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People who don’t accept their trans sisters shouldn’t call themselves feminists

People who don’t accept their trans sisters shouldn’t call themselves feminists

Germaine Greer is one of trans-exclusionary feminism's best-known faces.

The likes of Germaine Greer and Julie Bindel may call themselves feminists, but they’re not – at least not the modern kind.

One of the first rules of the feminist sisterhood is that it’s open to every woman, no matter her background, the color of her skin or her religion; sisters share a bond forged by following a common cause.

Sisters (should) stand in solidarity with all women, no matter if they’re cis, trans, black, white or active members of the women’s movement or not.

The concept of sisterhood was what made the 1970s feminists successful.

Sadly, trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) like Greer and Bindel don’t seem to have gotten the memo on this one, instead accusing trans women of essentially being men in disguise, out to reinforce gender stereotypes.

Spoiler alert: they’re not. They’re women, just like Susan Sontag, Oprah Winfrey and Margaret Cho, just like the writer of this piece; just like about three billion other human beings on this planet.

Trans women may not have experienced what it’s like growing up while expressing as a girl – the being talked over, the ideas only counting when a boy repeats them, the catcalling, the hyper-sexualization of your body, the ‘go back to the kitchen where you belong’-comments – but that doesn’t mean they experienced less misogyny.

They just experienced it differently.

While their parents, and society, may not socialize them as girls, from day one trans women are exposed to everything a cis woman is exposed to.

They learn, and internalize, everything other children learn – that it’s shameful, that girls are weak, can’t be good at math, and are less important that boys – because they’re girls as well, even if they haven’t told anyone just yet.

Following the accounts of trans people you’ll notice a common ground – they all knew their bodies didn’t match their gender from an early stage, although it may have taken some of them a bit of time to figure out what exactly that means.

Right now, we see a worrying change and something growing more and more prominent in trans-exclusionary feminism – women going against their deepest principle, and one of the key points where feminism attacks society.

No woman should be reduced to, and only seen as, her body.

By reducing trans women to their body, TERFs turn into the misogynists they’re fighting.

When used against them, biological determinism – ‘You can’t be good at math, because you’re a girl. As a woman, you cannot be stronger than a man, because of your genes.’ – sends TERFs into a frenzy; yet they’re more than happy to make it into a tool when it fits their purpose.

Excluding someone because of their body, be it shape, ability or else, is going against the very core of feminism.

One of the main arguments TERFs bring forward to justify their exclusion of trans women is that they weren’t socialized in the ‘right’ way; that trans women were socialized as men and therefore male privilege prevails.

While it is true that women, especially those who transitioned a bit later, may have experienced male privilege, it’s also true that they let go of it the moment they start transitioning.

A prime example for the loss of male privilege, and instead being subject to (not exuding) the male gaze can be found with Caitlyn Jenner.

Before she came out as trans, Jenner received questions about what it’s like to be head of a family full of strong women, while her achievements – first of all her Olympic success – were one of the main talking points; afterwards, all that ruled the headlines were her choices of clothing.

Everyone who thinks this is male privilege – which, in itself, is impossible as Caitlyn is a woman, albeit one holding white and class privileges – should look up the meaning of the word ‘privilege’.

Not to mention that trans women are just as much, if not more (depending on where you are in the world), in danger of male violence, no matter if they ‘pass’ or not.

In regards to being socialized as male, it’s safe to say this cannot be true, either – how can a child who’s 100% sure she’s a girl be socialized as a boy?

A woman excluding trans women is as much a feminist as those excluding black women, fat women or those with disabilities – not at all.

As a white cis woman, I appreciate the work and the achievements of the suffragettes, who fought so I can vote, and the second- and third-wave feminists campaigning for more equality.

Thanks to them I can now sit in an (otherwise all-male) office, have my voice heard and work for my own money, all without needing consent from my non-existent husband or another male in my life.

At the same time, as a feminist, it is now my turn to help ensure all my sisters receive the same rights and that we’re all getting closer and closer to full equality.

People who can look a trans woman square in the eye and say, as Germaine Greer did, ‘you’re just a man who chopped his dick off’, don’t just insult their sisters – they also contradict everything they themselves stand for.

Feminists stand in solidarity with all women, not just a chosen few. Get over yourselves.