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Transfeminism is the application of transgender discourses to feminist discourses, and of feminist beliefs to transgender discourse. It also concerns the establishment of transfeminism within mainstream feminism, having specific content that applies to transgender and transsexual people, but much of which is also applicable to all women. (Hill 2002)

In the past few decades the idea that all women share a common experience has come under scrutiny by women of color, lesbian women, and working class women, just to name a few. Transgender women are also questioning what it means to be a woman, and are challenging gender as a biological fact. They are insisting that their unique experience as women be recognized as part of the feminist cause. (Gluckman & Trudeau 2002)

Transfeminism envelops all major themes of third wave feminism, including diversity, body image, and female agency. Transfeminism is not about merely merging trans concerns with feminism concerns, it is a critical analysis of second wave feminism from the perspective of the third wave. [1] Transfeminism critiques mainstream notions of masculinity and argues that women deserve equal rights. It also sees gender as a patriarchal social construct used to oppress women.

Feminism vs transfeminism

In many ways transfeminism is similar to more conventional types of feminism. Many feminists welcome their trans counterparts into mainstream feminism; however, transfeminism has also its opponents.


One of the similarities between the two is their belief that women should be liberated from traditional gender roles. Transgender liberation theory, specifically, offers feminism a new perspective from which to view gender as a social construct and offers a new meaning of gender. (Gluckman & Trudeau 2002) The idea that women should not be held down by traditional gender roles plays a major role in feminism, transfeminism presents a new way to view this belief. Trans individuals are forcing society to question their conventional views of sex and gender and what it means in much the same way that feminists are trying to do. Feminists and transfeminists, together, are fighting against the idea that biology equals destiny. [2] Feminists who were born women want to be judged on their character and merit, not gender. Transfeminists wish to be judged in the same manner, not by the sex they were born into, nor the sex/gender they have become, but as their whole person.

Gender identity disorder is currently listed as a diagnosable mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. Both transfeminists and traditional feminists often agree that this disorder should be removed from the list. (Crabtree 2002) Transfeminists argue that being gender different is not simply a "trans right" it is the right of a woman too. [3] This is another similarity between the two types of feminists, females are considered "gender different" simply because they are not males, while trans people are gender different because they do not see themselves as the gender they were assigned.


Despite the similarities, there are also differences between traditional feminism and transfeminism. Some feminists, such as Janice Raymond, wonder whether trans issues even belong in feminism [4], though others consider Raymond to be transphobic.

Feminists who oppose the objectification of women may find it bothersome that some trans women seek to be viewed as objects of desire.[citation needed] Some trans women exaggerate feminine traits in themselves. [5] This may be because hate crimes are rampant against trans people, and so trans people may feel safer when they make their gender unambiguous.

Janice Raymond, Mary Daly and Sheila Jeffreys, among others, argued that the feminist movement should not concern itself with the needs of trans women. [6] This opinion is based on the idea that only "women born women" can fully identify with the experience of being a woman. Opponents of that view have argued that "women born women" differ greatly from each other as well, and that excluding trans women from women's spaces denies them their right to self-identification.

One of the primary battlegrounds of transfeminism has been the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. The festival ejected a transsexual woman from the land in the early 1990s. Since then, they have enforced a policy that the festival is for "womyn-born-womyn" only. Many transgender people and their allies find this policy to be indicative of transphobia within the feminist movement. Out of the controversy, the activist group Camp Trans was born to protest against the "womyn-born-woymn" policy and to advocate for greater acceptance of trans people within the feminist community.

Another important site of transfeminist controversy has been the Kimberly Nixon case in Canada. Kimberly Nixon is a transsexual woman who wanted to train to be a volunteer rape crisis counselor at Vancouver Rape Relief in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1995. When Nixon's transsexual status was determined, she was forced to leave the training program. The staff felt that Nixon's status made it impossible for her to understand the experiences of biological females, including sexual assault and domestic violence. Nixon sued for discrimination and the case was caught in litigation for many years, with Vancouver Rape Relief finally winning the case in 2007 when the Canadian Supreme Court refused to hear Nixon's appeal.

Another important consideration is the experience of Female to Male trans men. Using harmful dichotomies such as the traditional stark contrast between feminism and patriarchy whereby feminism is considered to be the beneficial antidote to harmful patriarchal history, under transfeminism becomes difficult. Using the model of patriarchy as the ultimate evil is disrespectful, discriminatory and oppressive towards trans men who embrace their male identities as a positive expression of their true destinies. Transfeminism posits the existence of literally hundreds of gender expressions. This departure from the limiting binary of male and female throws the entire feminist vs. patriarchy construct into question.


Transfeminists are currently undergoing a struggle to be accepted completely into mainstream feminism. While some feminists, such as the Lesbian Avengers, accept transfeminists with open arms, others are more skeptical of the idea. Arguments over females being seen as an object of desire and the idea the only women who are born women can fully relate to the feminist cause are pinned against similar ideology and the shared experience of oppression of a patriarchal structure.

See also


  • Crabtree, Sadie. (2004). Finding common ground between movements for reproductive freedom and transgender/transsexual liberation. The fight for reproductive freedom. p. 9-11.
  • Gluckman R., Trudeau, M. (2002). Trans-itioning feminism: the politics of transgender in the reproductive rights movement. The fight for reproductive freedom. p. 6-8.

Further reading

External links


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