Why has the trans/sex/gender debate emerged at this moment?

(183 Posts)
UptheChimney Sun 06-Jul-14 08:31:53

That's it: what is at stake that this argument/attack on feminists from trans people has emerged at this moment?

As a late 70s feminist, my experience of trans issues was that there was huge discrimination for those who didn't fit into heteronormativity, and I could see how lesbian & gay people had much in common with trans people. And with feminists.

Solidaritry wasn't uniform: while lesbian feminism was very strong, gay men were pretty misogynist -- and elements of the male gay movement still are -- the non-monogamous etc etc versions of "gay lifestyles" are pretty masculinist in a very unreconstructed way: the idea that men are driven by sex, and should have the freedom to have sex when/where/whatever. But that's another thread.

So what are the views on why this battle between trans people and some feminists? Is it another "What about teh menz?" Is it because women are expected simply to care about everyone else?

Ideas? Views?

Hazchem Sun 06-Jul-14 09:06:57

I'd be interested to know others thoughts on this too. I can't offer any idea or information.

Safeinourbubble Sun 06-Jul-14 09:18:59

The chapter in Andrew Solomon's book "Far from the Tree" on transgender children was one of the saddest and hardest to read. The inhumanity and lack of compassion he described was horrifying.

Sometimes these things appear almost random - the same argument will have been put forward before but not got the publicity. Some people seem to revel in a level of incoherence. Lots of us generalise from our own experiences and misinterpret the bigger picture. Some people are just ignorant and while they have a right to speech, that does not mean I have to take them seriously. Now if the media does, what does that say?

DoctorTwo Sun 06-Jul-14 11:11:57

My reading of it is that at RadFem 2013 there were some transactivists who demanded access, which was denied. At the time I thought that was wrong, but having had nearly a year to think and read about it I've changed my mind. There are a few reasons for this change: the need for women only spaces, the danger of 'uninvited penis', the fact that these transwomen were raised as boys with all that entails, so male privilege, entitlement etc.

Also, if transactivists are allowed to derail feminism then it's a win for patriarchy. Obviously this is only my opinion, not fact, so...

Transactivists are demanding access to women only spaces, they're also insisting that transwomen who identify a lesbians have access to lesbians' bodies, and those lesbians who won't fuck them, which is all of them because, durr, penis, are bigots and haterz. They point out that some lesbians use strap ons and dildos during sex and ask why not a penis? completely disregarding the fact that a penis is completely different to a strap on, and the lesbians who I know don't want to be near a penis.

I've probably oversimplified things, but somebody or bodies will come and correct me or expand on my outline.

Social media? Legislative changes redefining significant words, possibly without thinking through the implications of doing so?

But if anything, I'd say most significant is the emergence of online communities of interest, where people with similar outlooks and experience gather together and reinforce each others' points of view. Finding solidarity and support, but perhaps also creating an 'us and them' situation. Both with transactivism and radical feminism.

They clash, each gets more frustrated with lack of common ground, and so the cycle continues. Transactivists validated by their socialisation as male and therefore the primacy of their own experiences, radfems validated by their experiences as women.

CaptChaos Sun 06-Jul-14 12:06:32

I agree with Buffy but would add that the explosion into public consciousness of the MRA agenda has also helped. MRAs were the main protagonists imo with the Radfem 2013 drama, and they co-opted trans*activists into their row.

There are men and women out there in internet land who truly hate and fear feminists, they now have a platform and a group to use as a front.

There are men and women out there in internet land who truly hate and fear feminists, they now have yet another platform and a group to use as a front.

TiggyD Sun 06-Jul-14 12:52:15

I think there comes a time for all minorities/oppressed group where they go from keeping quiet and keeping their heads down to being happy/proud to be what they are. Suffragettes, Rosa Parks, the original Stonewall, gay prides, etc. I think the internet helps bring people together from these groups, but I think trans people were always due to burst forth from the shadows around now.

TheWanderingUterus Sun 06-Jul-14 13:06:57

I think there has been a growing visibility of trans issues, which in many ways I think models the path homosexuality took. Repressed, discriminated, feared thirty years ago etc to the point where we are now where it's not 100% respected and de stigmatised but where it's 'allowed' in societal terms. As another stigmatised minority group who have seen others win rights, transactivists have now moved into that fighting position.

I also think that it has been taken up by the new younger generation of feminists who see a new edgy battleground to fight on, one that is very different from third, second and first wave feminism. A lot of the older battles are tired and still haven't been won (or we have been told that they aren't important, or aren't even battles at all), this is an exciting new one around direct discrimination that has generated reams of current discussion and a whole new set of language. A lot of these younger women perhaps haven't had the feminist conscious raising that often comes with motherhood or the shock when youth/beauty fade.

There has also been a current popular wave of discussions around gender theories and it's cultural constructions, epitomised by things like the popularity of Cordelia Fine's work, Let Toys be Toys and the Pink Stinks campaign etc. All this has generated a great deal of discussion about acceptance and identity, fluidity of gender boundaries etc. To be see as tolerant and accepting of self-defined identity rather than racist, sexist etc is now more important than it has been in the past. All of this is positive but it's easy to accept and welcome this new tolerance without perhaps thinking about where it might be taking us. The ideal of a brave new world where we all live peacefully and acceptingly is wonderful, but I think it ignores the fact that battles still need to be fought for women.

ReallyFuckingFedUp Sun 06-Jul-14 13:14:41

Rosa parks, suffragettes, gay pride. That was all about equal rights. It was never about getting a group you see as oppressing you to actively take up your case.

If trans activist really see radfems as a hate group it would have been like Jews insisting nazis take up their cause. There are no black people demanding access to the white power movement. Radical feminist don't appeal to fundamentalist Christan men's groups to champion our causes.

So why do they want access to radical feminist groups? Why are they so confused that radical feminist don't want to work for them? Is it because they aren't actually at all oppressed by women and are confused that there are women who don't feel they have bow down to them?

CaptChaos Sun 06-Jul-14 21:15:32

I'm interested to know how it is that it's been feminists keeping trans*people oppressed? And, as it hasn't been feminists, why is it feminists who keep being told to die in a fire?

ArcheryAnnie Mon 07-Jul-14 12:42:09

Suffragettes, Rosa Parks, the original Stonewall, gay prides, etc.

I'm really tired of a homophobic, misogynistic movement being compared to Stonewall and the Suffragettes. The appropriation of the Civil Rights movement doesn't sit well with me, either.

CrotchMaven Mon 07-Jul-14 21:14:10

Why now? Because women's rights are under threat of being removed, the situation is worse now than it was 20 years ago and transactivists are creating a situation where feminist discourse is being distorted when it is very much needed. As elucidated very clearly on the recent threads relating to trans issues.

I don't know how to ask this without seeming challenging, but please trust me that I ask in good faith - as a late 70s feminist, what did you think when the GRA effectively abolished the meaning of "woman"?

MontyGlee Mon 07-Jul-14 21:24:06

I don't really understand why some feminists are threatened by the issue; trans women face just about all the inequalities, judgements and abuse that we talk about, but far far worse.

CrotchMaven Mon 07-Jul-14 21:50:42

No, they don't. There are threads and threads and threads explaining that and everything else about why there are threads and threads and threads.

Do you want some links?

MontyGlee Mon 07-Jul-14 22:02:17

No doubt people that spend a lot of time in the library have found some good arguments why not, but in the real world of course they do.

Taken seriously professionally? Hardly?
Everybody thinks your body / sexuality is their business? Check.
Constant threat of physical attack? Yep.
Joked about / lewd suggestions? That too...
Treated completely differently, usually negatively? Bloody right.

The list goes on. Some people need to check their privilege.

almondcakes Mon 07-Jul-14 22:05:58

CrotchMaven, did you enjoy the tour?

CrotchMaven Mon 07-Jul-14 22:07:48

We've just been through all of this.

CrotchMaven Mon 07-Jul-14 22:10:10

almondcakes, yes I did! I'm still feeling a bit overwrought about how marvellous Yorkshire looked and was over the weekend.

almondcakes Mon 07-Jul-14 22:12:56

I didn't go, due to work, but passed through the crowdsto get there. The atmosphere was amazing, plus beautiful weather. I'm glad everyone got to have a good time.

Romeyroo Mon 07-Jul-14 22:22:35

Crotchmaven, I am not sure I was aware in 2004?6?that the GRA had effectively abolished the meaning of 'women'. I had just become a single parent in difficult circumstances and my world was very insular for a while. I do remember feeling very confused, if I am honest, because of the conflict between wanting to support people with body dysphoria (sp?) and thinking, 'but you can't just become a woman?!?'

Nonetheless, the law recognises transwomen as women for legal purposes, it does not mean they are women. What is the difference? I was in a predominantly male meeting where the following story was told. I had just re-entered the room so I don't know the background (anecdote, blog, joke?) and senior male colleague was recounting that there was a man in the US who told her boss that she was going transition to become a woman. She had been dreading telling her boss, but he was very supportive. He actually told her that is great as it would contribute to gender parity (women are underrepresented on the staff), women are paid less and she, as a trainwoman, was not likely to go on maternity leave. Bingo.

Everybody in the room laughed. I still don't see the joke. Who is the joke at the expense of? And what I would really like to know, is it a joke or true?

I don't know, I don't want to offend anyone, I saw a lovely programme once about a young man who wanted to be a woman. He was completely distressed and very genuine and not a threat to anyone. His mum struggled to come to terms with it but ended up helping him buy feminine clothes and 'come out' as a woman. And this is where it is difficult because he was lovely and genuine, and he didn't need to be a masculine boy or anything like that, but I didn't and don't understand why he could not just be [name] however he wanted. But then I also don't know what it feels like to look at a part of your body and think, that should not be there.

Romeyroo Mon 07-Jul-14 22:24:38

Sorry I wrote that long post before I read the comment about having been through threads and threads of this, and the diversion onto the tour. Apologies...x-post ignore

almondcakes Mon 07-Jul-14 22:26:53

Romey, don't apologise. It was interesting.

CrotchMaven Mon 07-Jul-14 22:32:47

Romeyroo, don't worry! I was feeling irritated by the challenge from MontyGlee. There are recent threads that I could link to if you have hours to spare grin

I was in difficult circs in 2004 too, hence why it all passed me by. Or maybe the debate never happened then, which is why it is going on now. Transactivists believe they are women and are blocking attempts by people they claim are ciswomen to discuss freely the issues that affect women born as women. It's a mess.

And your story is something that feminists have a huge problem with. The joke was on women. Because they could maintain the status quo whilst seeming "PC". Or human, using another term.

Dervel Tue 08-Jul-14 02:06:24

With the disclaimer that I'm wading into something I have next to no idea about I have a question or two with absolutely no agenda beyond aqainting myself with the situation, and if there is a frustration over going over old ground just pointing me in the direction of another thread would be greatly appreciated.

Isn't gender disphoria a condition where you are born the wrong gender? If so aren't transsexual women basically women? Vice versa transsexual men. I can also appreciate this is an absolute clusterfuck of confusion all round? Irrespective of biology I can hardly imagine we're anywhere close to singing from the same hymn sheet on this, but wouldn't female identifying transsexuals often be naturally on the side of feminists? I must be missing something crucial.

I can imagine there could be some issue over female only spaces like changing rooms etc, I don't think I'd be all that fussed with a male identifying transgendered person changing in the men's with me, but I can also see the context is different I'm a man and not traditionally preyed upon.

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