On trans issues within feminism and strengthening the movement’s gender analysis

[...] consistently, I read a version of feminism that leaves me out. This happens regularly on this very blog [feministing], which we’re starting to work directly to address. Cisnormative assumptions are also a standard part of private conversations among public feminists that I’ve been a part of (I’m consistently amazed by what people don’t realize they’re saying in front of me).


Trans and gender non-conforming folks face extraordinary discrimination that should be a feminist focus but is still a marginal issue at best. This needs to change. It is changing. It’s not enough for feminists to enjoy the writing of folks who experience marginalization that they don’t.

Very current and important discussion. On Feministing:

I’ve taken some time away from blogging while I’ve been in grad school, and it’s given me an opportunity for some perspective on the feminist blogosphere. I started working at Feministing in 2009 with a goal of centering trans issues within feminism. I think the oppression trans folks face, particularly the extreme marginalization and violence aimed at trans women in this misogynist culture, is exactly what feminism can exist to change. I understand feminism as a response to gendered oppression in a patriarchal context, where femininity is devalued. I see the worst of our gender hierarchy landing on the shoulders of folks who fail to meet the strict rules of the compulsory gender binary in a way that’s perceived as feminine. This plays out when, for example, queer men and trans women are specifically targeted with violence. So I see the exclusion of trans women and our issues from feminism (or the feminist movement’s active perpetuation of transmisogyny) as a problem that needs to be addressed.

Centering the issues of trans and gender non-conforming folks requires a shift in thinking for folks who’s feminism is based in cisgender norms, though. The norm in our culture is to assume someone will identify with the gender assigned to them at birth based on a doctor looking at their crotch. Which means we assume a link between gender and genitals, which leads to a supposed link between gender and someone’s sexual role and reproductive capacity as well. As I pointed out regarding the “War on Women” rhetoric about attacks on reproductive rights, most reproductive rights organizing packs the assumption that woman = person with a vagina who can make babies. This is true for a lot of women, but it’s not the experience of all women. And painting all women as fundamentally baby making factories is exactly what the anti-choice movement wants. Feminism that’s based in a link between gender and genitals doesn’t just exclude people who’s bodies don’t fit – it’s a fundamentally flawed analysis that perpetuates an essentialist idea that feminism partially exists to combat. Feminism that centers a trans feminist take on gender, that recognizes that woman ≠ vagina, offers a more accurate gender analysis in general that benefits everyone. [Rest.]