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Transfeminism

Transfeminism is the application of transgender discourses to feminist discourses, and of feminist beliefs to transgender discourse. It also concerns the establishment of transfeminism within mainstream feminism, having specific content that applies to transgender and transsexual people, but much of which is also applicable to all women. (Hill 2002)

In the past few decades the idea that all women share a common experience has come under scrutiny by women of color, lesbian women, and lower class women, just to name a few. Transgender women are also questioning what it means to be a woman, and are challenging gender as a biological fact. They are insisting that their unique experience as women be recognized as part of the feminist cause. (Gluckman & Trudeau 2002)

Transfeminism envelops all major themes of third wave feminism, including diversity, body image, and female agency. Transfeminism is not about merely merging trans concerns with feminism concerns, it is a critical analysis of second wave feminism from the perspective of the third wave. [1] Transfeminism critiques mainstream notions of masculinity and argues that women deserve equal rights. It also sees gender as a patriarchal social construct used to oppress women.

Transfeminism vs Feminism

In many ways transfeminism is similar to more conventional types of feminism. Many feminists welcome their trans counterparts into mainstream feminism; however, transfeminism has also its opponents.

Similarities

One of the similarities between the two is their belief that women should be liberated from traditional gender roles. Transgender liberation theory, specifically, offers feminism a new perspective from which to view gender as a social construct and offers a new meaning of gender. (Gluckman & Trudeau 2002) The idea that women should not be held down by traditional gender roles plays a major role in feminism, transfeminism presents a new way to view this belief. Trans individuals are forcing society to question their conventional views of sex and gender and what it means in much the same way that feminists are trying to do. Feminists and transfeminists, together, are fighting against the idea that biology equals destiny. [2] Feminists who were born women want to be judged on their character and merit, not gender. Transfeminists wish to be judged in the same manner, not by the sex they were born into, nor the sex/gender they have become, but as their whole person.

Gender identity disorder is currently listed as a diagnosable mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. Both transfeminists and traditional feminists often agree that this disorder should be removed from the list. (Crabtree 2002) Transfeminists argue that being gender different is not simply a “trans right” it is the right of a woman too. [3] This is another similarity between the two types of feminists, females are considered “gender different” simply because they are not males, while trans people are gender different because they do not see themselves as the gender they were assigned.

Differences

Despite the many similarities, there are also many differences between traditional feminism and transfeminism. Although female traditional feminists and transfeminists are both female at heart, the differences between them prevent transfeminism theory from being completely accepted into the feminist school of thought. Some feminists, such as Janice Raymond, wonder whether trans issues even belong in feminism. [4]. (However, Janice Raymond is considered as extremely transphobic not only by trans people, but also by many cisgender people as well.)

One major difference is that some transwomen (male to female trans people) challenge the feminist opposition of being viewed as an object of desire. Some trans women exaggerate feminine traits that some types of feminism have renounced. [5] However, for most trans women passing as female is very important. Because hate crimes are rampant against trans people it is critical that both transwomen and transmen be able to pass as members of their new gender role. Janice Raymond, among others, also argue that the feminist cause has enough to worry about without throwing in “non biological” women. [6] This belief is based on the idea that only “women born women” can fully identify with the experience of being a woman and transfeminists simply cannot do that. Opponents of that view point out, though, that the experiences of “women born women” also differ considerably; and that excluding transwomen from women’s spaces, discourses etc for that reason denies everybody the right to self-identify themselves, and instead claims that “biology is destiny” after all, a position feminism usually disagrees with.

Transfeminism

Transfeminists are currently undergoing a struggle to be accepted completely into mainstream feminism. While some feminists, such as a group called the lesbian avengers, accept transfeminists with open arms, others are more skeptical of the idea. Arguments over females being seen as an object of desire and the idea the only women who are born women can fully relate to the feminist cause are pinned against similar ideology and the shared experience of oppression of a patriarchal structure.

See also

References

Works Cited

  • Crabtree, Sadie. (2004). Finding common ground between movements for reproductive freedom and transgender/transsexual liberation. The fight for reproductive freedom. p. 9-11.
  • Gluckman R., Trudeau, M. (2002). Trans-itioning feminism: the politics of transgender in the reproductive rights movement. The fight for reproductive freedom. p. 6-8.

Further reading

External links