Did I just wake up today and everyone is suddenly spreading transphobic feminism?

Is this really happening?

Vivian Castro
Jan 1 · 4 min read
Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

I have a smart, feminist, and proud female friend with whom I started a distress a few months ago. It was the circumstance of Pink October, and all the campaigns targeting the important issue of breast cancer awareness were spreading through media.

I commented on something that I just realized this year: these campaigns are only targeted on cisgender, prevailing not-queer, women. Now, with the recent gender revolution, it would certainly be more inclusive to target all people with a biological female feature.

My friend looked at me confused.

"Men have breast cancer, too", she said with conviction.

Of course I know men have breast cancer, I am not excluding them. But the campaigns target mainly women because breast cancer is fairly more frequent on cisgender female bodies. I am not an expert, but I’ve read some research.

Not all people with female features identify themselves as women, though. And there are studies showing how important it is to other people with a vagina (like transgender men or intersex gender people, as for example) to deal with specific questions on health, like breast cancer. It is particularly true if this person did not go through mastectomy or ovary removal — they may have the very same chances to develop breast cancer as any cisgender woman.

"You are missing the point", this friend added. "I am not talking about these gender issues. I am talking about the female being".

I did not know how to reply. I was talking about the female body too, but not all females are women. At that point, I thought that in the second half of 2019 this was settled. I tried to explain it to her, with little success, because she stopped listening. In her eyes, I was being sexist.

It was like, for my friend, transgender, queer, and non-binary matters are valuable, as long as they do not "interfere" on the cis women world.

I realized my friend wasn’t alone.

Feminists against transgender? Really?

This talk with my friend was on the back of my mind, but it became even more urgent recently, especially towards transgender women. Maybe the J.K. Rowling tweet sparkled the discussion again, mainly because a lot of fans (like myself) did not expect her to call transgender people as some kind of costume ("dress however you please", she said) and the concept of "sex" as immutable.

After a few reading a few texts on social media about Rowling, I was alarmed: there were a bunch of people defending that strange thing called "biological women", although I do not know exactly what it stands for — modern biology already proved sex is broader than we may traditionally presume. Many feminist, progressive people felt the same as Rowling and my friend: LGBTQI are nice and all, go for your rights, I support you, but do not mess with "natural" women. This place is sacred.

I was somewhat used to responding to conservative white males about trans and queer people. Defend gender-neutral bathrooms. Advocate for trans and non-binary children. Struggle for public health to queer folks.

But how do I argue with the feminists who want to forge a little club and feel threatened by transgender women "crossing the line"? I do not even understand what line it is.

Transgender women are not men

All people who advocate for biological sex have a similar argument, specifically against trans women. It postulates something like: we should not give to men what women conquered so hardly, after centuries of battle and oppression.

This is a valid argument: indeed women had to fight their way into having some basic rights. However, trans women are not men. They are women.

Trans women are not privileged, they cannot be compared to cisgender men.

Imagine if you feel in your own essence you are a woman, even if you were assigned as a male the day you were born. Many times they are rejected by their family. Discriminated by society, they are only able to get some peace if they have the so-called "passability" (when a trans woman looks like a cis woman). Chances of unemployment and poverty are high. Many go to prostitution as the only possibility to make a living. In some countries, the life expectancy of trans women doesn’t go beyond 30, 35 years of age.

Nonetheless, if trans women’s lives don’t reverberate your empathy, you should think of cisgender women’s issues. Restricting a woman to something as vague as biological sex is ridiculous and counterproductive, even for the so alleged women. As a cis woman, I do not define myself around my uterus and vagina. I identify myself as a woman because I want to. It was part of my essence, and I also like to look at it as a decision I’ve made and am proud of.

Nonetheless, when I was born, people saw this "biological sex" and conformed me within a social gender automatically. Of course, I was constructed around this restricted place our society created. But, as an adult, I like to think as a valuable choice that I’ve made. I choose to continue to be a woman.

Maybe this is what trans and non-binary people taught me. Gender is fluid and can be changed. Don’t let determinism founded in old and rotten, nineteenth-century biology to restrict who you are. Your essence, and yourself, decide who you are.

In the end, trans, queer, and non-binary rights don’t threaten your rights, for the love of the goddess

Feminism is not a club that you have to be invited to. It is even less a limited source which, if you let someone in, you will lose your rights. We need to manage freedom and equality for EVERY woman.

Vivian Castro

Written by

(she/her/ela) Art and dress historian, writer and teacher. Currently living in Berlin.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade