The trans ideology is a threat to womanhood


The trans ideology is a threat to womanhood

Denying biological sex undermines the very foundation of feminism.

Meghan Murphy

Topics Feminism Long-reads

On Saturday 2 November, a few dozen protesters gathered outside the Pan Pacific hotel in Vancouver chanting, ‘No TERFS, No KKK, No fascists’. One young white woman held a sign saying, ‘White feminism ain’t shit’. The equally as white woman next to her carried a guillotine made out of cardboard, with the words, ‘Step right up, TERFs’, written on it. The brave young soul wore a ski mask to protect her from accountability. Those under threat, of course, do not share the same privilege.

You might assume these rageful Vancouverites were protesting against some kind of Nazi or white supremacist, threatening to exterminate entire groups of people. But no, these folk were out on a Saturday night with megaphones, blaring sirens, chanting, ‘Hey hey, ho ho, Nazi scum has got to go’, because 300 people were inside to hear a panel discussing media bias in the gender-identity debate. To be fair, it was me, one of the speakers that night, who was the primary subject of their ire, as I continue to dare to insist that women are female, and that our rights matter.

The issue is also that we were discussing gender identity in a critical rather than celebratory way — conversation the left has deemed resolved and untouchable. Either you repeat the words ‘Trans women are women’ ad nauseam — and, when asked ‘What is a woman?’ or ‘How does one go from male to female?’, scream ‘Nazi!’ in response — or you are a blasphemous hatemonger who gets the wall.

That event in Vancouver was the third in a series organised primarily by two women – Amy Hamm and Holly Stamer. They have no particular activist background and simply wanted to have a conversation in Canada about the issue of gender identity and women’s rights. The first event they organised – a panel featuring myself; Lee Lakeman, a long-time feminist activist, and collective member at Vancouver Rape Relief (now retired); and Fay Blaney, an indigenous feminist who has been fighting violence against indigenous women and girls in Canada for decades. The panel itself didn’t focus so much on trans identity as it did on the history of the feminist movement and the importance of women’s sex-based rights. Nonetheless, numerous activists pressured our venue, the Vancouver Public Library (VPL), to cancel our booking. They claimed we intended to engage in ‘hate speech’ and wanted to ‘erase the existence of trans people’. I myself am regularly said to ‘harm’ trans people and to ‘incite discrimination and hatred’.

This is, of course, ridiculous, and clearly many of the activists making these accusations know it, as, if you ask for evidence of this, you will experience a form of ghosting or be told to ‘Educate yourself!’.

The crux of my argument, for the uninitiated, is this: biological males cannot become female. Not only is it impossible to change sex, but there is no reason to. It is okay to be male, and it is okay to be female. You are never ‘born in the wrong body’ — you are simply born in a body, whether you like it or not. As much as I may feel (and behave) like a 25-year-old, my body protests, and no insisting on my part can change that. When my ex-boyfriend was a child, he insisted he was going to be an elephant when he grew up, yet, cruelly, his parents opted not to provide him with trunk surgery. Why sex is believed to be the sole material reality that can be imagined away, I do not know, though I suspect it has something to do with Judith Butler.

When my ex-boyfriend was a child, he insisted he was going to be an elephant when he grew up, yet, cruelly, his parents opted not to provide him with trunk surgery

One of the problems with this debate is that people tend to confuse sex with ‘gender’, and conflate the terms. So, to be clear, ‘sex’ refers only to biology, while ‘gender’ refers to the stereotypes imposed on or assumed of people based on their sex. For example, it is assumed women are more passive, emotional and irrational than men, and prefer dresses over pants, and painful shoes over comfortable ones. We also, it is believed, are inherently drawn to ironing and shopping, and enjoy draping ourselves across hoods of luxury vehicles, preferably while wet and soapy. Men, by comparison, are assumed to be more rational, unemotional and assertive than women, and enjoy practical, comfortable clothing in which they can do things like bend over, walk and sit. It is believed they are naturally inclined towards games that include ball-throwing and catching, are only able to cook things on barbeques, and that they are born with a neurological disorder that prevents them from making plans in advance.

Those of us who are men or women, or who know other men and women, are aware that these stereotypes are not universally true. I love wearing shoes that I can walk in, for example, and have met several men with emotions.

You can be born male and choose to wear make-up and dresses, if you like. Certainly, you can reject stereotypes attached to masculinity by, say, doing the dishes or giggling at jokes that are in no way funny. But that doesn’t literally make you female.

This should not be a controversial thing to say. It should not, in fact, be a thing that must be said at all. But the gods are playing a trick on us, I assume to punish human civilisation for inventing the unicycle, and the kinds of people who ride a unicycle, and it is now controversial to say that only women can have babies and that the penis is a male sex organ.

Last month, the BC Human Rights Tribunal (BCHRT) ruled against a man who brought 15 discrimination complaints against Vancouver estheticians who declined to provide him with waxing services. Jessica Yaniv (né Jonathan) contacted these women via Facebook, claiming to be a woman himself, and asking, in most cases, for a Brazilian bikini wax. Upon learning that their potential client was in fact male — and that, therefore, they were being asked to handle and wax a man’s genitals — the beauticians refused his request. Yaniv claimed this constituted discrimination on the basis of gender identity, as he actually identified as female.

The BCHRT determined that Yaniv was exploiting gender-identity ideology in an attempt to extort money out of women (intentionally targeting immigrant women, as he was revealed to have a racist hate on for ‘immigrants’, but also because he knew these women would be easy targets, as they would feel vulnerable to pressure and would lack social and legal supports). And the case was thrown out.

This is a relief, of course. The women Yaniv targeted suffered enormously as a result of his complaints — the process was incredibly stressful for them and their families; they lost income, and one of the women was forced to close her business as a result. But it is the fact that this happened at all that is troubling. How have we come to a place where a man feels entitled to demand that women touch his genitals, under the guise that he is ‘female’?

While many trans activists have claimed Yaniv is not representative – that he should not be used as an example in order to demonstrate the dangers of gender-identity ideology – he is, in fact, the perfect example. It is precisely this scenario that those of us who have been trying to force a critical conversation about the impact of trans activism and gender-identity legislation on women have been warning would happen. We have said that if any man can claim to be female, then women will no longer be allowed to have boundaries. They won’t be able to say, ‘No, you may not enter our changing room’; ‘No, you cannot stay in this women’s shelter’; ‘No, you cannot be transferred to a female prison’; or, ‘No, I will not touch your “female” scrotum’.

If that oh-so-elusive word, ‘woman’, means nothing, then what does it mean to insist you are one?

Moreover, what women like me have said is that women’s rights cannot exist at all if there is no such thing as a woman. My most common response to those who tell me, ‘Trans women are women’ is, ‘What is a woman?’.

The longstanding definition of ‘woman’ is ‘adult human female’. If a woman is no longer a biological female, but a man who would like to be viewed as a woman, presumably out of a desire to be treated as though he is an insufferable nag every time he tries to discuss things that matter to him, then what actually is a woman? What does that word mean? And if ‘woman’ has become so complicated and ever-changing and impossible to define, then what is the point of having the word at all? If that oh-so-elusive word – ‘woman’ – means nothing, then what does it mean to insist you are one? Why dissolve into a violent rage when referred to as ‘sir’ instead of ‘maam’, if those words are such empty and vague categories?

Feminists have long preferred to believe women aren’t defined by sexist stereotypes, yet trans activists tell us that, in fact, a woman is defined not by having been born female, but by an individual’s proclivity towards the ‘feminine’. The narrative around ‘trans kids’ generally insists that a boy’s preference for princess culture, dresses and dolls is ‘proof’ that he is ‘really a girl’, and young women who reject long hair and pink dresses (and, oftentimes, are lesbians), or who don’t enjoy being sexually objectified, believe, as a result of trans narratives, that they must really be boys. Males who transitioned young often tell stories of being subjected to homophobic bullying as kids; and girls talk about sexual assault, and a deep desire to rid themselves of the bodies they believe led men to abuse, objectify or harass them.

It makes sense that young people would be looking for an explanation for the discomfort they feel about their bodies or the gender stereotypes they feel don’t fit their true selves. And our ‘progressive’ world has offered them an easy answer — but one that too often leads them down a path towards hormone treatment and surgeries, both of which have irreversible impacts, including sterilisation.

I am not opposed to ‘trans people’. What I am opposed to are the sexist narratives surrounding transgenderism. And I am incredibly concerned about the way that gender-identity legislation essentially nullifies women’s rights. You can’t have gender-identity legislation and sex-based rights. Either sex is an immutable thing, or it is determined through self-declaration and nothing more. Either women experience discrimination because they are female, or they experience discrimination because they identify too strongly with feminine stereotypes.

At the end of the day, I don’t really care how you wish to identify as an individual. I do think it’s rather narcissistic to think that your personality is so special it removes you from material reality and the natural world, as it has existed for millions of years. But I’m not interested in stopping you from living your life in a way that feels authentic to you, so long as it isn’t harming others. I do draw the line, though, when your ‘authentic self’ supersedes the rights, safety and dignity of women and girls – when you say women can no longer have safe spaces because a man will literally cease to exist if he is not referred to as ‘she’ and is not allowed to prance around with his dick out in a women’s locker room.

I draw the line when trans people’s ‘authentic self’ supersedes the rights, safety and dignity of women and girls

In October, hundreds of people gathered outside the Toronto Public Library to protest about a talk I was giving inside. I said things like, ‘Women have the right to speak about their sex-based rights, and to discuss valid concerns about the impact of men identifying as women on their safety’. And: ‘Female athletes should not be made to compete with or against male athletes.’ And: ‘Women have specific rights based on the history and reality of sex-based oppression.’ I criticised the Canadian government’s decision to place dangerous male predators in prisons with women, who are already among the most marginalised people in the country. I asked, ‘On what basis do women’s rights exist, if the word “woman” is meaningless? If anyone can identify in and out of femaleness on a whim?’ The rest of my words are equally as reasonable, and out there for all to see.

No matter. What are words when there is hatred to spew? And, indeed, hatred was spewed. Activists screamed, ‘TERF bitch!, and ‘FUCK YOU’, in the faces of women as they left the event. They chanted ‘SHAME’ at attendees. They were, frankly, terrifying. Which is why I had to be escorted by numerous police and two bodyguards through the back entrance to the public library, simply to say that women are real, and that our rights matter.

Every time I speak anywhere, the venue receives violent, often misogynistic threats, as do I and the organisers. Our 2 November event in Vancouver was originally scheduled to take place at Simon Fraser University (SFU), but our sponsor for the booking pulled the plug at the last minute, afraid that violence would take place. With two days to spare, we managed to secure a lovely (and much bigger) room at the Pan Pacific, enabling us to sell over 100 more tickets. But we shouldn’t have to resort to private venues to hold these conversations. Women should be able to speak about their own rights and safety in public venues, without worrying about being beaten, or worse.

The bullies aren’t winning this fight. It may take a while yet, but the tides are turning, and people are losing patience for those who engage in lies and threats to prevent people from using common sense and respectful communication to discuss laws and policy. Turns out women aren’t so passive after all.

Meghan Murphy is a writer based in Vancouver, BC. Her website is Feminist Current.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Feminism Long-reads


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