Trans exclusion is not radical

Transgender-exclusionary radical feminists, or TERFs, are a group of people defined by their disdain for transgender people in feminist discourse.

by Hayden Smith
Staff Writer

When it comes to radical feminism, the “radical” aspect brought to mind is typically one of inclusive, intersectional liberation. Radical feminists decry popular feminism or “white feminism” by arguing that it excludes many women and only uplift those who are already in positions of power, namely white, wealthy women. They call for destruction of oppressive institutions and freedom for all women, regardless of race, creed, class or religion.

Radical feminism is defined by its inclusiveness, which begs the question: why would “feminism” built on exclusion claim to be a subset?

Transgender-exclusionary radical feminists, or TERFs, are a group of people defined by their disdain for transgender people in feminist discourse, specifically transgender women. They claim to be “gender critical” by espousing the same rhetoric as far right conservative lobbies: the idea that one’s assigned sex at birth determines one’s gender.

TERFs frequently argue that because trans women were assigned male at birth, they somehow do not experience misogyny and are granted male privilege, whereas transgender men, assigned female at birth, are traitors to the cause.

Trans-exclusionary “feminists” undermine the very underpinnings of radical feminists by claiming that our bodies define our destiny. This is the same argument used by anti-choice protestors, religious extremists and garden-variety misogynists to claim that women should “know their place” in society as inferior to men.

The notion that trans women experience male privilege is laughable. Cat-callers don’t ask for someone’s chromosomes or birth certificates before harassing them, and if a trans woman identified herself as such, it would likely only incite further violence.

Looking at statistics, nearly half (48 percent) of all transgender people reported being denied equal treatment, verbally harassed and/or physically attacked in the past year because of being transgender, according to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey.

Transgender people are an at-risk minority, and with at least half of our population being women, why should they not be included in radical feminism? Why should they not be invited to fight for freedom and equality for themselves and all other women?

It’s hard to make an argument about feminist discourse in relation to transgender people when most TERF arguments are simply re-hashes of garden-variety far right transphobia. Claims that womanhood depends upon reproductive body parts is just a fresh coat of paint on the idea that infertile women or women who suffer from breast cancer are somehow “missing” their womanhood.

Stripping someone’s inherent value and identity down to their body parts is not something a feminist does. It’s something a sexist does.

Feminism is not and has never been about what body parts you have. Feminism is about freedom from oppression and freedom to choose your own path regardless of your body. In that way, true radical feminists can see the strength in trans people and accept transgender women as their allies. Any so-called feminists who cannot should consider becoming a little more radical.

Copyright 2017 The Gayly – July 21, 2017 @ 10:25 a.m. CDT