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.