Neither… nor… nor… can be generative if we let it. If we ever discovered the One True gender taxonomy, there would immediately be people identifying outside of it. That’s a good thing, that’s just proof we ave agency. Genders are being created, we’re not just uncovering something that’s already there. Let’s embrace it.
TERFs aren’t wrong to say that sex is material and that womanhood is a political class. Where the TERF analysis goes wrong is in where it locates the boundaries of that class. There is no singular, universal experience of what it means to be a woman – for any biological criterion TERFs put forth, there will be some cis women who don’t meet it. For every social experience of marginalization that has a gendered component to it, there are some cis women who do not experience it. The common thread in defining woman-as-a-class is not any essential quality – it’s the inherently social and political act of identifying with that class, and therefore being seen (at least intermittently) as part of that class.
This is what Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism looks like (as opposed to Feminist-Appropriating Radical Transphobes): It uses all the Right language. It’s academic. It’s self-consciously feminist; you might even call it radically so. And, it excludes trans women. Yes – referring to women as she/her puts emphasis on our gender identities. It makes gender salient in everyday interactions. For people who know we could use “they” and choose to use “she/her” anyway, that is the whole point. We need to be scouring our own beliefs to ensure that we know why TERF ideology is wrong, and how what we believe is meaningfully different.
Trans women are women
Trans lesbians are lesbians
Trans isn’t a gender and transphobia isn’t a sexual orientation.
If you’d date a cis woman but wouldn’t ever date a trans woman, that’s not because you’re a lesbian that’s because you’re transphobic.
If you date cis women and trans women, those are the same gender so that doesn’t make you bi.
Lesbianism will not be obsolete as long as there are trans lesbians.
Within the queer/trans community, we have no shortage of genders. But to the outside world, the frontier of trans inclusivity is all about pronouns. Facebook now recoginzes three genders: she/her, he/him, and they/them.
It is anachronistic at best to apply the label “cisgender” retroactively to people who were historically considered (or self-identified as) transgender. When our present-day ternary is applied in full, and every queer in history branded neatly as either “cis” or “trans”, it becomes violent: When we erase the self-identities of historical gender deviants, we not only misgender them, but we deprive each other of access to complex histories that cisheteropatriarchy has already worked hard to erase.
Who got left out in the rain when we closed the transgender umbrella, and how do we construct the tools we need for all of us to weather the storm?