Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Anti-Trans Radical Feminists Agree

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | August 01, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: anti-trans, Radical feminism, transphobia

From the incredibly funny political cartoonist Barry Deutsch of Portland comes this awesome cartoon about radical feminists who can't stand trans women. (Most radical feminists aren't transphobic, but there are an unfortunate few.)

The rest of the cartoon after the jump. It's totally worth it.


(h/t @Loispennycandy)

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In my experience, it isn't just radical feminists, and the word 'some' should be replaces with the phrase 'pretty much all'. I have found that noone who knows my history truly considers me a woman, even if they met me as one and accepted me as one, then found out later that I was trans (though quite a few will accept me in their spaces, stop short of just treating me as another women). This includes all women I know, though bi women seem to be the closest to accepting. But the solution to pollution is dilution, as they say in some circles...

Oh, and yes, this is one thing that pretty much all groups, religious, conservative, liberal, whatever can agree on, that trans women are really men.


I remember this caused a bit of a stir on the feminist blogs when it was first published.

From the explanatory notes to the UK "Equality Act 2010" that has recently come into force:

A counsellor working with victims of rape might have to be a woman and not a transsexual person, even if she has a gender recognition certificate, in order to avoid causing them further distress.
A Gender Recognition Certificate is therefore meaningless. They're not women, they're Transsexual Persons.
A group counselling session is provided for female victims of sexual assault. The organisers do not allow transsexual people to attend as they judge that the clients who attend the group session are unlikely to do so if a male-to-female transsexual person was also there. This would be lawful.

The effect is illustrated here.

sick of the hate | August 1, 2010 6:54 PM

Does that chip ever come off your shoulder?

The irony of course is that butch women attack the idea of woman more than trans women do.

hardy har har.

The Cristian Conservative movement enforces rigid gender roles making it pretty damned unlikely a Christian Conservative woman would get away with a butch gender expression.

Marja Erwin | August 1, 2010 8:00 PM

"The irony of course is that butch women attack the idea of woman more than trans women do."


Neither butch womyn, nor trans womyn, nor butch trans womyn "attack" the idea of womonhood. It is only if and when we deny our authentic selves that we "attack" the idea.

Hi Marja, it's me...GrrrlRomeo...butch dyke...

To clarify: I believe the cartoonist was implying that butch women attack the idea of woman. That's the joke...the cartoonist's joke.

And I don't think it's particularly funny since I'm butch. The "hardy har har" was meant to signify that I wasn't all that amused.

It's impossible to do a caricature of a butch since it will only end up mocking TG Butch or even trans men.

Oy, nevermind.

Marja Erwin | August 1, 2010 9:40 PM

Sorry, I'm kinda defensive about that. I've had to deal with occasional ungendering, even from other trans womyn, over that.

To offer some balance to what Carol says, I'd like to offer that my experience has been completely different. I could easily point to a dozen or more feminist blogs where not only are trans women accepted, our inclusion is presumed...meaning that in the analysis of their privilege, the cisgender authors of said blogs have deconstructed their own gatekeeper status (which was guarded carefully by certain second wave feminists of the 70s...AKA, the "radical feminists" this cartoon mocks). Likewise, I'm pretty much always accepted as "one of the girls" without question, even by those who know my history (which is pretty much everyone I've ever had more than two conversations with). It's perhaps notable that, for the most part, both the bloggers and my circle of friends are women in their 20s and 30s.

And going to what Zoe says, I happen to volunteer as a sexual assault and domestic abuse first responder with a prominent non-profit organization near where I live. They accepted me into their female-only program more than a year ago, before my name change was even legal, and I was even recognized as Volunteer of the Year within that program. So yeah, as a global society, we're still living down some of the old paradigms illustrated in the comic, but today's feminism has never trashed me.

Mhmmm, I read Feministing and Feministe. Though I am at a loss for any other feminist sites where they actually 'walk the walk', rather than just using trans issues to show how with it they are (Broadsheet, Jezebel, and Double X certainly don't, and the title 'Double X' pretty much says it all). And on pretty much all the lesbian sites I have ever been to, trans men are included in the community (noone much sees them as 'real' men anymore than they see trans women as 'real' women, IMHO), trans women were not included. Though the gay guys seem to like them pretty well (and treat trans men like cis women treat trans women).

I realize these are all generalizations, but every time I see 'transgender' mentioned on a lesbian site ("Transgender character on X show!") I always know before I eve read it that it will be a trans masculine girl or a trans man.

And really, I was talking about real life, not the net, though thankfully your experience has been contrary to mine (and apparently Zoe's) there.

Yeah, I'm not saying it doesn't happen, and I can't comment on the lesbian community and their relationship with trans women and trans men since that's not a community I have much contact with, but I did want to offer up my experience for contrast.

Feministe, Feministing, and Shakesville are three of the sites I was thinking of. And they may not always get it right, but I've also never personally seen them get it wrong (example: a few weeks ago, Feministe blasted XX for the way it erases trans identities just by calling itself XX). Beyond that, I could suggest a number of personal blog sites (most of which I've found through tumblr...it's incredibly easy to track stuff, good and bad, through tumblr); again, there's a learning curve, but that learning is taking place.

And yeah, the net locations I reference only back-up the real-life experiences I've had within the feminist community. There's no doubt I've personally suffered a lot of discrimination - I'm unemployed right now because of it - but when bad stuff has happened to me, it's been my friends and the organization I belong to that have had my back and voiced the most outrage (not that that outrage has really done any good. *sigh*).

Carol, it is trans men's choice if they want to continue to be part of the lesbian community. Some of them don't want to be read as straight men, and that's their right. If cissexual men can be lesbian-identified, so too can trans men.

Trans women are present on the sites I go to. I imagine more than I'm even aware of. Though the sites I go to aren't feminist focused...they're just women who like women sites really.

I, uh, think that cissexual men who identify as lesbian are appropriating.

I know a lot of trans men were part of the lesbian community, but I think that a lot of trans men continue to take up space in the lesbian community in a manner that excludes trans women who are actually women.

And I could do without hearing about another trans guy's cis girlfriend who hates trans women. Or how said cis girlfriend considers cis lesbians who date trans women to not be authentically lesbian.

But by all means, let's not talk about the ways transphobia manifests in the lesbian community through not respecting trans men as men or trans women as women.

I thought male lesbian identity was appropriation too, and maybe some of them are...but some of them are just genderqueer.

The things I could do without include people wondering why lesbians date women that "look like men." (Which is either a reference to lesbians dating butches or bisexual women dating trans men. Take your pick.)

I'm probably the wrong person to lobby, or maybe you just think "the lesbian community" is like the Borg. But I don't believe the lesbian community has limited seating. I don't believe it can run out of space. I don't believe someone needs to be kicked out in order to let someone in. I have always supported the inclusion of trans women. I have always considered trans women to be women. So, I mean, yell at me about the lesbian community all you want. It's not like you're ever going to convince me to reject it. Even if you hate it, it's the only community that has ever accepted me as I am and allowed me to be me.

"I thought male lesbian identity was appropriation too, and maybe some of them are...but some of them are just genderqueer."

For me it sounds differently when someone genderqueer also defines as lesbien, or when it's someone who is clearly a man.

I like this quote from a friend : "self-definition has its limits, and these limits are the lesbian man".

"But I don't believe the lesbian community has limited seating. I don't believe it can run out of space. I don't believe someone needs to be kicked out in order to let someone in."

I don't think that's the question, at least concerning trans men. Now personally I don't get why, if you call something "lesbians", you should also necessarily include trans men, and I found it frustrating to be criticized by cis lesbians because we set up a space that was, well, just for lesbians (cis or trans).

I find it a bit different when a trans male person also identifies as lesbian and wants to join this space (though the trans male people I know who where interested by this kind of stuff identified as tg butches, or female-to-unknown, etc., but none as man), and I wouldn't kick him off, but I find it questioning when cis lesbian say "oh, we should be more open to trans boys, they are not enough", particularly given the level of exotization of trans men you can find in some lesbians.

"So, I mean, yell at me about the lesbian community all you want. It's not like you're ever going to convince me to reject it."

I don't think criticizing something necessarily means asking other people to reject it, or rejecting it yourself. I am myself very critical of many aspects of "lesbian community" (or lesbian communities) and that doesn't prevent me to be part of it.

I remember trying to identify as male lesbian before transition, so I wonder how much is appropriation and how much is the estimated (according to Lynn Conway's numbers) 3 in 4 trans womyn who do not or are not transitioning, trying to find some way to express themselves.

I tend to think that openness to the transfeminine spectrum is a little more important than policing transfemininity in womyn's spaces so that, for example, we don't see a repeat of the shameful display where post-operative womyn trade on their operative status to proclaim that they should be granted access and non-or-pre-operative womyn should not, an idea forwarded by Anne Lawrence among others.

If rights are contingent on surgery then they are not rights. Conditional rights are simply cookies thrown to the oppressed to encourage kapoization.

Is also say that there are a number of feminists that are trans supportive. I grew up withinba feminist community and while they haven't been perfect, they all have accepted me. I even discovered that one of my parents' friends had been in a relationship with a trans woman back when I was really young.

Then when I went to school in women's studies, the assumption was to be trans supportive. And when I faced anti-trans harassment, my dept had my back. Now pretty much all the organizations I work with are feminist and trans-inclusive. And I recently was given a feminist award for my work on a trans woman focused project.

Sure, each of those communities aren't perfect and have problems, but the intention of trans-inclusiveness is important too. And my offline feminist communities have all had that intention, many of them living it as a reality.

I dated a radical feminist for 4 years and I was, and am accepted in all women spaces I care to go to. The rape clinic in Decatur had us trans women do a training class for them. I only had one problem in the 13+ years and that was when a feminist publisher in Michigan didn't want my article because I was trans. "Michigan?" Is there something in the water in Michigan?

I'm from Michigan.

And yeah, we have some problems here. We also have a lot of good though (see my comment replies to Carol, for example).

I've recently been informed that few people who know me face to face and all that will ever say anything to indicate that I might not be a woman in any way, shape or form.

Apparently I have a reputation. Go figure.

If they do so away from me, word hasn't come back to me of such. So we'll just see.

I'm not sure what the percentages of anti-trans radical feminists are among the total population of cis radical feminists. I do know that the former group is incredibly vocal online, but not very large.

I've heard that in the UK, they tend to be more numerous and active.

I think it's not that anti-trans people are a majority among radical feminists - I think they're a minority, maybe even just a handful. It's just those who are are so stridently insistent that they alone carry the standard of feminist purity - that's what makes the similarity to cultural conservatives so striking, and makes the joke ring true...

Susanna I Astarte | August 2, 2010 2:24 AM

I am a very radical feminist and totally trans friendly! Sad that some others are not. They need to be educated!

I have learned through experience that it is counter productive to challenge any transsexual who makes a statement similar to "I am accepted as a woman". I'm sure it will create some angst but the reality is that no woman would go there simply because the idea would be foreign to their reality. I do know a few real life "trans" who bully others in various ways to the extent that no one would dare contradict their assertion. I know one person who even beat up a male neighbor who insinuated that she was not a woman. Sure enough that neighbor minds his etiquette these days when he is in her presence. Oh the irony.

Andrew Belonsky Andrew Belonsky | August 2, 2010 10:35 AM

I wish I could say I'm surprised by the comparison between "radical lesbian" and "conservative christian," but I am not: oddly, restrictive gender definitions happens to be a unifying topic for people on both sides of the political aisle. This reminds me a bit of the "man's rights" movement that's taking root across America: http://www.deathandtaxesmagazine.com/mens-rights-movement-misses-being-on-top/

Thanks for this, Jillian!

This cartoon has been circulating for, what seems to me, over a year. I first encountered it on a site that deals with intersex issues. Intersex people seem to be able to see through hypocrisy in a way that is instinctive. It probably has do with a lifetime of seeing through binary sexism, even sexism that patronizingly gives lip service to "gender binary" double speak. Bodies are sexed. Sex is defined by a performative process that has nothing to do with acting.

To quote Audre Lorde:

"It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences."

She called out a few feminists out in her time.

This morning I woke up to this statement at a Facebook group I belong to:

"An interesting thing:
When we bought educational books about Trans people, then donated them to a LGBT center, 3 weeks later, most of them had disappeared off of the shelf they were on - then saw that several of them were thrown into a dumpster
in the back of the LGBT center. Only 3 books that had anything
remotely to do with Trans people remained: 2 worn out ones and "The Transsexual Empire" - by Janice Raymond..."

With all the talk of "trans" inclusion at the various "LGBT" sites I am impressed by the silence concerning the Texas lawsuit involving Nikki Araguz. I know! It is a heterosexual marriage. It is a case involving marriage equality, though.

If there were really inclusion of transsexual issues and intersex issues, there would be concern over what is going on in Texas. People of transsexual experience have made inroads where Marriage Equality is concerned. There seems to be no concern for holding on to what has been accomplished where the rights of people born transsexual or intersex are involved. It subtracts nothing from gains that have yet to be achieved. In fact, the situation in Texas threatens to make a travesty of the notion that my marriage is a same sex marriage, thereby making a travesty of my existence. Interestingly, because of the implications involving sex recognition based on binary sexist prejudice, Sweden is about to drop the requirement for sex recognition that people of transsexual experience divorce and submit to sterilization.

Texas is portraying Nikki's marriage as a same sex marriage, thereby denying her recognition as female. That is where the problem lies. What she is being denied is a an issue that should be taken up as a feminist issue. It isn't because her recognition as female is being denied.

There is a lot lot of lip service given in the GLBT community to notions of transgression where "gender expression" and "gender binaries" are concerned but what about binary sexism?

Binary sexism seems reinforced within LGBT activist circles. Look at the way Zoe Brain's concerns about the duplicitous way women of transsexual experience are being dealt regarding how their status is being written into British law concerning rape counseling. It makes gender recognition nothing more than a than a long leash to jerk people around with while dissolving their same sex marriages and placing people on registries similar to the ones sex offenders are kept on.

Then there is the way the issue of genital mutilation at Cornell and abusive practices of Dix Poppas and also the prescribing of dexamethosone has been framed as a feminist problem while obscuring the implications regarding obvious intersex variation.

Obviously, there are overlapping concerns for people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, intersex, or simply queer. Human rights are multi-axial and very complex, however. There has to be a lot more respect for difference and concern for problems that others involved in coalitions might not share if there is to be any progress.

When it comes to binaries, I believe what needs to be raised in terms of consciousness is the binary opposition created by the false dichotomies perpetuated through binary sexism which is based on illusions that sex is a strictly binary phenomenon.


I must have been on my fourth cup of coffee when I wrote this, this morning.

I am not going to take back much of what I said but I did say too much all at once and this, which is not accurate:

"There seems to be no concern for holding on to what has been accomplished where the rights of people born transsexual or intersex are involved."

The transsexual part is topsy turvy in my case but at least some states have recognized people who have gone through transsexual treatments for the reason they sought them. People who are intersex have more trouble being recognized for who they are and are least often heard.

I do think it is "a pity we can't all just be people." I truly wish it were all that simple. In reality we are "just people". We're all the same, only different.

What a pity that we cant just all be "people".

I loved it. In fact, when people start talking to me about transphobia, I often say that the worst enemy of trans women are self-important feminists.

While I certainly do agree that there are feminists who are heavily transphobic, and an history of transphobia among some feminist currents, I find it a bit problematic when a man explains what are the "worst enemies" of trans women.

I don't think it's your intent in your post but I've seen on several occasions cis people use "transphobia" as an argument to delegitimize feminist events (that weren't particularly transphobic) and I sometimes wonder if this "trans-friendlyness" is sincere or a pretext to be anti-feminist, so I'm a bit wary when men explain that the worst enemy of trans women are feminists or anything.

(but I must admit that when it comes to feminism I might be a wee bit paranoid :o) )

Lots of damage to trans women has been done under the guise of "Feminism" - particularly the Second Wave's idea of "shared girlhood". This is well documented and trotted out rather frequently (Thanks Janice, Mary, Karla, and Germaine).

However, it seem that appropriation of trans people and trans* identities by cis gay men gets much less play. The entire academic movement to establish "gay history" s full of examples of "gays and lesbians" whose only proof is cross-gendered behaviors or dress.

Many times the examples of societies that were more accepting of G/L people are societies that had a cultural recognition of trans* or gender variant people.

Whenever you read "In some cultures gay men were spiritual leaders and were thought to bridge male and female/ the spirit word and the physical" Those folks aren't exactly talking about "gay men" has we understand them today. They are talking about people who are closer to our concepts of "trans*" identities.

To be completely fair, those same people may have no particular investment in a trans identity - thus the difficulty and ultimate futility if trying to use modern western identities on ancient and/or non-western peoples.

I read that cartoonist's blog, and I'm pretty sure this interpretation is incorrect. The second woman's butchness is not the point of the joke, it just makes her revelation that she's a Conservative Christian more surprising.

It needs to be said:

We are talking about transsexual women now and the worst offenders in my experience are transgenders, some of whom made comments already, in the total, absolute and never ending denial of the womanhood of women of transsexual history via constant attempts to claim anatomy/genetics makes one male forever etc and they are never called out on it. The exact same comment coming from the religious right would bring screams for GLAAD to release the hit squads. All the cis crap is further evidence that all the claims of womanhood by most transgender identified people are total crap. They separate themselves from women, view feminist women as the enemy and constantly tell fully woman identified people of trans and intersexed history they never will be "real" women. Evidence of this is all over this very blog.

Only "transgender" embracing gay men are worse. I can and have sat down for extended conversations with conservative Christians and Radical Feminist Separatists and never have my own womanhood challenged even with my medical history known. That is impossible with gay men and transgender identified people. But then I am fully female identified unlike almost anyone "trans" who posts here, perhaps that makes the difference? I've never had to "bully" anyone to accept me as a woman without qualifiers in the real world. I also don't define myself out of womanhood into some third category, things that make you go hmmmmmmmm.

I'm curious to see how Browning defines this as a violation of the TOS to erase it.