It’s Time That Feminism Becomes Trans Inclusive

Historically, the feminist movement has been led by white, straight, cisgender women. Women of color and queer women never felt as if there was a space for them in any wave of the feminist movement. Feminism seems to be shifting with the election of Trump. Although we still have a lot of progress to make, there has been a move towards intersectional-feminism in which women of color and queer women are center-focused in the resistance.

Despite these efforts, there is still one group of women who are constantly excluded from the conversation on women’s rights: Transgender women. These women, throughout history. have been on the receiving end hate speech, threats, and harassment at the hands of the feminist movement. Germaine Greer, a feminist activist in the 1970s, wrote about trans-women as “ghastly parodies” of women saying that, “other delusions may be challenged, but not a man’s delusions that he is female.”

Another so-called feminist, Janice Raymond, once stated that, “all transsexuals rape women’s bodies by reducing the real female form to an artifact, appropriating the body for themselves.”  It is truly devastating and disappointing that the most hateful speech towards transgender women was from within the feminist movement. 

Trans-women continue to be excluded from various “women only” spaces. Trans-women are often prohibited from women’s only restrooms, schools, homeless shelters, dorm rooms, and supportive spaces. This presents an internalized authenticity war within the feminist movement: What makes a “real woman” and what doesn’t? Womanhood is thus defined as being “born that way” or having correlating genitalia. Under this arbitrary and inaccurate categorization, trans-women are disqualified from authentic womanhood and, therefore, from feminist/women’s spaces on a whole.

Trans-women are women. If they identify as a woman, their voices deserve to be heard just as much as any other woman. Gender is between the ears, not between the legs.

The feminist movement also needs to have dialogues about issues which affect a large percentage of trans-women. These include homelessness, rape, identity documents, discrimination, and lack of health-care. We can’t just talk about reproductive rights, as important as that issue is, as it excludes trans-women who don’t have a vagina. We need to push for policies that will include women in traditional women only spaces. At Muhlenberg, we could start by advocating for Brown Hall, a women only dorm room, to become a dorm for all women identified women . It’s important for trans-women to know that the world around them thinks of them as women, and not as “impersonators” or “frauds.”

Unfortunately, even in the age of intersectional resistance, trans-women have felt excluded from the movement. Transgender activists told the Women’s March Organization that they are not inclusive enough. The famous pink hat that millions of women wore the day of the Women’s March, most famously known as the Pussy Hat, has been called out for being a symbol of trans-exclusivity.

“Pussy hats became the symbol of the Women’s March movement. But for many women, the pussy hats represent an erasure of women of color and trans women in the feminist movement—because not all pussies are pink, and not all women have pussies,” transgender activist Katelyn Burns said.

She’s right. Not all women have pussies, so we shouldn’t center every feminist conversation on what is between our legs. 

It’s extremely significant that we start demanding that trans-women have positions of power in the feminist movement. They also don’t need to be limited to conversations on trans issues; but to let them talk about equal pay, health-care, and sexual harassment. Because the truth of the matter is that trans-women are 50% more likely to be sexually assaulted than cis-women. I want to see a trans-woman as one of the National Co-Chairs of the Women’s March. I want to see trans-woman leading marches, running for office, and speaking at panels. All of this needs to start with us. We have to create a greater vision for trans liberation. We need to lift trans-women up and include them in the conversations.

So, let’s take off our pink pussy hats once and for all and join hands with our sisters. The most important fact I’ve learned about feminism is: if all women aren’t included, it’s not feminism.