not in Primary anymore

anti-trans feminists defend the patriarchy

the patriarchy hates trans women

Anti-trans feminists say that the patriarchy wants them to redefine what a woman is to include transgender women. The patriarchy. Think about that.

It’s the patriarchy that advocates for gender essentialism. It’s the patriarchy that claims each individual should be categorized in a binary gender system based on what a doctor says at birth.

Transgender activists are trying to redefine gender in opposition to the patriarchal norms, not in defense of them.

This is what a gender non-conforming man looks like.

stop misgendering trans women

Anti-trans feminists, (sometimes called trans exclusionary radical feminists, or TERFs), praise gender non-conforming men as being important players in the fight against misogyny. You don’t see that a lot in feminist circles, so you might get excited at first.

Until you realize that what they mean by gender non-conforming men are trans women, who are not men. They are women.

how bad are terfs anyway?

This misgendering of trans women is not just something anti-trans feminists do just to troll people, dangerously publishing their assigned gender online. Anti-trans feminists have actively fought against legal right for trans people.

The U.S. government supported gender confirming transitioning as medically necessary until 1980 when certain key anti-trans feminists fought against it and won with faulty science and fancy lawyer speak.

The rate of suicide drops dramatically when transgender people medically transition. Deaths could’ve been avoided if not for anti-trans feminists. This is what people mean when they say that TERFs kill.

(As an aside, I don’t think all trans people should medically transition. That is up to the individual trans person to decide and society to give us that option).

11 year-old transgender activist, Jazz, just being a girl.

but they were never girls!

Some anti-trans feminists think trans women aren’t women because they haven’t experienced “girlhood.” This is quite the assumption to make considering that some trans women HAVE experienced “girlhood.”

Either way, to assume all women have the same experience since birth is a form of cultural erasure.

It’s true that certain issues facing trans women may be different than those of cis women. But certain issues facing Latin American women living in New England are probably different than those of the Bobo women of West Africa.

But a difference in experiences growing up does not mean that any of these women–trans, cis, Bobo, Latin American–are not women.

trans people are not the enemy

Feminists have the opportunity to discuss and fight against the misogyny that trans folks experience, instead of defending that misogyny by developing arguments to further target victims of the patriarchy.

Trans women, especially trans women of color, are more likely to experience violence against them than any group that I’m aware of. They are being harassed on so many levels, including to the point of suicide, rape and murder. Trans women are not the enemy. Trans people are not the enemy.

The enemy is the culture and system that attacks both cis women and trans and gender non-conforming people. We are all victims of this same system.

feminism is for trans folks

Some transgender people have become disillusioned with feminism due to the branches that continue being anti-trans.

But feminism, especially trans feminism and queer theory, provides us with invaluable resources in better understanding the oppression we face as transgender and gender non-conforming people.

Patriarchal norms of masculinity and femininity affect all people of all genders and are probably impossible not to internalize on some level. The questions feminists have been asking should continue being asked. Many of the concepts brought to us by feminist thinkers can continue being applied to our lives, even if we must adapt some older ideas to new facts and understanding.

We are entering a new wave of feminism where feminism is becoming that fight against all forms of oppression. Trans voices are needed, and for many self-identified feminists today, wanted in this fight.

10 Responses to “anti-trans feminists defend the patriarchy”

  1. FA

    1. First comic: The reason there’s more to being a woman than wearing a dress or having some surgery is because female humans are and have been oppressed by male humans since birth on the basis of their genitalia. Oppression based on genitals, as meaningless as it is to use them as a basis for discrimination, has been and is the factor on which all patriarchal societies are built. Children are raised as oppressor or oppressed based on what genitals they have. Belonging to the oppressed class of women, therefore, is a matter of being a biological female.

    2. Second comic: Binary trans people absolutely do not “destroy” or “subvert” the gender system. A) They assert that gender is innate and not something entirely constructed and made up to oppress women, and B) they frequently assert that adhering to stereotypical attributes of each gender, such as (in American culture) playing with dolls as a child and wearing long hair and dresses vs. playing with trucks as a child and having facial hair and muscles, are what determine gender, thus upholding the idea that looking and behaving in certain ways are unique to each gender.

    3. “how bad are terfs anyway?”: As a gender critical feminist, I agree that sex transitioning can be medically necessary. I don’t support the actions of the anti-trans activists you cited, and I’m sorry they did those things in the 70’s and today.

    4. “but they were never girls!”: I don’t know what you mean by “some trans women HAVE experienced ‘girlhood.'” If you mean some trans women are biologically male but were raised as girls, they are definitely the exception. Your point about cultural erasure is nonsensical. Latin American women in New England and Bobo women in West Africa, while having different experiences, both belong to the oppressed class of females in patriarchal societies. Trans women everywhere were raised as the privileged class in patriarchal societies based on their genitals. These circumstances are not comparable, and your point is absurd.

    5. “trans people are not the enemy”: I recognize that trans/gender non-conforming people are an oppressed class that experiences more hateful discrimination than most other oppressed classes. I would like to help stop the violence against these people, but not at the expense of erasing female oppression. We are all victims of the same system, which is why I oppose binary trans people continuing to uphold the gender system.

    I have a few questions to ask you:

    1. We would never allow a white person with no black lineage to identify as black and insist that others identify them as such, even if that person said that they have felt black all their life. Why is it different for males who say they identify as women?

    2. When a self-identified trans man acts in all the ways that are stereotypically masculine and a self-identified trans woman acts in all the ways that are stereotypically feminine, does that not just reinforce the binary that says men only act a certain way and women only act a certain way? Wouldn’t it be more effective to just say, “Fuck gender, just do what you want to do and look the way you want to look and don’t worry about a gender label”?

    3. Most trans activists push the point that if you’re attracted to a certain sex, you must be willing to have sex with pre-op trans people identifying as that sex or else you are bigoted and to be shunned. Do you even think about the implications of this? I am sexually attracted to females. If I was going to have sex with a woman and it turned out she had a penis, trans activists would have me force myself to have sex with this person anyway, even though I am not sexually attracted to her. Is this not reinforcing rape/rape culture?

    • FA

      I left out one other point. Trans people in the church frequently use the Family Proclamation, particularly the quote, “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose,” as evidence that being trans is not against church doctrine. Why do you think trans activism fits so neatly into the doctrine espoused by this backward, sexist, homophobic, conservative religious document? Because trans people uphold the conservative Christian narrative that there are only two ways of being, these ways of being are codified in gender, and certain ways of behavior can only be practiced by people belonging to the right gender.

      • Daryl

        “only two ways of being” way to completely ignore trans people who identify as non binary and other genders.

      • FA

        I specified binary trans people in my original comment. I should have specified in my second comment as well. I apologize. However, I would argue that non binary trans people/those of other genders outside the binary, while not as egregious as binary trans folks, also contribute to the patriarchy by upholding the notion that gender is innate, or even a real thing.

  2. Paglia Noir

    No ideologue is pure enough. You purge “TERFs” today, but you’re next.

    • Shelley

      If my feminism is oppressing someone I don’t yet know about, then I damn well better be next.

  3. Frank Pellett

    Thank you very, very much for the post. And thank you, FA, for being a prime example of what the post is talking about. This is one of the biggest troubles I have in Feminism. Any time it comes up there’s a retreat or discussion for women only, any time there’s a post telling “men” how they must behave to be allowed to be part of the discussion, we get people who decry non-cis persecution every other day, but when it directly effects them, they staunchly defend their turf.

    I was going to leave it for the OP, but I’ll tackle your questions, FA.
    1. Unless people start carrying around their full genetic history, how are you going to know if they are “white” or “black”? Treating people as people, not as labels, is a continuing problem. Look up articles on people who are “too white to be black” and have a hard time in their communities because their heritage isn’t believed.
    2. Since you used race before, I’ll use it again here. This is much like asking if a black person “talks white”, they are erasing their heritage and culture. Yes, there are those who refuse any gender label. There are also those who feel they -are- one or the other binary, even it if doesn’t match their genetic makeup. What that gender means to them is going to differ from person to person, and is rarely quantifiable. Just because their stereotypes don’t agree with yours doesn’t mean they are not valid.
    3. I don’t know who “most trans activists” are, but most I know believe that what you are attracted to, including genital arrangement, has nothing to do with who you are.

    As for your “one other point”, it’s much like the argument of “how can you be feminist and Mormon?”.

  4. curtispenfold

    FA, thank you for posting your thoughts, as I know you’re not alone in thinking them and its important that they be discussed:

    1. A person may have been assigned female at birth and yet later transition to a space where they are treated with a great deal of privilege for being read as a man while a person may have been assigned male at birth and later transition to a space where they are treated in an oppressive way for being read as a woman. Those whose gender is unclear or those who are read as trying to pass as one gender when they are “really” another also experience a great deal of violent forms of oppression. Either way, if gender oppression is one’s initiation into womanhood, I think trans women experience just that through transitioning, and I’ll even argue later in this comment that they begin to experience oppression just by identifying as a woman.

    2. Binary trans people at the very least subvert the cissexism of our current gender structure. They subvert the idea that phenotypical biology is destiny.

    2.A. Thank you for bringing up probably the biggest conflict with feminist theory and trans activism, which is the question of what gender is. I agree that gender is an oppressive social construct. I don’t think gender is innate in the sense that it would exist if somebody was not part of a community or that it’s not a product of a culture. I do, however, think it’s innate in the sense that for many of us, it’s an essential part of who we are, as are the social constructs of our names and families. I also think one can argue for a world where women both exist if they so identify as such while not being oppressed for being women. My view has been expressed by Judith Butler when she said, “No matter whether one feels one’s gendered and sexed reality to be firmly fixed or less so, every person should have the right to determine the legal and linguistic terms of their embodied lives. So whether one wants to be free to live out a ‘hard-wired’ sense of sex or a more fluid sense of gender, is less important than the right to be free to live it out, without discrimination, harassment, injury, pathologization or criminalization – and with full institutional and community support. That is most important in my view.”

    2.B. Some binary trans people definitely feel their gender is deeply connected to certain stereotypical behaviors. However, this entire point ignores that there are many gender non-conforming binary trans people, such as AFAB femme men and AMAB butch women.

    3. Thank you.

    4. Regarding cultural erasure, if gender is a social construct, the way that it’s going to be constructed in each culture is going to be fundamentally unique. Regarding trans women experiencing girlhood, some trans women have identified as female since they can remember. They may have been harassed by classmates and abused by parents and figures of authority for expressing that, though. Or perhaps their family allowed them to live out their gender. If their family was not supportive, however, they were still girls just pretending to be boys, thus experiencing girlhood, (albeit a less traditional form of girlhood). Even if they were able to hide their girlhood from others, the fact that they identified as a girl meant that media and cultural messages given to them about their own girlhood was targeting them. Which is why trans women can benefit so much from feminism in order to combat the misogynistic messages they’ve received their entire lives. (Not all trans women have identified as female their entire lives, however, and I do not wish to erase in any way the experiences of those who didn’t).

    5. In what way do you think helping trans people erases female oppression?

    In response to your questions:

    1. I am very interested in the ways race, ethnicity and gender intersect, especially in the way gender emerges from one’s own culture in unique ways. That said, I don’t think race and gender can be conflated in the way you’re describing. Forms of Gender Identity Disorder exist throughout the world, and yet there is no known diagnosis for Race Identity Disorder. Transraciality, if it exists, doesn’t seem to be manifesting itself in anyway comparable to transexuality. Plus, race itself is a HEREDITARY thing while gender is not.

    2. Do you feel just as strongly when a cis man or cis woman act in ways stereotypical to their gender? As for binary people just saying “fuck gender labels,” I don’t think they have any moral obligation to do what anybody else thinks is “more efficient.”

    3. If there are any trans activists advocating for what you described, than I do disagree with them for the same reasons you described. I definitely think we should be thoughtful about our standards of desirability, deconstructing them and how they’re influenced by a racist, fatphobic, transphobic, and ableist world. But we should never ever pressure anybody to be sexual with somebody they don’t want to be with.

    • Brianna

      I think it’s interesting that people assume that, just because I’m a trans woman, I’ll follow extremely stereotypically female behavior.

      Yes, I’m a woman. Yes, I have pierced my ears and sometimes do my makeup. However, I also go most days just in a t-shirt and jeans. I also sit on IRC channels, play Magic: The Gathering (actually a fairly recent hobby, not something I carried over from pretransition even) and play video games, which are not the “stereotypically binary gender roles” I’m so accused of upholding.

      And yet, if I say that, then gender-critical feminists use those things as an example of how I’m still not really a woman, since obviously those interests come from my place of extreme privilege as one of the most discriminated groups in America.


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