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Author Archives: Elizabeth Hungerford

Huffington Post and Autostraddle both ran articles on January 27th, 2014 about the hashtag #protransprochoice and a petition started by three young adults: Beck Martens, Alice Wilder, and Calliope Wong–a transwoman who caused a media flurry in 2013 about being denied application for enrollment at a female-only college while Wong was still legally and anatomically male. The Autostraddle article is entitled #ProTransProChoice: Launching A New Reproductive Rights Movement. That’s right, a whole New Movement to accommodate gender identities! I consider this a particularly disturbing example of conflating ‘gender identity’ with physical sex and a stark reminder of what “sex not gender” means.

The #protransprochoice call for a New Reproductive Rights Movement demands that NARAL and Planned Parenthood spend their precious, limited funds[1] on media campaigns that explicitly cater to the gender identities of trans* people:[2]

The rhetoric of the pro-choice movement is typically based around the assumption that only folks who identify as women are hurt by restrictions on reproductive health care – such as abortion and contraception. #StandWithTexasWomen took the stage in 2013; “Trust Women” has been the mantra of this movement for decades. This language excludes trans* and gender non-conforming (GNC) people and thus, the movement has failed to address our reproductive and sexual health needs.

The offense is that speaking of “women” generally does not affirm or validate the identities of trans* people. Referring to abortion as a “woman’s” issue is unacceptable because, one, it does not include reference to female-born transmen who might need abortions and, two, not all “women” have vaginas. It makes trans* people feel unimportant and left out of the conversation. The #protransprochoice hashtag is just the latest iteration of on-going attempts from the pro-trans lobby to de-sex the way we speak about reproductive rights.[3]

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This is my response to the reactionary and misguided “A Statement of Trans-Inclusive Feminism and Womanism” (The Statement) posted at FeministsFightingTransphobia.wordpress.com.

We can all agree, I think, that people’s actual lives are more important than theoretical abstractions– including those related to “identity.” This is precisely why, as feminists, we demand acknowledgement for the lived realities and material conditions of women’s lives, including the social mechanics of sex-and-gender-assignment that ultimately give rise to women’s oppression. But beyond this, there are a truly alarming number of misrepresentations, inconsistencies, and logical errors in The Statement. I will address many of them below.

First things first, I want to point out that characterizing gender critical feminists as “transphobic feminists” remains unsupported where “transphobia” is not defined. Repeated use of this term to demonize a certain kind of political speech or political actor is clearly intended to be insulting rather than instructive; it serves as a way to shame us and any of our potential supporters into silence. Personally, I have no intention of insulting other feminists and escalating hostility by using similar epithets to describe them or their political views. 

Throughout this response I will refer to myself and others who share my general view of gender as gender critical feminists (no acronym). Because that’s what we do. We are feminists who criticize gender as a harmful social construct that distributes power unequally.

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IDENTITY VERSUS SOCIALIZATION

I want to explore what “woman” means when male-born persons can be “women” just the same as female-born persons.

Most significantly, the term “woman” must be disconnected from the socio-historic context that gives the term coherency in the first place. Without any material or experiential framework “woman’s” origin becomes irrelevant; she can be anything or nothing at all.

When male-born persons can be “women” just the same as female-born persons, the skin-deep veneer of social identity is being substituted for the complex, lifelong process of class-based socialization. This is neoliberal individualist choice-theory masquerading as the politics of liberation.

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Consistent with common usage of the term “cisgender,” the graphic below explains that “…if you identify with the gender you were assigened [sic] at birth, you are cis.”

Another Trans 101: Cisgender webpage describes cis this way: “For example, if a doctor said “it’s a boy!” when you were born, and you identify as a man, then you could be described as cisgender.” [i] Likewise, girl-born people who identify as women are also considered cisgender. WBW are cis.

Framing gender as a medically determined assignment may seem like a good start to explaining gendered oppression because it purports to make a distinction between physical sex and gender. Feminism similarly understands masculinity and femininity (e.g., gender) as strictly enforced social constructs neither of which are the “normal” or inevitable result of one’s reproductive sex organs. Feminism and trans theory agree that coercive gender assignments are a significant source of oppression.

On closer inspection of the concept of “cisgender,” however, feminism and trans theory quickly diverge. Read More

I am a married lesbian. Let’s just start there. I blame health insurance, ok? A woman needs it and marriage is considered a “qualifying life event” in the insurance world. Our one year wedding anniversary is coming up in a few weeks, and my home state of New York just legalized same-sex marriage on Friday night. Oh joy!! So let’s talk about MARRIAGE, huh? And yes, please be forewarned that this will be a US-centric post because that’s my  context.

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There is lots of talk about what “woman” means. It’s practically a cliche feminist topic! But the debate takes on new meaning in light of transsexuality’s destructive “gender” conservatism. Post-modern anti-essentialism seeks to dismiss the experience of womanhood by claiming that anyone can choose to be a woman and, in any case, we are too diverse to be generalized about. This is not true. Women are all subject to the tyranny of compulsory heterosexuality that dictates the sexual-ized behavior of humans according to the mutually exclusive classifications of “man” and “woman.” Women have shared life experiences as “girls” and as “women.” Radical feminist theory seeks to expose the ways in which trans theory, like patriarchal reality, denies female self-determination and imposes upon women their own false (read: male-serving) definition OF “woman.” Read More

Accused Khatun and Subrato, mothers of victims Zahida and Husna

Late last week, two women in India were arrested for the honor killings of their daughters. According to India Express.com, “We killed them because they had brought shame to our community. How could they elope with Hindus? They deserved to die. We have no remorse,” Khatun and Subrato said Friday. Read More