"It’s My Body And My Choice"
Trans people are not a burden or a threat: their struggle benefits us all.
Following the recent closure of the Gender Recognition Act government survey and the toxic public debate surrounding it, as well as recent news in the US regarding the Trump administration’s memo proposing “a strict definition of gender based on a person’s genitalia at birth,” I feel more compelled than ever to express solidarity with the trans struggle. As a cis woman, I don’t want to speak for or over any trans people on this topic, but I’d like to add my voice in support, and to point out some of the ways that I view the trans struggle as being actively beneficial for cisgender people - besides being incredibly important in its own right. Solidarity is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but here I want to emphasise its meaning as unity in the face of common interests and an expression of mutual aid. I’m rolling with the assumption that anyone reading Ladyfuzz gets that trans people are clearly not a threat, but I want to just underline how vital trans people are to many of our collective struggles, and to emphasise that they’re certainly not a burden either.
Trans existence is resistance
Trans people simply existing, challenges an essentialist and binary understanding of gender that harms all of us, and that it is in our common interests to dismantle. As Jaca Freer (Freer Ideas, First Timers, Colour Me Wednesday) emphasises, “trans people have brought the topic under heavy scrutiny and stand in a unique place/ perspective to be able to question patriarchy and gender essentialism/ roles.”Jaca also pointed me in the direction of statistics released by the UK government last week that “indicate a 32.1 percentage surge in anti-transgender hate crime that outstrips the percentage increase for other categories” and on top of this, “the data also showed that anti-trans hate crimes are more likely to be violent offences than for any other hate crime category.” These statistics are truly shocking and become further abhorrent when considering that the challenge trans people pose to an essentialist gender binary benefits society as a whole, including the people that perpetuate violence against them.
It is a binary understanding of gender that promotes the idea that “boys will be boys”because its “in their nature”- that gives them (sometimes very literally) a get-out-of-jail-free card when they’re physically or sexually violent, yet also demands that they “grow some balls”and demonstrate their manhood by hiding vulnerability and not talking about their feelings; arguably the reason why suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45. Tying women to their associated reproductive organs can be seen as the root of a whole host of patriarchal shit, from being told that its “in our nature”to be caring, and part of our “maternal instinct”that justifies the disproportionate amount of emotional labour expected of us, to pro-lifers reducing cis-women to little more than a walking womb; incubators that matter less than any collection of cells that might form within them. Opponents to GRA reform argue that it will “erase the biological basis of women’s oppression” but this hits on precisely the point of misunderstanding that is so frustrating: trans people existing, and through small steps like GRA reform being able to define their gender freely, challenges and undermines the essentialist view of gender that forms the basis of women - and every other gender identity’s - oppression under patriarchy: its not erasing or masking it, its a vital part of breaking it. We must recognise, as Jaca points out, “the work trans people have been putting into dismantling harmful gender roles”and all that society as a whole gains from this.
My Body and My Choice
The demo slogan “ITS MY BODY AND MY CHOICE”is a perfect summary of why the trans struggle is connected with, and a vital part of many feminist battles. It only occurred to me recently when a friend sent me a video of a song by my band, which uses this slogan as a chorus lyric, being played at a demo against the Daily Mail and Metro’s transphobic reporting. The song was initially written as a torrent of rage against sexual violence - an issue that in fact disproportionately affects trans people - but seeing it played in this context opened my eyes to an obvious point: the trans struggle to be able to determine their own gender, just like the fight against sexual violence, and the battle for abortion rights, is about bodily autonomy. (And just to state the obvious - abortion rights don’t only affect cis women - not everyone with a womb is a woman.)
Celebrating the solidarity within the Irish feminist movement, which successfully repealed the Eight Amendment and opposed a proposed tour of transphobic talks, Megan Nolan summarises: “Personal bodily autonomy is what we all want, trans people and cis people alike, and authoritarian patriarchy is what stops us achieving it.” Similarly, new feminist organisation Level Up(following their contribution of 7,055 responses to the Gender Recognition Act consultation via a portal link) emphasise that, “The right to make your own decisions about your body, is a core feminist principle that we’ve been fighting for for years - and the GRA is no different.”
Whilst I may not share the experience of being trans, as a cis woman I share the experience of having my bodily autonomy threatened and of facing forms of patriarchal oppression that are a result of an outdated, essentialist, binary view of gender. Trans people are on the front lines of challenging all of this, and facing appalling levels of backlash as a result. They deserve our gratitude, support and meaningful solidarity. Em from Nervus recently tweeted: “it’s a truly fucking exhausting time to be trans or non binary. if you know anyone trans or non binary - slip them a debenhams gift card for being a legend. gift them a houseplant. ask them if they want to go for a walk. make them a cup of tea. please make me a cup of tea.” Lets make sure to take care of our trans friends at this horrible time, to remain vocal in our support of them and active in our solidarity; not out of pity but out of an understanding that our struggles are intertwined and that they are a vital part of our political movements.
Written by Ren Aldridge