The Problems With Trans Exclusionary Feminism

I can honestly say that I can’t comprehend trans exclusionary feminism, if you’re going to fight for the rights of women, that fight needs to encompass all women. In addition, feminism’s technical definition is a movement against gendered discrimination, which in the modern day (with people being slightly less ignorant of how gender actually works) includes far more gender identities than the binary male and female. Of course trans women have a different experience of womanhood to cisgender women, but excluding them from ‘women’s’ spaces is basically denying the entire existence of their identity. How can you properly exist without being acknowledged as a real person for who you actually are?

People have been raising concerns on this topic for a while now but I was recently approached with questions like ‘do you agree that trans women shouldn’t be included in feminist spaces because they haven’t grown up as women?’ to which I accidentally snorted with laughter before remembering I was required to explain the reasoning behind that snort. The fact is, if you’re going to follow the proper aims of feminism and by that I mean intersectionality (as much as many people love to claim this is not the right word), you need to be inclusive. A movement that aims to reduce exclusion, can’t narrow down its permitted participants without becoming entirely contradictory. Women of colour have different experiences of being a woman to white women, disabled women have different experiences to able-bodied women and gay or bisexual women have different experiences to straight women. If you deny trans women space within the feminist community based on the fact that their experience of womanhood is ‘different’ to yours, then by the same logic you should also exclude the list of women above. Once you reach this point you are left with a very small group of women who are not only the least marginalised women in our society but also all face the same issues. This becomes basically worthless and also pretty boring. The idea of excluding trans women from feminism is reflective of starting a world war, then refusing to collaborate with other nations who have the same enemies as you. Our enemies are prejudice, bullying based on identity and inequality in all its forms. In order to even begin to chip away at these elements the first thing we need to do is intersect our models of liberation. This immediately makes liberation groups a million times more powerful and creates a larger body of individuals that will make a larger impact.

Feminism needs to remain a movement for all self-defining women but also for all trans individuals, non-binary individuals and anyone else who may be marginalised on the basis of gender identity. Taking trans women as an example once again, their experiences are actually not only valid experiences of womanhood but also of facing extra prejudice and marginalisation on top of that. I don’t know whether radical, trans exclusionary feminists simply feel threatened by the fact that some people may be even more marginalised than women and particularly straight, white, middle class women, but I seriously struggle to see their logic. People ask whether feminism therefore needs a new name. I’ve had that suggestion posed to me many times, both during serious debates and on nights out when I’ve been drunk enough to just agree ‘sure… whatever’ so that someone will stop talking to me and let me enjoy my night (despite the fact that I’m a politically active person and they therefore see it as my duty to explain things to them). But personally I feel that a name change would eradicate the history of feminism and how much it has already achieved, renaming it stops the movement from existing. It’s not simply a club or a society; it’s a philosophical and ideological movement and a school of thought. Why are we worrying about the name of a theoretical argument when firstly you can’t simply decide to rename something of that category and secondly, it’s insignificant and overshadowed by the more important aim of redefining the movement. Renaming it proves nothing and tacking a new title onto something that has existed for centuries is also damn hard. We should be taking the valuable work done by feminism over the last hundred years and using the pre-existing platform and its strengths to remould it into a movement that is recognised for supporting people against gender based issues of any type.

In conclusion, of course trans women should be included in feminism, for the sake of power in unity and intersectional liberation, but more importantly because trans women are women just like any cis woman despite different experiences to the heternormative, cisnormative matrix of womanhood. You can’t simply turn around and deny someone’s entire existence because it isn’t the same as yours.

A Tribute to David Bowie, the Legend.

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‘Turn and face the strange’ is in my opinion one of the most powerful lyrics ever written and really summarises the impact of an immense icon. In 1964, a seventeen-year-old Bowie announced during an interview that he intended to start the ‘society for the prevention of cruelty to long haired men’ and from then it became obvious that he wasn’t just an artist but a political activist fighting to help society embrace differences. Sure, this is a semi-comedic example, but David Bowie really did help people broaden their definitions of gender, music, sexuality and appearance. Social media this week has been full of statuses, articles and comments that provide evidence of this impact that he had on the lives of young people of multiple generations. Bowie openly admitted his flaws as well as his oddness and showed the public that there was no requirement to be super-human in order to be significant.

His newest album ‘Blackstar’ was released for his 69th birthday the same week that he passed away having suffered from cancer. The album has been described as a parting gift to his fans, something to remember him by as he was apparently aware he was not expected by doctors to survive another year. Songs from ‘Blackstar’ as well as chart toppers from as far back as the 1970s have taken over the online charts since his death, making Bowie as dominant in this week’s lists as Justin Bieber. I think the reason he stood out so much in the music industry and the reason his influence spanned such a long time period was due to the sentiment behind his music; one of acceptance, differences and the inspiration to believe in yourself no matter what life threw at you. Although they may be the most obvious and I’m willing to admit to being seriously mainstream, my top five Bowie tracks have to be ‘Heroes’, ‘Life on Mars’, ‘Ashes to Ashes’, ‘Let’s Dance’ and ‘Starman’. Despite being released way before my time, these are the songs that got me through my first few months of sixth form as an angsty teen with recently divorced parents and a whole new academic setting. Bowie’s music makes you feel capable of taking on anything and as if you can be whomsoever you wish and still have the potential for success.

He became a timeless mystical figure projecting confidence into people’s lives and even now his music never fails to uplift me no matter how bad my mental health is or what is going on at that moment in my life. His lyrics may sound like he’s totally high but they create a make believe place where the boundaries of social constraints are removed and where people can relax. David Bowie redefined what it meant to be a man, which, considering how much of an icon he was, assisted the blurring of gender boundaries and helped to break down society’s enforced roles of femininity and masculinity. Bowie didn’t care what the media thought of him or about the comments of his critics; he raised awareness of the LGBTQ+ community and openly referenced his own fluid sexuality and gender. People are quick to say that prejudice doesn’t exist anymore but it definitely does, so in the ‘70’s this was even more necessary and a very new concept that was crucial for the progression of humanity.

Since his death a lot of negative press on Bowie has emerged with questions being raised; sexual abuse scandals, appropriation of queer culture and paedophilia have been referenced all over the internet. Despite my respect for social justice, I found myself deciding to save these questions for another day. I need time to mourn the death of a great icon before I mourn the fact that I may have been ignorant of allegations he faced. Many people would quickly condemn this but as someone who very rarely gets emotional over celebrities I doubt I have the mental capacity to find out so much about a hero of mine in one week. A friend suggested we have to separate the art from the artist and I feel this is the perfect explanation. Perhaps as a person, someone could be condemned, but their legacy may still have had a great impact on a variety of people and that on its own is immensely valuable in a world that so often turns us against one another.

Feeling that my own views do not do Bowie’s work justice, I asked people to offer their comments:

‘His whole image projected that he didn’t give a fuck. He was so weird, and embraced it rather than apologising for it, and he was so beautiful. He somehow confused a very judgmental world into admitting that this glorious gender fucking, queer as hell man, was wonderful, and someone we all wanted to be like. And he acted like he loved and accepted all his fans, and created this little space to exist as a freak, knowing that even if no one else would, Bowie would accept you. – Elena

‘He was a magical figure, who seemed to exist outside of the tedious, unhappy world I had to inhabit, who welcomed me into something bigger, something spectacular, effervescent. Somebody who made me realise it was okay to be a walking question mark, that you didn’t need to know the answer to ‘What am I?’ in order to say, proudly, ‘I am.’’ – Quen

‘Bowie did wonderful things for queer and bisexual visibility. Even if only talking openly about his image and experiences, it gave his fans a rare LGBT icon in celebrity culture. Also he just gave no fucks what critics felt about him or wanted of him. He’d kill off personas/images and create new and equally brilliant ones just as critics thought he was only getting started with the last one.’ – Kate

‘The first time I heard him I was eight and our Head Teacher played Space Oddity at the start of assembly, although my first thought was “wow this guy’s poor wife she probably will need to pay the mortgage by herself now” (I was quite an advanced child) it awoke something in me. Some kind of warm fuzzy feeling (I have never been very advanced in the articulation of emotion) and I think a lot of people have that when they hear Bowie for the first time.’ – Ellie

‘Sometimes when I’m having doubts about my social skills he comes and strokes my beard and tells me everything is going to be just fine. Or I’m sure he would, if we ever met, and he hadn’t died. God I miss Bowie.’ – Max