In the last 20 years, we’ve seen a rapid expansion in rights extended to discrete groups. Marriage equality was unthinkable in 1993, and now the U.S. Supreme Court has paved the way for gay marriage. We applaud these advances, but, unfortunately, some bad has come with the good. Most notably, the expansion of rights for transgender people has intruded upon the rights of Women. GLBT organizations advance laws to ban discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations against transgender people, who identify with the sex opposite their birth sex. We admire this goal in most contexts; however, gender identity legislation codifies into law sex stereotypes that Women have struggled to shake for decades. Gender identity legislation also raises specific issues in the context of sex-segregated spaces such as locker rooms and domestic violence shelters because it allows anyone to gain entrance into a space reserved for the opposite sex by simply declaring they are a member of the opposite sex. Given that a high percentage of transwomen retain their male anatomy, this places Women in the impossible situation of sharing intimate space with a “Woman” whose only claim to “Womanhood” is their belief and self-identification. This is grossly unfair to Women.
Although we are sensitive to the concerns of transwomen who seek safe personal space, GLBT organizations have done nothing to address the safety concerns of Women, nor have they acknowledged that gender identity relies on sex stereotypes. Instead, these groups tell Women that our concerns are not valid and shame us when we resist. Transwomen go as far as to target private, female-only events such as the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival for failing to allow transgender identity to trump Female biology. These campaigns against Women are reinforced by vocal transwomen activists who threaten rape and death against Women who dare to question.
It’s time for an honest conversation around transgender rights. No other oppressed minority has ever demanded rights at the expense of another oppressed minority – but this is precisely what has happened to Women in the transgender rights movement. Women’s concerns are simply hand-waved away. In an era where Women still fight for the right to control our bodies, it’s ironic that “the new wave” of civil rights organizing has resulted in Women’s issues once again being placed on a shelf. Women need space free from male-bodied persons and, more importantly, Women do not need laws that enshrine sex stereotypes into law.
We can do better for Women, and we should demand no less.
– The Gender Identity Watch team