The desire to frame the debate over trans issues as being between feminists and trans activists is wrong, argues Vic Valentine, a trans activist
This is part of a two-week discussion on trans issues. Vic Valentine’s previous article is here. All other essays in the series are here.
In Charlie Kiss’s article it was great to see him push back at the idea that trans people uphold gender stereotypes. Unfortunately it would seem that not all contributors to last week’s discussion realise that this is the case. I was disappointed to read in Sarah Ditum’s essay that trans people somehow reinforce the gender stereotypes that she feels feminists are seeking to free us from.
Perhaps Ms Ditum has just not spent a lot of time with many trans people yet, but it is plainly wrong to suggest that we adhere to rigid gender norms any more so than the majority of the population that are not trans. This would be easy to see at any big trans community event, such as the first ever Trans Pride Scotland held in Edinburgh on March 31st this year or this film of Trans Pride Brighton. Trans people are very diverse in our expressions of gender. Rather than believing that toy and clothing preferences define a young person’s gender identity, trans activists work extremely hard to challenge gender stereotypes. Clothes and toys are nothing more than clothes and toys.
Trans people are harmed by society’s expectations about how men and women should look, and the media’s insistence on focusing on hyper-masculine or, more commonly, hyper-feminine expressions of gender. Behind the over-simplified images and media stories is a community that is much more colourful than the simple pink and blue divide that wider society tries to force us into.
But perhaps this is a reason for all feminists, both trans and not, to unite to challenge gender stereotypes together, rather than assigning blame for the issue to a marginalised group that is just trying to navigate the same difficulties as everyone else.
It was also interesting to read James Kirkupask if he has the right to speak about the topic, given its current framing as an issue of women v trans people, of which he is neither. (As an aside, I fundamentally disagree that this is a women v trans rights issue. Many feminists and women’s organisations support trans inclusion and reform of the Gender Recognition Act. The twitter hashtag #LwiththeT and the Scottish women’s sector’s GRA support statement are two examples of this.)
While Mr Kirkup concludes that he can speak about the topic, and I would agree with this, it is interesting that he decides to dismiss out of hand in his article the views of “the CEO of Stonewall” as simply pandering to a dominant trans ideology. This is despite the fact that Ruth Hunt is a lesbian, and a woman (and not a trans woman): two groups he claims to be so desperately trying to raise the voices of. It would appear that he is happy to promote the voices of lesbians if they agree with him and oppose trans rights, but dismisses the voices of the large majority of lesbians who are allies of trans equality. The desire of some to frame trans rights as against women’s rights means that the voices in danger of being ignored are those of trans-inclusive feminist women.
This post first appeared on The Economist with the title: Trans-inclusive feminist voices are being ignored.