Women who challenge discourse around “gender identity” have been largely isolated on the front lines for the past decade. Liberal feminists and progressives have chosen identity politics over feminism many times over and this is no exception. Those who are not invested in women’s liberation are well aware that the power they seek cannot be gained from supporting the independent women’s movement, and most haven’t bothered to think hard enough about the roots of patriarchy to understand what it is we are fighting in the first place. But even many of those whose politics are otherwise rooted radical feminist principles have felt afraid to publicly question the dogma of gender identity discourse. We are only too aware that refusing to accept and parrot back commonly accepted mantras places you on the wrong end of a modern witch hunt.
I don’t deny that I felt afraid, for many years, to take a firm position on discourse surrounding gender identity and trans politics, despite my opinion that women-only space and organizing is central to the feminist movement and to supporting women recovering from male violence.
In fact, for many years, I wasn’t quite sure what my position was, and worried that speaking out against the naturalizing of sexist gender roles that has come hand in hand with support for what is called “trans rights” would distract from my fight against the sex industry and violence against women. Punishments for questioning trans politics include losing one’s job, censorship, blacklisting, being physically and otherwise threatened and attacked by transactivists, and social ostracization — all things that prevent women from speaking out. (I have suffered many of these punishments already, of course, for failing to toe the party line and for allying with women labelled “TERF” or “transphobic.”)
We live in a time wherein basic feminist ideas have become unspeakable, while anti-feminist slurs and smears are widely accepted and even celebrated by those who claim to be social justice activists and progressives.
Regardless of the risks, I cannot, in good faith, support the neoliberal, individualistic notion of “gender identity” — not as a feminist who understands how patriarchy came to be and continues to prevail or as a leftist who understands how systems of power work. I do not wish to be silent in the face of regressive and anti-feminist discourse, because I know that my silence does not help empower other women to speak out. I do not wish to abandon my sisters who have already suffered immensely for speaking out.