It’s hard to write about transgender issues as a parenting blogger because in questioning the prevailing trans ideology I know I will be dismissed as transphobic by many, so it’s a risk. If it was hard for me to write honestly about what I see, imagine how hard it is for our daughters to speak out and question something that everyone else believes.
Risking ostracisation from a group is very difficult, which is why group-think happens and is one reason why businesses fail – nobody dares speak out and disagree with the boss when everyone else seems to be in agreement. If the group is a friendship or peer group it’s even harder; to be rejected by your group is incredibly painful.
It’s no accident that, in the fable, it takes a young child to stand up and say ‘the emperor’s wearing no clothes’ when no adult dare say it.
Added to the very human need to be an accepted member of a group, we have the socialisation of girls. I don’t mean necessarily parenting here; you may be a brilliant parent, but still the messages your daughter receives from her culture consistently disempower her.
Gender stereotyping harms both sexes but the specific learned passivity of girls actually creates their inability to stand up and challenge people or ideas. Through toys, books, clothes, t.v., film, advertisements, pop videos and games, a girl receives the overwhelming message that boys are active, adventurous and violent whereas girls’ path to approval lies in accepting a supportive, passive and decorative role. Girls learn to please others, look after other people’s needs first, and be nice. Girls also learn to defer to men.
If your sense of self is built on the approval of others you are less able to speak up and challenge things and you are more susceptible to bullying.
Trans activists have bullied women into silence effectively by using lots of hurtful labels, most commonly ‘transphobic’ and ‘TERF,’ which stands for Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist, but is used on any woman who has a working knowledge of biology and states it.
This may not have mattered so much except that liberal feminism has picked up the technique and now uses the same labels to exclude any woman who questions the trans ideology – which is ironic coming from a group whose main selling point is ‘inclusion.’
Liberal feminist philosophy has become mainstream, so even for young women who don’t do ‘feminism,’ these are the ideas she will encounter at college or university. Liberal feminism is also known as ‘choice feminism’ but it seems that the one choice a woman is not free to make is to think for herself, analyse or question. Some feminist groups don’t even let you in unless you agree that trans women actually are women. (I know lovely trans women who are horrified by all this and if they speak out the label used to silence and exclude them is ‘transscum’).
It seems to me that liberal feminism has become in some ways an extension of the cultural socialisation of girls – ‘don’t speak up,’ ‘don’t question,’ ‘be nice,’ ‘let those born male define what a woman is and don’t argue.’
The debate has been effectively closed down: the risk of being seen as transphobic and excluded from the group is too high a price to pay. But young women should be free to think and question and I hope my daughter will be encouraged to do so by watching me. (I hope she won’t be put off.)
The debate needs to happen firstly because to deny the obvious differences between women and trans women is to reject trans women for who they really are: people born biologically male who were socialised as men and identify as women. That is very different to being born biologically female and socialised as a woman. Accepting and honouring difference is an important facet of respect for another person or group; denying difference seems to me to be both insulting and patronising. Erasing both our histories blinds us to our similarities and differences and denies us the chance to explore where we need to be separate and where we can work together in true respect and support.
The other reason is that as long as we say ‘trans women are women’ we will never find a workable solution to issues like public bathrooms without compromising the safety and integrity of women and girls. Trans women themselves will also ultimately suffer – I can see the outraged Daily Mail article now, as they picture a very male-looking trans woman entering a women’s toilet.
This is important because it is estimated that 88% of male to female trans people are males with a psychosexual disorder and rates of male violence are the same for trans women as they are for men. There is more information about autogynephilia here. It is also important for parents that we know that most ‘transgender’ children grow up to no longer suffer from dysphoria, with more and more people speaking out about the dangers of hormone treatment and surgery.
I would like my daughter to be respectful of other people’s self-identities but if she ever feels uncomfortable or afraid in the presence of any other person, I hope she will listen to those feelings and trust her own perceptions first. The reality says she needs to.
This is a tricky, nuanced and sensitive subject: how do we respect trans women at the same time as keeping women and girls safe? How do we bring up uncomfortable issues sensitively without hurting other people? It’s not an easy debate but we need to be allowed to have it and it needs to be based on reality.
Somebody once said it’s those you’re not allowed to question who control you (or something like that), and I think in the end the principle I would like all my children to grow up with is this: ‘If you’re not allowed to say it, find out why.’
stephanie, thanks so much for your recent posts highlighting these issues. i was totally ignorant of the dodgy ideologies underlying some of the trans movement until reading your blog. i think i’ve been assuming that we’re at a relatively accepting point in terms of gender and sexuality…clearly not; the methods of shutting down conversation are just getting more complex and insidious. thanks for opening my eyes to some of the nuances…and, by the way, your writing and reasoning both come across as respectful and inclusionary towards difference. keep on keeping on!