No, Trans Rights do not contribute to Women’s Oppression

Trans women are not being advantaged by identifying as women. And suggesting that they are only perpetuates right wing myths


It is argued by gender critical leftists that there is a material biological component to women’s oppression. Does this mean that women’s oppression predates the rise of class society, and is therefore an insoluble issue?

I don’t see any reason society couldn’t be organised so women don’t bear the brunt of childcare. Indeed, that process was started in Russia following the Bolshevik revolution. Communal launderies, restaurants and nurseries were set up. In the UK, provision was made in wartime to enable more women to work. It was withdrawn rapidly afterwards. Indeed, magazines went from how to cook a quick meal to much more elaborate ones in the 50s. It was a conscious shift by the establishment to get women to feel their place was back in the kitchen and out of the formal workplace.

Other aspects of women’s oppression also take particular forms under capitalism. The media and social obsession with appearance, the commodification of sex, marketing of ‘beauty products’, obsession with motherhood etc. It’s only a few years since the advert with the slogan ‘that’s why mums go to Iceland [the budget supermarket]’ disappeared from UK TV screens.

Trans women do not gain advantages by identifying as women. Professor Joan Roughgarden, who transitioned at the age of 52 in 1998, recently wrote in ‘New Scientist’ magazine about the difference it made to her academic career. She had to fill out far more applications to get less funding. Questions from sponsors changed from presuming competency to not.

It has been suggested that men would use self identification (as a trans woman) to access women to abuse. But this ignores the fact that abusive men seem to access far too many women to abuse, without changing their legal gender identity. No country where legal self identification is the law, has seen an upsurge in trans women abusing non trans women. It’s reminiscent of the ‘gays are paedophiles’ lie that was widespread in the 1980s. Trans women, statistically, are at least as much as risk of abuse from cis men, as cis women are.

I still want to know how people who advocate excluding trans people from single sex spaces (and it’s almost always trans women that are mentioned) see this being done in real life. In Florida, I understand that legislation is now being passed that allows genital inspections to ensure trans exclusion. And those most likely to be inspected are women who don’t conform to gender stereotypes. Hardly liberating. The logic of this is the reinforcing of gender stereotypes. Or genital inspections for all women, or everyone entering a single sex space.

Of course, this ignores the fact there are intersex people. Are those against trans self identification ok with the surgical interventions on babies and children, who cannot consent, to try and ensure they fall more neatly into ‘male’ or ‘female’ categories? If they are against such surgical intervention (which I think all socialists should be) how can they demand that everyone be classified as male or female?

Athletics federations and sporting bodies are using hormone levels to determine gender identity. Again, in a misogynistic fashion – men aren’t all tested, and those missing the arbitrary hormone level aren’t ordered to participate in the women’s competitions.

This is the logic of an abstract position on trans exclusion – how will it be enforced? In practice, it reinforces gender stereotyping. People will have to conform to gender stereotypes in order to avoid being challenged.

People who don’t conform to gender stereotypes – ‘butch’ women, ‘effeminate’ men, and androgynous people – are already being abused and attacked by transphobes.

The presumption all humans fit exclusively into ‘male’ and ‘female’ categories isn’t scientific. ‘Biological gender’ is a spectrum with a primarily, but not exclusive – bimodal distribution.

This doesn’t mean that the social identification of gender identity doesn’t have real consequences, including oppression. As does the denial of an individuals right to determine their gender identity, as male, female, non binary, intersex etc.

The alternative to genital inspections and/or hormone (and chromosome?) testing would be ID cards. But then, someone would have to determine what gender was on the ID card…

I’d really appreciate it if people advocating trans exclusion could tell me how this would work in practice, without further oppressing women in particular. So far I’ve had abuse, but not a single answer.