The Conundrum: Trans Rights vs Women’s Rights

◼︎LGBT RIGHTS:
◻︎TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY

Whew! It’s been a whirlwind. Three posts in four days discussing the transgender debate — now 4 in 5 with this post. I hadn’t planned it this way, but after posting a statement on Friday other developments rapidly followed.

I’m going to give myself and my readers a break. I was planning to follow up my Friday statement with some posts featuring short films but will hold off for a while.


There are two aspects to the transgender debate that trouble me most. First is the seemingly wholesale rejection of transgender people’s lives and experiences. The counterpart in my world are those who insist I’m gay because I choose to be, like choosing tea instead of coffee. I can’t imagine transgender people would put themselves through all the medical rigors and social hardships they face on a mere whim. I trust there’s something deep inside compelling them, and science is looking at this.

Referring here to trans women specifically, the other aspect that bothers me deeply is that transgender rights and women’s rights seem to be mutually exclusive in the eyes of many. The two cannot co-exist. Transgender people can have rights, of course, but not fully as women because they’re not women and never can be women according to this line of thinking. They will have to live permanent “split lives,” neither man nor woman socially and politically. To me that’s a life without hope.

I have a very hard time accepting this. I cannot accept that it’s impossible to find a way where all women, cisgender and transgender, can be equals — where the advance of one doesn’t have to come at the expense of the other.

I’m not a woman and so I acknowledge I lack a vantage point from which I can fully see their perspective. But I think we can all put ourselves in the place of the other. It just takes intention, attention and compassion.

Barring some new big event, I’m going to step back from the polemics here and study. Eventually I’ll delve into the science of gender identity, but I’m putting this on the back burner. My immediate concern now is this fundamental conundrum of trans rights vs women’s rights. If we don’t solve this problem the science could be rendered almost irrelevant.

There is absolutely no question that the advance of women’s emancipation to date is an historic conquest and essential prerequisite for the further advance of the working class and society. I don’t take this lightly. At the same time, I have to hope that somehow there’s a way this progress can be consolidated and advanced without relegating transgender women to permanent marginalization.

I’ll spend the next period reading, pondering and talking to people. I might think out loud here on occasion and invite input, or wait until I have some more final thoughts and conclusions.


If anyone wants, I’m open to thoughts and comments below. Comments with reasons or examples illustrating or supporting your opinion are especially welcome and helpful. Please keep it civil and not argumentative; I’m in listening mode. I won’t argue back, and probably won’t even reply. I’m just interested in considering people’s ideas or concerns or preferences. Thanks!


Title image is from the Library of Congress on Unsplash with 14-year-old striker, Fola La Follette, and Rose Livingston. Photograph shows suffrage and labor activist Flora Dodge “Fola” La Follette (1882-1970), social reformer and missionary Rose Livingston, and a young striker during a garment strike in New York City in 1913. [https://www.loc.gov/resource/ggbain.12397/]


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AUTHOR

3 comments

  1. My stream of consciousness on this matter: There is no question that the GQP is using the transgender community as one of their latest in the gender wars with great peril to far too many.

    It’s interesting: I knowingly met my first transgender person in 1974 at Kent State. I don’t know if you remember her, Bob, but her name was Joanne and I just loved her. I’ll use the language of that time and say that she identified as a pre-operative transexual woman. We talked a lot and I was flattered that she wanted to come to the lesbian rap group and I was equally glad that the group welcomed her. I’ve often though of her over the years.

    Right now the big debate around sports is where I have some concerns but it’s because of the undeniable biological and physical differences between men and women. Even with hormone treatment, a biological man who transitions to being female cannot change the likelihood that her bones are longer and her muscle strength likely much stronger. Yes, I believe there is some diminishment but not enough to level the playing field. Women had to fight hard enough for Title XI and I think this issue deserves respectful debate without attacking either the transgender or the cisgender community.

    1. Except that I forgot her name, I remember Joanne at Kent Gay Liberation Front (KGLF) very well. I liked her also. I mentioned her in my statement posted here on Friday. She was transitioning male to female, and her sexual orientation was towards women. I was surprised that I had to explain her situation to other guys in the group. As new as I was to gay liberation at that time, I understood that gender identity and sexual orientation are independent of one another. She probably explained it to me and then I passed it on. The guys kept asking since she was attracted to women, why not just remain a guy? Besides the transgender issue, their reaction struck as internalized homophobia. They seemed to think it better for a guy to like a woman than a woman to like a woman.

      If you’ve read my flood of posts here the last few days you probably see I’m feeling compelled to become a fairly militant defender the transgender community. They really take a beating on Facebook and elsewhere! And gays also! I feel like the clock has rolled back a few decades. I thought the LGBT community had gained more ground than we have. That said, I am of mixed mind about things like girls and women’s sports, and less so about bathrooms and locker rooms. I’m not so impressed about objections around the latter, but I think sports competition is a complicated question — socially, politically, medically, physiologically, and so on. I’m still thinking and very interested in opinions that aren’t simply closed-minded and rhetorical. You might find an interview of interest that I posted on my “Quick Thoughts” blog.

  2. Yes, her name was Joanne. I agree with everything you said in response although I don’t think we’ve gone back decades considering the protections that now exist. I just hate how much the trans community is being used to fear monger and the dangers it imposed on them.

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