In an unlikely alliance, the conservative Right and a growing feminist movement have found common ground on a very important issue of our time. Without realizing it, both groups have been fighting the same battle, often expressing the same concerns, and have yet to recognize each other fully. The feminist movement, in recent years, has become, arguably, a transgender movement. Transgender activists play an major part in the Women’s March, touted as the voice of American feminism. For the 2018 Women’s March, organizers decided to stop promoting the famed ‘pussy hats’ as they were deemed offensive to transgender activists.
Many feminists strongly oppose what they view as male appropriation of their gender. These feminists, referred to as ‘TERFs’ (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists), have come under intense fire by transgender activists, even moreso than conservative opponents. They express extreme concern over the transition of children and the introduction of men into women’s private spaces. A major concern follows not only males identifying as females and feeling entitled to female experience and spaces, but also females believing they must erase their sex to fit it. From a popular parent’s website Transgender Trend, “…girls are misled into thinking that to reject the stereotypes means not only rejecting their actual sex but changing it to the opposite one. There has never been an escape route so complete, nor a tribe which welcomes you so enthusiastically.”
An academic and research website titled, The Conversation, discusses in an article titled, Eugenics and the practice of transgendering children, “Decades after the sterilisation of the unfit was mostly abandoned, a similar practice is increasingly being carried out on children who are considered to be innately “transgender” because they are disobeying culturally acceptable gender roles.” The article argues, “The effects of the drug treatments and sexual surgeries that make-up the transgendering of children can damage their reproductive rights, as well as their bodily integrity and future health.”
Yet another component of this movement focuses around the erasure of lesbian culture and identity through the intrusion of heterosexual men who identify as women and therefore as lesbians. Many lesbians strongly oppose the notion that they are expected to engage romantically or sexually with men as a social obligation to diversity. This concern has led to ridicule from the LGBT movement and trans activists essentially accusing lesbians of bigotry and closed-mindedness. The shaming of women in this regard does not stop here.
Rose McGowan, a sexual assault survivor and active feminist speaker, was recently verbally confronted by a transwoman at a book signing. McGowan was entertaining questions from the audience when Andi Dier, a well-known transgender activist, stood up and began shouting at her. “I have a suggestion. Talk about what you said on RuPaul. Trans women are dying and you said that we, as trans women, are not like regular women. We get raped more often. We go through domestic violence more often. There was a trans woman killed here a few blocks [away]. I have been followed home –.”
McGowan responded, “Hold on. So am I. We are the same. My point was, we are the same. There’s an entire show called ID channel, a network, dedicated to women getting abused, murdered, sexualized, violated, and you’re a part of that, too, sister. It’s the same,” Dier then demanded. “You do nothing for them [transwomen]. Trans women are in men’s prisons. And what have you done for them?”
The accusation in question was made on RuPaul’s show ‘What’s the Tee’ in which McGowan said regarding transwomen, “They assume, because they felt like a woman on the inside, that’s not developing as a woman, that’s not growing as a woman, that’s not living in this world as a woman.” In 2015 she discussed Caitlyn Jenner by observing, “You want to be a woman and stand with us- well learn us. We are more than deciding what to wear. We are more than the stereotypes foisted upon us by people like you. You’re a woman now? Well f-cking learn that we have had a VERY different experience than your life of male privilege.”
These comments, despite McGowan’s open acceptance of transwomen as currently women, are considered transphobic by the LGBT community. In the confrontation, McGowan responds to Dier’s accusation of ‘Cis White Feminism’ by demanding, “Don’t label me, sister. Don’t put your labels on me. Don’t you f — ing do that. Do not put your labels on me.” It is clear with her ‘we are the same’ comment and referring to Dier as ‘sister’ that McGowan has no problem recognizing the gender identity of trans people. Her primary concern revolves solely around the idea that a man who feels he is a woman is identical to women in understanding and experience.
Transgender ideology strongly conflicts with most of feminist history in which traditional feminine roles have been viewed as oppressive. With transwomen the customs, roles, dress, mannerisms, hairstyles etc., of traditional female models are used to validate their womanhood. In traditional feminism, these same aspects are rejected as impositions onto a woman’s individuality. It goes without saying that a movement dedicated to identity and social construction outside of male influence is uncomfortable with men designating themselves as true women.
While conservative women and feminists hold very different views on social issues, both agree that men cannot speak for them as women. Both also agree that allowing female-identified men into women’s spaces is dangerous as predators can and have taken advantage of open restrooms or changing rooms to prey on women and young girls. Both groups strongly oppose the transition of children or the forced restructuring of gender roles in the very young to satisfy an idea of fluid gender identity. In many ways, conservative women and feminists have more in common on this particular issue than they do in any other area of debate.
Feminists in this worldview also support both gay and straight men in opposing obligated attraction towards transgender individuals posing as the opposite sex. In recent years both straight and gay men have been publicly shamed for not wishing to engage in romance or sex with either a man dressed as a woman or a woman dressed as a man. Even with full surgical transition, many men instinctively reject romantic engagements.
While public actors like McGowan are not always on the same page as conservatives, it is important to recognize when we share common goals and values. In this case both McGowan and ‘TERF’s are our allies in what appears to be the social struggle of our time. With the intense pressure of medical, psychological and social organizations, this battle will be much more difficult on our own. The feminist perspective on the importance of female autonomy, protection and privacy is invaluable to our advocacy. Ryan T Anderson helped bridge this divide in a wonderful panel titled, Biology Isn’t Bigotry: Why Sex Matters in the Age of Gender Identity, featuring a lesbian, feminist and a rape survivor discussing the dangers of open restrooms and locker rooms. I believe there is much to learn from this outreach.
Unlike many social or political issues, the development of children and the restructuring of gender impact us all in ways we cannot yet understand. Feminists unfairly labeled ‘TERFs’ have been on the frontline of this battle for longer than we realized and even with our strongest voices like Anderson, we cannot do this on our own. We should stand with McGowan when the Left declares, as Slate did, that her ‘anti-trans bias weakens her feminism.” We should stand up for feminists bullied, mocked and even physically assaulted by trans activists for holding firm to their beliefs on the value of binary gender. We should seek out their expertise and share our own. The accusation of bigotry or hatred cannot stand when opposition is widely diverse, reasonable and unwavering. In this we have the opportunity to learn from each other and in doing so may just be able to turn the tide of this growing war on women, children and the very notion of biology and culture.