Response to the Morning Star

It is disappointing to have to write this article responding to the very people who I wanted call my allies, my comrades and sisters. Yet here I am again defending an entire community against those who don’t recognise their own privilege and who choose to ignore the mountain of a struggle trans women have had to endure to reach self-actualisation. Let me start by making a positive statement that hasn’t ever been printed in this publication. Trans women ARE women. That’s it, end of story.  And in the interests of balance I am responding to the points made by Jennifer Duncan in her article published a few weeks ago.

“Women are not oppressed based on our identities, we are oppressed on the basis of our      female biology – a fact that is being erased by transgender politics. The concept of gender identity is being enshrined into law in several countries now, giving new legal protections to transgender people on the basis of their identities.”JD

This is a massive statement to make whilst around the world many thousands of trans women are suffering abuse, discrimination, death and state-sanctioned bullying. We are not trying to erase anyone or anything, we just want to breath, meanwhile you are desperate to erase us. And furthermore your highlighting of this almost questions its validity, should we be banned as in many countries? Would that make you happier?

In the United States, the Obama administration recently signed a declaration that all public schools in the country must recognise the gender identity of their students. Canada has recently announced new legal protections for transgender people. In Britain, there is interest growing in allowing people to legally define their own gender. As a person on the political left and as a member of the LGBT community, I am expected to applaud these changes to legislation, but instead I am critical.”JD

Please, please don’t hide behind an abuse of a ‘left wing position’. It’s passive aggressive to call-up a politically moral space (historically) to hide a weak position. My mum always said ‘speak about you, speak from you’. It’s amazing to see this righteousness hanging it’s hat up with right wing extremists worldwide to erase us.

This is because the concept of gender identity is poorly defined, and the politics of transgenderism is harmful to women and girls and rooted in individualism rather than collective action. The NHS defines gender identity in the following way: Biological sex is assigned at birth, depending on the appearance of the genitals. Gender identity is the gender that a person ‘identifies’ with or feels themselves to be. While biological sex and gender identity are the same for most people, this isn’t the case for everyone. For example, some people may have the anatomy of a man, but identify themselves as a woman, while others may not feel they’re definitively either male or female. This is typical of definitions of gender identity offered by other organisations. The concept of gender is not precisely defined, but we are to understand that gender identity is the individual’s feeling of being either a man, a woman, or neither of these. The problem with this is that male and female aren’t feelings — these words refer to the two reproductive functions of mammalian species: those who produce sperm which can fertilise ova, and those who produce ova and can bear young.”JD

I’m wondering if this isn’t some sort of parody, is this actually serious? Are you in charge of all women and do all women fit into one collective box/action? If only that were the case then many thousands of women worldwide would be hooked into the sisterhood and not into slave labour or fixed marriages, or back street abortions. Again your privilege allows you to actually believe that trans people are somehow lone wolves. It’s incredibly spiteful.

And not only that, I suppose now you’ve hit us with the staggering science then we are back to the 1970s and defined as mad, bad, both or somewhere in between. Again don’t hide behind the finest veil of science. Are infertile women still women, are intersex people men or women, is a man without a penis a man. The permutations of male and female are staggering yet again we have a person reducing us to reproduction and reproduction only. Of course reproduction and biological bodies are part of gender but there are millions of exceptions to this and I doubt that all women would appreciate you defining them by their ovaries.

When someone has a gender identity, that means they believe their sex to be the opposite of what their physical anatomy is, or that they are neither sex. The belief that one is the opposite sex is often called gender dysphoria, which is a discomfort and anxiety directed toward the body and its sexed characteristics. Some people with gender dysphoria wish to alter their bodies to reflect the appearance of the sexed body they feel they should have. There is no conclusive research on why some people are deeply unhappy with their bodies, but self-reporting, such as videos and articles created by people who are transitioning, gives us clues as to where their unhappiness is coming from.”JD

A little bit more science and a nod to our unhappiness. Actually Jennifer most trans people who are supported to transition so that they feel more aligned are incredibly happy and contented, you could learn something from them.

When transgender people talk about how they knew they were trans, they often report identifying with the stereotypical behaviour and appearance of the opposite sex, such as boys who wanted to play with dolls and wear dresses, and girls who wanted to wear baggy clothes and cut their hair short. The strong identification with characteristics they are taught don’t belong to them leads them to conclude they must have a “boy’s brain in a girl’s body” or vice versa.

Oh dear lord, what twaddle. My female role models; mum, gran, sister, aunties were strong women with careers, I was surrounded by women who wore wellies and rode big horses and dug the garden over. My sister hated dolls, we played with frogs and toads and when we played hairdressers we created ‘punk cuts’. A good deal of my trans sisters work and play in utterly gender neutral jobs/roles and I never ever thought I had a gendered brain,  I just knew that when asked as an 8 year old that I wanted to be a mum. Not a mum with pink pigtails, or a mum who skipped down the lane but a mum who worked and a mum who loved reading with her children. But for the sake of your piddling argument you reduce us to the most banal of stereotypes. They’re not in our heads but in yours.

Feminists have given the name “gender roles” to the collection of traits and behaviours that are assigned to men and women based on our reproductive role. Some people are deeply uncomfortable with the role they are given, and there are two major ways of dealing with this discomfort — one way is collectively working to change society so that these roles will be abolished, and the other way is changing the self in order to better survive the system that is in place. If it were simply a matter of a few rare individuals having sex-reassignment surgery to deal with overwhelming feelings of dysphoria, this wouldn’t likely have any effect on society.” JD

Research shows that 19% of all trans women are HIV positive and there is not a single piece of funding to address this, mainly because of attitudes like yours that we are not authentic and in some way we are not worthy then of legislation or funding or having a collective part in the role of women and society. Your patronising behaviour towards us ‘if it were just a few’, is staggering when you claim ‘left wing morality and left wing conscience’. Would you rather unhappy people remain isolated and unhappy (suicide rates way up, bullying endemic), what are you scared of. As a feminist I feel part of the need to ensure the safety of women’s spaces but you have to hear me when I say that a woman with a penis is no threat to you, she is not a man.

One of the issues for women is the loss of sex-segregated spaces, such as public bathrooms and changing rooms. When bathroom use is based only on a subjective belief that one is a woman, this effectively allows men to claim a gender identity and enter women’s spaces any time they want to.

There are already many North American schools and recreation centres allowing males to enter female spaces because of their “gender identity,” and this is causing distress for women, who do not feel safe undressing in front of strange men.”JD

This statement is horrendous, and I almost can’t bring myself to reply, here you really are just talking out of ignorance, how many women have told you they are feeling distress? Really I want to see your evidence for trying to create such harm. Back to my mum’s saying, ‘talk about yourself and the stuff you know, the stuff you really know’. I know that I had to use men’s toilets for a great chunk of my life, I hated it so much so that sometimes I would hold it in for the whole day until I was in agony. This is a common experience for trans people, especially young trans kids. I knew at 8 by the way.

In transgender politics, the physical anatomy of the body can be reinterpreted based on the subjective identity that one has — for example, a male body can be referred to as a female body if the man has a gender identity as a woman, and vice versa. This is a problem for women and girls because our female biology makes us vulnerable to men, regardless of how we identify. Seeing a man in a private, female-only space such as a locker room is uncomfortable for women, regardless of how strongly he feels about his gender identity.” JD

So now you give us the collectivism of politics, I thought we ‘acted alone’, as individuals but now to suit your point you bring us together in a political movement. Talk about moving the goal posts!

I agree that violence against women is usually and in most reported cases carried out by men, its disgusting. But you again reduce all women to a silly notion of size and body strength and this is your claim to trans-danger? Does that mean that I as a small, quite weak trans women with a vagina am not a danger?

Is this about height and upper body strength and therefore does it apply to strong women? Your point is facile on one level and comic on another if it weren’t for the fact that men hurt women and sometimes these men are small and physically weak. Your reductive train of thought eliminates the real violence against women and girls that we abhor.

In the United States, “bathroom bills” are causing major clashes between those who want to protect the identity of transgender people and those who want to protect the privacy of women in female-only spaces.” JD

Really major clashes? Are you honestly siding with the fundamental right wing in the Southern states? Oh how the ‘left’ have flown!

Women are not oppressed based on our identities, we are oppressed on the basis of our female biology; for example, in situations where our fertility is controlled by men (in forced marriage, laws against abortion, etc) and in situations where we are sexually exploited (in human trafficking, rape and incest, etc). These human rights abuses do not occur because of our “identity” as women, but because men know that we are female and they have the power to use our female reproductive systems for their sexual pleasure and to create their offspring.”JD

Why do we need to stop the fights above, certainly in my HIV work we fight alongside each other as women fighting structural and repugnant exploitation of women, all women. Why do you find this such an obstacle? The narrowness of your focus is actually pretty damming to us all.

If people can simply decide to be the opposite sex, then a material analysis of women’s oppression cannot be done. Men who commit violent crimes against women can be recorded legally as women due to gender identity laws, which obscures the statistics on which sex is really committing those crimes, and violent males who are imprisoned can be imprisoned with other women, making incarcerated women vulnerable, because transwomen cannot be named as males. Without being able to name humans as male or female, women have no hope of being able to protect ourselves from the crimes men commit against us.”JD

Honestly this is trumped up nonsense, I am legally a woman therefore if I committed a crime it would be recorded as a woman but it would still be the crime. There is no evidence base to back up what you are saying anywhere. It’s terrifying that you a ‘left wing feminist’ think that I should be locked up in a men’s prison, it’s not just unkind it’s actually bloody stupid. Is the abuse and rape of a trans woman a left wing stance, a collective vision? Society is changing, our understanding of gender is growing more elegant by the day but it seems you are stuck in a version of gender that isn’t going to help any of us move on. As a woman I am calling out your prejudice and naming it as transphobic and misogynistic.

It is important to stay away from individualism and remain focused on class analysis, especially for those of us on the left.” JD

The left and class are riddled with as much deficit when it comes to equality as anywhere else, your causal use of statements like ‘class analysis’ is shockingly outmoded and outdated. Trans women are the most vulnerable group in terms of violence anywhere, not only that but their crimes are more often than not unsolved. But you focus on class. You need to check your privilege.

Eliminating oppression based on gender roles will not be achieved by a few individuals changing themselves to fit into a different role — collective action is needed to dismantle the gender system.” JD

Then allow us to join you, we all see gender rigidity as a bad thing, no one wins, it’s a lose lose game. Historically trans women  had to play terribly binary roles to get past cis male gatekeepers, yes the same ones that ruin your lives ruin ours. But that’s changing, we are freer now to express ourselves authentically without having to prove our ‘womanhood’ or ‘femininity’. History will show that you were not helping to dismantle gender but ironically by linking with the fundamental far right you are shoring up the boundaries.

Thank you for listening.

Juno Roche