Not up for debate, and putting solidarity in action

This post was supposed to go up ages ago—ages ago!  And yet.  There was illness.  There was child-care.  There were jobs.  There was the pressing need to sleep.  And more than anything, there were the hundreds and hundreds of wonderful comments, emails, and messages from people around the world supporting this statement.

The response to this statement has been amazing! Over 765 feminists and womanists, individuals and groups, have made it known that they will brook no transphobia in their feminism and womanism (though we want to note that womanism has not had such a disturbing history in that regard, as far as we know), and that contrary to claims that have been made repeatedly, transphobic feminists do not speak for more than a tiny minority of feminists.  The response has been such that transphobic feminists had to sit up and take notice, and take notice they did, with a screed penned by Elizabeth Hungerford critiquing the statement.  Since then, we have heard that there is curiosity about how we will respond to it.

The answer is that we’re not going to respond to it.

We’re not interested in a debate with transphobic feminists.  We’re not interested in opening up a dialogue with them.  Apart from the fact that it would be nothing more than a waste of our time and energy, this is neither the time nor the place for it.  And here’s why:

1)      As far as we, the originators of the statement and the moderators of this blog are concerned, nothing in that statement is up for debate.  There is no debate to be had.  We would no more debate somebody claiming that trans* people had no right to their identities or to have the legitimacy of those identities and their lives respected than we would debate somebody claiming that gay and lesbian sexual orientations are “unnatural.”

2)      Transphobic feminists have not demonstrated that they represent  (at least any longer) a sufficiently significant segment of feminism for debate with them to be necessary.  Their statement was signed by 37 feminist thinkers and writers, some of whom have led the movement.  But despite their attempt in “Forbidden Discourse” to arrogate to themselves political authenticity and the authority to speak for the movement by the invocation of their status as ‘60s and ‘70s activists, they do not have that authority.  We don’t see their statements as relevant.  They will, in the words of one signatory, eat the dust of history.

3)      Transphobic feminists have spoken so vilely of trans* people, particularly of trans women, and so condescendingly of the cis women who support them, that we have no intention of engaging with anybody representing those views unless that person publicly disavows that sort of rhetoric and the people who use it.  The one of us who is a cis woman will not engage with anybody who dismisses her as a “handmaiden of the patriarchy” or “suffering from Stockholm syndrome.”  And we won’t sully this blog by repeating what they have said about trans women.

4)      Finally, and most importantly: THIS STATEMENT IS NOT FOR THEM.  It is not directed at them.  We are not interested in their reactions to it.  This statement is for us.  It is for trans* people to assert their right to feminism and womanism, should they want to; it is for cis feminists to apologize for what feminists have done to trans* people in the name of the movement; it is for trans* and cis feminists to say that we disagree with transphobic feminists in the strongest possible terms, and that there is a welcome and a home for trans* people in this movement if they want it; it is for feminists who don’t wish to let the transphobes speak for us.  Judging from the response to this statement, it looks like we reached our desired readers.

We really couldn’t possibly care less what transphobic feminists have to say about this statement.

All of us, cis and trans*, who want feminism to be trans-supportive can work individually wherever we are to help that happen, whether that involves raising children with an inclusive understanding of gender/sex, or making classrooms/departments supportive of trans* people, or blogging about the ways feminism can support trans* rights activism, or…fill in whatever you can do in your life.

But at least one of us was raised to believe that systemic problems need collective solutions.   The question is, what’s next?  What aspect of systemic transphobia—whether within feminism or the larger world–should be our priority?  And for that, we want to hear from our desired readers.  Where do you think we, cis and trans*, can do the most good/be the most effective?  How can we take the fantastic solidarity this statement has evoked, and transmute it into a co-ordinated campaign?

Leave a comment


  1. Hallelujah! Well said. Progress marches on. The future (and present) of feminism is trans positive. So glad we are organized together! Love this statement and this newsletter! Thank you for the work you have all done putting it together.

  2. Yes! Tell them. Bravo!

  3. Simply:-
    A humble and heartfelt “Thank you” for this statement

  4. I can only add that it’s kind of funny that they’d demand debate when they deny the same to trans women all the time – Cathy Brennan, “Gallus Mag”, et al, I’m looking at you.

  5. doubleinvert

     /  September 29, 2013

    This trans* woman would like to extend her most sincere thanks!

    -Constance McEntee

  6. Great response, women.

    Ни шагу назад!

    Why do so many of the great quotes have to come from such awful people?

  7. Jessica Pennell

     /  September 29, 2013

    Cis women don’t need to apologize to me. Heck, when I was closeted, I said some homophobic and transphobic things I’m not very proud of too.

    Instead of apologies, let’s all, you and I, just focus on making life better for women – and men – kept down by people who think we owe them submission everywhere.

    Because if we had a world where being kind wasn’t seen as the same thing as being weak, then neither of us would have said anything to apologize for to begin with.

  8. Thank you! I was helping to support a group who calls out misogny and one of these anti-trans women told them trans women are men and that the group shouldn’t be giving a voice to us. The group said they would not debate that issue but could use personal email to do it. I told them that my existence is NOT up for debate. The transmisogyny wasn’t called out by then and they banned me. It isn’t surprising that they have banned a LOT of trans women.

  9. Moving from debate to action? I like the sound of this. please do support the call to Provide emergency/refuge accommodation for trans* survivors of domestic abuse and/or hate crime – e-petitions

  10. divadarya

     /  September 30, 2013

    This is a model response for any reasonable majority that wishes to draw a clear line between respectful debate and engaging desperate outliers in pointless circular arguments.
    Nicely done.

  11. Beautifully said.

  12. Hello! I identify as genderqueer (not cis, not trans) and am a signatory of the statement – don’t forget that category please.

  13. I’m on the pro-trans side. Not a signatory because I do not identify as a feminist or womanist, and also disagree with some group-centered parts in the text (“trans” is a deeply individual thing in each particular case, not a uniform class, and I think it could have been reflected better). Having said that, I would like to offer two points for consideration.

    – The small but important point. You have a factual error in (3). Elizabeth Hungerford, whatever the peculiarities (to put it mildly) of her views, HAS in fact disavowed the kind of rhetoric you speak about. She did it here:

    – The big point. Real issues affecting the lives of most trans people are not decided by any form of feminists, TERF or otherwise. Only a minority of trans people are interested in feminist activism, but all are affected by government policy on issues like identification and access to treatment. This policy is decided by politicians and the electorate, not by feminists. The “gender critical” side appears to be working on a two pronged strategy: presenting an outwardly convincing theoretical rebuttal to trans rights that looks pro-woman rather than fundamentalist and ideally appeals to a broad part of the female electorate, and at the same time presenting trans people and their allies as bullies, aggressors, etc.

    They do not stand a chance of getting anywhere close to enough support on their own to mater in anything practical. But there is a very real risk of conservative politicians using their theories – as well as their presentation of trans people as unstable etc – as a part of a political attack on trans people. This could, for the fundies, be a way of rebounding after losing their battle on same-sex marriage. And this could be extremely dangerous – especially here in Western Europe where transition is, currently. usually covered by state-funded medicine.

    For that battle, a powerful feminist theoretical response to their outwardly rational theories might be a strong weapon. I do get your point of a boycott as a way to disallow them to appropriate feminism as a whole for a political battle. But, whether or not you engage them as persons, it appears to be quite important to have ready responses to their repeatedly proffered points. Ideally to publish some sort of “101” that lists these points one by one with a coherent response to each. (I did some little attempts in my blog but, I guess, they don’t amount to much – though perhaps my exposure of some alleged doctors they quote might prove useful).

    Such a list could also serve a therapeutic purpose for trans people feeling bad about “hurting women” after reading some “gender critical” texts.

    You have among your signatories some really fine thinkers and writers (Jan Clausen is the one appealing to me). I really think this community could do a great job at a definitive refutation, as opposed to mere rejection on the basis of numbers, of the “gender critical” claims. I would suggest starting with Elizabeth Hungerformd’s version specifically, because with all others you have to filter throuh a lot of hate speech first – in some cases nmothing will remain after that filter.

    Another part is their repeated claims of “rape/violence threats” from “trans activists”. These should be investigated. I recently have a feeling they might be the work of transphobic sock puppets, and exposing such could be quite good for any upcoming political battles.

  1. On why the “gender critical” arguments are to be rebutted not rejected | ramendik

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