Cissexism and Trans Exclusion in Feminism

This article was written for “Remixing Feminisms” but since I have not yet received a reply from their team I am taking the initiative to publish it myself.

One doesn’t need to be a scholar to know or acknowledge the constant act of exclusion that is wrought within multiple sects of feminism. Day in and day out, reams of so-called radical feminists are working tirelessly to push their agenda of trans woman exclusion of not just from feminism, but all means of spaces where women exist. This is dangerous, this is violent, and this is a part of feminism that needs to be gone for good—it needs to be left where it started, way back in the seventies.

Some of us call these people Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, some might call them “gender critical.” They might even try to convince you that the acronym, “TERF” is a slur of some sort. Although, for all intents and purposes, it is only a rightfully earned label that serves as a warning for the people whom Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists frequently harm, harass and dox.

The symptom of this, and partly what goes along with it, is the constant act of completely unexamined cissexism. Cissexism is the erasure of not just transgender women, but all transgender people, through language that centers cisgender experiences and language, and even beyond the second wave that brought us Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists. This still exists and happens today in third wave feminism.

That is not to say that the experiences of cisgender women should not be spoken of, in fact, they absolutely should. But when we’re talking about reproductive rights there are multiple facets where both transgender men and transgender women fit. Take the defunding of Planned Parenthood, for example. This is extremely detrimental to the health and wellbeing of cis women all across the country, but Planned Parenthood also provides services to transgender people for hormone therapy. This affects all of us. Using language that centers the reproductive needs of cisgender women and only cisgender women is, unfortunately, partly exclusionary and a bold example of cissexism.

When you see liberal politicians like Bernie Sanders talking about the importance of women’s reproductive health, or saying such things as, “If men were giving birth to babies, there would not be a lot of discussion regarding the right to choose…”

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This is another completely obvious example of cissexism and how current discussion around feminism and women still, to this day, excludes transgender women and erases transgender men—because transgender men are men, and sometimes they do give birth. Then you have entire groups of non-binary people who aren’t even remotely considered in any of these discussions, maybe because people think this is all too new, or too fringe, who knows!

But no matter what version or wave of feminism we’re in, these are things that need to be challenged and changed. Cissexism must be addressed. Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists must be identified and spoken against, because we, transgender women, can no longer do it on our own. Not enough people listen to us. I have been pointing out cissexism and transmisogynist rhetoric in all means of feminism for years and it just isn’t enough.

Everybody needs to do their part for the betterment of not only feminism, but society as a whole. I can no longer speak on these issues alone and I can no longer bear the entire onus of challenging exclusionary language, while also speaking for my rights and the rights of all women simultaneously. And I imagine that other transgender women in my position might feel the same.

If this all sounds strange, then I do not think we are anywhere near a fourth wave of feminism, because, as I said before, all of these things are completely obvious in day-to-day discussions circling around feminist discourse and all one needs to do is acknowledge it.

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