No, we can’t just get along. There will be no alliance of radical feminists and trans. They don’t think they are gender diverse, but ordinary women.
They believe the differences between males and females are to do with reproductive biology, and patriarchal oppression. There is a mounting body of research of how girls are moulded to be soft and gentle, boys to be independent and dominant, from birth. It’s one more issue I would need a Masters degree to get an informed opinion, it is fraught and political, but the resistance strengthens. I could allude to discrete facts, such as that the median size of males being greater than that of females, and that men’s voices break, which might show the biology is more than merely reproductive, but women’s voices are deeper in England than in Thailand, and that is cultural. Women are vulnerable in the later stages of pregnancy and when nursing, so cultural differences could have reproductive origins; but I could not make a coherent opinion based on an assessment of the evidence.
My friend mimicked her high-pitched, girlish teenage voice. It sounded mocking, but was not. My attempt at functional and analytical empathy is, resentment at not being equipped to deal with a particular threatening situation, in fact being socialised to be accommodating, and have greater difficulty; memory of bewilderment and hurt; and in particular anger, and determination not to be so threatened again. From this comes an intense fellow-feeling for women- cis women, biological females- in similar situations. There is more to resent: disparity in wages, imbalance of political power especially as it affects women’s issues, imbalance of power in social situations generally.
All that produces the attitude to trans women. For them, the concept of a woman with a man’s body is ridiculous, meaningless. We are men, who have not had the socialisation that has harmed them. Women need women’s spaces, we should not be there, and excluding us is not cruelty, not even hostility to us. Their sympathy for our difficulties and struggles does not extend to admitting us where we have no place. So they are innocent victims of our angry responses, which bespeak male privilege and entitlement, and they are entitled to defend themselves.
I see a lack of femininity in them, and think it a sign of gender diversity. They don’t. It is the aspect of a woman in the world with her consciousness raised. They see my femininity as a caricature or reinforcement of Patriarchal concepts of womanhood, which are oppressive, which they resent. However much I say that I express this feminine because I am this feminine, I don’t feel I am believed. It is more difficult in that there is no agreement on what “feminine” means.
There can be friendships, understanding, even respect. To be seen as an ally, though, I would have to revert to using a male name, avoid women’s spaces, and become a passionate and knowledgeable advocate for women’s rights- in their estimation, not merely in my own. This is a price I am unwilling to pay. Then my assertion that I am subverting gender stereotypes becomes a political argument, which they refute to their own satisfaction. This piece on cognitive dissonance shows how difficult change could be.
I am glad not every woman thinks like this. Not even every radical feminist- consider Sara Ahmed. Enough people tolerate me to enable me to get by.