bigben Written evidence submitted by Sheila Jeffreys to the Transgender Equality Inquiry

Professor of Political Science, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne (currently on leave in London).

Expertise:

I am the author of a number of influential books, book chapters and scholarly articles on transgenderism including the 2014 book Gender Hurts: a feminist analysis of the politics of transgenderism (Routledge). Gender Hurts has been featured on Woman’s Hour in the UK and in The New Yorker, The Nation, Village Voice, and numerous other media outlets. See also my article ‘The Politics of the Toilet: a feminist analysis of the ‘degendering’ of a women’s space’ (2014) http://www.sheilajeffreys.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/toilet-article.pdfpublished-version.pdf

Transgender equality versus women’s equality: a clash of rights?

Summary:

The submission argues that any discussion of transgender equality should consider the ways in which such equality might violate women’s equality rights.

The submission argues that men who transgender should be not be treated in law and policy as if they are women if such treatment enables them to gain access to spaces set aside to ensure women’s dignity, security and right to organise as a specific rights bearing group, such as women’s refuges, women’s toilets, women’s prisons, women only political groups and activities.

The submission requests that ensuring women’s equality rights in relation to women’s spaces should inform the committee’s deliberations and that a policy guideline aimed at protecting such spaces should be drawn up.

1. Transgender equality rights:

This submission supports legislation and policy that seeks to prevent discrimination against persons who transgender. All persons should have rights of employment and access to services irrespective of how they choose to dress or present themselves in public. It supports the rights of those in a category called ‘transgender’ to protection from discrimination in the exercise of their proclivities. Gender is not the same as sex. Women require protection as a sex, as it is on the basis of and through their sex that women are discriminated against and suffer disadvantage. Women do not occupy low status on the basis of their ‘gender’, i.e. aspects of appearance and behaviour, but on the basis of sex. The protection of a category of men to express their ‘gender’ should not conflict with women’s right to protection from discrimination as persons of the female sex.

2. Omission of women’s interests in this inquiry:

Despite the fact that this committee’s name specifically references women, women’s equality rights are not included in the terms of reference for this inquiry. The inquiry does not refer to the effect that ‘equality’ for men who transgender might have upon women’s equality. Women’s and feminist groups are generally not invited to contribute to consultations on transgender rights as if they would have nothing relevant to say, despite the fact that men may, under the idea of transgender equality gain the right to be recognised in law as ‘women’. Women are the ‘absent referent’, not officially referred to, despite the fact that it is ‘women’ that the majority of those persons who wish to express their ‘gender rights’ seek to emulate. In this submission I have taken the liberty of writing from the point of view of the category of persons, women, whose interests are usually omitted from consideration in relation to this issue.

3. Clash of rights:

i. The demand for transgender equality may create a ‘clash of rights’ in which the rights demanded by one group of people can substantially endanger the rights of another group (Sniderman, Fletcher, Russell and Tetlock, 1997). In a clash of rights some adjudication has to be made as to whether the group involved in the rights demand that compromises the rights of another group, can be accommodated in human rights norms.

ii. In the case of the campaign for transgender equality the main category of persons seeking rights are persons of the male sex, that is, those responsible for the violation of women’s rights to, for example, live free from violence and the threat of death, to freedom of movement and expression, to freedom from discrimination (Romito, 2008). These male persons do not generally just claim that they are disadvantaged in their own right as members of the category ‘transgender’, but that they actually are physically members of the female sex, women, as in the demand by male bodied transgenders that they should be able to enter spaces such as toilets, set aside for women. A most serious clash of rights is likely to occur when members of one rights-bearing category claim to actually be members of another category.

iii. A clash of rights occurs also when members of one rights-bearing category, persons who transgender, promote ideas and practices which are recognised in international law as harmful to the equality of another group. Persons who transgender do not change their biological sex but follow the norms in outward appearance that are called in human rights terms ‘gender stereotypes’. The promotion within the politics of transgenderism of the idea that an essential ‘gender’ exists and that the appropriate ‘gender’ for persons of the female sex is represented in particular forms of clothing and mannerisms creates a clash with the rights of women. In international law gender stereotypes are recognised as being in contradiction to the interests of women. The importance attributed to the elimination of these stereotypes is exemplified in the wording of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which feminists advocated for throughout the 1970s until its promulgation in 1979. Article 5 of CEDAW calls upon States Parties, to ‘take all appropriate measures’ to ‘modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudice and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women’ (United Nations, 1979: Article 5). ‘Stereotyped roles’ are, according to feminist critics of the practice, the very foundation and sine qua non of transgenderism, and the notion of ‘gender identity’ (see Jeffreys, 2014). The promotion of such stereotypes by men who transgender is harmful to women’s equality and this could be seen as a reason why ‘transgender equality’ inevitably conflicts with women’s rights.

4. Why men who transgender should not have access to women’s spaces:

i. Men who transgender should not have access to women’s spaces because they do not change their biological sex and do not become female. Moreover, the majority of these male-bodied persons (85%) retain their genitalia (Transgender Law Centre, 2005). There is no requirement in UK legislation such as the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, that recognition as transgender must involve hormonal or surgical treatment. Thus male persons who access women’s spaces may be physically entire and express their gender identity only through the assumption of feminine stereotypes, i.e. gender, in their appearance.

ii. The behaviour of men who transgender towards women resembles the behaviour of men who do not transgender in respect of male pattern violence i.e. some male-bodied transgenders, like their non-transgendering counterparts, have a pattern of violent practices towards women such as murder, rape, sexual harassment. The linked website provides a collection of newspaper accounts of sexual violence against women and girls by men who transgender: https://outofmypantiesnow.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/when-is-90-not-substantially-all/ The response from transgender rights campaigners is sometimes that the men who are violent are not genuine transgenders, but since transgenderism is not a biological condition but a mental one, adjudication of genuineness is not possible. Increasing numbers of those who have transgendered are deciding that they have made a mistake and engaging in ‘detransition’, which reveals that the mental condition can be temporary and evanescent. A google search reveals 19,600 pages of resources for persons who seek to detransition.

5. Women’s spaces:

Three varieties of spaces deliberately segregated to protect women’s dignity and security will be considered here: women’s refuges, women’s toilets and women’s prisons.

i. Women’s refuges: Women’s refuges were established to create a place of refuge for women who have suffered violence from men. From their inception the majority of refuges have sought to offer women spaces where they are not forced to interact with men in order to enable them to recover from the trauma they have suffered. Unfortunately, as a result of the campaign for transgender equality, refuge provision for women is increasingly being opened up to men who ‘identify’ as women through the adoption of stereotyped feminine accoutrements. Some of these men have histories of violence against women and media reports of court cases involved rape by such persons is starting to emerge. In a Canadian case a man called Christopher Hambrook was found guilty of sexually assaulting ‘four vulnerable females between the ages of five and 53 in Montreal and Toronto over the past 12 years’ in two shelters for homeless women and women escaping domestic violence (Pazzano, 2014). He accessed the shelters by claiming to identify as a woman called ‘Jessica’. Clear dangers arise when women residents are forced to share bathrooms and bedrooms with violent men who profess to have gender identities.

ii. Women’s toilets: Women’s toilets constitute spaces in which women are particularly vulnerable and for this reason, to protect women’s dignity and safety, they have tended to be segregated ever since women’s rights campaigners in the nineteenth century demanded such provision. As a result of campaigns for transgender equality, men who crossdress and transgender are increasingly gaining the right to access women’s toilets. There are a quite surprising number of cases in which men wearing women’s clothing have been arrested for engaging in behaviour in women’s toilets that harms women. This webpage provides information and links to numerous occasions on which men dressed in stereotyped women’s clothing have engaged in sexual violence in women’s bathrooms/toilets: https://gendertrender.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/men-love-the-ladies-restroom-transgender-edition/ l The range of acts they engage in includes secret photographing of women using the toilets and showers, making audio recordings of women urinating or defecating, peeping at women from adjacent stalls or under stall dividers, demanding that women recognise them as women and becoming aggressive if women do not, luring children into women’s toilets in order to assault them, and sexual assault. In a British case, a man dressed up as a ‘mannequin with a mask and a wig’ to enter a cubicle in the women’s toilets in a shopping mall, where he ‘performed’ an unspecified ‘sexual act’ (Ninemsn staff, 2011). The 22 year old man told police he ‘found the sound of women on the toilet sexually exciting’. The man had filmed women’s feet from beneath cubicle doors on his mobile phone, and recorded the sound of a flushing toilet.

iii. Women’s prisons: Women’s prisons are spaces in which women are confined and unable to escape unwanted attention from males. The fact that women may have to share cells and shower facilities with men who are seeking to transgender could be seen as an extra layer of punishment. Male prisoners in western countries are using human rights laws successfully to gain access to transgender treatment at public expense in prison, and the right to then transfer to the women’s estate. These men are often precisely those who are most violent and dangerous to women’s safety, having been convicted of grave crimes including the murder of women. In 2009, an appeal from an unnamed, violent male prisoner in the UK to be moved to a women’s prison was successful. The petitioner in this case was found guilty in 2001 of the manslaughter of his male lover who was strangled with a pair of tights, allegedly for refusing to fund the murderer’s sex change surgery. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment. Five days after his release he attempted to rape a female stranger and was sent back to prison (Allen, 2009). The man’s lawyer told the court that the crimes were all linked to ‘a desperation to become a woman’. The judge declared that ‘her (sic) continued detention in a male prison is in breach of her rights under Article 8 [the right to private and family life] under the European Convention on Human Rights’. The notion of human rights is trivialised thereby. In response to the judgement, new guidelines were issued for the treatment of prisoners seeking gender reassignment in UK prisons in March 2011, which enabled prisoners to have treatment and to be located in women’s prisons. Unfortunately, there seems to be no acknowledgement here of the more serious and pressing right of women to avoid being compulsorily housed with violent men.

Conclusion

Persons of one biological sex who consider that they have a ‘gender identity’ stereotypically associated with the other sex do suffer discrimination and need protection. A problem arises, however, when ‘gender’ and ‘sex’ are confused, to the extent that male-bodied persons gain a right to enter spaces set aside for women. In such a case a clash of rights is created. Persons who wish to express a gender identity not usually stereotypically associated with their biological sex need to be accommodated in ways that protect them, but do not conflict with the rights of women.

Recommendations:

That the protection of women’s rights to dignity and security and to separate women’s spaces should be an underlying principle guiding the deliberations and recommendations of this committee. That the committee should establish a guideline that ensures such protection.

References

Allen, Vanessa (2009, 5 September). Transsexual killer and attempted rapist wins ‘human rights’ battle to be moved to women’s prison. London: The Daily Mail. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1211165/Transexual-prisoner-wins-High-Court-battle-moved-womens-jail.html

Jeffreys, Sheila (2005). Beauty and Misogyny: harmful cultural practices in the west. London: Routledge. Jeffreys, Sheila (2014). Gender Hurts: a feminist analysis of the politics of transgenderism. London: Routledge.

Ninemsn Staff (2011, 18 April). Man dressed as mannequin found in mall toilet. Australia: Nine News. http://news.ninemsn.com.au/world/8238380/man-dressed-as-mannequin-found-in-mall-toilet

Pazzano, Sam (2014, 15 February). A sex predator’s sick deception. Toronto Sun. http://www.torontosun.com/2014/02/15/a-sex-predators-sick-deception

Romito, Patrizia (2008). A Deafening Silence. Hidden Violence against Women and Children. Bristol: The Policy Press.

Transgender Law Centre (2005). Peeing in Peace: a Resource Guide for Transgender Activists and Allies. San Francisco Transgender Law Centre. 20 August 2015

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http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/women-and-equalities-committee/transgender-equality/written/19512.html

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wort radio   Air Times: US: 7pm Central, 11pm Pacific, 8pm Eastern UK: 1am AU: 10am Perth, 1pm Canberra   From the Madison Isthmus:

“The Access Hour with Jeffreys is being hosted by Thistle Pettersen, a Madison musician and activist who applied for the slot. She said she first became aware of the schism in feminism two years ago, when she attempted to host a workshop at an anarchist book fair in the Twin Cities.

Her description of her workshop read in part: “This workshop is intended for womyn, or female-bodied people who grew up socialized female. If you don’t fit into that category, again, you are welcome to come as an ally, but the focus of our discussion will be specifically on the liberation of female folk and how our struggle relates to anarchy, general social organizing, and anarchist circles in the Midwest.”

Pettersen says her workshop description prompted numerous threats on her Facebook page, accusing her of being transphobic. “There was a man on the Facebook page who threatened to beat me up with a baseball bat and break my guitar.”

Since then, Pettersen says she feels the struggle for women’s rights has increasingly been “hijacked” by “men who transgender to women.”

“It’s really becoming increasingly difficult to have a rational discussion about how gender harms girls and women, because the conversation has shifted to how transwomen are hurt by feminism.”

  From the Event Page:

“Last spring, I invited Sheila Jeffreys to engage me and the Madison community (and beyond) in an hour-long discussion of women’s liberation and transgender politics. She accepted and I have been formulating questions for our radio show ever since.

 Jeffreys is Professor of Feminist Politics in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, Australia. She recently released the book “Gender Hurts: A Feminist Analysis of the Politics of Transgenderism”

 We will also be speaking with Elizabeth Hungerford, Lesbian Feminist lawyer who co-penned the infamous “Letter to the UN on the Status of Women” in 2011. She will talk about changes to current laws that are pushing back women’s rights and protections.

 In addition, B. A. will join us with her perspective as a detransitioning woman. She was transgender until she realized the harms it was doing to her body and her mental health. She will tell some of her story and provide information for people who are considering transgendering.

 Tune-in on the internet LIVE the night of the show: http://www.wortfm.org/ Just click on the right-hand side at the top of the page to the orange bar that says “Listen Live”

 We will discuss the term “transphobic” and examine how it is used to shut-down and silence feminist discourse and organizing. In addition, we will talk about the harms of transgendering to those who do it and to their family and friends.

 Call the station the night of the show at 608 256 2001 or toll free at 866 899 9678 to let them know you support giving lesbian feminist women a platform to talk about feminism and that you would like future programming to include lesbian feminist perspectives.”

  Read about the attempts by Transgenderists to censor this Lesbian Feminist program HERE:  http://www.isthmus.com/daily/article.php?article=43873 wort radio

Bresent_Box_with_Hearts_03.jpg0971ccfe-495b-4a11-a511-53a713977afaLarge

new yorker article

From the New Yorker:

“On May 24th, a few dozen people gathered in a conference room at the Central Library, a century-old Georgian Revival building in downtown Portland, Oregon, for an event called Radfems Respond. The conference had been convened by a group that wanted to defend two positions that have made radical feminism anathema to much of the left. First, the organizers hoped to refute charges that the desire to ban prostitution implies hostility toward prostitutes. Then they were going to try to explain why, at a time when transgender rights are ascendant, radical feminists insist on regarding transgender women as men, who should not be allowed to use women’s facilities, such as public rest rooms, or to participate in events organized exclusively for women.

The dispute began more than forty years ago, at the height of the second-wave feminist movement. In one early skirmish, in 1973, the West Coast Lesbian Conference, in Los Angeles, furiously split over a scheduled performance by the folksinger Beth Elliott, who is what was then called a transsexual. Robin Morgan, the keynote speaker, said:

  I will not call a male “she”; thirty-two years of suffering in this androcentric society, and of surviving, have earned me the title “woman”; one walk down the street by a male transvestite, five minutes of his being hassled (which he may enjoy), and then he dares, he dares to think he understands our pain? No, in our mothers’ names and in our own, we must not call him sister.

Such views are shared by few feminists now, but they still have a foothold among some self-described radical feminists, who have found themselves in an acrimonious battle with trans people and their allies. Trans women say that they are women because they feel female—that, as some put it, they have women’s brains in men’s bodies. Radical feminists reject the notion of a “female brain.” They believe that if women think and act differently from men it’s because society forces them to, requiring them to be sexually attractive, nurturing, and deferential. In the words of Lierre Keith, a speaker at Radfems Respond, femininity is “ritualized submission.”

In this view, gender is less an identity than a caste position. Anyone born a man retains male privilege in society; even if he chooses to live as a woman—and accept a correspondingly subordinate social position—the fact that he has a choice means that he can never understand what being a woman is really like. By extension, when trans women demand to be accepted as women they are simply exercising another form of male entitlement.”

READ MORE HERE:

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/08/04/woman-2

tessa stuart village voice sheila jeffreys gender hurts

Village Voice staff writer Tessa Stuart ran a piece yesterday on the topic of ‘Gender Hurts’, featuring an exclusive interview with the author. What follows is the entire published interview, reprinted without authorization under Fair Use. Enjoy! Read the rest of this entry »

gender hurts book cover

Two new reviews of ‘Gender Hurts’ today, both from men, one of whom has actually read the book.

The first is from Dallas Denny, who previously campaigned with Jamison Green, the President of WPATH (World Professional Association for Transgender Health, a medical lobby funded by the pharmaceutical industry) in an attempt to censor the publication of this book BEFORE IT HAD EVEN BEEN AUTHORED.

Denny opines in today’s first offering:

 “[Managing Director of Books Jeremy North of Routledge Press] suggested we could review the book after it was published. And now I’m doing just that. Or, rather, I expect I will, if ever I can bring myself to read it. What follows is not a thorough review, but an impression based on a lookover of Gender Hurts.

Interestingly, the page count of Jeffreys’ book is almost the same as Raymond’s; at 189 pages it weighs in just four pages longer than Raymond’s 185.

 Aah, yes, the page count. And what of the paper quality? How much does the book weigh? Does it have that “new book smell”? What was the cost of the shipping freight?

 

Dallas Denny

Dallas Denny

Angry men should never feel obliged to read a woman’s words before forming strong opinions about them, and subsequently publishing those very important opinions. All that female-impersonator Denny needs to do is look at the book cover to conclude that Jeffreys “adopts a lesbian uniform that makes her look more than a bit like a man. She’s about four shots of testosterone away from passing as one.” How can men possibly take the time to read the books they are reviewing when the author is lesbian, and fails to adopt a distinctly sexay laydee wardrobe requirement?

Read more of Denny’s devastatingly insightful review of a book he has not read here:

http://www.tgforum.com/wordpress/index.php/a-first-look-at-sheila-jeffreys-gender-hurts/

Author fails at performing submission

Author fails at performing female submission

Today’s second review is by another man, who in this case claims to have actually read the book he is reviewing. In a New Statesman piece Tim R. Johnston generously offers that feminists have the right to critique males but “that critique must come from a place of established respect.” Jeffreys has dismally failed to respect men in her feminist text, says Johnston. LOL!

http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2014/06/it-s-time-end-divisive-rhetoric-sex-and-gender-and-create-trans-inclusive-feminism

“The entire text is a striking example of how not to criticise a group [men] of which you are not a member.” Insensitive, man-hating feminist dyke! In one succinct sentence Mr. Johnston places Jeffreys’ text into the entire canon of the history of the Women’s Liberation movement, on which he claims to be an authority: “The book is poorly researched and argued, and is not a meaningful contribution to feminist theory.” Oh, Okay bro.

"Mansfeminist" Tim R. Johnston

“Mansfeminist” Tim R. Johnston

Johnston suggests that women abandon women’s liberation and release ourselves from our “attachment to our sex”; By doing so (Stupid cunts! Why haven’t we thought of this ourselves!) we will..something… something …something.

When we abandon our attachment to either sex or gender identity we can more clearly see the experiences we share and let those experiences form the basis of a coalition.” Okay bro.

The important thing is that men who take pleasure in sex-roles should be prioritized over the actual violence and subjugation of women.

 “Trans women [men] may identify as women, but they are not women because they do not have the lived history of having been born and raised as women. Identity cannot replace or change your history of living as one of two biological sexes. Feminists have good reason to be attached to this foundation. Women are violently persecuted because of their sex, and the methods of that persecution, methods like rape and forced reproduction, often involve female anatomy. Uniting in this shared history is an important foundation for feminist consciousness raising and solidarity.

Many [male] people ground their politics in gender identity, describing how this identity is a persistent aspect of their experience. Cisgender people [women] must realise that a [male] woman did not become a woman after transitioning, [he] has always been a woman, and because [he] is a woman [he] deserves access to women-only spaces. Certainly not all [male] people identify as having always been one gender, but focusing on gender identity over biological or assigned sex is an important way to ensure that [male] identities are not discredited, ignored, or marginalised.”

 Jeffreys’ work, which is not meaningful to male feminism, discredits, ignores, and marginalizes male feelings and the access to women that males deserve. Oh gosh no!

Okay thanks guys! Thanks for clearing up the whole female oppression thing! Problem solved (for you)!

Women's Liberation symbol with a bunch of male shit on top of it

Women’s Liberation symbol with a bunch of male shit on top of it

gender hurts book cover

The following is an excerpt from the forthcoming book “Gender Hurts: A feminist analysis of the politics of transgenderism” by Sheila Jeffreys.

 

Gender and women’s equality

Transgenderism cannot exist without a notion of essential ‘gender’. Feminist critics argue that the concept of ‘gender identity’ is founded upon stereotypes of gender, and, in international law, gender stereotypes are recognised as being in contradiction to the interests of women (Raymond, 1994; Hausman, 1995; Jeffreys, 2005). The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979) was drawn up before the language of gender and the idea of ‘gender identity’ came to dominate international law discourse and to stand in for women as a sex category. It spoke instead of ‘stereotyped roles’ and recognised these stereotypes as the basis for discrimination against women. Article 5 says that States Parties should take ‘all appropriate measures’ to ‘modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudice and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women’ (CEDAW, 1979: Article 5). The idea of ‘gender identity’ relies on stereotypes for its meaning and is in conflict with the understanding in CEDAW that such stereotypes are profoundly harmful to women.

The term ‘gender’ itself is problematic. It was first used in a sense that was not simply about grammar, by sexologists, the scientists of sex, such as John Money, in the 1950s and 60s, who were involved in normalising intersex infants. They used the term to mean the behavioural characteristics they considered most appropriate for persons of one or other biological sex. They applied the concept of gender when deciding upon the sex category into which those infants who did not have clear physical indications of one biological sex or another, should be placed (Hausman, 1995). Their purpose was not progressive. These were conservative men who believed that there should be clear differences between the sexes and sought to create distinct sex categories through their projects of social engineering. Unfortunately, the term was adopted by some feminist theorists in the 1970s, and by the late 1970s was commonly used in academic feminism to indicate the difference between biological sex and those characteristics that derived from politics and not biology, which they called ‘gender’ (Haig, 2004).

Before the term ‘gender’ was adopted, the term more usually used to describe these socially constructed characteristics was ‘sex roles’. The word ‘role’ connotes a social construction and was not susceptible to the degeneration that has afflicted the term ‘gender’ and enabled it to be wielded so effectively by transgender activists. As the term ‘gender’ was adopted more extensively by feminists, its meaning was transformed to mean not just the socially constructed behaviour associated with biological sex, but the system of male power and women’s subordination itself, which became known as the ‘gender hierarchy’ or ‘gender order’ (Mackinnon, 1989; Connell, 2005). Gradually, older terms to describe this system, such as male domination, sex class and sex caste went out of fashion, with the effect that direct identification of the agents responsible for the subordination of women, men, could no longer be named. Gender, as a euphemism, disappeared men as agents in male violence against women, which is now commonly referred to as ‘gender violence’. Increasingly, the term ‘gender’ is used, in official forms and legislation, for instance, to stand in for the term ‘sex’ as if ‘gender’ itself is biological, and this usage has overwhelmed the feminist understanding of gender.

Sex caste

In this book I have chosen to use the term ‘sex caste’ to describe the political system in which women are subordinated to men on the basis of their biology. Feminists have disagreed over whether women’s condition of subordination is best referred to in terms of ‘caste’ or ‘class’. Those who use the concept of women as a ‘sex class’, such as Kate Millett, are referencing their experience in leftwing politics and see the idea of ‘class’ as offering the possibility of revolution (Millett, 1972). Millett did, however, use the term caste as well, speaking of women’s ‘sexual caste system’ (Millett, 1972: 275). If women are in a subordinate class in relation to men, as the working class is in relation to the bourgeoisie, then women’s revolution can be conceptualised as overthrowing the power of men in such a way that sex class ceases to have meaning and will disappear as a meaningful category (Wittig, 1992). It also implies, as in left theory, that women’s revolution requires the recognition by women of their ‘sex’ class status as the basis for political action. Nonetheless, the term sex class can be problematic because it implies that women could move out of their ‘class’, in the same way that individual working class people could change their class position by becoming embourgeoised. The term ‘caste’, on the other hand, is useful for this book because it encapsulates the way in which women are placed into a subordinate caste status for their lifetime (see Burris, 1973). Women may change their economic class status with upward mobility, but they remain women unless they elect to transgender and claim membership in the superior sex caste. Both of these terms can be useful in articulating the condition of women, but the term ‘caste’ offers a particular advantage in relation to studying transgenderism. The very existence of transgenderism on the part of women demonstrates the stickiness of caste subordination. The marks of caste remain attached to females unless they claim that they are really ‘men’, and only a very significant social transformation will enable change in this respect.

Postmodern and queer theorists share with transgender theorists the idea that ‘gender’ is a moveable feast that can be moved into and out of, swapped and so forth. Gender, used in this sense, disappears the fixedness of sex, the biological basis that underlies the relegation of females to their sex caste. Female infants are identified by biology at birth and placed into a female sex caste which apportions them lifelong inferior status. The preference for biologically male children and the femicide of female infants, for instance, which has created a great inequality in the sex ratio in India and other countries, is based on sex and not ‘gender’. Female foetuses are aborted and female infants are killed because of sex, not ‘gender’ discrimination (Pande, 2006). Foetuses do not have ‘gender’ or ‘gender identity’, because the forces of a womanhating culture have not had a chance to affect the way they understand themselves. The inferior sex caste status of women is assigned with reference to their biology, and it is through their biology that their subordination is enforced and maintained through rape, impregnation, and forced childrearing. Women do not pass in and out of wearing ‘women’s’ clothing, as cross-dressers may do, indeed they may reject such clothing as inferiorising, but still suffer violence and discrimination as women. Though individual women may be successful in roles more usually arrogated to men, they are likely to be treated as interlopers and receive sexual harassment, as happened to the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard (Summers, 2013). Her caste status was continually thrown in her face by hostile male commentators, politicians and cartoonists. Women do not decide at some time in adulthood that they would like other people to understand them to be women, because being a woman is not an ‘identity’. Women’s experience does not resemble that of men who adopt the ‘gender identity’ of being female or being women in any respect. The idea of ‘gender identity’ disappears biology and all the experiences that those with female biology have of being reared in a caste system based on sex. Only one book-length critique of transgenderism was written in second wave feminism, Janice Raymond’s deservedly well-known tour de force, The Trannsexual Empire (1994, 1st published 1979). She usefully sums up the difference between feminist understandings of women and that of men who transgender thus:

We know that we are women who are born with female chromosomes and anatomy, and that whether or not we were socialized to be so-called normal women, patriarchy has treated and will treat us like women. Transsexuals have not had this same history. No man can have the history of being born and located in this culture as a woman. He can have the history of wishing to be a woman and of acting like a woman, but this gender experience is that of a transsexual, not of a woman. Surgery may confer the artifacts of outward and inward female organs but it cannot confer the history of being born a woman in this society. (Raymond, 1994:114)

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“Gender Hurts” will be released on April 17. Order your copy here:

http://www.amazon.com/Gender-Hurts-Feminist-Analysis-Transgenderism/dp/0415539404