This week Everyday Feminism, an online magazine normally fairly middle-of-the-road and non-controversial, ran an article by a trans*woman in which the author a) defined “woman”, b) defined “female” c) defined “natural” and d) suggested that trans*women not only have access to women’s safe places like shelters and crisis centres, but be given jobs there so that trans*women will truly feel welcome. The fact that the author was given this very public online platform tells me hir opinions are endorsed by a majority of feminists – or that somebody is trying to mainstream them. The article, which seems to represent the current trans* political platform, reveals that trans*women are targeting women, and pose a danger to us.
First s/he defines “woman” to include biological males, that is people with xy chromosomes and penises.
I know only two definitions for “woman”. The first is biological. According to that definition, “woman” is a grown-up female. The second is sociological. A woman is a gendered social construct created by the constant interaction between a human female with innate personality potentials and a society that wants to allow her to develop some of those potentials and lose the others.
By both of those definitions, one has to be female to be a woman. I know, that hardly sounds like rocket science.
The author has also figured this out, so s/he offers a new definition of “female”. It’s a definition that may shock some. Here’s the quote:
There is no singular female body, and even though feminist movements are broadening the idea of a woman’s body to include bigger, disabled, Black and brown women, they are not doing justice to trans women’s bodies.
People use “female-bodied” to talk about people assigned female at birth, which completely erases trans women’s bodies that are female.
This is a step towards unlearning that penises equates to maleness. That our breasts, whether flat or hormone-grown or implanted, are our breasts and just as natural as any other breast.
Not recognizing our bodies as naturally female supports a patriarchal culture that defines what a woman’s body is.
I’m sorry if this is hurtful, but there is only one, singular definition of female; it’s one that applies all mammals. Female have wombs and mammary glands. Females do not have penises. These are biological facts.
If you want to remove the words “male” and “female” from the language, then you have to remove them, although I’m not sure how animal breeders or farmers would be able to function without recourse to those very useful terms. Can you imagine a rancher with a field full of steers waving away the vet who has come to castrate them, shouting “they’re not steers, they’re cows-with-penises?” Good luck with that dairy herd.
You affect the whole animal kingdom when you start redefining female as male.
Silicone is not “natural”. Enough said about that.
The author of this article is biologically male as well as male-gendered at least to some degree. The process of constructing gender begins the moment adults know the sex of the fetus or infant. By the time a child is old enough to say something like “I’m really a girl in a boy’s body”, the child has already been subject to three or four or five years of gender conditioning, a lot of it unconsciously done, and most of it unconsciously processed.
So, yes, this author is a male-bodied and masculine-gendered member of the patriarchal culture that believes males can define what a woman’s body is. And so s/he’s doing it.
Nonetheless, the author explains why male-bodied “women” need to work in women’s centres:
You don’t need to make us invisible to keep us safe. We need to be named and openly supported in women’s spaces.
If you want to ensure trans women feel safe, have openly trans women working in the space. Part of this is extending beyond theory into practice.
Instead of saying trans women are welcome to an event run by cis women, have actual trans women in leadership positions to create the events that center and support us. Be someone who offers resources and support to allow us to develop our own women’s spaces.
That’s the kind of solidarity that truly makes social change.
This is where the demands of male-bodied trans people conflict with the needs of women — aside from the fact that the author is expecting women to keep trans people safe – from male violence, of course, which is kind of presumptuous, isn’t it? Or does the author think it’s the job of women to serve male (and thus male-bodied trans) needs?
All women, feminist or not, need to consider the ramifications of the author’s demand that male-bodied trans people be given jobs in women’s organizations and spaces.
If trans*women have their way, a woman who leaves an abusive, violent husband is welcomed at a women’s shelter by a male-bodied person who does not have a shared history or culture with her. He has not experienced female socialization, has no experiential understanding of why a woman would choose a violent husband or the reasons why it would be so hard for her to leave.
If trans*women have their way, a woman who has just been raped will call a rape-crisis centre and be met with a male-bodied person who has never experienced vaginal rape and who doesn’t have the experience of being preyed on and who has not lived with the constant vigilance required of many women to avoid being raped.
If trans*women have their way, a woman who suffers PTSD as a result of childhood sexual abuse may sign up for a woman’s PTSD support group and find, when she arrives, that the leader is a male-bodied person and half the participants are as well.
If trans*women have their way, government funding for women’s organizations may well go to organizations run by and for male-bodied trans*women instead of to organizations run by and for women.
If trans*women have their way, when a woman is debilitated by illness or injury, she may share a hospital room with a male-bodied person.
And if, god-forbid, a woman kills a husband who has been raping and beating her for years, and winds up in prison, she may well share a cell with a male-bodied person. I know, it’s so cute on Netflix, isn’t it?
What I find most horrifying about this trans political position is that it completely devalues women’s shared lived experiences, experiences that shape all women in the culture to some degree or other. To the author this simply doesn’t matter – a male-bodied person with a completely different personal history and socialization is perfectly qualified to counsel female victims of male violence and to speak on behalf of such women. Yup.