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Feminism Should Not Fear Trans Rights

At some point, certain branches of feminism will have to explain how they ended up on the same side as the extreme right. But societies that fight for the rights of all are better to live in for everyone. View from a veteran of the feminist battle.

Feminism Should Not Fear Trans Rights

Demonstrators hold a sign that reads "Transgender people exist and resist" during a LGTBIQ+ rights protest in Bogota, Colombia

Beatriz Gimeno

-Essay-

MADRID — As time passes, it will become more evident that a branch of feminism fell into a kind of "paranoia campaign" over what it calls trans ideology.

Someday, there will be regret about the support given to the global extreme right that invented the so-called “gender ideology” to combat feminism. For extreme right-wing evangelicals, ”gender ideology” is the great threat, comparable even to communism.


“Gender ideology” has helped the campaigns of Bolsonaro, Orban, Putin, and of the right-wing in Poland, among others. To stop the advance of trans rights, a certain branch of feminism decided that it was a good idea to join that right-wing ideology and, in doing so, displace one of the most useful political and theoretical tools that feminism has — the concept of gender.

A reactionary ideology

At some point, someone will have to explain why some feminists ended up on the same side as the most reactionary ideology, the extreme right.

This branch of feminism has proudly employed the practice of speaking for trans people, rather than talking to them or listening with genuine interest. They are also not allowed to choose what to call themselves because someone has decided that using the term “trans people” is part of the problem, and that that name makes them seem harmless.

So we have to call them what we want: transgender, transsexual... not what they have decided to call themselves. Because if you recognize that “subordinate” social groups have the right to choose how they want to be called, the next moment you are obliged to use inclusive language in speeches.

From there, this branch of feminism argues that in order to “discuss” trans rights, it is necessary to listen to experts who are not trans, who have not spoken with any trans person, and who feel an obvious hatred towards trans people.

In the interest of hearing both sides of the debate, next time we talk about abortion, let's listen to pro-lifers. And when we talk about homosexual marriage, let's bring the traditional family representatives. Great idea! They tell me, “Well, trans issues affect women.” Understood. Well then, equal marriage affects the family and abortion affects men.

It sounds like a great idea, right?

Feminist organizations' rally in Madrid

Alberto Ortega/Contacto/ZUMA

Denial of fear

In public conversations, insults and denial are used instead of politely debating. Anyone who disagrees is treated as a mortal enemy. Any possible alliance between women has been consciously dynamited at a time when the fundamental rights of women are at serious risk due to the advance of the extreme right.

The strategy of treating anyone who disagrees with us as the evil that must be erased from the face of the earth has been normalized. And meanwhile, the monster that does want to literally erase us can grow. The monster's speeches are used, I suppose, strategically, but meanwhile, the political capital accumulated by feminism in recent years is slipping through our fingers.

At the same time, there is a denial of fear. Fear that the borders of gender (or sex?) will be diluted (this terrible fear has always been there and has always produced monsters). Fear that something or someone will occupy our space, which is already precarious. Fear of the unknown, fear of what is not well understood, fear of a younger generation that pays little attention to us. Fear of young women who do not recognize our teachings and who enunciate a feminism that is sometimes difficult for us to recognize.

All of them are human fears that are traditionally fought by blaming others for everything. And finally, seeking to destroy those others. It's just that, until now, we on the left were working against falling prey to those fears.

Fighting the right fight

From my side, I am an older radical feminist with some prejudices that come from a world that was different the day before yesterday. I have doubts, but also firm convictions. I have doubts about complex issues that have to do with the conceptualization of sex and gender. As a radical feminist, I have many questions about queer theory and intellectual differences that stimulate debate and conversation.

Recognizing trans rights only harms the global extreme right, certainly not feminism

But, above all, the urgent demands for rights from trans people do not attack me in any way. I support any measure that makes other people's lives better and more livable. I believe that there are concepts that are theoretically very abstract and, others that are too difficult to fully approach from an outside perspective. I respect those experiences, I listen, I learn, I argue sometimes, and I still have doubts.

But my doubts are not more important than their lives. In addition, I have some well-established certainties: laws have to allow people to live better. And societies that welcome and defend the rights of minorities are always better societies for everyone. If there are issues that the global extreme right strongly defends, those are the ones that I’ll fight with all my strength. The lives of trans people are as valuable as any life and trans people have agency. Recognizing their rights only harms the global extreme right, certainly not feminism.

This wave of panic and irrationality will pass, and the day will come when some people will regret that they stayed silent. I didn't want the same thing to happen to me, so I wrote this piece.

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Ivan Abreu / ZUMA
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-Analysis-

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