Transwomen are transwomen. This should be a non-controversial identity statement. Red is red. Cats are cats. A = A. Women are women. Transwomen are transwomen. Yet in the world I am rapidly leaving behind (liberal feminism, liberalism), this is not only controversial, it is by turns bigoted, ‘transphobic’, conservativerightwingfascistnazi, TERFy, murderous, etc. etc. I’ve been grappling with trans-activism and its implications for a while now, my mind being boggled anew on an almost daily basis at the crazy-town authoritarianism of my-former-liberal-tribe and its allies. Not that they shouldn’t argue their case, which is that “transwomen are women”. Have at it, I thought. Make the case. It’s not
the case per se, I told myself for quite some time, but that those making it are so authoritarian, so rigid, so hostile to dissent, discussion, so quick name call and shame call…and so on and so forth. Until I remembered they’re all tactics I’ve engaged in, indeed anyone involved in fighting a political fight engages in. As a pro-choice activist lib-fem, I certainly never shrunk from name-calling, shaming, efforts at no-platforming, and on and on on opponents of abortion rights. In focusing so much on the way the campaign is being waged, am I not simply the pot calling the kettle a stupid unthinking vessel for boiling water? Do I really have any high ground on which to stand in terms of how the “transwomen are women” campaign is being fought? No! Do I have a non-hypocritical case to make on that score? Probably not. Which leaves what?
Clearly, the only decent thing to do is simply make my own case, state my own position, and try to do it in a better, smarter, less nasty, less oppressive (oh, yeah, and less sanctimonious!) way. Ānei:
A PLACE TO STAND (this is a work in progress…thinking is likely to change/evolve)
I’ve thought a lot about how it might be possible to balance the rights of women and transwomen (I’m focusing on that side of the sex divide because I’m a woman). It seems from the trans-activist side, anything short of transwomen = women (an identity statement of the logical kind mentioned above, red = red, A = A), socially, legally and, somehow, biologically (??) etc. etc. is all-of-the-above (transphobic, bigoted, murderous, TERFy etc. etc.) It’s all or nothing. There’s no middle ground in there. For women, the implications of this are enormous, in all spheres of life, and much has been written about them — so much so that I’m not going to traverse it all here. Just DuckDuckGo it (or Google if you’re still attached to that empire), and/or read some Julie Bindel, some Sheila Jeffries, some Meghan Murphy.
While I haven’t come up with any kind of answer to the complicated question of rights balancing, I’ve come up with a place to stand, and it’s based on the title of this post: transwomen are transwomen. It’s just a starting point; I don’t know where it goes from there.
For starters, let me be upfront, “transwomen are transwomen” means “transwomen are not women”, where ‘woman’ is an adult human biological female. Transwomen are their own thing — people, assuming it needs saying, who must be afforded their full human rights, to live free of violence, poverty, discrimination and so on.
Because transwomen are transwomen, entry into all the arenas of life organised around women as a sex class needs to be negotiated. It isn’t a given. I hold this position with what I think/hope is an open mind about what that access might wind up being. The problem with the place many (or most) trans-activists (and their liberal allies) stand — that transwomen = women — is that it is simply an end-run around any sort of discussion, negotiation, working out of boundaries and rights with respect to women as a sex class, about their spaces and their lives. Maybe that end-run approach was deliberate, I don’t know. But I don’t stand there.
And on a side note, I’m pretty ticked that self-ID law changes in Aotearoa New Zealand, which will enshrine the end-run in the law, have proceeded apace with little to no public consultation, and, per above, a whole shitload of name-calling and abuse of anyone who might have concerns or questions about it. If nothing else, maybe this whole thing has taught me a lesson about hypocrisy…about the limits of political tribalism…and in its own way, it’s definitely part of the ‘Confessions of an ex-Liberal‘ series. Let the name-calling begin.