The BBC has reported today that prominent feminist academic and author Germaine Greer has said that transgender women are, “not women”.
She has justified this statement by her opinion that transgender women do not, “look like, sound like or behave like women”.
As a transwoman and feminist I reject her words utterly and deplore the potential harm with which they threaten all transwomen, given the degree of transphobia and trans-related hate crime prevalent in our society. Just this year alone there have been multiple reports of transpeople being killed for their gender, and trans-adolescents killing themselves by throwing themselves into traffic. Transgender Europe’s Trans Murder Project reports that over 1700 transgender people have been killed over the past seven years. In it’s 2012 ‘Trans Mental Health Survey‘, the Scottish Transgender Alliance recorded that over 80% of transpeople have thought of suicide. Undoubtedly the hostility of society towards transgendered people plays a huge part in creating those deaths and suicidal thoughts, and regrettably Ms Greer’s contribution to the debate only reinforces such hatred.
In publicly and openly saying transgender women are not women from her position as an arch-feminist, Germaine Greer is giving implicit permission for anyone else to say the same thing. The manager at a transperson’s place of employment, the school bully in the playground, the thug on a street corner looking for someone to victimise… those are the people Germaine Greer is empowering.
This is nothing less than an incitement to hatred and discrimination towards transgendered people. Her words are transphobia.
Ms Greer’s comment also pose questions for feminists, because in her statements, she is defining and categorising what a woman should be. Surely that is the role of a misogynist?
Unfortunately Ms Greer is not alone in her views. There are other Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminsts (TERFs) out there. People like Cathy Brennan and Sheila Jeffries, all pumping out the same message of exclusion and hatred at every opportunity. Only they don’t do it in person. They do it with the methods of a coward. They snipe from the safety of the internet, they give interviews with sympathetic journalists, and they subvert other (usually) feminist platforms to denounce transgendered people with relative impunity. In that respect, TERFs are just like any other right-wing fringe group preaching hatred and blame in order to divert from their own inadequacies. Treating TERFs with a similar disdain as that commonly shown to groups like ‘Britain First’ won’t shut them up, but it will marginalise and degrade their message of hatred.
There are also platforms like the one here at KaleidoScot, where women like me – transwomen – can give response to the hatred of the likes of Greer, and I say this:
“I am a woman and you, Germaine Greer can challenge and deny that, but you can’t change it or stop me asserting my femininity. Nor can you change the minds of all those wonderful women around the world who welcome transwomen as sisters. This battle is won already and you are just complaining that your viewpoint has been discarded as discriminatory and fundamentally wrong.“