by Julia Serano
April 18, 2012
Aviva Dove-Viebahn’s recent Ms. blog post, “Transfeminism and Its Conundrums,” framed trans feminism* as a controversial and debatable submovement within feminism. I strongly disagree, as did a number of commenters, and here’s why:
Trans feminism—that is, transgender perspectives on feminism, or feminist perspectives on transgender issues—is one of many so-called “third-wave” feminisms. Its origins are closely linked with other feminist submovements—specifically, sex-positive feminism, postmodern/poststructuralist feminism, queer theory and intersectionality. These strands of feminism represent a move away from viewing sexism as an overly simplistic, unilateral form of oppression, where men are the oppressors and women are the oppressed, end of story.
Instead, these feminisms recognize that there are numerous forms of sexism—that is, numerous double standards based on a person’s sex, gender, or sexuality. In addition to traditional sexism (where men are viewed as more legitimate than women), there is heterosexism (where heterosexuals are viewed as more legitimate than homosexuals), monosexism (where people who are exclusively attracted to members of a single sex are viewed as more legitimate than bisexuals/pansexuals), masculine-centrism (where masculine gender expression is viewed as more legitimate than feminine gender expression) and so on.
There are also other forms of marginalization prevalent in our society, such as racism, classism and ableism.As feminists of color have articulated, these do not act independently of one another but intersect with and exacerbate one another. A woman of color doesn’t face racism and sexism separately; the sexism she faces is often racialized, and the racism she faces is often sexualized. This concept of intersectionality is now very well accepted among many contemporary feminists (albeit not by those who continue to adhere to a unilateral men-oppress-women-end-of-story approach to feminism).
Trans feminism is rooted in this idea that there are multiple forms of sexism that often intersect with each other and other forms of oppression.