So, transgender women cannot be feminists? I beg to differ.

woman as man

 

I know I am about to step into murky waters filled with unseen hazards but….I’ve been asked several times what I think about the topic of transgender females, particularly in relation to my business, so here it is. Apologies if I get the terminology wrong; I’m not an expert in this field, and this not an academic treatise. It’s from my heart.

I have been a feminist as long as I can remember. Almost inevitable if you’re a woman born in the fifties with two younger brothers, and often had your challenging why can’t I…? questions answered with ‘because you’re a girl‘.

I think there are all kinds of feminists out there. I think all genders can espouse the feminist cause and therefore I call them feminists, too. Yes, I even ‘allow’ men to be feminists. I passionately want to see change in the status quo and I welcome anyone who shares that view, (hence my life membership of the Women’s Equality Party).

I have been puzzled by the debate on transgender women not being allowed to be ‘feminists’. I have truly tried to understand it, I honestly have. The argument seems to be that if you have not been born a woman and have spent part of your life as male, you cannot truly appreciate the oppression given to women, cannot understand the life experiences, and therefore, cannot truly be part of the sisterhood.

I come from a very working class background. My Dad was a scaffolder, my Mum a school dinner lady. As I progressed through the education system to University I often felt ‘different’ from many of my contemporaries.  My finely tuned chips on each shoulder meant I usually felt had I had more in common with a working class lad than a wealthy, private school educated female, of which there were many around me.

I’ve grown out of the chips (well, almost) and I hope I now try to judge people on who they are, the values they espouse, the way they live their lives, rather than where they came from, which is something they had no more control over than I did.

Does the fact that someone was born with a very obvious vagina mean that they are the on a par with everyone else born with a very obvious vagina, that we’re all in the same club, irrespective of the differences in life chances, culture, education, etc? Are we in some mystical born with a vagina bonding group sharing the same experiences?

If someone has spent a large part of their life feeling themselves to be trapped in the wrong body then I can only assume that they will have experienced more trauma, strife, and discrimination in life than I will ever know, and I’ve experienced a fair degree of sex discrimination in my 60 years. If that person feels themselves to be female, and endures all that they must to become physically female, who am I to say they are not? And if they believe in the cause of female equality and call themselves a feminist, who am I to say they are not?

I write and run courses for women. For me, I guess, the crunch question is, would I allow a transgender female to become a RenewYou trainer? Would I allow transgender women to attend my women only courses? The answer is, of course, yes. I would welcome the insights their unique experiences would bring. I would be pleased to think that RenewYou might help other transgendered women weather the opprobrium of certain sections of society with renewed confidence and strength.

I’m all about helping the women, about challenging the status quo, about gender equality, however we got to be.

The first public Speak Up course for professional women in 3 years is running this May in London. More details, click here.

Posted on February 23rd, 2016 by

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