Transphobia and Feminism

I’ve been reading Kate Bornstein’s Gender Outlaw, and it’s really a wonderful book. I think it works much better as a memoir and personal exploration of gender than it does as theory, but I like the blending of the two. I’m less interested in dry argumentation than I am people’s stories of how gender affects life.

One thing that’s really thrown me for a loop, though, is the idea of transphobic feminists. I mean, I’d heard about Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and their policies of gender assignation and exclusion, and part of me can at least accept the right free association that they’re practicing even if I disagree with them, but some of the things that certain feminist writers have written about transgendered people was even more infuriating. For example, Janice Raymond writes:

All transsexuals rape women’s bodies by reducing the real female form to an artifact, appropriating this body for themselves …. Transsexuals merely cut off the most obvious means of invading women, so that they seem non-invasive.

It seems to me that Raymond has a problem determining where she stops and others begin (thank you Elizabeth for that phrase). Claiming that self-identification and owning oneself is an act of violence against others is in(s)ane. It is, it seems to me, a claim of ownership of the identities and bodies of others. How that falls under the same philosophical heading as “The radical notion that women are people too” I simply can’t understand.

Of course any philosophy that is based on preserving binary gender is not going to resonate much with me anyway.

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