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The feminism and transgender liberation debate of 2015 – the story so far

On March 22nd, an article about feminism and transgender was published on the site of Socialist Resistance – a British socialist organisation. Although it was called Feminism and transgender: why is there a debate, it turned out to be a piece of someone who doesn’t see trans women as “real women”. No debate, indeed. We – FEL – see this as hate speech, we are a trans inclusive, radical and anti-racist feminist organisation.

Very quickly it became the most read article on their site. The article was later removed from the site by request of the author, she republished it on her personal blog. The article was supposed to be one of two articles, one by a feminist, one by a trans activist, but the author of the second piece hadn’t finished their piece yet because of work and illness.

The article’s appearance was the decision of one member, not a decision of the rest of the redaction committee. There was an uproar about this because – according to many of us – it was not an opinion that needed to be protected, but a form of hate speech. The article was also not representative at all of current thinking of socialist feminists about gender and transgender liberation. And by not representative we’re being nice. We mean outdated and hateful. The socialist fourth international – of which socialist resistance is a member – has a position of trans inclusion, for which we applaud them.

A reply written on this site by Belgian feminist Evie, Feminism and transgender liberation,  was republished on the site of Socialist Resistance on March 25th.

A number of socialist feminists started a petition to remove the original article from the website. The petition text is an interesting read, give it a go if you have the time.

By this time there was already a huge discussion on social media and the website of Socialist Resistance. On March 29th SR published some information about their views and the problems that occurred.

This is not a trigger warning
This is not a trigger warning

Someone also added an attempt at a trigger warning to the first – transphobic – article. This warning was worded horribly, it also made the author withdraw her article, which can now be read on her own site as mentioned above.

What’s going to happen now: the transactivist piece will be published when it’s ready, and Evie is also working on a second piece. We will be following up on the debate. UPDATE – we are now busy trying to get the dean of a Belgian university fired because he was victim blaming a rape victim. The second piece about transgender lib will be delayed because of this.

While the process around this has been pretty bad for all sides involved, this is still at the very least a learning experience. We’re trying to see the glass as half full here, people.

So what can we do? We can critically engage with some viewpoints which do not promote hatred of an oppressed minority. Our website already has a collection of articles, mostly in English, about the topic.

We need a feminism that is both radical and trans-inclusive. If we can’t have that, our struggle is ultimately meaningless. We will follow up with more articles and news, but some things to remember:

  • Neither the mainstream feminist movement nor the mainstream transgender movement is representative of our views. In fact often we are downright at odds with them and they are probably not our best bet at a radical and trans-inclusive feminism;
  • Radical feminism is often equated with trans hatred. Luckily this is not so. It didn’t start out that way in the seventies (see e.g. Andrea Dworkin on transgender), we will have to analyse why the enmity between radical feminist and trans activists has grown so much in the past decades.

This debate has been tough for a lot of people. We are activists but we have also experienced violence and explosive arguments like these can be triggering. Take care everyone, and make time for self-care when necessary.

Some more articles

4 gedachten over “The feminism and transgender liberation debate of 2015 – the story so far”

    1. I’m actually going to refer to two other feminists who say things a lot better than I ever could:

      Catharine A. MacKinnon, a very recent interview (so, so good):
      http://www.transadvocate.com/sex-gender-and-sexuality-the-transadvocate-interviews-catharine-a-mackinnon_n_15037.htm?utm_content=buffera942f&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

      and Andrea Dworkin, her book Woman Hating has a chapter on androgyny which is also about transgender – great read, the whole book:
      http://daisysdeadair.blogspot.be/2009/08/andrea-dworkin-on-transgender.html

      Early radfems weren’t transphobic.

  1. I’m talking about the article you are slandering as hate speech.. I’m well aware of those references listed, I’m talking about what exactly was transphobia on the article ? Shouldn’t be hard ? How can you write this article without showing the problematic issues

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