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Transfeminism

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Trans feminism is "a category of feminism, most often known for the application of transgender discourses to feminist discourses, and of feminist beliefs to transgender discourse"[1] [2][3].

We repeat a gentle (poo) introduction to trans feminism in [4] in what follows:

Feminism has gone through several branchings based on criticism: too straight? Queer theory and/or lesbian feminism. Too white? Womanism. Too middle and upperclass? Socialist feminism. Too damn slow, too damn little? Radical feminism. So trans feminism, of course, would seem to answer the criticism of too cisgender.

The first use of the word on record was in 1997, coined, at least in print, by Patrick Califa, a trans man from Corpus Christi, Texas. More than anyone else, however, scholar Emi Koyama is responsible for introducing the term to academia. In 2001, Koyama published The Transfeminist Manifesto, writing:

Transfeminism is primarily a movement by and for trans women who view their liberation to be intrinsically linked to the liberation of all women and beyond. It is also open to other queers, intersex people, trans men, non-trans women, non-trans men and others who are sympathetic toward needs of trans women and consider their alliance with trans women to be essential for their own liberation. Historically, trans men have made greater contribution to feminism than trans women. We believe that it is imperative that more trans women start participating in the feminist movement alongside others for our liberation.

In the essay, Koyama identifies the primary principles of trans feminism as the right to define one's own identity, the right to complete bodily autonomy, and the right to not to be coerced into a decision in order to be accepted as "real" woman or a "real" man. According to Koyama, trans feminism serves to remind all involved in feminism, but especially women, whether trans or cis, to reflect on the ways in which we share the internalisation of heterosexist, patriarchal, and gender essentialist mandates. She reminds us, too, that trans women are often faced with gatekeeping which necessitates an unfortunate display of traditional gender expression and gender roles, and that the choice of identifying with traditional expression or roles is not inherently anti-feminist.

Koyama also discusses the issue of trans women, male privilege, socialisation, and feminism, but I have already spent a great deal of time writing on that subject in an article of that exact title, so I will not go into it here. She further argues that trans feminism "holds that sex and gender are both socially constructed; furthermore the distinction between sex and gender is artificially drawn" and ultimately calls for complete freedom to assign one's self a sex independent of any medical, political, or religious authorities. Trans feminism, asserts Koyama, also deals with "traditional" feminist issues from a trans perspective, including body image, violence against women, and health and reproductive choice.

Recent scholarship by Julia Serrano, including her primer on trans feminism for Ms. Magazine which she wrote in response to Aviva Dove-Viebahn, connects trans feminism to other "third wave feminisms" and their shared goal of addressing intersectionality, although ultimately, I feel confident I can interpret her works as running parallel or nearly so with Koyama's original articulation of trans feminism. You will see one aspect to trans feminism which is hers, and while I whole heartedly embrace:

Many trans feminists prefer spelling “trans feminism” as two separate words, where trans is an adjective that modifies feminism. The single-word version—“transfeminism”—looks somewhat alien, and seems to suggest that this is not actually a strand of feminism but something else entirely (just as the single word “transwomen” suggests that trans women are something other than women). Along similar lines, we do not describe people as Catholicwomen or lesbianwomen.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Hill; Childers, R. J. (Report Chair); Childs, A. P.; Cowie, G.; Hatton, A.; Lewis, J. B.; McNair, N.; Oswalt, S. et al. (April 17, 2002). In the shadows of the arch: Safety and acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and Queer students at the University of Georgia (Report). Athens, GA: University of Georgia Department of Adult Education.
  2. SEP Overview'2009
  3. Serano, J. Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive Seal Press, 2013.
  4. Trans Feminism: What is It? Is It Necessary? - A Gentle Introduction.

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