A small boy’s father abuses and rapes his mother. This goes on for years until the mother kills herself. The boy can’t imagine being a man. Men hurt. He doesn’t want to be one so he changes his name, his clothes, his hair, and becomes a girl. Girls might get hurt, but they aren’t rapists.
A girl is molested by her uncle. For years he sneaks into her bedroom and rapes her. Finally, at age thirteen, she decides to tell her father, hoping he will stop his brother from doing these things. She works up her courage and goes to him. He looks at her like she is insane and tells her to stop making up stories. He tells her that if any of what she says is true, it’s because she asked for it. He tells her that girls are for men to have sex with so she should just grow up and go with the flow. Feeling destroyed, she determines that she will not be a woman. She changes her name, her clothes, her hair, and becomes a man. If she isn’t a girl, then she can’t be hurt.
A young boy feels alienated from his peers. His parents divorced when he was five, and he hasn’t felt quite right since. His mother and her new husband are extremely conservative. They make him go to church four times a week, which he hates. The church tells him homosexuality is a sin and that homosexuals will die in the fiery bowels of hell. He knows he likes boys, and is scared that he might go to hell. His father is more supportive, but he only gets to stay with his father every other weekend. There is a group of kids at his school who tell him that he doesn’t have to be a boy. He can become a girl. He can change his identity. He decides to do this. At least if he becomes a girl then he won’t end up in hell for liking boys.
There are many reasons why biological males wish to be female and vice versa. For many, the desire to be something different comes from a place of pain and trauma. The change in identity becomes a way to deal with the hurt, an attempt to heal a wound that feels almost too deep to ameliorate. It is difficult not to sympathize with the person in this situation, to feel empathy and compassion for their pain. It is from this place of compassion that most people support identity changes. It is automatically assumed that someone who is making such a change must need to (otherwise, why would they do it?), and why not support this?
What has followed is that well-meaning people, in an attempt to show compassion for victims of trauma, label their bathrooms for “those who identify,” or cheer in victory when a trans person is elected or appointed into a place of power. Yet I very much doubt that when Unitarian churches added “or those who identify” to their female bathrooms they gave much thought to the female who had been raped and didn’t want to share an intimate space with a male, even if that male was traumatized as well. I very much doubt it was their intention to sweep thousands of years of male oppression under the rug when they allowed males into this female-only space. Unfortunately, though, that’s exactly what they did. And this is a problem.
What is essentially eliminated in these actions are the thousands of years of normalized violence against females (usually by heterosexual males). (There has been so much hand-wringing and exclaiming over the sheer numbers of #metoos, when really, what should be surprising is if there are any women left who haven’t experienced some form of violence or oppression.) The real tragedy is that oppression and violence are common. It is normalized in most places. It results in continuing trauma and violence against anyone who doesn’t conform to strict norms and often excused by systems that exacerbate and were created to keep things the way they are. Most of the time, the need to change one’s sexual identity is because of this normalized violence and oppression. If we didn’t live in a world where fathers raped mothers, or people think homosexuals should burn in hell, or uncles (or fathers or brothers and on and on) molested children, there would likely be no need to cut off breasts or penises to escape the pain.
Yet some men decide they want to become women, and although they may be doing so because they were the victims of violence, for whatever reason they use their reaction as an excuse to be controlling and violent. This very vocal and very abusive group of males who call themselves trans women are violent and abusive to anyone who supports female-only spaces or anyone who calls for an end to violence against women, or even anyone who has the temerity to suggest that they have experienced sexual violence, as if the violence of the trans person is the only violence that counts, and if they speak out about their own personal experiences, they should have more violence done to them. These trans activists have managed to get all the progressives to agree with them, using the compassion people feel for those who have suffered trauma and pain to get them to automatically jump on board with anything trans, without really putting any kind of critical thought into what is being done. Any statements questioning the means of acceptance of trans people are automatically labeled transphobic. Any questions on the subject are automatically shut down. Any attempt to engage or explain is stopped through force with name calling, threats of violence, and in some cases, actual violence. Any stories of one’s own experiences of pain and trauma are belittled and shamed. These perpetrators of violence and threats are males who have decided that they are female and therefore they want access to female experience and female spaces, and they don’t like being told no. When females question their intrusions into female experiences and spaces, their response is decidedly male when they start talking about committing rape or murder against those who would dare to question them.
Here are some examples:
A long time social justice activist, socialist, Green, and civil rights lawyer was cyberbullied on social media by a group of trans-activists and their supporters. The bullies called her a TERF (“Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist”). They called her a “Nazi.” They called her a “rapist.” They called her a “racist.” They called her a supporter of “genocide” and a hateful bigot who deserved to die. Several people contacted her employer in an unsuccessful attempt to get her fired from her job. The reasons for these hateful actions were that she had written that people who are born as female are oppressed on the basis of being female, and that males often do not recognize this. That’s it.
A woman ran for the school board in Minnesota, hoping to fix problems like lead in drinking water and improving the quality of education. She also took a strong stand against school bullying, including on the basis of gender identity. Because she expressed gender-critical views, within 24 hours of announcing her candidacy, bullies began attacking her. On social media she was called a “loathsome snake” who spreads “venom” and “hate.” One person told her to go home and masturbate. She was threatened with death. Ultimately, she dropped out of the school board race because she couldn’t focus on the issues that were important to her.
The reality is that women have experienced violence at the hands of men for as long as there has been civilization and men pretending to be women are no exception when it comes to perpetrating violence.
What has happened is that a rather large number of people who support these people who have attempted to change their biological sex identity, in their attempt to be “supportive,” automatically presume that anyone who questions the policies and actions of trans persons must automatically be “transphobic,” and that they can have no valid purpose or argument. The efforts to be inclusive have turned truly bizarre. Major midwife groups have changed their guidelines to take women out of their language, changing “woman” to “person” in order not to exclude transmen (women who consider themselves men (as if somehow they are no longer women, so using the word woman would exclude them)). Young males decide to become females and are then allowed to participate in sports as females, their male physical bodies and strengths notwithstanding. A city in Canada passed an ordinance where misgendering someone can get you fined. Parents give children as young as four irreversible sex hormones because the child thinks they might be a boy instead of a girl or vice versa (apparently a child can make a decision this drastic this young, but they don’t have the judgment to drink alcohol before they’re 21?). It is the world of Animal Farm on steroids. Say it is so and it is so, even when reality says otherwise.
When actress Rose McGowan spoke out about the abuse she suffered and that millions of women suffer daily, a trans woman screamed her down. He disagreed with some remarks she had made in the prior year stating that the experiences of trans women are not the same as biological women. Essentially, his argument was that his experiences and those of others like him should override all others’ experiences of trauma and abuse. Rather than support McGowan in her willingness to come forward and describe her experiences as an assault survivor, Seattle Arts and Lectures cancelled her speech. In today’s world, speaking one’s truth about an experience that half the population lives with on a daily basis isn’t enough. That experience must be truncated by the male experience and if it isn’t, it will be silenced.
We must not conflate the taking care of those who have been traumatized with the desire of abusers to act with violence and cruelty against those they want to control. The mistake so many well-meaning people make is to assume that because someone is trans that they are automatically to be supported and that their version is the only truth. People must stop claiming that speaking out for women, calling for protection of female-only spaces, and ending violence against women is transphobic. Just because someone calls a person a transphobe doesn’t mean that person is a transphobe. People must stop believing that describing our experiences somehow negates those of a trans person who has been harmed. It is possible for the two to exist simultaneously. It is even possible to understand that the two are sides of the same coin. However we will never get to that discussion as long as those who have some genuine criticism to offer are automatically shut down (or shouted down, or beaten down, or shut out). There are real issues around transgenderism that should be discussed without fear of repercussion against those who think there are major problems with allowing men into women-only spaces, with making biological changes to children, and with erasing women by claiming that biological sex is a choice and social construct and not biological reality. This doesn’t discount those who have experienced abuse and trauma, it just adds a sorely needed dose of reality to a world that increasingly seems hell bent on insanity.