I’ve always been drawn to the statement by American mythologist Joseph Campbell that “the privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.”
Being yourself strikes me as the true route to happiness and something that we should all want for each other and to try to help others to achieve.
But others clearly disagree.
In recent months there have been increasing reports that ‘radical feminists’ oppose trans women using women’s spaces, standing on all women shortlists and joining women’s groups.
As a feminist, this situation has left me fuming. For me, being a feminist is about allowing all people to be who they want to be, to show kindness to all and to oppose all oppression.
I just cannot understand the motivation of those trying to stop trans women (and men) from being who they want to be.
One argument I have heard is that, having been raised as male , trans women have benefitted from male privilege and therefore cannot understand the experiences of cis women. I find this a bizarre argument. I would guess being stuck in a body you despise all day every day pretty much cancels out any advantage you might have accessed as a male.
From what I have seen trans women suffer the absolute opposite of privilege at every stage of their life.
It is not on the same scale of course, but I have been shocked at the online abuse I have received every time I have tweeted support of trans rights. Of course, as unpleasant as this was, I simply turned the device off and walked away.
I cannot imagine what it is like to face this abuse every day and have no means of escape.
Abuse against the trans community remains rife.
Two in five trans people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last 12 months.
A study by equality campaigning charity Stonewall, last year revealed that amongst school pupils who identified as trans 9% had received death threats at school while 84% say they have self-harmed and 45% have tried to take their own lives.
Then there is the argument about who should use what toilet.
Frankly I envy people who have so little to worry about that this consumes their time. I put this question to them, are they equally concerned that male and female disabled people are expected to share the same toilets?
It’s sad to say, but history tells us we should not be surprised by transphobia.
People have always been afraid of things outside their own experience and rather than seeking further understanding the default position of many people seems to be to try to drive people of difference away.
We have seen this time and time again, whether the differences concern race, sexuality or even differences in choices like music or dress.
Despite great efforts to see it maligned, feminism is just as needed now as in the past – there are battles still to fight – America have a misogynist president; we have yet to achieve equal pay; despite the ‘me too’ movement women continue to suffer sexual harassment; legislation concerning pregnancy, maternity and childcare continue to be inadequate.
So why would any feminist concern themselves with trying to exclude an already marginalised group? It makes no sense to me.
And you know what defines everyone in the trans community?
They have had the courage, against all social convention, knowing the abuse and exclusion that is likely to follow, to stand up and be who they really are.
I’d say that’s the definition of courage. Such people are an asset, not a threat to the ideals of feminsim.
Feminism is not about telling other people who they are or who they can be.
At its core it is about aiding people to be themselves.
Experiencing feelings of transphobia?
Want to exclude others?
Then there is nothing I can do to stop you.
But please do not do it in the name of feminism!