Trans identities and Feminism

Our theme of the month is Trans identities and Feminism, through which we invite you, our readers, our writers and anyone else to reflect upon gender identities, trans identities, and the role and/or impact of these questions within the feminist movement. Ultimately seeking to question the underlying assumptions governing our current frameworks of understanding around trans identities.

Talia Bettcher (2009) contents that Transgender is often used to refer to people who “do not conform to prevailing expectations about gender” by presenting and living genders that were not assigned to them at birth or by presenting and living genders in ways that may not be readily intelligible in terms of more traditional conceptions of gender”. In this way, Transgender represents an umbrella term for different kinds of identities, which disrupt the binary construct and structures of our society. In the 1990s, fuelled by political and LGBTQIA+ activism, a new academic, interdisciplinary field emerged within queer theory, transgender studies with as primary aim to analyse, interpret, and investigate gender, desire, embodiment, and identity. In this respect, it seeks to disrupt, denaturalise, rearticulate, and make increasingly visible the normative linkages that are assumed by individuals and society at large to typically exist between the biologically and sexually differentiated body, the social roles and statuses that one occupies because of his/her/their body, the subjective relationship between one’s gendered sense of self and society’s expectations of his/her/their gender performance, and the socio-cultural mechanisms at play that help sustain, develop, and exacerbate these configurations of gendered personhood. In this way, questions such as  

Is the self ontologically prior to the institution of gender identity? Is sex the foundation on which a gendered self is constructed, or is sex also in and of itself instrinsically cultural? 

have become increasingly essential and influential, especially in connection to feminism. 

We, at the Feminist Club Amsterdam, hold ourselves to be intersectional feminists, which inevability calls for the inclusion of trans women within the movement. We therefore contend that trans women are women, and that trans men are men, and that everyone’s gender identity is valid. However, certain branches of feminism have taken a different approach. In this regard, what we can refer to as trans exclusionary radical feminists (TERF), reject this notion and hold that it is not because someone feels like a woman that one is a woman. More specifically, as they hold that it represents ‘ritualised submission’, gender increasingly becomes less of an identity than a caste position within society. Anyone born a man in society holds a privileged position for them, even if he/she/they ‘chooses’ to be a woman – thus, assuming a subordinate position within the patriarchal hierarchy – he/she/they still have a choice and can thus, never truly experience, feel, and understand what it means to be a woman, which effectively leads them to often reject and undermine trans experiences, struggles, and understandings. If you want to know more about this topic, keep your eyes open for an article in the coming days. 

Through this theme, we want to invite you to reflect upon trans identities, their inclusive and exclusionary impulses within the feminist movement(s), and/or ultimately, contemplate what it all means to you.


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