Can someone explain the feminism - transgender clash...

(148 Posts)
Puffinity Fri 03-Jun-16 21:42:28

...in a calm, non-ranty and non-sweary manner? Until very recently, my line of thinking was 'There are some men who feel like women (and vice versa). Fortunately, we are now open-minded enough as a society to accept this, and these people can have a sex change. Their bodies will then resemble their identity more closely and they will be happier for it.' Because of this, I was quite shocked at how anti-trans some feminists are. I am inclined to think there is more to it, and it is not as straightforward a question as it may seem. Can someone explain the issue in a bit more detail to me? I obviously understand the annoyance over banning the use of the word 'clitoris' for being offensive to transwomen (MtF) and could understand why some biological women (not sure what the correct lingo is) have problems allowing transwomen (MtF) who still have a penis into women-only (safe) spaces. But how many transwomen get upset over the use of words like clitoris and uterus? Surely most would just be relieved to have addressed their gender dysphoria and would want to get on with life? And how many transwomen (MtF) decide to keep their penis? Wouldn't it be wrong to exclude transwomen (MtF) from women-only activities? Shouldn't biological women who consider themselves feminists have some sympathy for other groups that are not treated equally in society? I am not trying to create a really heated debate, these are genuine questions I have. Having them answered will help me have a more informed opinion on the matter, which does seem to crop up more and more. Your views would be much appreciated!

whenthewindblows Fri 03-Jun-16 21:46:23

Watching with interest as I have a similar PoV and have wondered about these issues.

HermioneWeasley Fri 03-Jun-16 21:54:36

Ok, here's my attempt.

Lots of trans people just want to live peacefully and get on with their lives, but a vocal group of transactivists are intent on changing laws (I believe to the detriment of women) and silencing any objection.

Currently the majority of trans people are male to trans (MTT). Most of us still think of "trans women" (TW) as transsexuals - committing to "living as a woman" (whatever that actually means), taking hormones and having surgery. Actually 70-80% of TW don't have genital surgery - most retain functioning penises. As the moment to get a gender recognition certificate (GRC) you have to have lived as the opposite sex for a period of time, and been through medical services - ie: there's a level of commitment before a man can legally be considered a woman. Even then, services are still able to be woman only where relevant (for example, rape crisis centres)

Increasingly trans doesn't even mean attempting to look like or pass as women, it just means an ill defined feeling that you're a woman. I'll attach some photos.

A change in the law has been proposed (and already enacted in 4 countries) which means instead of there being any external or medical validation, you just fill in a form in the Internet and bingo your sex is changed. Also there will be no "get out" for services based n sex. That's all - fill in your form and any man can have access to any previously sex segregated space - prisons, hospital wards, showers, changing rooms, DV shelters - anything.

Th only study of its kind (followed every post op TW in Sweden) showed that TW commit crime, including violent crime, at the same rate as men.

So for all these reasons, some of us are very concerned and are standing up to say that "woman" is not a feeling, and that places segregated on the basis of SEX should remain so, and not based on "gender identity".

KateBeckett Fri 03-Jun-16 21:54:37

I think it is to do with the idea of 'male' and 'female' brains, and gender as a social construct not being overly compatible with 'feeling like' the opposite sex?

HermioneWeasley Fri 03-Jun-16 21:56:05

More pics

NeedACleverNN Fri 03-Jun-16 22:01:18

What Hermione said

It's scary that a man can identify as a woman and access places where women should feel safe. If you have a penis, biologically you are a man.

sparechange Fri 03-Jun-16 22:02:32

It isn't one simple thing but a number of examples where a small by very vocal minority of the trans community feel that their specific issues trump those of women.

So rather than a debate about whether there is an adequate response by the authorities towards violence against women, and their ability to leave/prosecute/feel safe, we are sidetracked into discussing whether the very few remaining refugee should admit people who penises who self-identify as a woman.

Women in sport, women in prison, women in changing rooms. All hijacked by trans issues so the real issues affecting biological women become secondary discussions.

And the 'degenerdering' of female functions - menstruation, pregnancy, birth, in case it offends trans women who can't experience them.
It puts women' issues secondary to transwomen issues lest the special snowflakes get upset by being left out of period talk

As very astute people have pointed it, it is what happens when someone is born, raised, socialised and educated as a male - they expect their point of view to be the dominant one.

Puffinity Fri 03-Jun-16 22:06:32

Thanks for your replies. I would agree it is shocking that you can simply declare you are a woman and then be considered one. Also v surprised at significant numbers of men who do not follow through with the entire sex change - from my limited knowledge, I always understood that most men who identify as women to the extent that they want to live as women are actually extremely upset by their penis and other male physical characteristics. Am I right in thinking that many feminists do not have issues with men who have undergone a full sex change and live as women? As in: the idea of being born in the wrong body is not hateful as such?

Does anyone know if figures/ issues are the same for women who identify as and want to be considered men? Do most of them have their breasts removed and a penis constructed?

Puffinity Fri 03-Jun-16 22:07:22

X post with NeedacleverNN and sparechange, will read your replies now.

WatchMeSoar Fri 03-Jun-16 22:08:45

Hermione expressed my views perfectly.

SpookyRachel Fri 03-Jun-16 22:11:24

This is long, but I think it sets out some of the issues really helpfully:

www.newstatesman.com/politics/feminism/2016/05/what-gender-anyway

Personally, I think it's a great thing for people to follow the fluidity of their identities, and dismantle how we understand gender. The problem I have with much contemporary trans activism is that it is insistent that gender is inherent - that there are 'male' and 'female' brains. There is no scientific consensus on that, and I suspect the author of the linked piece is right when she suggests there is probably a cluster of different situations/experiences coalescing under the trans label. I do object to being called transphobic because I tend to think that gender is a social construct. (And I am logically consistent, though unfashionable, in that I tend to doubt that sexual orientation is inbuilt either - btw I am lesbian, though I'm fully aware that view gets me labelled homophobic.)

It's not just up to trans people to define how this works, as the meaning of gender is of crucial importance to us all. I worry that if we dismiss any concrete objectivity to sex - in that anyone can say they're a woman and claim that their subjective definition of that is The Truth because it's something they feel strongly - we lose the valuable political concept of women as a sex class. And I guess I don't know any way of accepting the idea of a 'female brain' while still arguing against gender stereotyping.

That doesn't mean I don't fully believe that trans people have been horrendously oppressed and deserve our solidarity in making their lives better. But some of the nonsense that is getting spouted - like the article I read yesterday claiming that it is transphobic to say menstruation is a women's issue - really don't help. And all this labelling of feminists as TERFS and boycotting them is getting beyond ridiculous.

NeedACleverNN Fri 03-Jun-16 22:11:36

I don't have a problem with a man wanting to identify as a woman.

But it should be clear they are a man in spaces where a woman is vulnerable. Such as a bathroom.

A woman walks into the toilet and you don't really notice. A man walks in and your back goes up.

A man dressed as a woman could actually be quite dangerous if they wanted to be

HermioneWeasley Fri 03-Jun-16 22:12:04

puffinity I don't accept the idea of "born in the wrong body"

I believe gender dysphoria is a mental illness and needs treating through therapy, not surgery. IIRC The same Swedish study showed that a few years after surgery, TW were no happier than before and suicide rates spiked. There is no evidence for male and female brains. There is no way to be a woman except biologically. You can't be a woman born in a man's body. You can be a gender non conforming or feminine man, and that's a perfectly fine thing to be. But the whole trans agenda is based on gender stereotypes, and you see it so clearly with the whole "trans kids" thing, it's scary.

whatdoIget Fri 03-Jun-16 22:12:05

I would be very happy to support men "widening the bandwidth" of what it means to be male in our society. But I get a bit pissed off when they presume to try and widen the bandwidth of womanhood by extending it to mean a bearded man in a dress. There's a bit more to us than that actually I think. I find it very very offensive that some people think wearing certain clothes can turn them into a woman. It doesn't make any sense to me and I can't help being suspicious of their agenda.
Also the famous example of a Green Party conference where it was specifically said that they would like to hear from more women and a man stood up and said he identified as a woman. Just a man in men's clothes saying he was a woman taking a woman's place. That's a BIG problem imo.

ABCAlwaysBeCunting Fri 03-Jun-16 22:16:33

My perception of it is that some trans activists favour displacing women as a way of empowering trans women.

I'll admit right here that I am not hugely knowledgeable on the politics of it, but I've sort of surprised myself by how I feel about it. It makes me angry that women who disagree with the intrusion of men into female safe spaces, or women being discriminated against in favour of trans women are shouted down and accused of hate speech.

I probably haven't articulated that terribly well. I guess it's like an organisation who needs to appoint a chairperson and they've never had a woman as a chair, yet now they have a choice between a woman and a trans woman. They appoint the trans woman to try and be inclusive, but all they've done is discriminate against the woman yet again.

sparechange Fri 03-Jun-16 22:19:02

Or what, the other Green Party example where they asked people if they identified as male or non-male
It should put everyone's backs up when there is an attempt to erase women and women's identities in case it offends trans people.

It cuts both ways though. Someone recently posted a link to an article where a transman talked about 'chestfeeding' which is how he fed he children which were born while he was living and identifying as a man.
I'm sorry, but if you are absolutely convinced that you are not a woman and that being a women is utterly wrong for you, then you don't get pregnant, give birth and breastfeed. It is about as woman-defining a thing as you can do! It isn't a rejection of anything female at all...
Yet the La Leche meetings he went to were supposed to call it chestfeeding so as not to make assumptions.

SpookyRachel Fri 03-Jun-16 22:19:32

Am I right in thinking that many feminists do not have issues with men who have undergone a full sex change and live as women? As in: the idea of being born in the wrong body is not hateful as such?

I am fine with men undergoing gender reassignment and living as women. I do worry that there is still too much of a conveyor belt taking people along a route to transitioning that involves major surgery and sexist assumptions, but I'm pleased to see more trans people challenging that and choosing, for example, to not have full surgical reassignment if it doesn't suit them.

I do get annoyed, though, with the lack of acknowledgement that living as a man for, say, 20, 30 or 40 years in any way affects one's gender identity. It seems to me that for everyone else our lived experience - as white, or as a man, or homosexual - has a huge impact on their sense of self. But many trans activists claim that they have ALWAYS been a woman, so all their experiences have been women's experiences, and they have not imbibed masculinity in any way. Seems to me obvious that someone who transitioned at age 40 may well now be a woman, but they are not a woman in the same way as I am because I have lived my whole life as one. And I would add to that that someone who transitions at the age of 10 is in a rather different position to someone who transitions at 50. Nurture, and lived experience, DOES matter and it annoys me when this is dismissed.

Puffinity Fri 03-Jun-16 22:19:54

Really interesting insights sparechange. I think the point about women's issues being sidetracked by transissues was the bit that was missing for me, it explains a lot. Interesting as well that you say that this is what happens when you are born and raised as a man. I'd have thought that someone who has identified as a woman would be less influenced by society's preferential treatment of men. These things together lead me to the next point - how are transactivists of the type described above perceived by transwomen who have undergone a full sex change and do want to live in peace? And what proportion are they?

ASAS Fri 03-Jun-16 22:21:44

As very astute people have pointed it, it is what happens when someone is born, raised, socialised and educated as a male - they expect their point of view to be the dominant one.

^this. Plus I'm still not sure how willingly the 80p to every male pound earned is welcomed alongside all the, you know, thongs and stilettos. Sorry, I know you asked for unranty.

almondpudding Fri 03-Jun-16 22:21:54

I believe that there are two 'gender' issues people can have; some have both. These are...

1. Dysphoria about their sexed body (distressed they have breasts, a vagina etc).

2. Social dysphoria (distressed that people see them as a woman).

There doesn't seem to be any evidence that being declared trans by themselves, their parents, Tumblr or a doctor does anything to alleviate their symptoms, nor does surgery. And people with those symptoms have a high suicide rate.

Shouldn't we be trying to find something that does actually alleviate those symptoms?

whatdoIget Fri 03-Jun-16 22:22:59

Yy sparechange I remember seeing a headline a few years ago 'man gives birth' amazing! Of course on reading the article, it turned out it was a woman who wore trousers and used a male name. If gender roles weren't so rigidly enforced I can't help thinking most people would be a lot happier really.

Kennington Fri 03-Jun-16 22:23:23

I understand that it is because gender is a concept that varies from from country to country and means different things to different people.
I have no idea what my gender is but I know what my sex is given that I have periods, breasts and gave birth etc....
i wear trousers and no lipstick: I am still female and don't like the idea that by doing this my sex could be in question.
It can get quite heated!

DioneTheDiabolist Fri 03-Jun-16 22:27:35

OP, not all feminists are anti trans. Liberal feminists and Queer feminists tend to be inclusive and sympathetic of trans and non binary people. Radical feminism not so much. The FWR forum on Mumsnet is predominantly Radical feminist.

whatdoIget Fri 03-Jun-16 22:27:39

There also seems to be a lot of money to be made out of selling hormones to people, rather than trying to help them to accept themselves in the bodies they already have. I read a blog where a mother of a transboy suspected a link between the gender counsellor that her daughter saw, and the surgeon who amputated her teenage daughter's breasts. There are some unscrupulous people out there and it does no good to blindly accept all this stuff I don't think.

LadyStarkOfWinterfell Fri 03-Jun-16 22:27:44

transgenderreality.com/2015/11/20/its-a-girls-dick/

Transsexual people are people who feel they would be happier living with the body and social role of the opposite sex. They don't believe they are that sex (on the whole) hence why they have to transition.
The modern narrative of trans says that you are the sex you identify as - that woman, man and in fact neither woman or man are feelings you can have independent of your body. I disagree. Woman is something we become, through both the condition of having female bodies and being perceived as having female bodies by society and therefore being socialised into the 'feminine' gender role.
Gender identity is socially constructed, not innate. The idea of innate gender identity is utterly harmful to women (and men) but mostly to girls and women. I can't support an ideology that a) has no evidence to support it b) contradicts my understanding of the world and c) actively harms women.

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