The Intersection Between Transphobia The Feminist Movement

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1495 |

Pages: 3|

8 min read

Published: Aug 14, 2023

Words: 1495|Pages: 3|8 min read

Published: Aug 14, 2023

Table of contents

  1. Historical Background of Transphobia and Its Relationship With the Feminist Movement
  2. What Was the Point of This History Lesson?
  3. Possible Solutions for Breaking These Transphobia Patterns
  4. References

Transphobia, the discrimination and prejudice against transgender individuals, has long been a pervasive issue within society, affecting the lives of countless individuals. It is a form of oppression that intersects with various social, political, and cultural spheres. In particular, exploring the connection between transphobia and the feminist movement sheds light on the complexities and challenges faced by transgender individuals within feminist discourse and activism. By delving into the historical background of transphobia and its relation to feminism, we can gain a deeper understanding of the systemic barriers and struggles that transgender individuals have confronted throughout history.

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The feminist movement, with its core principle of advocating for gender equality, has played a crucial role in challenging and dismantling patriarchal norms and structures. However, discussions around transphobia and transgender issues within feminist spaces have often been contentious, highlighting the need for a nuanced exploration of their intertwined dynamics. By examining the historical context, we can discern the ways in which transphobia has affected the feminist movement's inclusivity and engagement with transgender experiences.

Historical Background of Transphobia and Its Relationship With the Feminist Movement

Feminism has a long history, western feminism originating in the 1300s however it wasn’t until the 1960s that feminism was being analysed critically by feminists. This analysis led to the creation of Radical Feminism which is one of many perspectives within feminism. The fundamental belief of radical feminism is for the reordering of society in which male supremacy is eliminated in all social and economic contexts, while also recognising that the experiences of women are affected by other social divisions such as Race, Class and Sexual Orientations. However, since it’s inception Radical Feminism have always been divided on Gender Identity as a social division. It was only in the 1970s that the first trans-exclusionary really separated themselves from radical feminism. Original TERFs operated in a manner that would be considered more “conventionally” bigoted, mainly by threatening violence against transwomen who dared to exist in radical feminists or lesbian spaces. Although, some of the more recognisable TERF talking points existed. 

In 1979, what has become known as the hand book for TERFs was written. “Transsexual Empire: the making of the s*emale” combines TERF theory with political action, arguing that “transsexualism…should be morally mandated out of existence” Alongside, arguing that while it would be impossible to ban transitioning or trans people, TERFs should be making transitioning as difficult as possible. Sound familiar? After this point, conflicts between trans-exclusionary and trans inclusionary stayed on a low simmer for the next 30 years not without conflict.

In 2008 the word TERF first coined by trans inclusionary feminist blogger Viv Smythe. From there the term along with the associated ideology infected the internet especially progressive blog sites like Tumblr, which is where I first heard the term. It further grew supported by Right-wing media outlets those owned by the Murdoch empire, to the point we are at now where it has become ingrained in the British definition of feminism.

Many gender theorists attribute this growth in the UK to a toxic combination of historic imperialism and the wider “sceptic” movement that existed in the 2000s that had an obsession with debating pseudo-science instead of debunking and ignoring it. This growing support from right-wing media has unsurprisingly caused TERF ideology to become more right-wing in tone, not only attacking trans people but the wider LGBTIQA community as well as the progress feminist have fought for. Although they are very quick to deny this masking their attacks in concern. However, the façade of LGBQIA support and feminism falls very quickly when cornered.

What Was the Point of This History Lesson?

Firstly, transphobia did not come out of nowhere and by no means is it “modern”, much like many other forms of bigotry, it is the result of a majority holding power over a minority and attacking any attempt by the minority to seek a redistribution of power. What is different is that the majority is a historically oppressed group and rather than doing what is expected and exercising empathy, instead they oppress the new minority in the same way that they were once oppressed.

In no way am I saying women are no longer oppressed, it’s the one area in which I agree with JK Rowling, in her essay she stated that now is a dangerous time for women and I absolutely agree. But the threat to women isn’t trans people, the threat to women is what it has always been the patriarchy. Women and trans people are allies in this, both are threatened by rigid gender roles which supresses their expression. Transphobia was created by the patriarchy in an attempt to subjugate and divide like-minded people. If women and trans people who have a lot in common are too busy fighting then they won’t disrupt the power structure that caused their oppression, as they both suffer under the same system of oppression.

Secondly, debate is not the way to eliminate transphobia. Debating a belief implies that it is valid, transphobia is not valid. Debate provides a platform for transphobia to be repeated and spread. Evidence has shown that repetition of lies and fake beliefs only affirms that belief, no matter how strong the oppositions in the debate, as an example QAnon. Debate caused the mess we are in; we must debunk and educate. As it is only though education that we can foster respect and acceptance. Zero tolerance towards these bigoted beliefs is the only way to ensure that bigotry is not spread. If people are not willing to listen and be educated about trans liberation, then they must be cast out, in the same way we cast out racists, anti-Semites and other bigots. If they have reached the point of not listening and they will not change their minds, then we must send the message that their beliefs are no longer conducive to a civilised and accepting society.

Finally, we as allies are failing trans people. Especially in the way we engage with transphobic individuals. An example of this is the phrasehashtag transwomen are women, whilst this has been a great rallying cry is a factual statement, it creates a space for transphobic individuals to respond in bad faith with the typical question of “What is a woman” and so on. Let’s answer that question, the only way to answer it, is to dismantle it. As the reality of human experience is that no one knows what it means to be a woman. Womanhood and femininity are entirely subjective, every person will have a different answer, if at all. People don’t spend every moment thinking about their identity. An issue with many trans allies and transphobes is that they get so lost in theory, they forget the real people involved in the issues.

Possible Solutions for Breaking These Transphobia Patterns

Firstly, we need to listen to trans people, and act in their best interest, and not what we think that is. Secondly, we must not use euphemisms or dog whistles when describing their actions, they are not “gender critical”, they are not TERFs they are transphobes. I am especially not fond of the term TERF, it lends them the legitimacy of radical feminism, when in reality the movement has devolved so far from the radical feminist movement which they originate from. Gender Critical in some ways is even worse, it is a dog whistle for transphobia in the same way that “race realism” is a dog whistle for scientific racism.

We need to adopt better phrasing and slogans, that don’t invite transphobic responses, for example “trans liberation now” this slogan does not invite transphobia, and if someone says “liberation from what?” this allows the conversation to stay on politics and not devolve into gender metaphysics which just ends with frustration.

Finally, we must acknowledge that transphobia is systemic, transphobia is no longer just a few bad apples, it is an entire system that perpetuates the oppression trans people. By denying this we are complicit, there is a general apathy towards trans liberation, with allies fighting or responding when there is only a “bad” individual. Compare the reaction to JK Rowling’s transphobia to the high court ruling that would make transitioning even more difficult. We must be proactive in the fight for trans liberation. To adopt a slogan from the Black Lives Matter movement, it is not enough for us to not be transphobic, we must be loudly anti-transphobia.


  1. Serano, Julia. Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. Seal Press, 2007.

  2. Namaste, Viviane K. Invisible Lives: The Erasure of Transsexual and Transgendered People. University of Chicago Press, 2000.

  3. Stryker, Susan. Transgender History. Seal Press, 2008.

  4. Stone, Sandy. 'The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto.' Body Guards: The Cultural Politics of Gender Ambiguity, edited by Julia Epstein and Kristina Straub, Routledge, 1991, pp. 280-304.

  5. Spade, Dean. Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law. South End Press, 2011.

  6. Serano, Julia. Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive. Seal Press, 2013.

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  7. Puar, Jasbir K. Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times. Duke University Press, 2007.

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The Intersection Between Transphobia the Feminist Movement. (2023, August 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
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