Trans Sandwiched
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Trans Sandwiched

We Must Not Let Gender Abolitionism Hijack the Trans Conversation

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Today, I want to talk about the elephant in the room that really needs to be addressed: the attempt by some people, who have gender abolitionist ideology, or gender abolitionist-adjacent ideology, to repeatedly insert themselves into the trans conversation. As I often say, the trans community is a small community, and our voices are easily drowned out by bigger forces with their own agenda. It’s something people really need to talk about more.

Let’s talk about gender abolitionism first. It is the ideology stating that, firstly, gender is a social construct; secondly, it is a product of oppressive social relations and hence harmful; and thirdly, it can and should be deconstructed and/or abolished. Gender abolitionists often literally believe there are no differences between men and women except for the physical differences, and all non-physical differences between men and women can and should be abolished. Gender abolitionism should not be confused with reasonable attempts to free people of gender stereotypes, which I strongly support as a liberal. Gender abolitionism has no scientific basis, in fact, it goes against the fundamental logic of biological science. This should not come as a surprise, because it came from parts of the philosophy landscape that are not well informed by science. I believe gender abolitionism needs to be decisively rejected, because it can lead to cruel and misguided stances, as I will illustrate.

What is commonly called gender critical feminism, otherwise known as ‘trans exclusionary radical feminism’, is fundamentally rooted in gender abolitionism. Gender critical feminists believe that gender is not inherent to the individual, and can be abolished with social and political action. Therefore, they see trans people’s claims of an innate gender identity as invalid, and an obstacle to their political goals. This largely explains their attitude to trans people and trans issues. I believe the view that gender can be abolished through social and political action is a dangerous one, because it can essentially be used to justify everything from trans non-acceptance, to deliberately making trans people’s lives harder, perhaps even trans conversion therapy. After all, if gender is a harmful social construct, shouldn’t society hold the line and refuse to entertain trans people’s claims of an innate gender identity? In this mode of thinking, the cruelty of denying trans rights becomes justified as the necessary path to a utopia, where trans people won’t exist, and trans rights won’t matter anyway.

While gender critical feminism, which is rooted in the old-school version of gender abolitionism, is well known for its anti-trans stances, postmodernist gender deconstruction ideology is no less harmful to trans rights, in my opinion. Gender deconstructionism continues to hold that gender is a social construct, but rather than choosing to outrightly deny gender identity, it aims to use postmodern philosophy to deconstruct gender. From what I see, it is basically gender abolitionism by another method, because at the end of the process, if the concept of ‘gender’ still exists, it certainly wouldn’t look anything like our traditional understandings of it (rather than just making room for trans and non-binary people). Gender deconstructionism uses trans people as the ‘exception’ case to help deconstruct the ‘rules’ of gender, in the aim of making such rules unstable and untenable. It is more interested in using trans people to wage language wars than to find practical solutions for the accommodation and integration of trans people into society. Meanwhile, trans people are left to suffer the backlash.

As you can see, there is really no form of gender abolitionism that is good for trans people in any way. This is only to be expected, because trans people are living proof that gender identity is innate, and this is not compatible with gender abolition. Therefore, I believe the firm rejection of gender abolition in all forms is required for the progress of trans acceptance and trans rights.

TaraElla is a singer-songwriter and author, who recently published her autobiography The TaraElla Story, in which she described the events that inspired her writing.

She is also the author of The Trans Case Against Queer Theory.

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