kept away from our children and go back to Africa. I mean cis for cis spaces, trans for trans spaces”.
This claim is usually said alongside:
“Well they might not be able to empathise or understand what it’s like to be in the girls changing room at swimming when they were 7 or very specific genital related chat”.
Guess what, women’s experiences are diverse. I can’t fully understand the cultural and life experiences of women all over the world, it does not make them or me any less of a woman. If someone talks about their mastectomy with me I don’t shut down and walk off because that’s not a physical thing I know, because I’m capable of using my ears and brain. Genitals do not a person make, and this is where they’re trying to take the conversation back to. However, of course the trans experience is very specific enough to warrant spaces, especially when as we’ve covered, cis people are harming them.
So I am entitled to a space for women of colour, and I’m also entitled to a space for all women — I’m not saying this issue is the ‘same’, I’m drawing very crude comparisons to break this down.
Stewart Lee summary.
When I hear cis people and TERFs pretend to be super-scientists who can boil down incredibly complex science and centuries of social science down to “crazy men”, I always think of this bit.
I don’t know anything about anthropology, anthrobiology, genealogy, gender studies, anatomy, embryology, endocrinology, meta psychology, paedology, physiology, history, sociology or sociolinguistics but I think; what if there were only two genders?