We Should All Be Scared of the Grinch
To quote J.Cole, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. This past week I’ve been thinking a lot about othering, the othering — and sometimes total erasure — of gender minorities in spaces where they should feel welcome and accepted. As I write this, I do not claim to be knowledgeable or objective, I write from my heart, from where it itches. You could say I’m thinking out loud.
Since JKR came out and boldly endorsed transphobia, thus ruining one more aspect of my childhood, it’s been like someone opened the floodgates and let the TERFs out. I have seen feminists I admired, people who claimed to be intersectional, some of whom helped me learn intersectionality deteriorate into violent exclusionists and it hurts. But this isn’t about them or my feelings, it’s about all of us and most importantly, the transgender people they seek to exclude.
What is womanhood or manhood? How do we define masculinity or femininity? I don’t know the answers to that. But what I do know is that feminists have fought hard to define women as more than their genitals, more than the ability to menstruate or bear children. So I’m confused when I see people who have been feminists longer than I have, fall back on these patriarchal definitions of womanhood in order to exclude trans women. Is the othering of trans women worth the submission to patriarchal standards? What about the women who don’t fit these standards? Women like me who have broad shoulders and chest and facial hair? Do I stop being a woman or was I never one.
I think about the irony of transphobia by dark-skinned black women, the same ones who are one misstep away from being called men, the same ones who do not meet the europatriarchal standards of femininity which they seek to enforce against trans women. I would laugh if my heart wasn’t so heavy.
You say you’re not excluding them, but you think women should have their spaces while “transwomen” have theirs. I wonder how you don’t see the inherent transphobia in that line of thought. You’re certainly not anythingphobic, you allow nonbinary people in women-only spaces, the AFAB is silent. “It’s quite simple really, women are women, trans women are trans women”. But here’s the thing, trans women are women. They may have been assigned male at birth, but they have the same deeply emotional and personal ties to womanhood that every ciswoman has.
“They escaped misogyny and even profit from it because they are men”. First of all, they are not men. Secondly, misogyny has several faces; transmisogyny is being killed and your murderer getting away with it because the law recognizes as logical his fear of being attracted to you. Transmisogyny is physical and emotional abuse from those who should protect you because you’re just too different for their liking. Transmisogyny is having to put on a cloak of masculinity, to leave your true self at the door so that you can be with your family on an important occasion. Trans women suffer misogyny, it might be a different department, but it’s the same company. Also, when did we start to define womanhood by our struggles with patriarchal oppression?
The Grinch is TERFs and we should all be afraid. They’re coming for all our human rights. They’re not going to stop at trans women, masculine-presenting women will be next, then on and on until most of us are locked out of the party.
Let’s talk about the erasure and dismissal of trans men. How they’re told it’s okay to be masc women, completely disregarding the fact that gender identity and expression don’t work that way. Giving in to the tenets of cisheteronormativity but in a backhanded way that would be funny if it wasn’t so vile. “You are a woman because a doctor looked at your external genitals when you were born and said, ‘congratulations it’s a girl’ and you must remain one. Oh but if you must be manly, just present masc and date women. You’re welcome, I’m more than happy to help”.
The dismissal of trans men and AFAB nonbinary people are so deeply ingrained that we don’t even notice it or them. Take a second, try to think of a trans man you know. We’re so used to the invisibility of these groups that when we see inclusive language being used in mainstream media and the medical field, we automatically think of trans women. The TERFs come out guns ablaze, ready to shoot down every trans woman in sight. We’re treated to multiple think pieces and twitter threads on how trans women have come to erase “real” women and how we must fight this menace. It’s cute if also disheartening and frightening.
But inclusive language in medical spaces isn’t for trans women. I’ll give you two reasons: trans women are women so we can continue to say women if that was the case, and trans men and nonbinary people also menstruate and have uteruses.
When we refuse to accept and acknowledge trans men and nonbinary people as who they are, we are inflicting violence on them. We are telling them their gender dysphoria/euphoria is a thing of their imagination, we’re saying we know better than them who they are. We’re saying the gender binary is all there is and they must conform to it. We are dismissing their struggles and forcing them into a box that they do not belong in. We are taking away their very existence.
When we seek to exclude trans women from spaces that should be theirs as of right, we’re saying to the patriarchy, you were right, a woman’s place is to keep the home and bear children. We’re saying yes to the europatriarchal standards of femininity, we’re saying yes, women must be a certain height or lower, they must have soft features, they must sound like songbirds. We’re taking the feminist movement back a hundred years.
Feminism is a lot of things, but it is first about equality and inclusion. Feminism is a fight to dismantle the patriarchy, and we cannot achieve that, we will never achieve that if we decide to pick and choose what aspects of the patriarchy to dismantle because here’s the thing, patriarchy has many faces but it’s all one body. And until we take down the whole body, no one will be free. We cannot simply seek to destroy one of the faces because it will just sprout up again. It’s like trying to remove a tree but leaving the root in, it’s going to keep growing back until you dig up the roots.
If we don’t unearth the patriarchy, if we seek to simply cut off a few branches, we’re going to end up putting in all that effort for nothing. If we say we fight to free women (at its narrowest definition) alone, then we don’t really want to dismantle the patriarchy, we just want our own seats at the table. Until trans women, gay women, GNC women, women who don’t want children, until all women, all people who are under the thumb of the patriarchy are free, none of us is free. And that’s the point of intersectionality, that’s the point of feminism.