I’ve been following the RadFem 2012 debates with interest.
To my mind there is no doubt that it was called as an antagonistic conference. You dont have such a stark policy on admission or invite someone as contraversial as Sheila Jefferies without wanting to make a statement.
I support transfeminism, I see it as a major challenge to the patriarchy as a means by which to undermine notions of gender. At the same time, I see biological sex as the foundation of patriarchy. I dont have an issue with allowing transwomen into women only events, but I see women only events as being focused on women’s issues.
I’m not convinced by this “born in the wrong body” trope. It smacks to me of a contrite and sympathy inducing description of a far more complex and variable set of circumstances. The gender I perform and that I desire varies from hour to hour: on occasions I’m very unaware of being a woman, at other times very conscious of it; sometimes I choose to be more womanly, at other times, I choose to present more neutrally; sometimes other people gender me more heavily than others, and sometimes even misgender. Gender is fluid, only partially under your own control, partially subconcious and partially intended.
Your biological sex however, is entirely pre-determined. Although it can be tweaked at the edges, fundamental biology is fixed, regardless of whether you are male, female, both or neither.
There are interactions between your sex, your identity and your gender however which bear scrutiny. The majority of cis-women for example have gone through the emotions related to particular bodily changes in puberty; they will have had a gradual realisation that they are capable of becoming pregnant which will shape sexual interactions; they will experience a physical bodily change at the end of their fertile life. Living female is a way of life, and part of that way of life is the assumption of reproductive capacity.
This is important, and it feeds into the discussions on trans. While someone can change gender, they cannot change biology and the influences that biology has on their thinking. There are few cis-women who have not gone through a pregnancy/scare, who have not seriously thought about contraception, or feared reproductive consequences of sexual violence.
These shape interactions with wider society. While gender is the external representation that you present to the world and the representation that the world throws back at you, biological sex influences your internal narrative, your sense of who you are in the world.
Someone who is Deaf, experiences the world in a different way from others. There is the prejudice, the inaccessibility, the stigma yes imposed on by others, but the experience of living Deaf is fundamentally different to living as hearing. People who experience hearing loss, even to the point of becoming functionally deaf in thir later years, rarely become Deaf in a cultural sense, because the expectation and experiential knowledge of sound influences their thinking.
Jefferies pronouncements on the subject of trans are nothing short of hate spech, but at the same time it is important that we don’t confuse gender with sex and consider them synonymous. Gender is an oppressive social construct, its existance and relation to biological sex a product of patriarchy