There is an intense clash happening, mostly between members of the transgender community and some feminists, lesbians and midwifes.
2018 was the year, when the word and category “women” started to disappear from public places, and women found themselves in the peculiar position of being called “menstruators, cervix- or uterus-havers" and "pregnant individuals" by newspapers and official institutions. The Green Party in England refers to women as ‘non-men’ in order to be more inclusive, although the category ‘man’ remains unaffected.
In a truly stunning development across the western world, the word woman, described in the Webster Dictionary as an “adult, female person" has become synonymous with hate speech and is becoming an increasingly unmentionable word.
And yet, many people haven’t noticed anything out of the ordinary.
A new ideology, which is fueled by a small fraction of trans activists and their allies, supported by third wave feminists, postmodernists and progressives, (which has become popularized within Gender Studies classroom in the West) have decided to center its feminism around the needs and rights of transgender people, rather than marginalized women and girls.
The debate involves the question whether transgender women are women and as such, should have full access to all things women.
While it is a difficult and complex issue, and there are no easy answers, I think we will need new approaches on how to solve this to the benefit of all concerned.
The trans feminist manifesto by Emi Koyama makes many important points that I agree with.
It also states:
“Transfeminism holds that sex and gender are both socially constructed.”
This is where I disagree. While I do believe that gender is a social construct I do not believe that sex is. In my opinion, biology does define the physical reality of being a woman.
This is not a sexist statement, but the felt experience that women have the world over. Women are (mostly) discriminated against or raped because of their biology.
This may fail to address the reality of trans experiences, in which physical sex is felt more artificial and changeable than the inner sense of who they are. I acknowledge this but think the reality of biology is nevertheless true for most women. To hold the belief, that sex is a social construct, is to discount evolutionary and biological science.
That said, I don’t believe that the biological reality of being female is the only reality that counts in making you a woman. I have known both men and transgender women, who were more female in appearance and characteristics than I ever will be.
Transgender people exist, and they are real.
There are people, who, for many reasons, do not easily fit into categories. I do not doubt that some people have suffered because they were assigned the wrong sex at birth or feel they have been born in the wrong body. We need to support anyone’s right to do whatever it takes to be happy (as long as it doesn’t hurt others). Full bodily autonomy such as transitioning from male to female or vice versa, making alterations to your body in any way shape or form, and choosing an abortion are important rights of people in a free society.
We also urgently need to create more protections, spaces and healthcare for transgender and gender fluid people.
And, there are potential conflicts that arise around women’ s rights, which need to be discussed freely; democracy, free speech, and the ability to respectfully agree to disagree, MUST be taken seriously.
Discussion on the ramifications on changing laws that may weaken protection of women and children should not be silenced and considered “hate speech”.
When ideologies seek to enforce rules blindly, and put laws in place without examination of the potential consequences they may unintentionally (or intentionally) have on others, they become tyrannical in nature. These new rules are being installed all over the world as we speak.
Women, this is not a drill.
We find ourselves in a situation, where discussion around this issue, especially in public places, has become impossible.
Almost any person who raises a concern is immediately cast into TERF’S (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist) territory and called transphobic. They are being compared to Nazis and there are whole websites and social media pages devoted to hating them (punch a TERF).
People (mostly women) have been attacked, hated on, intimidated, fired from their jobs, silenced, de-platformed and threatened with rape and death, because they spoke up.
While the transgender activists who are behind this trend may be a small minority, they are nevertheless very loud, well funded and have essentially hijacked the conversation, influencing policies at universities, schools, academia, psychology and the tech world. Any objection is aggressively quelled by labeling it hate speech. The ideology has branded itself as a civil rights movement, which makes any discussion about it almost impossible.
What is new, is that this particular civil rights movement is lead by an oppressed minority of people, who are trying to take over the identity of another oppressed group of people.
Women have been trying for hundreds of years to establish their own worth in relationship to the dominating class of males - not as the same in attributes, but as equal in worth.
African American people did the same and as an example, rejected the beauty standards set by the dominant culture, and defined and embraced their own.
And so did gay people. They claimed who they are and made society see that to be gay is actually cool.
I think we need a new category: the transgender category.
Transgender women are transgender women, just as the name suggests.
I am not sure why we thought we could just absorb transgender women into the category of biological women, when they clearly are not the same. While there may be many similarities and some overlapping issues, there are also many differences, especially around biology and health.
I think it would be wise to create a new category all together, which transgender people can claim all the way for themselves.
It was kind of like that back in the 90’s in NYC, where I lived and worked alongside trans sexual women (how they called themselves back then). Most of them didn’t want much to do with actual women but they were pretty happy in their own culture and they knew quite well that they were popular and among the trend setters in the coolest city on earth.
I honestly don’t know what happened since then and why this whole thing has taken such a wrong turn and we are now pitted against each other.
The fractioning in our (left) community could not come at a worse moment in time when we want to present a unified front against the patriarchy and the right-wing ideologies that pose a threat to all women and marginalized communities.
After a new category has been created, trans women can and will become part of the umbrella term of women - what that exactly looks like in the particulars, will need to be discussed and negotiated until agreements are reached (preferable before any more rules are being written into law).
Women have worked incredibly hard for decades to ensure certain rights. Some of the rules that have been recently installed all over the world, may be endangering, or even eroding some of those hard fought rights.
1) Changes to the Recognition Act of 2004, in order to adopt sex self-identification
I am concerned that a law, that allows any male bodied person to declare they are a woman without a history of identifying as a woman, poses an imminent danger to women and girls. I have a problem with this, not because I think that trans women are a threat to biological women, but because of the potential of abuse that exists within this policy.
This law will and does eliminate the two-year-rule where men who express the wish to transition don’t have to live as a female for a period of time anymore to prove they are serious about being a woman, they can simply declare they are a woman and it is so.
I heard from a couple of transgender women who actually thought that the self ID policy should get tougher, not weaker. They fear that if this trend continues, the eventual back lash will be swift and severe.
Here I want to insert: I believe that most men are good people. Of course they are - look around and you will see them everywhere. It must be really hard to be a man these days. They try to accommodate women and do the right thing, which is unfortunately not always clear, even to women. Women want their men to be heroic and manly, and at the same time soft and able to cry. Men are often unsure how to interact and wonder what it is that women want. They walk a constant mine field - for example if they open the door for the woman, will she be delighted or offended?
That said, we all know that there are creeps, pedophiles and predators out there, waiting for an opportunity to gain access to vulnerable women and children.
It is not realistic to expect, that they would not take advantage of a door wide open.
2) Language, which centers around the biological reality of a woman, is starting to be banned in schools, universities and even midwife associations.
For example, the Midwifes Association of North America and the British Medical Association have rewritten their manifestos to suggest the erasure of all mention of motherhood or pregnant women. In a very short time, trans activists have managed to rewrite the language that is used to discuss birth and in essence erase women from it. We now have birthing people, people with uteruses and chest feeding.
It is woman-exclusionary to say birthing individual. 51% of the population are women, the overwhelming majority of whom have the capacity to give birth and breastfeed – whether they choose to or not. According to statistics on trans-people, around 0.6% of the population are trans. Let’s assume that around half of those have the capacity to give birth (only trans men can potentially give birth).
Proclaiming that the use of biological, scientific words are bigoted and exclusionary, actually, is bigoted and exclusionary in its own way.
Nevertheless, I applaud these institution’s effort to become more inclusionary, and would welcome something like “pregnant women & birthing people” (which would include trans men and non-binary folks).
Then there is a trend of dropping plays, such as the Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues in schools and universities.
Again, I would welcome the addition of plays and monologues that center or include transgender issues (Eve Ensler actually did create a whole play that was trans inclusive), instead of just dropping the Vagina Monologue. It doesn’t feel inclusive to me when there is still a large segment of the population that has vaginas.
3) I’d like to have more discussion (and actual scientific studies) about transgender women competing in the women’s category in sports.
I can’t help but feel that it is unfair to let trans women compete with biological women. It is not that long ago where women did not even have their own category, which was finally created, recognizing the difference between male and female physical abilities. There are only a few trans women competing in women’s categories today. But what is remarkable, is that they are winning and taking home the trophy across disciplines, making the fact, that there is an advantage, very visible.
Besides trans women athletes, we have an increasing amount of other titles that are won by trans women, which might rightfully belong to female born women. I am looking forward to the day, when transgender women and men proudly claim their own titles.
One woman trans supporter suggested to me that I might be secretly jealous, because trans women may simply be superior to female born women.
The underlying misogyny of this statement left me speechless.
We will most likely begin to see more examples, where the ideology clashes with people’s reality.
I wish that trans activists could see women, who are pointing out some of these early indications of emerging problems, as allies, instead of labeling them as TERFs and transphobic, so we can find mutually satisfying solutions.
4) And lastly, I am very concerned about the push in favor of transitioning children.
As far as I’m concerned, a child should be whatever he/she wants to be, which I think is perfectly natural. In German language, for example, children are an “it”, which itself points to the inherent ambiguity during the time of childhood.
It is true that the rigid reinforcement of stereotypical gender (blue for boys, pink for girls as an example) is hurting children who are naturally curious and want and should be able to explore freely. The stereo-typical beliefs about gender should be questioned frequently.
I was a classic tomboy. For more than 10 years, I wanted nothing to do with being a girl. Luckily enough, nobody thought it strange that I was running around with my male cousins and their friends, and pretended to be a boy for most of my childhood. Despite this, I eventually embraced my biology as a woman wholeheartedly, and am happy I did.
I do have concerns about putting children on hormones, which may interfere with the healthy development of their bodies, or permanent surgical alterations before they have a chance to find out who they really are.
I wish we could go back in time and learn more from the native peoples who had a different way of living with gender fluidity. While some of their wisdom is alive today, the term “two spirit” was coined in the 1990s from queer Native American scholars who were tired of using the derogatory European words and descriptions of the gender fluid people they wrote about when encountering Native American tribes for the first time. There are historical accounts from over 150 tribes including these types of people, living as "normal" people amongst them. Some of them had celebrated or special roles as gate and wisdom keepers, some didn’t. Each tribe had their own word for gender fluid people, many of which have been lost. It was an accepted way of life (thank you Marca Cassity).
I hope that at some point we will create a world where the spectrum of gender fluidity is recognized, where everyone is invited to express themselves on the gender spectrum however they want, without fear of discrimination.
I am asking everyone to join the conversation now. Don’t wait until things escalate any more!
Have it and remind each other that we are all fighting for the same things - human rights, dignity, safety, expression, and freedom, and encourage each other to really listen with respect (which is the basis of all yoga).
Respect is the foundation for Love. Love thrives on respect. I believe that only love can solve this problem.
So let us start with respect and find solutions that benefit us all.
Thank you for listening.
I wish you a meaningful 2019